Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

What the Force has Awakened with me and others in this new chapter of Star Wars

Before this past year ended, I did my pop culture duty by seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens in order to have a fully formed opinion on this growing cinematic phenomenon. This was more of a pleasure than a chore, as J.J. Abrams and company did a truly remarkable job in recapturing the story telling magic of the first trilogy while breaking new ground with a more diverse set of characters.

I'll keep to a spoiler-free review but it's safe to say that the main focus of the plot is a map to the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, who has exiled himself due to a betrayal from a Jedi trainee. The Republic(thirty years after Return of the Jedi) is now under threat from The First Order(this generation's version of the Sith), lead by the masked menace Kylo Ren(Adam Driver).

 Resistance pilot Poe Dameron(Oscar Isaacs)places the map within the circuits of a BB-8 droid and with the help of Finn(John Boyega), a storm trooper that wants no more part of the First Order and Rey(Daisy Ridley), a scrappy scavenger from the desert planet of Jakku, is trying to reach General(formerly known as Princess) Leia Organa with this vital information.

 More aid is given by the arrival of Han Solo and Chewbacca, with Solo becoming a bit of a mentor along the way. The acting in this film is spot on, with both the old and new characters blending together in a surefooted way that doesn't misstep at all.

The true standouts in the younger cast are John Boyega(who I happen to see in Attack the Block just before seeing TFA) and Daisy Ridley, both of whom bring a solid dose of realism  to their performances. Having not seen Ridley in anything before this movie, I was most impressed with her natural presence onscreen and her ability to covey a myriad of emotions with body language alone:

 Boyega's character had a strong arch that I hope is developed in more detail as the story line goes forward for the next two films.  Like Ridley, his on-screen time is never wasted and the bond that forms between their two characters is instantly believable.

I'm sure that some folks are speculating about a possible romance between these two but that really doesn't seem to be a consideration at this point in the plot, so let's just see what happens. Personally, I'm fine either way as Rey and Finn are a great team who have much in common, both being some what orphans of this intergalactic conflict.

  Finn's journey promises to be as compelling as Rey's is(no spoilers, still!) and seeing how both of them handle their challenges together and apart from each other should be amazing to behold:

 As for the returning players, Harrison Ford is excellent as always in this role and seeing Carrie Fisher bring her strengths to Leia, who is still fighting that good fight, is just wonderful.

Too bad there are some scruffy nerf herders out there who feel the need to lash out at Fisher both for looking older(as about as old as her co-star Ford, I might add) and for talking about how the studio urged her to lose weight for the part. One guy even had the nerve to say that the push for Fisher to drop about thirty five pounds was their way of "doing her a favor."

Excuse you? SHE is the one doing THEM a favor by returning to this iconic role, one that could not be played by anyone else at this point in the game. Not holding her male counterparts to the same standard speaks volumes about which side of the Force these jokers are on. Fortunately, Fisher is a savvy, confident woman who is very Janice in Accounting when it comes to comments like this. As for Leia, she's handled more impressive foes than these far out space nuts, that's for sure:

The Force Awakens has received a lot of positive fan love and praise from critics. Sadly, one of the current naysayers happens to be George Lucas, who expressed some regrets about selling his franchise to Disney.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Lucas complained about the studio wanting to go with a fan-friendly film and compared his dismay over the creative direction that was taken to selling his children to "white slavers." Considering that two of the major players in TFA are people of color and the pivotal character is female, this choice of words was extremely poor indeed.

Lucas has since apologized for those remarks and while I can understand the misgivings of a creator to hand over his art to the control of another, he doesn't seem to realize that his fears over the "family" elements of the story being lost in the shuffle are baseless.

 Without giving anything away, there is a very crucial scene in TFA that involves the family dynamics that were set up from the original trilogy in a truly tragic fashion. What I think is really troubling Lucas is that he no longer has any input into Star Wars and that this first of the new films is getting the respect from the industry that his prior trilogy(prior to the justly derided prequels,that is)  did not receive.

Well, George, you need to get over that bitterness in order to honestly move on with other projects, as you claimed was your goal all along in making this deal. No one will forget that this all started with you but leaving a taste of sour grapes in your wake is not a good way to cap this legacy. Be honest with yourself; this franchise could've gone into far worse hands than these:

Granted, The Force Awakens does touch upon many of the plot markers that the first Star Wars movie did, with a cute droid carrying an important message, another Death Star type of weapon to fear and so forth.

 Since this is first part of a new trilogy, it only makes sense to acknowledge what has gone before and considering the newer elements added, I don't think that the upcoming films will simply be a retread of what has happened before. Let's give Part Two a chance before we cry foul on that one.

What The Force Awakens has in abundance is a renewed sense of wonder, which is really hard to reproduce and can only be accomplished by sincere effort, with little thought for doing just that. At this point, Abrams and all assembled have given us a fresh forum to revive our collective creative spirits in.

Bringing us a familiar fantasy that showcases a series of heroes,heroines and villains that reflect our reality more acutely than ever before is an artistic triumph and I hope that this cinematic celebration will carry forth into the Academy Awards(and not just the technical categories,either) this season. As someone who has seen all the films in theaters, this movie was truly a promise fulfilled and one that I look forward to seeing just how grand an adventure this will be for both my generation and others to come:

1 comment:

Thaddeus said...

It is the height of silliness that of all the Star Wars films, this is the one that most deserves the title of "A New Hope."

I will say that many of us have been a bit too kind on the picture, since it does actually reprise many of the beats of Star Wars IV-VI, and that the mission of Han and Chewie should've involved many other people... But I can't complain too much, since this film had some real heart and action and (above all) wonder, elements which have been missing from the franchise since the early 80's.

I think Rian Johnson will produce something wonderful in Part VIII, but I'm a big fan of his - which is a contrast to my feelings for Abrams...

I'm so glad you had a good time watching this!