This is a post on my feelings after watching The Force Awakens. I won’t mention any plot points, but even so, if you haven’t watched the movie, BACK OUT NOW, because the moment you watch the movie, you’ll know what I’m talking about before the thing has happened yet. This is a movie Star Wars fans should get to experience for themselves, and I don’t want anyone to know anything that can ruin the specialness of their first time. (And if you’re lucky, entertainment media outlets aren’t so desperate for clicks that they will write articles about possible spoilers, accompanied by damning photos with obvious headlines so you can guess what they are talking about even without reading said article, before at least a month after the movie has opened. But that’ll probably be too much to hope for.)
You can tell J.J. Abrams loves Star Wars. He made a movie that a fan can be proud of, with references and even plot points that parallel events in the original trilogy. It is so faithful in tone and visuals to the originals that The Force Awakens just slots right into place in that universe, 30 years difference or no. The CGI doesn’t look fake or out of place or overused, especially the aliens and creatures — they looked like actual actors in prosthetics and animatronic creatures made for real, instead of on a computer. All these might also be attributed to the advances in CGI nowadays; but point is, the movie looks great, and not fake, unlike the prequels. Gosh, after watching this movie, I really cannot believe how George Lucas could have failed Star Wars fans so terribly with the prequels, when it is so possible to make a good Star Wars movie that isn’t 30 years old.
J.J. Abrams did absolutely the right thing in trying to veil the movie in utter secrecy. They didn’t even screen it for press until hours before the gala premiere on Monday, to minimise chances of spoilers getting out; so when the press did the junket last week, they went in blind. (Though if they were good at their job, that shouldn’t be a problem, since there’s so much history behind Star Wars and an iconic cast in The Force Awakens to talk about. Disney and all other movie studios should do it all the time for huge movies like The Avengers, which can afford the lack of press reviews, because the hype over them is so overwhelming that people will see it anyway regardless of what critics will say about it. But I digress.) Best part is, they succeeded too, because the most important parts of the movie were never revealed, despite all efforts by fans, paparazzi and opportunists obsessed over finding details to leak about the movie.
The movie is so good it hurts; I left the theatre with lingering bittersweet feelings. Honestly, I don’t know how Episode VIII is going to live up to it. There is a “NNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!” moment that my heart still aches about — and I am not even an avid fan, just a casual viewer! I don’t think the movie is good enough to win an Oscar, except maybe in artisan categories like Visual Effects, but if they gave out Oscars based on nostalgia, it would win Best Picture. No wonder it got such a high rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. It’s everything Star Wars fans could have hoped for since Return of the Jedi, or even better yet, The Empire Strikes Back.
The new characters are great. I really liked Rey and Finn. They weren’t Hayden Christensens, and there was no cringe-worthy dialogue weighing them down. Great character arcs too, so that helps. I thought Oscar Isaac would play a bigger role, like a Han Solo type, but his character is more like Wedge Antilles. I liked him much better than I thought I would. Adam Driver is one of those actors I’m biased against for absolutely no reason other than his looks, but since he’s playing a villain, I guess that suits him fine here. And BB-8 is adorable!
Love the old characters. Han and Chewie play a much bigger role than I expected. But I think I understand now why Harrison Ford was so happy about his involvement in the movie. (He famously hated his character, and wanted George Lucas to kill him off in Return of the Jedi, so seeing him all smiles while promoting the movie sent fans into transports of delight.)
Let’s talk about the other actors. Lupita Nyong’o was in the movie, but I couldn’t figure out who she played. I still can’t bring myself to believe that she’s Maz Kanata, because her appearance is like Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket the Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy — in that it did not sound like Bradley at all, and neither did her character sound like her. Andy Serkis too — I was shocked to find out he was in the movie, though I suppose I should have expected it, since he’s the master of motion-capture acting. Gwendoline Christie’s voice is distinctive so I knew her, though I wish she could have taken off her helmet.
J.J. Abrams also took the chance to do lots of his friends favours by putting them in the movie. Miles from Lost (Ken Leung) is in the movie! 😀 So is Greg Grunberg (friend and frequent appearance maker in his shows), Michael Giacchino (composer who works often with him), and Simon Pegg, who was long rumoured to have a part in the movie, and turns out he did, but I couldn’t recognise him, even though he plays a human and I knew his voice. They must have put prosthetics on his face. (Edit: Scratch that, he played Unkar Plutt, the alien who kept stiffing Rey on food, not the leader of one of the two mercenary gangs who confronted Han and Chewie just after they met Rey and Finn. But that guy sounded so much like him!) There are probably more of J.J.’s friends, but so far I only recognise these names off the cast list. To my surprise, Mark Stanley (Grenn in Game of Thrones, who died in the Battle of Castle Black holding the gate against the giant) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster are also in the movie, because I didn’t notice them at all. There was a guy who really looked like Donald Sutherland too, which caught me off guard, but it wasn’t him after all. Even Daniel Craig is in the movie!
Last thoughts: I want to know what’s the location that they filmed at for the last scene. It looks amazingly isolated and steep. How did the production crew even get there to film? :-O
Here’s the trailer in all its glory, one more time.