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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

 

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!

 

It’s been a long 2 years since the release of JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens hit theaters and reinvigorated the slight tarnish on the Star Wars franchise at the time. Rightly or wrongly (mostly wrongly) the prequels left a bad CGI taste in many fans mouths as they failed to deliver on the massive heights of the original trilogy. Looking back almost twenty years after the Phantom Menace (yes it’s been that long) the thought that any new set of films could top the iconic characters and movie moments of the original 3 films seems nearly impossible. Which was all the more astonishing when The Force Awakens dropped and for the first time in what seemed like a long time ago actually felt like a proper Star Wars film.

Yes it’s tremendous success came largely at the expense of playing its safe with close homages to what fans have always loved about the originals. Swashbuckling action, characters we could emotionally invest in and root for, wonderful special effects and it’s ace in the hole, it was FUN. I loved everything about The Force Awakens when it came out as it hit all the right nostalgic nerves while taking the franchise in a seemingly new direction. When the film was over I genuinely wanted to see what came next for Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, The Resistance, the First Order, and of course the long lost now found Luke Skywalker  Who the hell was Snoke? And of course, just who are Rey’s parents?

After The Last Jedi, I’m still waiting to find out.

Don’t get me wrong, I was beyond hyped when the first trailer for The Last Jedi hit the internet last year. The release of a new Star Wars trailer is like a mini Christmas for me as I unpack the trailers to glean every speck of detail and story from each frame as possible. This new film had new A-wings (my favorite ship!), a massive space battle, Rey kung fu Jedi training and an ominous Luke foreshadowing the end of the Jedi order. It looked great and I ready to jump on the hyperspace hype train all over again.

But I didn’t . News started getting out from directer Riam Johnson and even Mark Hamill himself that in order to preserve the story of the Last Jedi it was best to stay from the trailers as much as possible. It hurt, and it was difficult but I headed master Skywalkers words and decided that for this film, I would put myself into exile from the galaxy I loved and walk into the new film totally unspoiled. The first trailer laid subtle hints that something might be off about Luke and if he did turn to the dark side I didn’t want to see it coming. Or Rey, maybe she would go bad this time around. In my mind, anything could happen and I wanted to keep it that way. So with more willpower than I knew I had I sat down to watch The Last Jedi ready to be blown away.

The Force Awakens Pt. 2

About the only I did know about the Last Jedi was that it supposedly picked up right after the cliffhanger ending of the Force Awakens. It almost had to with the way Episode VII’s last shot of a awe-struck Rey handing Anakin’s old blue lightsaber to it’s rightful owner. And in that scene lies The Last Jedi’s critical flaw. It is in every way a continuation and carry over from the Force Awakens.

Say what you will about the prequels but at the very least they advanced the franchise’s story along. I was hoping The Last Jedi would pick up on that scene along the seaside cliffs of Ach-To then jump forward a few months or a year in time to see how the story moved forward. The Last Jedi doesn’t do this and instead takes place within the span of a full 72 hours after Force Awakens. Such a self inflicted time restraint really puts a damper on the plot as only so much can happen and change within 3 days of story.

And at the end of the Last Jedi hardly anything has changed from the end of The Force Awakens. Rey is still not a Jedi. Luke Skywalker is still pretty much absent. Kylo Ren still has a lot of growing up to do if he wishes to become Darth Vader, the First Order is again heavily devastated having taken major loses , and the Resistance is barely eeking out victories. If nothing much happens I ask then, what was the point of the movie? Main Star Wars films don’t come around that often (yet) and when we get an official episode it’s expected big things are in store. Instead with the Last Jedi we get a small after story better suited dare I say not for a comic book or video game. Not a full blown movie.

The film opens up with the Resistance in what could have been a desperate attempt to flee from their hidden base as the First Order, pissed at the loss of StarKiller Base, a MAJOR and recent event only mentioned once in the film, Seeing the rag tag members of the Resistance scramble to evacuate as the First Order bears down on them would have been a great way to reset the stakes and set the tone for the film. Instead we get the exac nearly completed and hotshot X-wing pilot Poe single handily jousting a Star Destroyer while cracking wise. It’s ok but could have been better. There is probably 40 seconds of a disappointing space battle that follows and the Resistance hyperspaces away to fight another day.

