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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Movie review)

Posted by DrEdwardHudgins 1 year, 11 months ago to Movies
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If you liked the original Star Wars trilogy, you’ll enjoy the sequel, The Force Awakens. But I argue that J.J. Abrams offers confused politics and misses a chance to offer something really interesting and thought-provoking.
SOURCE URL: http://atlassociety.org/commentary/commentary-blog/5932-star-wars-the-force-awakens-review


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  • Posted by  $  blarman 1 year, 11 months ago
    Even in the original canon books, the Republic fought for decades to try to resurrect the Galactic Senate, with Han and Leia leading the effort. They also had to fight with the military remnants of the Empire led by Admiral Thrawn (as per Timothy Zahn). Given that Episode Seven takes place only thirty years after the events in "Return of the Jedi" (a similar break between "Revenge of the Sith" and "A New Hope") the plot is completely reasonable both from time frame and realism.

    The movie had too many bridges to cross (from the old movies) to get the politics involved in this installment. Remember, as opposed to Lucas and Spielberg teaming up on all of the six previous movies, this time each of Episodes VII, VIII, and IX will be directed by different visionaries, allowing each to focus on the aspects they are good at. Abrams is a master with action films and Star Wars: Episode VII was no different. There was very little CGI: the actual planetary battle scenes - though obviously choreographed - used actual explosives in most instances. I think it worthwhile to point out as well that in Lucas' original version called "Star_killer_" actually was a planetary super-weapon being used - exactly like that in Episode VII. The Death Star was monumental, yes, but small potatoes compared to Lucas' original military monstrosity as unveiled here.

    If I had to quibble with the movie, I wouldn't quibble about the way the original actors (Hamill, Fisher, Ford) played their roles or the storyline being set up. I would ask Where the heck are the Y-wing and B-Wing bombers? You're attacking a planetary installation with fighters??? And where are the Republic Mon Calamari cruisers which formed the heart of the fleet in Return?

    As a corollary, I would ask where the TIE Interceptors were. They gave a new look to the TIE Fighters by making them black instead of the utilitarian grey, but the curved-wing ships were the newest thing in the Empire's arsenal - built specifically to tangle with the highly maneuverable and more heavily armed AND armored X-wing (similar to the Japanese Zero and American Hellcat fighters of WWII). It also looked like the entire fleet of the New Order consisted of a single Star Destroyer. I'm sorry, but did they just place so many of their resources into the planetary hyperspace laser that they had nothing left for space defense - or is there actually another fleet out there somewhere guarding the new Sith Lord? (And PS - but Kylo Ren's ship is ridiculous - it functions like a shuttle but has the size of a destroyer or small cruiser.)

    The last quibble was in the lightsaber battles. I can totally understand Rey and Finn being amateurs, but Kylo Ren should have been mowing people down right and left. The hallmark of a Sith was their prowess in battle. I don't buy the line that stormtroopers had some training or that Rey used a staff. Rey wasn't using a double-bladed, Darth Maul-style lightsaber, which one could argue would parallel with her staff. If Ren could stop a blaster bolt with the Force, he really should have been able to handle a not-even-padawan in a lightsaber duel with ease. He could choke someone, but couldn't use a more basic Force Push? Talk about needing significantly more training!

    That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and think it bodes well for the future of the Star Wars Universe. I'd happily go back and see it again in theatres.
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    • Posted by  $  jlc 1 year, 11 months ago
      Good comments, blarman. I agree with your comments on the strategy and tactics of the battles; also the single-point-of-failure is convenient for the plot. (You'da think they would have learned.) They could have put a little bit more effort into making this more realistic - probably without spending more money or taking more screentime.

      I think that DrEH's analysis is good in general; I really like the analogy with the French Revolution. I believe that a significant point that was missed, however: a major purpose of this episode was to 'pick back up the threads' of the universe and plot sequence and to introduce new characters who are strong enough to carry the action forward. I think that is why there were so many 'shout outs' for geeks and fans in the script.

      Insofar as the lightsaber scenes are concerned, I have fought with both a staff and a greatsword (I won a greatsword lyst once, many years ago) and I can affirm that a lot of the moves do transfer over (more so than between broadsword fighting and greatsword fighting). I have also seen the bloody-damn 'naturals' who pick up a sword and start fighting as if they were born to it (the rest of us mortals have to struggle up the learning curve). These dratted people do exist. I will allow that Rey is one such, for the sake of the plot.

      I am planning to go see it again on XMas day.

