Friday, 25 December 2015

Review: Star Wars - The Force Awakens (fifth-pass / SPOILERS)

World of Blackout Film Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (3D) Poster

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (fifth-pass / 3D / SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 135 mins / Dir. J.J.Abrams / Trailer

Previous reviews:
• First-pass (spoiler-free)
• Second-pass (spoiler-free)
• Third-pass (thematic-spoilers)
• Fourth-pass (plot-spoilers)

Well, hello again. I've been to see Star Wars again. Obviously. This time it's less of a review/analysis, and more my thoughts as I went through the film, many of which I'd mused about before, but are now finally committed to publishing. For obvious reasons, this post contains spoilers, but they're more plot-mechanics and they don't really appear until further down the list. And apart from anything else, the film's been out a week now, and if you still haven't seen it by now (and I do know people in that boat), you're not really going to be poking around a review marked 'Spoilers' then complaining about what you find, are you? No. You're not.

Anyow, this is the last-call for the spoiler-averse; click away before reading any further…

Notes and queries from The Force Awakens…

• Back at the time of 2012's Disney buyout announcement, many of us were wondering how Episode VII would begin now that 20th Century Fox weren't on distributing-duty. The answer isn't a mouse-infused opening sequence (why would it be? The Marvel Studios movies don't get one), but a silent Lucasfilm logo, before moving to the "A long time ago..." card. Not sure if that'll change in the future; time will tell.


• The first line of dialogue in the film is "…this will begin to make things right.". Many will surely raise an eyebrow at JJ Abrams' rather arch opening gambit; as a prequel-lover, the line sits a little more sourly with me, I have to say. The prequels weren't right and they weren't wrong. They were the prequels. If certain members of the cast of this film still want to go carping on about not enjoying them, I see no reason to stop criticising them for it ;) But we certainly don't need the writers on that bandwagon, too...

• As welcome an addition to the ensemble as Max Von Sydow's Lor San Tekka is, why is he playing Captain Retort? Every line he says in response to another character is framed as a witty/withering comment. Can you imagine fighting in the Rebellion/Republic with that guy? ("But can you imagine fighting without me?"). No, shut up Lor San, that attitude is going to land you right in the shit. ("We're already in the shit, Blackout, it's only the depth which varies...") Oh, ffs. Kylo, he's all yours...

• Captain Phasma addresses Kylo Ren as "Sir"; can we assume from this that Ren holds an actual military rank in the First Order, given that Darth Vader was essentially Palpatine's enforcer/attack-dog, but the real operational control was given to the likes of Tarkin?

• Considering Rey thinks of Luke Skywalker as a myth and Han Solo as a legend, it seems odd that she's made a rag-doll of an X-Wing pilot and she has an old Rebellion helmet knocking around the place. She has some concerning gaps in her knowledge for someone who's enthusiastic about 30yr old history (I haven't decyphered the writing on the side of her helmet yet, anyone?). Although that's perhaps not quite as odd as the very 'British' accented Basic that's used in her region of Jakku.

• Once Unkar Plutt has offered Rey an uncharacteristically large amount of muffin-slop for the droid BB-8 (which she refuses, more or less instantly, to her credit), how does she not realise that the droid might be an object of intrigue to people who aren't exactly interested in paying the guide-price for it? In fact, how is Rey so crushingly naive when she's been basically living off her wits for 12+ years?

THE FINALIZER (Star Destroyer)

• And there's the long-awaited Wilhelm Scream, when Poe and Finn escape and the hangar starts 'going on fire a bit'. The (heavily cropped) shot in the trailer which I thought would feature the scream actually doesn't (I have a hat to eat...), but it's in the very next shot. Truncated and low in the mix, but it's there.

• The opening crawl said that Leia had sent Poe Dameron on a secret mission. Did she actually tell Poe it was a secret? He's just been rescued by a stormtrooper he's never laid eyes on before, and he starts blabbering about Luke Skywalker's location. Sure, Kylo Ren and the First Order knew about the map by then, but it doesn't mean all the troops have all the information. Mind you, Finn takes this as the normal state of affairs since he does the same thing later on, increasing the price on BB-8's head with every person he yaps to...