Or so it seems as the First Order has developed a way to track the Rebel fleet through hyperspace and catches them shortly after unable to fight back or run away for fear of being tracked down again then annihilated. How will the Resistance ever get out of this jam you may wonder? Easy, they fly away from the First Order fleet at a speed just fast enough to stay out of weapon range but too slow to break away with only the 72 hours of fuel they have left to find a way out. Putting a time constraint in a film is a cheap way to add tension but putting every action against a clock of dwindling urgency. But here it does the opposite by bogging the movie down into an extended and boringly drawn out slow motion chase scene. It can work well when done right, like in 2003’s underrated Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World but in the action packed Star Wars universe it doesn’t translate well.

Given the setup this could have been the Resistance’s version of Dunkirk.  Instead I’m convinced the only reason the chase was contrived was to fill up the middle of the movie with a pointless and convoluted sequence of hoops for Finn and new hero Rose to jump through and hence, something to do. It’s not worth mentioning in any detail suffice to say 30 nearly minutes is wasted sneaking onto a Monte Carloesque casino planet to find some renowned code breaker (so important I don’t think he is ever even given a name) so Finn can then sneak onto the First Order flagship to deactivate the homing tracker and allow the Resistance to escape. Problem is it’s all 100% pointless as the disarming of the tracker never happens and all that screen time was spent on nothing of consequence for the movie. Actually, this might be the most fitting part of The Last Jedi after all now that I think of it.

More time should have been spent with Rey squeezing some lesson out of old man and the sea Luke Skywalker. Like Harrison Ford’s Hand Solo in The Force Awakens, Mark Hammil is a welcome sight for fans as an older crustier version of Luke that still feels right. Luke’s crisis of Jedi faith is a plot point Hammil resisted at first but works here because it’s uncharted territory for the series and we want to see what it takes to break Luke to the brink and bring him back.

To the film’s credit, at the point where things begin to seem to drag on and become predictable the 2nd half of the 2nd act really kicks the legs out and goes headfirst into all sorts of crazy directions. Yoda makes a fun cameo, Snoke pulls a Darth Maul, Rey and Kylo have a super hero team up, the Resistance’s non-plan of escape was a plan all along, we watch the Battle of Hoth 2.0 and Luke does some Jedi stuff. This is when the movie goes fully off it’s well established rails and is at it’s most Star Wars like fun. Had the first half been more like the 2nd I’d be writing a much different review right now.

But good things aren’t meant to last and when the credits roll for The Last Jedi hardly anything has changed to our characters or the state of the universe. Because of this I have a feeling that when JJ Abrams comes back to helm Episode IX it will be more of a sequel to VII than VIII as there is simply more to work with from that film.

The Balance in the Force

That’s not to say I hated everything about the new film. Certain scenes are shot beautifully with the salt encrusted red dust last battle of Crait looking beautiful and fantastic. The penguin like Porgs that seem to have nested on the Millennium Falcon are scene stealers and the fight/duel with Rey and Kylo Ren in Snoke’s throne room was something I didn’t expect to see.

Other random thoughts I had while watching the movie.

  • The cartoonish banter between Poe and Hux in the first scene was cringe worthy and has no place in a Star Wars film, unless it was a call back to some of the slapstick of the prequels. In which case I again say it has no place in a Star Wars film.
  • Hooray for new A- wings! (my fav ship!)
  • Boo they only get 10 seconds of screen time
  • You’d think a big slow bomber crammed full of over-sized thermal detonators would come equipped with shields but no, those things light up like roman candles.
  • Why the First Order refuses to overwhelm enemies with it’s TIE fighters boggles my mind. They literally send just 3 to attack the Rebel cruiser at the beginning. But hey the Resistance just sent Poe by himself to do the same.
  • Also, why can’t the First Order just hyperspace it’s fleet just ahead of the Resistance and blow it up from the front?
  • At the same time, if the Resistance’s goal was always Crait, why did they exit hyperspace 3 days way from the planet?
  • How does Poe or Finn know how to get in contact with Maz Kanata considering Finn just met her days ago and Poe never has?
  • Those gamblers in the casino sure took the news of the destruction of the New Republic and First Order’s Starkiller base pretty well considering they both were likely major customers of their weapons and all.
  • Snoke was kinda growing on me until he, well you know.
  • Oh cool, Phasma is back! Until she well, you know.
  • Why does Yoda just show up now to bust Luke’s chops when he had 30 years after Jedi to jump in and give advice?
  • This is a Star Wars movie right? So where are all the Wookies, and Bith, and Greedo’s and Twi’leks?
  • The Falcon at Crait brought the biggest smile of the movie to me.
  • Why did they feel the need to sadistically whittle the Resistance down to just a handful of survivors at the end? Reborn?  No, I’d say more like on the verge of extinction.
  • Luke’s finale was fitting and considering Carrie Fisher’s recent passing, the franchise is entirely in the hands of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Issac. I really do wish these 3 and their characters got developed more.