      Jan
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    • Posted by swmorgan77 1 year, 11 months ago
      Ren and his master are NOT Sith. They are dark force users for sure, but the Sith were a specific order with specific rules and focus on strength. These guys (Knights of Ren) are much weaker overall, and wouldn't excel in combat because unlike Sith who draw upon emotion for combat, Ren's master (Snoke) condemns emotion and is teaching him to rid himself of it. (more like Jedi in this regard). This, and the fact that he's obviously at a "Padawan" type level in his training, explain why she could take him down.
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    • Posted by  $  nickursis 1 year, 11 months ago
      The gap between all the many books and the movie was an issue only because Disney takes a whole universe, that had built it's story and history based on Lucas approval, and tossed it in the dumpster much as the Trek JJ verse did. They had some excellent story lines from existing material, and instead opted for what looked like a 3 movie mashup. It got so predictable my engineer and I watched it and started telling each other what must be coming up soon (a trench scene, a large bearded guy blowing up in a bomber ( we decided he was the brother of the guy who did the same thing in the first movie), and of course, a Cantina scene. Just from what they did, they could have easily stepped into the Legacy of the Force series, where Han and Leia had 3 children (one of whom becomes a sith lord, and one of whom offs him). Add in the luke backstory and it would have made just as good a set of movies, and toss in the bad guys invading from another galaxy. Lots of stuff to play with. I am also kinda confused why Star Trek has made such a huge Fan film base, leading into ST Axanar (and the outstanding 20 minute Prelude to Axanar) and Pacific201 and there is a total lack of SW efforts. Must be something to do with the effects needed or something.
      As far as the rest of the fleet, there is some backstory stuff floating around, supposedly the "Resistance" is an unsanctioned group, the real government had some kind of peace treaty with the 1st Order, and was the system they vaporized in the process. So the fleet apparently had gone the way of most military when peace breaks out. Of course that also means the X wings were pretty long in the tooth by then, so they should have again dipped in the novel bag and pulled out the Jedi versions (black and supped up) to help even things up. I also agree you are dead on right with the Force issue, there is so much that the Jedi and Sith supposedly do with the Force in combat, Kylo Ren was almost painful to watch, looking like a kid who just found a gun and is gone off killing everyone. Rey you expect to be the novice, as she has no idea what to do with the Force, thus leading us into next movie, which will probably be another close copy of Empire. Luke teaches Rey to use the Force, Rey runs off to help momma who she feels is in danger or something, Luke lies down to die peacefully, big station where Kylo Ren does bad things in a sneaky way. Hopefully Finn does not get flash frozen...
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  • Posted by  $  allosaur 1 year, 11 months ago
    My grown son saw this latest Star Wars with a friend and went back to see it again with mt ex-wife family members within 48 hours. He loves it.
    Having tinnitus and 45% of my hearing along with defective hearing aids that I trashed, I was reluctant to see the flick at a theater.
    But my son had learned of a theater that offers special closed caption glasses and/or ear phones for someone with issues like me.
    A PC search located this theater is located in a satellite city on the north side of Birmingham.
    My son wants to come with me to see it a third time!
    I told him we we will do that after Christmas on a school day afternoon.
    Old dino does not have masochistic tendencies.
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    • Posted by  $  nickursis 1 year, 11 months ago
      Dino, it was so loud in our theater you did not need any hearing, it was felt. An issue I have with almost all movies, they are almost painful when things blow up. The 3D was really good, first one I ever tried. A couple scenes came out really awesome with it.
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      • Posted by  $  allosaur 1 year, 11 months ago
        The last movie I saw in a theater was Skyfall and that was a couple of years after I stopped seeing flicks in theaters..
        It's not the action sounds I had a problem with.
        It was the dialog.
        I kept missing bits of spoken sentences.
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        • Posted by  $  nickursis 1 year, 11 months ago
          Oh, my issue is usually they are so loud it's painful. I was a submarine sonar guy so they checked our hearing every year for 20 years, luckily I never had any loss over the time. I agree with the subtitles, sometimes that is almost better.
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        • Posted by freedomforall 1 year, 11 months ago
          Get some of these. Made in the U.S.A.
          http://www.magnepan.com/
          Voices are so real you will think they are in the room with you.
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          • Posted by  $  allosaur 1 year, 11 months ago
            Thanks, but the old blind couple who closely live next door to me may not like that.
            I catch up on current movies with Netflix and try to make sure the DVDs have subtitles.
            Sometimes I slip up and I can twice recall a false claim of having English subtitles.
            Way before I developed hearing problems, I got used to subtitles during my 20s for watching samurai classics on PBS.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 1 year, 11 months ago
    Just saw it myself. I've heard it said that Star Wars is an biblical allegory a political satire, or just a fun S.F. movie. Call me shallow, but I enjoyed the film for its thrills and its adventure. Little bits of humor, and a few of the old crew back in the thick of things, added to the fun. A few unexpected twists and plenty of unanswered questions remaining for episode 8 to deal with. If this keeps up, John Williams' iconic music may become more popular than Jingle Bells. So, go see it, you'll like it. But relax, The Fountainhead it is not.
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    • Posted by  $  nickursis 1 year, 11 months ago
      Nope, it's not. But it is just fun shoot em up. Just don't look too close.
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      • Posted by Herb7734 1 year, 11 months ago
        The most important thing about a movie is that it must be entertaining. Star Wars films are certainly that. And that brings us to Atlas Shrugged, the film. I really liked it, but then, I am an Objectivist. Even though, the three films didn't nearly cover everything in the book, it still was ponderous when it came right down to it and lacked adventure. If our friends are successful in creating a TV series, I would take all kinds of liberties with the book. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't even call it it "Atlas Shrugged." How about just, "Atlas?" Base the stories on Objectivist principles, but update it. Instead of a train corp. make it a large overland trucking firm, with troubles with the union, the government regulators and a rival trying to take over the company with aid from a corrupt government. Check out "The Good Wife" which makes the dry subject of law exciting. I'm just sayin'.
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        • Posted by  $  nickursis 1 year, 11 months ago
          Good points. Lots of room to play there, what about fuel use/global warming impacts on business? How that gets abused for every pet idea on the planet and politician. How about an independent trucker family with just a couple trucks? Lots of fresh ways to incorporate ideas. But you are spot on in the entertaining as well as engrossing, you actually have to get a relationship with the viewers that makes them have a stake in it, whether it is to see what happens or to make them feel it is something they can relate to.
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          • Posted by Herb7734 1 year, 11 months ago
            Absolutely.
            Get a loyal fan base. you can go on a show like 20/20 or 60 minutes after you're a success and let the interviewer draw you out about "hidden" meanings.
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  • Posted by strugatsky 1 year, 11 months ago
    J.J. Abrams is not interested in anything that is thought-provoking.
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    • Posted by freedomforall 1 year, 11 months ago
      Agreed. He blows things up and thinks that is all that audiences need. He ruined Star Trek and couldn't even complete a plot that holds together. Very disappointing. However, I have a nearly open mind on Star Wars. I bet its a lot better than Waterworld.
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      • Posted by  $  nickursis 1 year, 11 months ago
        A LOT of movies were better. A whole lot. But Strugatsky is pretty accurate, JJ seems bent on spectacle, not story. SW is spectacle, but seemed like for all the "work" that went into it, someone got cheated.
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  • Posted by swmorgan77 1 year, 11 months ago
    I'm reading the novel now, and it gives a little more clarity in the political aspects. Some very statist premises at work for sure. The back-story is that the "new republic" was not strong or efficient enough in the aftermath of the fall of the empire and people are clamoring for strong control giving rise to the "First Order".

