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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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In my effort to restart this blog I need to catch up on some movie reviews. Since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was just released, how about I review the movie that came out before it! LOL!

As I have said before I am a huge Star Trek fan but I also love Star Wars too…just not as much as Trek. Yet, I always thought there was something in the aesthetic and pacing of Star Wars that Star Trek should borrow and learn from. When JJ Abrams, a lover of Star Wars, directed the 2009 reboot movie, Star Trek, my wish came true. In the feel and look of the movie there are elements of Star Wars in that Star Trek film and although some fans noticed that too and complained…I was not one of them. Therefore, when the next trilogy in Star Wars was going to be filmed, it seemed only natural that JJ Abrams would be selected to direct this movie.

I want to comment on one of the complaints The Force Awakened received from the minority of the people that did not like it. The complaint is that it is just a rehash or is derivative of the original 1977 film Star Wars, later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I certainly do not deny this accusation. I actually embrace it and it is one of the reasons I do enjoy this movie greatly.

Some have complained that nostalgia is one of its selling points and I have no shame in agreeing with that. I was 14 in 1977 when the original movie came out and I loved it! It had a huge impact on me. So seeing Han, Chewie, Luke and Leia on the big screen was a huge part of this movie. That doesn’t mean the rest of the story wasn’t good, it was, even if it has elements of the first movie, it does!

Luke has disappeared and it has been thirty years since the Death Star was once again blown up and the Empire defeated. However, evil has not gone away. We have new characters that are very interesting to me. the rebelling storm trooper, Finn, the scavenger, Rey, and Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and General Leia, are all great additions to the Star Wars universe. The movie leaves us with a mystery of who is this woman Ren who wields the Force so easily? The special effects are excellent as JJ Abrams wisely knows how to weave practical effects with the CGI.

I will not reveal any spoilers of this movie. I will say this is/was a great way to start the new trilogy. It is visually stunning with everything you would want to see in a Star Wars movie. Although it does have elements of the original story, they are done with respect and reverence to the original.

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Star Wars V: The Empire Stikes Back

Many fans and even critics state the The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars films. Now something like that is certainly debatable and subjective but there is no denying the fact that The Empire Strikes Back is an excellent sequel to the 1977 movie Star Wars. The plot is basic but full of action and adventure. It is set three years after the events in Star Wars. Darth Vader survived the detonation of the Death Star and is in pursuit of the rebels Luke Skywalker, Princess Lia and Han Solo. Meanwhile Luke continues his training to become a Jedi Knight from Master Yoda. Han Solo is also being pursued by bounty Hunter Boba Fett. We also meet new characters like Lando Calrissian played by Billy Dee Williams and the story is full of twists and turns and betrayals.

Pros: Middle movies ina trilogy can be difficult. Often these stories will advance the characters and the story line but leave no resolution. However, this movie is not hampered by any of that. Insteads it has great character development. Han and Lia, still have a temultuous relationship yet there is a thaw and they begin to come close together. Luke grows as a Jedi and his self confidence and maturity is evident. The movie does end on big cliff hangers. We discover that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker and the father of Luke. Han Solo is betrayed and left frozen in Carbonite. The action and the suspense and sense of adventure are carried over from the last film with enjoyable results. We meet Yoda for the first time and Emperor Palpatine. Yoda was  a puppet worked and voiced by Frank Oz a member of Jum Hensons team. He has become an iconic character. The reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father is still exciting and memorable after years of seeing the movie. It never grows old.

Cons: I really have no complaints for this movie except that the scenes on the planet Hoth do drag just a little bit. The pacing just seems off to me. As time has gone on and I have grown more accostumed to the pacing of modern films, expecially science-fiction films, the films made back more than 30 years ago do seem a little slower.

An interesting observation I have is that with Luke being Vader’s son all the events in episodes IV and V can seem really contrived. I do not see it that way, I am just echoing arguments I have heard levied at other science-fiction films. For example, in the 2009 Star Trek film when Kirk met Spock Prime in the cave of Delta Vega many fans who hated the movie cried how all contrived it seemed. Yet in Episodes IV and V of Star Wars we have R2D2 and C3PO arrive in the posession of Luke Skywalker and it is his father, Darth Vader, who is chasing after the two droids and the plans they contain. This leads Luke on an adventure that will lead him into direct conflict with Vader. How is this any less contrived? If it is contrived, and to some degree it is, it doesn’t bother me at all. I just point this out to demonstarte the selective opinions of some fans. In many of these adventure type of movies our heroes are going to come together and they way the writers and directors do that is enjoyable to watch even if a bit contrived.

To conclude, The Empire Strikes Back is one of the best of the Star Wars movies and a joy to watch.

Star Wars IV: A New Hope

The one that started it all. I saw this movie in the theater when I was 13 and it mesmerized me. I re-watched this movie for the review and although I have seen it countless times over the years I wanted to watch it as if I were seeing it again for the first time. If you watch all the movies in chronological order you may forget that this movie is like walking into a story that is in the middle of being told. That is what made it so very interesting and drew me into the story back in 1977. Who were these characters and what was going on? Lucas really did know how to pull you into the story and deliver such state of the art special effects.