The Last Jedi certainty isn’t the worst Star Wars movie but it’s no Empire, or even Force Awakens. It’s “just” a Star Wars movie and sadly I’ll have to wait yet another 2 years to see what finally happened next after the events of my beloved Episode VII.

Fittingly, there is a scene towards the end of the film where the Resistance, in a last ditch attempt at rescue, send out a distress signal to their friends waiting on the fringes of the galaxy for help. To their dismay, nobody answers it. Nobody comes. I guess they also are waiting to see what happens next as well.

First Star Wars Episode VIII Footage Has Arrived!

The First Star Wars Episode VIII Footage Is Here!

Well, that was fast.

Less than a month into production and the first Star Wars Episode VIII footage has already hit the internet.

The snippet of a teaser hardly shows anything new, but it’s nice to see that Luke already has more screen time in the preview than he did in all of The Force Awakens.

It appears the film will begin immediately where Episode VII left off, with Daisy Riddley’s Rey offering Luke’s old lightsaber he lost on Bespin, minus the missing hand, to an old and recluse hermit looking Luke. After the shot we pull back to see new franchise director Rian Johnson behind the camera to welcome everybody to what appears to be the first day of filming.

Although the clip is nothing earth shattering, it’s nice to see a little tidbit of the new film so early into the filming process. Just to remind everybody that Episode VIII is well on it’s way,or maybe as cover to take attention off of the upcoming Star Wars: Rouge One which is also currently filming but has been so shrouded in secrecy that very little photos or footage of the film have made it’s way onto the internet yet, despite the fact the film is due out next year, December 16th, 2016.

Star Wars; Episodde VIII stars Daisy Riddley,John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie and Andy Serkis.

New cast members include Benicio Del Torro and Laura Dern in as yet, unnamed roles.

Star Wars: Epsiode VIII is scheduled to release on Dec 17, 2017.

Our Favorite Movies Of 2015

The Best Of 2015. Our Favorite Movies

There were some great movies to come out in 2015. From Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, The Martian, Sicario, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it was really a tremendous year for film.  Which is why we at the Film Box would like to look back at our very favorite movies of 2015. If you missed any of these over the course of the year don’t hesitate to catch up with them at a later date. These 2015 standouts are definitely worth your time.

del torro sicario

Sicario

Joseph Jo: Out of all the films that were released in 2015, Sicario was eventually the one that had me in awe throughout the film. The only thing I knew about this film was Denis Villeneuve was the director where couple years back I had the chance to watch his earlier work, the Incendies, which is another one of my favorite. I’m usually one of those theater goers, where I wait until everything dies down, and thankfully I was glad I went to watch Sicario few months after the release, because this is one of those films where you just have to watch alone in the big screen without knowing nothing about it.

I knew from the movie poster that Emily Blunt was starring along with Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. Usually I don’t really care who’s in the picture, because ultimately I care about the story, structure, editing and how it was directed. And may all the deities bless the production team, because this movie made me feel exactly like Emily Blunt’s character throughout the movie, and that’s how I feel the movie was intended to be. If I had bothered to even read the tagline, I probably would have never felt the chill when Benicio’s character gave that eerie vibe when he said, “Welcome to Juarez.”

 

heart of a dog movie

Heart Of A Dog

Helen HighlyI would recommend Laurie Anderson’sHeart of a Dog” as Best Film of the Year. This 75-minute, poetic film-collage essay combines Anderson’s personal stories and musings with quotations from renowned philosophers, ink drawings on paper, printed words, animation, scratchy old 8mm home-movie clips, new footage of landscapes, surveillance camera footage with time codes, graphic images such as computer icons, and her ingenious use of music.

