Sunday, December 20, 2015

Lazy Movie Weekend: Red Two

This is not a review of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (which I'll refer to as TFA for the remainder of this post). It's more about my experience with the larger Star Wars universe and going to see TFA this weekend. I promise no spoilers in my post but I will say six things about the new movie:
  1. TFA reminds me more of the original trilogy; there's humor, likable characters, and you get the feeling it doesn't take itself too seriously (which was a huge problem for the prequels). 
  2. Poe Dameron ≠ Wedge Antilles. More on this shortly.
  3. BB8 is as endearing as R2D2. 
  4. We now know how Leia updated her iconic hairstyle for a more mature look. It's similar to a look she wore when in Endor during Return of the Jedi but there's an air of older, wiser and more powerful about her now.
  5. Watching any sort of aerial fight in this movie never gets old. 
  6. Rey. That is all.
Hopefully this didn't ruin anything for you. If it did, you should reset your expectations on a lot of things. If you would like a review, check out Bad Shakespeare's blog. There's a spoiler free version up now and a spoiler inclusive version will be up on Monday.

One of the things I've always appreciated about Star Wars is the very personal and unique ways in which fans experience the movies and related universe. Everyone seems to have a Star Wars story of some kind: the first time they saw one of the original movies (in the theater or not), playing Star Wars in their backyard with their friends, making up adventures for your action figures like that time Han and Chewie rescued a Barbie in the Millennium Falcon, seeing an adult camped out in front of a movie theater in a full Storm Trooper costume when the movies were re-released in the theaters (I was going to see another movie), the opening notes of any of John Williams's score. Like a lot of artists, George Lucas had his own intentions and purposes when creating this world but it's taken on a life of its own. Maybe he was prepared for that, maybe he wasn't. I have no idea what I would do if something I created had such a following that everyone knew about it without even having to watch it. I got the sense that this was happening in the theater for a lot of people.

Another element of Star Wars I appreciate is the generational appeal of the franchise. Unlike a lot of other movies and series targeted at families or at least family adjacent, it's actually something that entertains parents as much as children. Parents, some of whom remember their own first experiences with Star Wars, can enjoy it in a way that other Disney movies (let's face reality) and animated movies don't capture. It's funny, sad, hopeful, desperate, romantic, action-packed, and fantastical all at the same time. Star Wars captures the imagination and inspires that imagination to move further and further into a galaxy far, far away.

My older brother, Scott, has always been a fan. I can't remember a time in his life (at least since I've been alive and aware of things) that did not include Star Wars. He's seen and owns the movies (multiple formats and versions), reads the novels and comics, has most (if not all) of his original toys plus more from the re-releases, and he loves John Williams. He knows a lot about the Star Wars universe and ts many worlds and plots and schemes. Like Legos, James Bond, and Marvel movies, it's something we enjoy together. Since word of the coming of TFA, he has not actually paid attention to much of the media about it. Scott's not on any social media site so it's easier for him than it is for me. He wanted to experience it rather than speculate like the rest of us. I believe he succeeded on this front.

What I didn't expect him to do was buy a Chewbacca coat. I bought my Rebel Alliance/Imperial Forces cardigan a month ago and had no idea he would buy this coat. It's awesome. I've learned a lot of things from Scott over the years and being a proud nerd is the thing I love the most. He does not care if anyone thinks what he likes is nerdy; he likes what he likes and that's that. This coat is a symbol of that confidence. 

We went to an 11 am showing on Saturday with our dad (who forgot he was going and who had to be talked into wearing a Storm Troopers shirt). Scott was one of the most costumed people in the theater; I counted two Storm Troopers sans helmets, a half Darth Vader, and a possible Kylo Ren. I expected more but mostly it was people in t-shirts and sweatshirts (like me) that made up the audience. Excited conversation filled the theater from kids and adults alike. There was applause during the movie mostly when a beloved character reappeared. The audible gasps at points throughout were a surprise; you'll know where once you see it. And of course, applause at the end of the movie as the credits rolled. 

Secondary characters abound in TFA just as they did in the original trilogy and to a less successful extent in the prequels. There are some familiar faces both to fans of the movies and to fans of J.J. Abrams. I am a solid Wedge Antilles fan despite him only having a handful of lines that were dubbed over in the first two movies by another actor. I was hopeful there would be a Wedge-like character for me to adore. My brother and I both agreed that Poe Dameron ≠ Wedge Antilles. We can live with Poe but there's something too "I'm going to be really important later on" about him. I prefer Wedge with his limited lines and awesome ability to not die in two firefights and a battle on Hoth. I know I was "supposed" to have a crush on Luke or Han but I was always partial to Wedge (Denis Lawson not Colin Higgins). Maybe it was the uniform. I guess Snap Wexley will have to fill the void.

All in all, my TFA experience was exactly as I hoped it would be. I was at a party this weekend and was asked multiple times if I enjoyed the movie and if it was worth it. Here's my response: you know when you're a kid and you get really excited about something and then that thing happens and it's a total let down? This was the exact opposite of that feeling. TFA is not my favorite Star Wars movie (that will always be The Empire Strikes Back) but it's certainly worthy of the originals and a wonderful beginning to a new series of adventures in the world of the Jedis, the Dark Side, and a new hope. 

Wedge Antilles meme

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