    There are some legitimate points to be drawn too, however. Often indvidualists or advocates of reduced government want to impose that change politically, and this shows how imposing a lack of control that outstrips societal understanding of correct philosophy will just open a power vaccuum.

    Also, there are some VERY interesting speeches by the villians (supreme leader Snoke and others) in the book that didn't make the film, which decry individualism. The book has a much more overt pro-individualism theme than the film did (probably due to it's trimming down of the dialogue).
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    • Posted by  $  blarman 1 year, 11 months ago
      Sounds like I'm going to have to get it. It sounds very similar to the premises of the original canon, where Leia literally spent her entire life trying to put the Old Republic back together again both militarily and economically.
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    • Posted by  $  jlc 1 year, 11 months ago
      swm –

      Oh. I will have to read the novel, then.

      One of the side effects of the existence of THIS Gulch is that the randist philosophy per se is getting some alpha testing in an environment that is semi-open. That is to say, the people who are here have a generally similar philosophical perspective, but different experiences and vastly different opinions on some of the parameters and details of implementation. I am constantly refining and revising my premises due to the input from people on this site.

      If this philosophy someday/somewhere gets the opportunity to become a major player in the social and political arenas, some of the bugs may have been shaken out of it by this virtual gulch. It is crucial that what you have described in the TFA universe not happen – that we get the ball and then fumble it because we do not know ‘how to make it work’.