The movie is officially classified as a documentary and has rightfully been shortlisted (down to the final 15) for the Academy Award Best Documentary Feature. But it doesn’t feel at all like a traditional “non-fiction educational film.” It’s a playfully experimental memoir that is sometimes a meditation on how to go on living despite despair – “the purpose of death is the release of love,” an insightful (and not maudlin) reflection on America’s 9/11 attack, and also a witty tale on the nature of telling and remembering and forgetting. Ultimately, this is Laurie Anderson’s own love story – about her dog, her mother, her husband, and her city. It is uncommon and evocative film making and a true pleasure to watch

I think this may be the year of the documentary. There were so many interesting, important, and really well done documentaries that crossed over into mainstream film (or at least mainstream indie film). So I think it’s appropriate to name a documentary as “Best Of” this year. And the Laurie Anderson movie is truly beautiful and important as well as being surprisingly accessible (easy and fun to watch), once you start watching. And I also think this film has staying-power. It will still be relevant and worth-watching for years to come. It’s simply a great flick.

More of Helen Highly’s movie related rants and raves can also be found at HelenHighly.com

steve carell the big short

The Big Short

Matt Taylor: In a cinematic landscape filled with big budget disaster flicks it’s a rare thing for a movie to come along with actual, real world doom as part of it’s narrative. The Big Short is a sobering reminder, and revealing portrait, of the 2008 Economic Collapse. Directed by Adam McKay, who you may recognize as the wacky mind behind so many Will Ferrell films such as Anchorman and Talladega Nights, The Big Short presented it’s subject matter in such a lively, innovative way that it had to be my number one pick for Best Film of 2015.

The Big Short follows a handful of bankers who discovered the housing market collapse years before it happened. The film has us follow them as they attempt to expose and profit from this collapse. The irony and hypocrisy on display is what made the film compelling. Sure, there’s a few characters that are bleeding heart crusaders trying to do the right thing, but at the end of the day they’re bankers turning a profit. Even the best among those in the big banking machine are both whistle blowers and profiteers.
The film was made was with a documentary style, with none of the usual documentarian tropes i.e. interviews. The characters do break the fourth wall and address the audience to explain things, and most interesting is the directors use of celebrities and public figures to break down the really tough to grasp financial terminologies driving the story. For example there’s a quick cutaway to actress Margot Robbie in a bubble bath who explains the sub-prime mortgage problem leading up to the financial collapse. The use of cutaways, sound design, camera movement and character made this film about finance, which could have been extremely dull, a fast paced riveting look at one of the biggest disasters in American, and dare I say, World History. It is for those reasons that The Big Short is number one on my list for the year 2015.
More of Matt Taylor can be found at Twitter

the-woman-in-gold film

The Woman In Gold

Charles Soste: My favorite film for 2015 after much consideration, was The Woman In Gold. It was a well-acted, brilliantly directed story of an Austrian victim of World War II seeking to retain priceless art work that was stolen from her family by the Nazis.  The film was incredibly moving and what all great cinema should be.  Helen Mirren was at her unsurprising best in the lead role and Daniel Bruhl and Ryan Reynolds were excellent too.

I should also add that very honorable mention should go to Spotlight, Mr. Holmes and The Martian for me as well since they were all fantastic.

Rey and Finn star wars

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Cameron Dueker: Like many others, for me, my favorite movie was Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan since I was younger and the franchise has held a special place not only in my heart but in my life because of it. I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news the news that Disney had bought out Lucasfilm and the doubts that crept into my head shortly after. George Lucas was out. J.J. Abrams was in. Would it follow the Expanded Universe or blaze a new trail of it’s own? Could the original actors still play a role in their old age? Any New Hope that filled me was simultaneously checked with cautious trepidation of the still  recent mixed bag of the prequels.

Maybe the years of reverence surrounding the original trilogy  had simply set the bar for any new Star Wars films too high.

As information about the new film slowly leaked out it was clear to me these concerns were also weighing heavily on the cast and crew. You could just see the amount of love and care everybody involved was putting into The Force Awakens which only rocketed expectations into the stratosphere.

And when I finally saw the film I was blown away. It was a call back to 1977 true, but what is so wrong with that? The new characters were hugely compelling, the action was great, the story was intriguing and full of mystery’s still unsolved, and the feel was spot on with how WE all want a Star Wars film to be.

The Force Awakens may not be the best Star Wars film, Empire still holds that crown, but for me it was far, far away the best film of 2015.

 

Harrison Ford Was Paid 50x More Than Star Wars Co-Stars

Harrison Ford meant it when he said in the new Star Wars film that “the force” was real; his celebrity forced Disney and Lucasfilm to pay huge money.