• Kylo Ren's facetious comment to General Hux about going back to using a clone army: How is taking children from their families and brainwashing them into soldiers more efficient than just cloning them from scratch (assuming that recruitment wouldn't/didn't work)? Not withstanding the resentment this will cause from the parents, you'll have to make your armour in different sizes/fits, account for differing dietry requirements and hereditary conditions, and make allowances for different levels of intelligence and genetically predisposed personality conditions. By the time you remember that FN-2187 fluffed his first mission out of the gate, it's starting to look like an inherently flawed system.
Bring back the clones, for efficiency's sake.


• If the Millennium Falcon "hasn't flown in years" (and it appears that Rey is familiar with it, pilot's intuition or not), how come it's fuelled, charged up and ready to leave so quickly?


• So Luke started a new Jedi academy and his student "destroyed everything" (movie code for "killed everyone"), then Luke "just walked away from it all". What, with Kylo Ren still alive and at large? Why the hell are the Resistance so desperate to find the guy, so he can do half of another job..?


• In contrast to the sands of Jakku, Takodana's mountainy-foresty-temply look works as a perfect counterpoint. Until later in the film when you realise that the planet-surface of the Starkiller Base is also mountainy-foresty, and so is the Resistance Base on D'Qar. And Luke's hideout on Craggy Island isn't a million miles away from it, either. 'Real sets' are all well and good, but it's bad enough that 8/10 fan-films are made in forests as it is...

• Again, it's established by this point that BB-8 is quite a valuable/important asset. And Han knows what a sleazepit Maz Kanata's bar is. So why walk into a grotty pub in the East End with an open Cartier box full of diamonds..?

• The room downstairs containing the haunted lightsaber-box: Does the door open because it's set to recognise Rey's Force-signature, or is Maz monitoring activity down there following her "Who's the girl..?" conversation with Han?

• Maz Kanata: "This lightsaber belonged to Luke, and to his father before him. Now it calls to you...". Another point added to the reasons that Rey's surname is Skywalker...


• Kylo Ren's meditation conversation: Whatever secrets Ren thinks Vader has shown him through the Dark Side, these have to have been manipulations from Snoke, right? Anakin Skywalker returned to the light before he died (whichever Force-ghost you prefer), and there's little or no reason for his allegiance to change after that, is there? Is there..?

• This one is probably just me thinking in 'the old ways', but who's actually in charge of he galaxy now? The opening crawl says the First Order rose from the ashes of the Empire, but that there's also a New Republic. Hux's speech on the Starkiller Base talks about a Republic government supporting the Resistance. But if the Republic is in general charge, then why is the Resistance called that? Surely the ones 'resisting' would be the First Order themselves? What I'm asking is, who are the terrorists this time around?

• The thing is, right, they've built this mahoosive battle-station into a planet. But the planet's still got the majority of its surface attached (this might be designed to fall away soon, we never find out). But it's surface has got trees and snow. Even taking into account that the snow could be down to the eco-system being ruined by the replacement of the core of the planet (or it could just be snow, right?), there's still an entire planet's worth of ecology there which the Resistance destroy when they make the planet implode. Who are the terrorists this time around?

• Starkiller-Base also seems to be used really innefficiently. The idea as I understand it is that you park up this weapon in a solar system; you drain the power of the system's sun, then use that to destroy the planets; bang, job done (essentially a combined Death Star and Sun Crusher). Which is all fine, except that the star it drains first isn't the sun of Takodana, or the neighbouring planets it destroys. Not withstanding that you can't destroy all those other celestial bodies and expect Takodana's orbit/eco-system to remain unaffected, there's also the problem of the star you've wiped out elsewhere and its knock-on gravitational effect. Additionally, the second sun the Starkiller drains isn't the sun of D'Qar where the Resistance Base is, despite Leia stating "this system is their next target". We know this because it runs that one dry before the Resistance attack, but Leia's stronghold is in daylight at the end of the film. Is General Shouty-Hux the brains behind the logistics, here?