      Jan
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      • Posted by blackswan 1 year, 11 months ago
        The issue I see is that there will NEVER be a "pure" Objectivism. Each of us has our own ideas of what is objectivism, and the only thing that will eventually show up in the real world as a movement is a compromise between these different views. The task is to make sure that that compromise is "pure" enough to be a viable, workable ideology, without any of the fatal flaws that seem to show up in any belief system thus far. That may mean dropping some things because they're not important to the establishment of a good system, with the understanding that, periodically, there will need to be upgrades as serious problems arise and are dealt with. That's probably the best we can come up with.
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  • Posted by  $  AJAshinoff 1 year, 11 months ago
    I was unimpressed with this film, I saw it today with my son. It was nothing more than a rehash of the first Star Wars movie with new faces in familiar roles going through the paces we've seen in the 4th (SW), 5th(ROJ), and 6th (ESB) installments. On a scale from 1-10, I'd rate it 7.
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  • Posted by  $  terrycan 1 year, 11 months ago
    I saw it. Believe Star Wars is more fairy tale than science fiction. Frankly I just don't understand the fascination with it.
    There just is not much science in this science fiction.
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  • Posted by  $  Olduglycarl 1 year, 11 months ago
    I have yet to see the movie but from what I've read and heard... it's much like our world today, having similar struggles...should we re-institute our Constitution in stronger terms, tweek it a bit , make it clearer for those stupid so that it can never again be misunderstood or confounded or start from scratch; all while we fight the good fight.

    Glad to hear though, they didn't change the characters into a liberal utopia...that would have killed the whole thing.

    Maybe, like so many great works...the ending, it's resolution, is up to us and worthy of yet another sequel.
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  • Posted by tdechaine 1 year, 11 months ago
    By all accounts: too mystical, nearly plotless, not true good and evil, pretty dumb.
    I suppose that will get the ire of SW lovers.
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    • Posted by Herb7734 1 year, 11 months ago
      You have to remember that #7 is the start of a new series, and as such had to establish new characters and story lines while being a thrilling show. I think it succeeded in that and ended in just the right place in order to continue. It carries lots of baggage, but I think they dealt well with it.
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    • Posted by  $  nickursis 1 year, 11 months ago
      I wouldn't say too far off the mark, a lot of "you need to have seen all the others to know what is going on here" was needed. Even then, a lot of scenes were "How did they get that?" quality. The evil guys were of course, easy to swap, but they fell down on a basic: to be politically correct, they cast a black man as a storm trooper, when the Storm Troopers were all clones of Bobba Fetts dad (Jango?). They alluded to something with a couple lines about "our storm troopers are the equal of" but then gave Finn no name just a number, going back to the clone theory. Would have been a lot cleaner if they had set something in motion somewhere in the beginning to explain why.
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      • Posted by mspalding 1 year, 11 months ago
        I thought they mentioned that the current batch of Storm Troopers were taken from their families as young children and raised to be troops.
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        • Posted by  $  nickursis 1 year, 11 months ago
          I remembered hearing something like that but it seemed to wiz by, it seemed sort of confusing, as to why they needed to use the number thing then, would they tell kids to forget their names? Seemed kinda lame...
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      • Posted by  $  blarman 1 year, 11 months ago
        You're mixing Storm Troopers and Clone Troopers. The Clone facilities were shut down at the end of the Clone Wars just after they offed all the Jedi in Episode III. Storm Troopers were just normal indoctrinated schmoes taken from their families and put through intense training.

        The one thing I will say is that at least this time they were able to hit things (Chewbacca). One of the running jokes of past episodes is just how bad of shots they supposedly are despite the fact that Obi Wan Kenobi sees the slaughtered Jawa sandcrawler on Tattooine and points out the "precision" of the blast marks as the hallmarks of Imperial troops.
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        • Posted by  $  nickursis 1 year, 11 months ago
          Oh, I never saw that in any of the books. In fact, I think Thrawn had a facility that was cloning Imperial Storm Troopers and that was something like 30 years afterwards. Thanks for the clarification, But I also believe this was a politically correct decision, or a way to break out of the clone mold for the future movies.
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  • Posted by bsmith51 1 year, 11 months ago
    We saw it yesterday in 3D. Having a very thin plot that made little sense, it was a jumble of scenes that I'm sure thrilled kids but eventually got very tiresome. I almost fell asleep about 3/4 in.
    Presentation: A
    Story/plot: D
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    • Posted by  $  AJAshinoff 1 year, 11 months ago
      Not sure how you give a D to the plot since the story was essentially episode 4 with a touch of episode 5 told over again with new characters in familiar roles.
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  • Posted by BrettRocketSci 1 year, 11 months ago
    Very good review, thanks. I saw the movie the first weekend and loved it overall. But was disappointed in the same points of recycling from earlier movies and the vague, confusing politics. Still made me eager to see what happens next!
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