With its global in-take now at a record $529 million, Star Wars‘ box office success is staggering. But how much money did The Force Awakens actors earn to join a galaxy far, far away?

Variety is reporting that Harrison Ford’s salary was in the eight-figure range ($10 million to $20 million) to reprise his role of Han Solo. According to a Disney insider, the 73-year-old notoriously grouchy actor earned a substantially larger cut than his co-stars — 50 times more than the fresh faces who shared the screen with him.

Word on the street says that Disney made a decision in 2014, prior to casting the new roles, to create a “legacy pay scale” intended for talent like Ford, Fisher and Hamill, who had previously been a part of the Star Wars franchise, and pay only “scale” for actors that would be appearing for the first time. In that universe, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher took home pay checks in the low-seven-figure range.

Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac negotiated deals in the mid- to high-six figures, due to their previous film and TV work. But newcomers John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were paid only in the low-six-figure range ($100k-$300k), due to their lack of experience in large-scale film. That’s barely a tiny flash of light in the gigantic financial universe that is Star Wars. Let’s hope that next time (and there will surely will be a next time), the force will be with them when they bargain for their salaries.

***

When she is not writing about film and art on her blog, HelenHighly.com, Helen Kaplow is busy being a culture vulture in her adopted home of New York City. 

10 Obscure Star Wars Facts

10 Obscure Star Wars Facts Even Hardcore Fans Don’t Know

The only thing people may love more than Star Wars is talking about how much they love Star Wars.

Especially when it comes to true Star Wars fanboys (and fangirls) who can become engaged in a verbal lightsaber measuring contest for hours to figure out who the biggest fan is. Original Trilogy, Prequels, Expanded Universe, it’s all fair game when once’s nerd credentials have been challenged.

Because Star Wars is so popular, most everybody knows a lot about the films already. That Darth Vader wasn’t originally supposed to be Luke’s dad until Empire Strikes Back was written. That Lando and the Millennium Falcon were never supposed to have made it out of the 2nd Death Star alive. Or that Mark Hamill and Carrie Fischer were cast because they had the good fortune of test screening with Harrison Ford. Even though most of the public may not know these facts, it’s a safe wager that for most hardcore Star Wars fans these would all be old news.

So let’s throw out everything even a scruffy nerfherder would know and discover 10 obscure Star Wars facts even hardcore fans would be surprised to know.

How many do you think you’ll know?

Death-Star-II-Scale-Size

10. The Second Death Star was HUGE!

The first Death Star was nothing to sneeze at. Conceived as the ultimate battlestation, it was designed to bring terror to the galaxy and to crush entire star systems under  the jack boot of the Empire. And it’s worth noting it’s still the only one to ever get a planet on it’s scoresheet when Grand Moff Tarkin of so casually wiped Alderaan off the space charts as if he was shooing a fly in A New Hope. (in the movies at least)

No doubt, the first Death Star was big. So big in fact that, Han Solo first thought it was a moon upon his first glance of it.

But compared to the second Death Star, the first is a small party favor or a small children’s toy.

According to the wookieepedia entry for the Death Star (the Star Wars version of wikipedia) the first Death Star clocks in with a diameter of 160 kilometers. Pretty impressive. Most impressive actually.

That is until you compare it to the second Death Star which was built was a diameter of 900 kilometers! That’s 460% bigger than the original! That’s mind bogglingly massive!

And yet, still insignificant when compared to the power of the Force.

Did you know? In 2012 a petition to the White House was submitted asking for the construction of a Death Star as a form of economic stimulus. As the petition received over 250,000 signatures it was required to receive an official response. In 2013 he White House formally rejected the proposal citing an excessive cost of 852 quadtrillion dollars and an estimated 833,000 years to complete!

Spoiler Heavy Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Spoiler Heavy Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

WARNING! You will only get to see the new Star Wars movie for the first time once. So go see it. And if you want spoiler free reviews than you can find a bunch on the internet here, here, and here.

Once you’ve done that come back here for a spoiler heavy review and analysis. You’ve been warned.

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here. When Disney bought Star Wars three years ago and announced that an Episode VII was being fast tracked into development fans around the world freaked out. One year ago the first trailer dropped and kicked anticipation into lightspeed. The hype and positive buzz surrounding the film only grew from there as the film inched closer to release.

