On Star Wars and Every Generation Having a Legend: Part 2 (after seeing the film)
December 18, 2015
There were no overnight campers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and lines on the morning of its opening day were steady, but not stretched down the block. This is not indicative of a lack of appeal, but rather a byproduct of the way tickets are sold in Taiwan. Many tickets are bought online these days, and movie theaters here actual assign seat numbers to tickets. Here, the person who is first in line may not get the best seat. In fact, he may not get a seat at all.
I had purchased my ticket a week earlier after reserving it about three weeks prior to that, and, in spite of that, I still arrived at the theater more than an hour early. It guess old habits do indeed die hard. Some things were different, though. There was a time when my pre-film ritual involved stopping at the concession stand for a overpriced box of Milk Duds and the largest coca-cola that they had. This time around it was just bottled water for me. I can honestly say I miss the days when I didn’t worry about cholesterol and calories.
At the movie theater, the presence of families was unmistakable. Some of the children looked young enough to be seeing their first movie in a movie theater, and if that is indeed true, then The Force Awakens will be etched in their memories forever. In line, two people who looked to be a couple were narrating the experience for a digital camera, perhaps for a blog or live web cam. The woman was explaining that one of the ushers had dressed up for the occasion, yet she failed to recognize just whose costume he was actually wearing. The man supplied the answer for her – a Jawa. I thought it could just have easily been a Jedi.
And then it was time to enter Theater #11 for the 2:55 show. There was a low murmur among the audience, and I don’t think they appreciated having to sit through five commercials and previews of The Good Dinosaur and Ip Man 3, starring Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson of all people. I could sense a tinge of excitement in the air as the moment of anticipation approached, but nothing happened to match the euphoria that I suspect greeted the opening notes of John Williams’ legendary score in the United States.
As you can plainly see by now, this is not a review by any stretch of the imagination, yet I’ve come to the part of my narration in which it is impossible not to talk about the film itself. So here goes. First, is it a good film? Yes, I believe it is. It is action-packed from start to finish, thrilling in the way a sci-fi adventure should be, and well acted all around, and it has a few interesting plot twists that came as genuine surprises. Also, in the film’s favor are the characters. Not only does the film bring back characters that fans of the original trilogy know and love, in particular, Han Solo, but it also more than adequately develops its new characters. We get a real sense of just who Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren are, and there was never a point in which their actions seemed out of character or unrealistic. I’m still not sure how two of them can use a lightsaber as well as they do, but that’s just par for the course in a Star Wars film. I also appreciated that screenwriters J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt avoided the temptation to rely on “funny” characters. This is not to say that there aren’t humorous moments in the film, but the humor comes during realistic conversations and in likely scenarios. It is not there just for the kids, as Jar Jar Binks’s jokes were.
As I've said, it's a good movie. Unfortunately, it is not a great one. At several points, I was overcome with a sense of déjà vu , as situations and scenarios from previous films seemed to be being rehashed far too often. It was as if there were a checklist of conventional Star Wars moments, and they were being ticked off as the film went along. This created the uncomfortable feeling that what I was watching was an unholy amalgamation of a reboot and a sequel. I also thought there was a nice shot before the film’s finale that could have served as the film’s closing shot. I know why it wasn’t, but what came after it seemed like something that could have served quite nicely as the opening scene in the next film.
I know I’m being very vague here, but we are living in a time when the phrase spoiler alert has crept into office conversations and internet movie chat rooms. IMDB practically mandates that commentators inform people if their comments may give away important details. Plus, as I said in my previous post, I did not want any advanced information on the film, so it would be a bit hypocritical of me to rob someone else of that blessed lack of knowledge. I will end with this, though. While I don’t think this film will be one of this generation’s legends, it is a film that people will remember. I’m still on the fence about whether it was necessary to return to the series at all, but I find myself curious once again about Star Wars and Episode 8. In other words, Star Wars: The Force Awakens does exactly what it is supposed to do. It just doesn’t do it as well or as originally as it could have.