The movie has everything that makes for great science-fiction and fantasy. A young teenager caught in the boredom of life who sets off on a quest to battle the evil Empire. A wise mentor, who like a wizard in ancient tales, trains hims in ways. The dashing rogue anti-hero who is only in it for himself. The strong female who is in need of rescuing but is no damsel in distress. Then you have the evil dark lord, Darth Vader, who are plucky band of underdog heroes must defeat. We also have some other entertain characters like the droids C3PO and R2D2. wookie

This film also has something that is not always present in the prequels, namely chemistry between the actors. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford gel together tremendously well. Even though in the movie they have only recently come together they seems as if they are old friends meant to be together. As I have mentioned before, these films are an homage to the serial cliff hangers of the 40s and 50s. Scene after scene shows are heroes in one precarious situation after another. However, these scenes of action and adventure are not a substitute for great story telling and character development.

Although it would take all three movies for each of these three main characters to change and grow, the story in Star Wars IV: A New Hope is captivating and riveting. From the start of the movie we really don’t know too much of what is going on. There is an Evil Empire, with Darth Vader being one of the powerful old Jedi Knight who has the power of the force, there is a giant space station called the Death Star and the droid R2D2 is carrying the schematic plans to the Death Star. When Vader stops the ship carrying Princess Lia the droids are sent to the nearby planet, Tatooine, where they are eventually sold to the Lars family and their adopted son, Luke Skywalker. The droid is looking for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke thinks it means the old hermit living in the hills, Old Ben Kenobi, played by the great actor Sir Alec Guinness . Luke and Obi-Wan hire smuggler Han Solo and his Wookie, Chewbacca, to take the plans back to the rebel base on his faster-than-light ship the Millennium Falcon and rescue Princess Lia and then proceed to blow up the Death Star.

The movie is a classic not only of the science-fiction/fantasy genre, but of all genres. I think it is the best of the entire series. Now that doesn’t mean the other movies in the franchise are not good, they are, and the next movie, The Empire Strikes Back, which I will review next week, is often cited as the best movie. However, you never forget your first love.

Star Wars: Overview

I want to visit the Star Wars franchise, something I have not done too much on this blog. I have been going through the movies and I want to review them individually. Before I do that I wanted to give an overview of the franchise itself and share my thoughts on Star Wars.

Those of you who have followed this blog know that I am a bigger Star Trek fan than I am a Star Wars fan. I also do not subscribe to the cliché that there is a big rivalry between the two franchises. The vast majority are fans of both. Sure there are people like me who will favor one over the other and I also admit that there are some fans that like only Star Wars or only Trek. I think those are far and few between.

I will never forget seeing Star Wars on the big screen for the first time in 1977. I was about 13 years old when my elder sister, who had already seen the movie, came over to my house to take me to see it. I remember sitting there in amazement and wonder at what played before me. I was transported to a place and a world I had never seen before. I was mesmerized and it was magical. Right then and there I knew my Star Trek worshiping heart had some room for another spaced based franchise.

It has been many years since those days. I am no longer 13, pushing 50 this year, and there have been sequels and prequels to the 1977 movie. Although in the chronology of the 6 movies the 1977 movie is the 4th one in the story line and has been rebrand Star Wars IV: A New Hope…to me it will always simply be Star Wars. I feel something similar in Star Trek. With many series and movies that have been made in the Star Trek  world the 1960s original series (abbreviated TOS in the fan venacular…something I do not like but have come to accept) will always be simply Star Trek to me.

Even as with Star Trek I have not delved into the Star Wars novels and other aspects of the franchise. I have yet to see the Clone Wars movies and the series but they are on my “to  do” list. That means as I review the franchise I will be sticking to the 6 movies released so far. I will also review them in chronological order, I-VI, instead of the way they were released to the theaters.

What I want to address is the conflicts among fans about the two different trilogies. Fans often pit I-III against IV-VI. I must admit that the movies IV-VI are pretty iconic. I also see that sense of iconic status has great sentimental attachment for people. I also think that the prequels get a very bad rap and as you will see in my reviews I do enjoy them. I remember saying this to a fan…The original trilogy is an homage to the old B movie serials of the 40s but with a larger budget and better special effects. They all have their good points and their bad points. The original Star Wars movie was ground breaking in many ways. By 1999 when Star Wars I: A Phantom Menace was released the ground had been already broken. Not just by Star Wars itself but by many other ground breaking special effects laden science fiction and fantasy films. I do not blame Phantom Menace for not being as iconic or as ground breaking as the original Star Wars movie was.

So in my reviews of all of them I am going to try to divorce them from their history sentimentality and view them at face value. I also want to remark that the Star Wars franchise was aimed at younger viewers to some extent and to the child within us all.

 

So come with me on a journey to the dark side in a galaxy far, far away.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HARRISON FORD!!

Another important birthday today! Happy 70th birthday Han Solo I mean  Indiana Jones …er, no..Harrison Ford!!!