So how does the first Star Wars film in ten years hold up against the biggest hype train we’ll all never see the likes of again?

In many aspects it holds up quite well. Exceptionally well actually considering the impossibly high expectations and circumstances surrounding it.

But in others it falls as hard as Darth Vader did to the dark side.

darth vader burnt mask

Before we start, I will say this. Given the immense hype and the smattering of trailers and TV commercials that’s bombarded the public in the recent weeks, J.J. Abrams and Disney did an amazing job dangling the movie in front of the public without ruining it. The film has some really great moments and surprises for everybody that the trailers never hinted at or showed. Even if you’ve seen them all a hundred times by now, you know who you are, the film still entertains.

And the Force Awakens does this on the strength of it’s characters. The new main characters are all spectacular, well developed and fun to watch. They were my favorite part of the film by far and will be for most viewers as you can tell the writers put a lot of thought and care into their development.

John Boyega’s Finn is one hundred times funnier than Jar Jar Binks ever wished he was. By the end of the film, he was really nothing more than a dense stormtrooper with a big heart and a conscious who got himself in way over his head. Finn’s best qualities come out when he puts himself into the greatest danger like escaping from the First Order, or on the Millennium Falcon, or in his two great lightsaber duels.

The Rebels, now the Resistance’s, hotshot pilot Poe Dameron had the smallest part of the new cast but always seemed exuberant and eager. I would have liked to see more of him  in the cockpit of his slick black X-wing, but then again I would have liked to have seen more X-wings in the film as well.

BB-8 is a scene stealer throughout the entire movie. Maybe it’s wise R2-D2 was shut down through most of the film as there’s no way he can compete with that adorable soccer ball of a droid.

Kylo Ren Force Awakens Trailer

Kylo Ren was also quite a surprise, but not for the reasons that are the most apparent. As much as he strives not to be, his character is the anti-Vader in almost every way. Emotional, witty and surprisingly funny he is also full of doubt as he finds himself pulled to the light side, something which he struggles to find the strength to combat. What a great way to flip not only Darth Vader comparisons but also the whole dichotomy of the Force and how it’s perceived in general. It’s not just the dark side that can pulls and seduce anymore, the light side is just as tempting it seems. What a great twist that takes what’s come before makes it new and interesting again. I also got quite a kick of his synthesized voice which sounded a lot like Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men and his lightsaber temper tantrums. What better way to show Kylo as the spoiled brat he is than to have him slash everything with his lightsaber. It was also a nice touch I thought that under his mask he is quite the pretty boy which made for a nice visual contrast with Vader’s scared and ruined face.

Rey The Force Awakens

The last great revelation was Daisy Ridley in her role as Rey. Like Luke, she begins the movie as a lost youth stuck trying to make ends meet on a backwards desert planet. Adventurous and resourceful, she braves the derelict ruins of Star Destroyers spelunking  for scrap she can sell for food. She waits patiently on her seemingly adopted homeworld of Jakku for the family she can’t remember to one day return to her. It’s very endearing and gives Rey some vulnerability while also keeping her tough as she needs no one to protect or rescue her in a welcome change of pace. She is also quite plucky and scrappy when she needs to be and develops a great father daughter chemistry with Han Solo that the film never quite wants to awkwardly acknowledge. She has a lot in common with Luke on the surface but I was reminded more of the good qualities she shares with Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. What does that mean, if anything? I have no idea as the film seems dead set on revealing Rey’s backstory in a “I am your father” moment in Episode VIII. Seeing her escape on her own in the Starkiller base instead of being rescued was a great  touch, and it was about time we finally see a girl kick ass with a lightsaber in a Star Wars film.

Han Solo The Force Awakens

The other main character that’s worth mentioning is Han Solo and his huge role in the film. I was worried that age would have caught up to Han Solo as it had Harrison Ford but those fears all flew out the window quickly. The Han Solo in the Force Awakens is still the lovable scoundrel he was in the original trilogy. He’s still down on his luck and constantly facing long odds with only Chewie, his blaster, and his quick wit by his side.

It sucks he had to die.

Part of the fun of watching The Force Awakens is to identify all the callbacks to the previous movies, there are many, and how director J.J. Abrams and writer Lawrence Kashdan play with them. The Force Awakens does stay awfully close to the main story structure of A New Hope. Secret plans are hidden in a droid that must be returned safely to the good guys before he falls into enemy hands. Before the plans are delireved a cantina is visited, a new planet destroying super weapon is tested and some talk about the Force’s role in all this is explained. Eventually the plans are delivered but not before our female lead is captured and rescued while a small fleet of X-wings launches a desperate attack on a looming threat.

