Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Force Awakens: Mr. Abrams' Magnum Opus

(PLEASE NOTE: While I'm sure most people reading this review will have already seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, for those who haven't, I'm endeavoring to keep things spoiler-free.)

True story: today, I finally got to see the most hyped, most amazing, all-around best movie of 2015. And when I got home, my mom, because she's not quite as into Star Wars as I am, decided to ask about the group I saw the movie with, and - I kid you not - one of her top questions was, "So, any girlfriend prospects?" I think she's just as tired as everyone else of my constant lamenting about my perpetual single-pringle status. So, my response was, "Well, there was the one with an adorably plushie backpack..."


Droid, please. I already have my heart set on someone else!

Imagine my surprised when I learned
how close Daisy Ridley was to me in age! :D

No, seriously, Rey's my newest fanboy crush. And for good reason. This girl kicks ass with the best of them, and wipes the floor with some of those bests of them too. She's the new true hero of this storied franchise, going from living a hardscrabble life in the sands of Jakku to overturning all expectations whenever she finds herself in any remotely distressed-damsel type of situation.

Also along for the ride are a couple more new heroes, though neither of them are quite as cool as Rey. Finn is a young First Order Stormtrooper (I guess they ran out of Jango Fett clones who keep banging their heads on the door?), and Poe Dameron is the Resistance's biggest hotshot pilot. Together, they kick-start one of the first of this movie's so many mind-blowing action scenes, in which the former defects from the First Order and they take off in an unattended fighter. (This is more challenging than it sounds - said fighter happens to be quite firmly TIEd down, pun intended.)

Pictured: on the left, one snarky dude.
On the right, one traitor to a despicable cause.

Special mention also has to go to the greatest Lil' Robot Sidekick Star Wars has ever seen, and perhaps the strongest competitor yet to Baymax's title of Cutest Robot Ever. I give you the fantastic, the expressive, the wonderful...BB-8.

Yeah, that's right. I said your name, little guy. :)

And let's not forget the return of some old favorites from way back in the day. Seriously, every time another familiar face showed up on screen, the entire theater broke out in applause. But the most was reserved for the scene that had everyone wetting themselves in the earliest trailers.

It's like when someone shows up as themselves on SNL or TBBT. *insert Lady Gaga's "Applause"*

The Dark Side had its fair share of great representatives too. By which I mean "great for the Dark Side," and not that they're actual great people to have around. Our Big Bad, Kylo Ren, fancies himself the second coming of Darth Vader, complete with praying to the ruins of Vader's helmet. But he's not Vader - if anything, he's worse. The original trilogy mostly used Vader's fearsome appearance to cultivate his air of badass villainy. Under J.J. Abrams' expert direction, however, we're actually shown the wickedness, as Ren gets up close and personal to torture his chosen victims. Like, he uses the Force to keep them trapped in place, rather than just choke them from a short distance as was Vader's M.O. And he likes to strap people into chairs and mind-rape them, too. He's creepy like that.

What Rey's really thinking:
"You and your ridiculous facial apparatus stay OUT OF MY HEAD, gorrammit!"

Oh, and lest we forget - the crossguard lightsaber. We all remember how everyone reacted to the first sight of that baby - "how does he not cut his hands off with that thing?" Well, just look at the main blade too. It's looking a little glitchy, don't you think? Not nearly as solid as you would expect, given what all the other lightsabers throughout the series looked like. Me, I'm thinking that the less-solid state of Ren's weapon is a metaphor for how unstable he is in general. I mean, the guy has an alarming habit of using that same lightsaber to destroy inanimate objects when he's pissed. And then there's...well, I won't spoil what it is he really does, but let's just say, without getting into specifics, it's UNFORGIVABLE. Like, Avada Kedavra unforgivable.

Back to Ren's old idol for a second, though. Only in Return of the Jedi did it appear that there was any chance of Vader being even the tiniest bit redeemable. Until then, he was cold and vicious and deadly, and we all loved to hate him. It's entirely possible that the writers are setting up Ren for a similar turnaround come Episode IX or so. But until then, I refuse to believe that there's any bringing this guy back from the Dark Side.

What I do believe is that this role is the closest
Adam Driver's ever been to doing a Loki cosplay.

The best villain of this movie, though, wasn't Kylo Ren at all. Instead, it was the villain whose face we didn't get to see: Captain Phasma. Everyone loves Boba Fett because throughout all his original-trilogy film appearances (and, to an extent, his turn as a little ten-year-old boy clone in Episode II), he's enigmatic, mysterious, everything people love about bad guys. Captain Phasma is the sequel trilogy's Boba Fett - she gets so little screen time, but boy howdy, do those precious few minutes make an impact.

And here we see Captain Phasma in her natural habitat,
doing her "Haters Gonna Hate" walk to the tune of Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell."

Characters are the movie's strongest of strong points, and this is closely followed by action. Abrams has yet to fail me in any of his directing efforts, but this movie contains some of the most balls-to-the-wall hyperkinetic scenes that aren't in the likes of, say, Fury Road, The Amazing Spider-Man, Live Free Or Die Hard, The Maze Runner, etc. That part where the Millennium Falcon goes on a merry little dogfight run through the wreck of a Stardestroyer? Trust me, the trailers don't do it justice at all. And then, for Holy Shit Quotient at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, there's a scene involving epic-scale destruction of lives and property (the exact details and/or specifications cannot be revealed here) which might just be the most horrifying of its kind since Terminator 2. Basically, this movie runs the gamut - it's perfectly balanced, like that sword Will Turner presented in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

All of these combined make The Force Awakens not only the best Star Wars movie to date, but also the best movie J.J. Abrams has ever made, or will ever make. For the next two Episodes, Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow really have their work cut out for them if they want to stand a chance at reaching the insanely high bar their immediate predecessor has set.

To this movie, I give an A+ grade, as I fully expected from the outset. Truly, I was not disappointed. And now, Pinecones...good night, and may the Force be with you.

Remember: Denis Leary is always watching. Always.