• Kylo Ren's hat. That litter-tray he keeps it in is full of Vader's ashes isn't it, presumably recovered at the same time as the helmet? (not by Ren obviously, as he wasn't born then, but another case of Luke doing half a job...) Even I'll admit that's kinda creepy.

• Kylo Ren to Rey about Han Solo: "He's the father you never had." Precisely that, Kylo, precisely that. She's been told by her own brother. Another point added to the reasons that Rey's surname is Organa-Solo...

• Earlier, Rey pronounced the Ileenium system "eye-leen-ee-um", but Hux pronounces it "ill-een-ee-um". It's like Twi'lek all over again, isn't it?


• The Starkiller-Base is referred to as "a hyper-lightspeed weapon". Does this mean further advancements in hyperspace technology have been made over the last 30 years? It would certainly explain how both the Resistance and the First Order manage to arrive at Takodana seemingly within minutes of being informed of BB-8's presence.


• Han Solo: " worked in SANITATION?". I'm still not sure if this is a coded reference to Kevin Smith's Clerks diatribe about plumbing contractors on the second Death Star and Stormtroopers not knowing how to plumb in a toilet-main, or if it's a nod to Scarface's "I told you to tell them you worked in a SANITARIUM!" line. Either is awesome, both would be magnificent.

• After that moment, Chewbacca's first shot hits Ren in the side when his guard is down. Why hadn't the Wookiee let of at least one more follow-up shot by that point?

• I love how Kylo Ren punches his own blaster-wound, to keep the adrenaline flowing from the pain it induces. The boy's got issues, but I like him.

• Seriously though, Rey might be intuitively strong in the Force, and Finn may be skilled in melee-combat, but Kylo Ren has both. How does he not kill each of them 30 seconds into their respective lightsaber duels? (Rey's handy with a staff to be fair, but still)

• So, how come no-one gets their hand cut off in this film? When Rey finally knocks Kylo Ren onto his back, a black shape separates from his left-hand side which looks like it could be a hand or lower arm. But in the next shot, he's got all of his limbs and apendages. Boo!

• It's heavily implied that Kylo Ren is taken off-planet by General Hux at Snoke's instruction. But by the pacing of those scenes, Hux wouldn't have had time to locate him, surely? The planet basically implodes behind the Falcon, and they were only about a minute away from escaping themselves when we saw the order being given.


• The last words of dialogue in the film are "May the Force be with you". Unlike them opening line, I'll give them that one ;)
(the last dialogue in Basic, anyway. Both BB-8 and Chewie have lines after that)


• No, you shut up. The name of the planet hasn't been revealed yet.

• Why does Chewie land at the bottom them make Rey walk up all those steps? He could have just hovered at the top and let her jump off the ramp, surely? Sulking about still being the co-pilot, I expect ;)

• Speaking of which, it looks like Rey's inherited the captaincy of the Millennium Falcon. Another point added to the reasons that Rey's surname is Organa-Solo...

• And I love that Luke's back down to the mechanical workings of his prosthetic hand. Although you have to remember that there's probably a badly infected wound further up that sleeve where the mechanics and the biologics join. Eeurgh.

So again, what have I misinterpreted? What have I missed?
Let me know in them there comments...

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
It is.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
Buy it, obviously.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Some of the leads, yes

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I just might…

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There certainly is.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Well, The Force Awakens stars Harrison Ford, who was in Force 10 from Navarone, as was Michael Sheard, who appeared in Indy rip-off High Road to China alongside Wilford Brimley, who rocked up in 1983's Tender Mercies next to Paul Gleason, who starred in the 'Speak, Lawyers for Me' episode of L.A. Law with series regular Jimmy Smits, who also shared the 'Chariots of Meyer' episode of the same show with James Earl Jones, who appeared in 1995's Clear and Present Danger alongside Harrison Ford, who starred in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

^^ That one's definitely the last…

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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