By the time Han Solo walks out to confront his son who he’s failed to raise on the straight and narrow in front of Rey and Finn on the Death Star 3.0 you know he’ll soon be following in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s footsteps. It’s a powerful scene that hits hard because it’s so connected to A New Hope.

But it could have been amazing if the film had done anymore than wink about Han’s and Kylo’s father-son relationship. As far as the films go, (I know in the Expanded Universe this is all old hat) it’s a lot for audiences to take in that not only did Han and Leia have a child named Ben, but that he was trained to be a Jedi and eventually turned to the dark side. If we were never told these events took place we’d be hard pressed to believe them as the film never really develops their relationship to a point that’s believable.  Even cold hearted Leia treats the loss of her son to the dark side in the same stoic way as when she lost her home planet. The whole father son reveal falls flat as it seems rushed and loses any of the poignancy required for a death of this magnitude to truly resonate.

Which is another problem the film has in that the second half comes off as too rushed. Too much is happening with the X-wing attack, Rey’s rescue, the destruction of the shield generators, Kylo Ren, Han’s death, and a great lightsaber duel for any of it to stand out.

Compare that to the film’s first half which though brisk, was expertly paced and kept things interesting and moving forward. The first half is pure joy and Star Wars nostalgia as The Force Awakens fills in the gaps of the last thirty years since Return of the Jedi. Seeing Star Destroyers and TIE Fighters back on the big screen is a thrill as is reintroducing the Millennium Falcon and learning what Han and Chewie have been up to in the years since. It also helps having BB-8 around as he’s a much bigger player in the first half than the second. Actually whenever BB-8 was around the movie seemed stronger. He’s that good.

Force Awakens X-wings

A major complaint I have with the film is that it seems too interested in leaving a trail of story related bread crumbs into Episodes VIII and IX. There is a lot of blatant mystery the film sets up but flat out chooses to ignore, at least until further sequels. For instance, how did Luke’s lighstaber get into that wooden box? Who was the old man at the beginning? Who are Rey’s parents? Han and Leia? Luke perhaps? How was she able to become so proficient in the Force in such a short matter of time? What was the relationship between Luke and Ben Solo? How exactly did the Force Awaken?

There were a few small things that really bugged me. Captain Phasma got the true Boba Fett treatment in that she looks cool but doesn’t really do anything and gets taken out like a punk just the same. I didn’t like Supreme Leader Snoke though I am getting a Wizard of Oz vibe from him and his huge holographic projection. The new Death Star was taken out waaaay too easily with only a handful of X-wings and despite the hope of some kick ass space battles, my favorite, the dogfights here were over much to quickly for my liking. And Luke. It would have been nice if he would have said something or if not then at the very least end the movie right after his reveal instead of holding on his straggly beard for what seemed like an entirety in the wind.

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Don’t get me wrong, The Force Awakens was still a good film and I really enjoyed it. It’s the funniest Star Wars film by far and had great action pieces. Seeing the scale of everything filmed with actual actors and props was so effective in making the film seem as real as the originals were. I liked the final duel in the snowy woods where the trees replaced the bamboo groves of old samurai movies. Watching Rey climb the long and winding stairs towards Luke at the end for some good old fashioned Kung Fu training was fun, and seeing her wear the pistol Han Solo gave her, slung low on her hip like Han made me smile.

The acting was top notch all around and it’s clear the franchise is in good hands with this new core group of actors firmly established to take the franchise into the future for many many more years to come.

I can’t wait to see it again. The Force is strong with it.

5 Reasons Why Star Wars The Force Awakens Might Be Good

5 Reasons Why Star Wars The Force Awakens Might Be Good

So, it’s come to this. We are now just days away from the premiere of Star Wars The Force Awakens. As one a time fan whose adoration of the franchise was ruined by the prequels, I am definitely going into this new installment with a good deal of skepticism. Previously and given the tremendous veil of secrecy that naturally surrounds the film, I put forth 5 Reasons Why The Force Awakens Might Suck and there were good reasons for those fears. However, there is also a chance that this new tale about life a long time ago in a galaxy far far away could resurrect the greatness of the original trilogy. Therefore, here are 5 Reasons That Star Wars The Force Awakens Might Be Good.
jj abrams directing star wars
1. J.J. Abrams Is The Co-Writer and Director: In all honesty I’m not the familiar with J.J. Abrams work. Even though I haven’t seen much of what he has done, he is a Spielberg protege and he has been involved in the creation of a number of well-received movies and television series and I’m sure all that praise is not without merit. One need only look at the love people had for his revival of Star Trek to be given a feeling a hope at the fact that he has been intimately involved with every aspect of The Force Awakens. However, more than his successful track record, his biggest asset is being a life long Star Wars fan whose world was forever changed when he saw the first movie in 1977. He has such an obvious love and appreciation for the series that he may have delivered a movie that will satisfy and inspire fans and critics alike. And, who knows maybe it could even be on the level of the originals that were not only entertaining, but actually imparted some deeper philosophical messages like whether there is a god, what gives life meaning, and redemption.

Chewie force awakens
2. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo And Princess Leia Are Back: Although, it appears that the crux of The Force Awakens will focus on the story lines of the new characters in it, the fact that the three stars of the original trilogy are returning is another reason to peel back some cynicism. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia were truly beloved characters portrayed astoundingly by the actors who played them. All three of them may have a limited impact on this film and the state we are going to find them in probably is not wonderful, but they will be there and it will be good to see them. Furthermore, over the course of the film they maybe able to work their way out of whatever entanglements they find themselves in, which could be exciting. Finally, the fact that all three of the actors who were in the original movies came back to be in this film is a good sign as they must have felt the material was worthy enough to reprise their respective roles.

Lawrence kashdan
3. Lawrence Kasdan Co-Wrote The Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan is an absolutely excellent filmmaker and script writer. One need only look at Grand Canyon and The Big Chill to see how extremely talented he is. More importantly though, Kasdan was involved in the writing of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of The Jedi. Both of those movies were fantastic and the fact that he has had a hand at writing two Star Wars pictures before means he knows the territory very well. This time he may have delivered a screenplay as good as Empire and Jedi. That is an exciting prospect for any past or present fan and I hope that it meets expectations.

jj abrams bb8
4. Abrams Went Old School: While watching 60 Minutes the other night J.J. Abrams was featured in a segment that showed he employed a limited use of C.G.I. A lot of the new characters that he created for this film were produced organically and all the explosions were real. This is about as close to how Star Wars and its successors were made as possible. In fact, one of the biggest reasons that A New Hope blew everybody’s mind was no film like it had ever been done before and a tremendous amount of that had to do with how it was shot, how all of the creatures in it were created and how incredibly real it all looked. For me, an enormous drawback of the prequels aside from the wooden acting and campy dialogue, were that everything looked so fake and shot on a green screen. If Abrams was able to create a Star Wars similar to the original with as much realism than it could be great.
Millimum Falcon The Force Awakens
5. The Trailers Have Been Good: Movie trailers can be a very deceptive thing. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a trailer for a movie that looked interesting that than turned out to be terrible or seen a trailer for a movie that looked awful and turned out excellent. (The Royal Tennenbaums and Mr. Brooks come to mind when thinking of the latter.) But, the trailers that have been released for The Force Awakens have all been interesting and intriguing. Furthermore, based on the little footage that has been shown, the movie appears to lack the shortcomings of the prequels. That being said, you never know with trailers. But it is yet another reason to believe that the force very well may be strong with this one.

So, therein lie my 5 Reasons For Why The Force Awakens Might Be Good. You may disagree with me and in a few days most of us will have formed our opinions, and all the mystery surrounding the movie will be over. But, whichever way it goes, I do have to give some credit to J.J. Abrams for even undertaking this project considering all of the risks that it entails. Stepping in to helm a beloved franchise with a black mark on its legacy is no easy feat and for that alone he should be given a pat on the back.

Every Limb Ever Lost In Star Wars

Every Limb Ever Lost in Star Wars Infographic

Lightsabers are a dangerous thing. Able to cut through droids, hack off limbs and melt through security doors like a hot knife through butter. It’s no surprise then that the Star Wars films are a graveyard full of severed arms and heads from the unfortunate victims who met the business end of a lightsaber.

Here is a great infographic that shows every limb ever lost in Star Wars.

 Star Wars Limb Loss Infographic
Image Created by HalloweenCostumes.com