Saw Star Wars VII this evening. Just walked in and purchased tickets. Star Wars isn't as big in Paraguay (though you'd never know it from the saturation of merchandise/PR/screenings). Plus, I went to the subtitled version (folks here prefer their films dubbed). But really, it's not as popular. I've met many Paraguayans (usually the non-billionaire, non-American educated, non-English speaking ones) who've never even seen a Star Wars movie. And I'm talking folks in their 20s and 30s.
It was a very good movie. Certainly the best Star Wars film I've seen in decades. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes the movies (especially the original trilogy). Heck, I'd recommend it to anyone...my wife has never been a big fan of the franchise, but she was downright stoked after seeing the film. She wants to go back and see it again...as in, we're already trying to figure if we should catch another showing tomorrow (since it's so easy to get in), or wait till we get to Mexico, or both. It was the first film she can remember seeing that she wishes was longer than its actual running time, mainly because the pacing through the latter half/two-thirds is so frantic and action-packed it was hard for her to believe the character development (in terms of relationships/bonding) that took place between characters.
And she'd just like to see more of the same. As with me, we left the theater hoping the sequel isn't too long in the making.
So...that's the "review" sans spoilers. I'd like to offer a few more thoughts on what I saw, and though I'll try to avoid giving anything away, if you haven't yet seen the film you may not want to read even what follows (and the comments section might be a bad read, too, depending on what folks write).
First off, I'd like to say that going into the film I experienced a momentary (and very slight) trepidation at the knowledge that the main protagonists (and, presumably, the main protagonists for the future installments) would be characters I'd have a hard time relating to...namely, non-white, non-male characters. Yes, I realize how ridiculous this is...I live in a world where the cinema is absolutely dominated by white, male protagonists, especially in the action, sci-fi, and fantasy genres and I am one privileged sonofagun. It was a momentary weakness. I quickly realized that there were already six Star Wars films featuring blonde haired, blue eyed men in the title roles (Luke, Anakin, Young Obi-Wan)...it certainly wouldn't hurt to let someone else drive for a few films.
And guess what? The new characters are awesome, wonderfully fun and interesting to watch, and I can't wait to see more of them. I am sooooo glad the filmmakers chose this direction in casting...it made the film so much more interesting to watch. The bad guys are back to resembling Space Nazis, but now their ranks are made of both men and women. There's more diversity in terms of people of color mixed among the non-alien extras and cast, and no I didn't think it felt "forced" at all. Rather, it looked natural to have more non-white humans on display than the first two trilogies combined.
[and I don't think that's an exaggeration]
So, yay, progress. Except that it's sad that I even feel the need to note it. At least my daughter can grow up and watch a movie and not aspire to being a princess in a bikini or a midriff-baring politico. That's kind of nice.
Stylistically, there's a nice return to the original trilogy, and I'm not just talking aesthetic...although that's there, too: the galaxy is once more a shabby, run-down place (probably even more so than the original trilogy...things have not been totally smooth since the end of the rebellion). But, no, I'm talking about a return to a focus on cinematic storytelling...the first ten to fifteen minutes is wonderful for how little dialogue is there (stormtroopers barking orders notwithstanding). You're left to just take in the sights of this strange galaxy, these new characters, this interesting spectacle-story. It grabs your attention and engagement without any vomited exposition. You see the character of the characters through their actions, not their words.
And then, of course, there's the action and pacing. Once the movie starts to pick up steam, it's pretty go-go-go with just a couple pit stops along the way. But it's well done, with a lot of movement-motion...again, something the original trilogy had that was in short-supply for the prequel trilogy (you had nice little set-piece combats in static environments...but gone were the chases and the sweeping ship-to-ship dog fights and whatnots). It's a lot more dynamic than saber-fights.
And I have to say, the Millennium Falcon was sorely missed from Episodes I-III. It is practically a character itself...at least as much so as R2 and C3P0 were. Having the Falcon in the movie (I don't think that's a spoiler...it's in all the trailers) makes up a LOT of ground. It communicates so much about the state of this fantasy universe...it doesn't matter whether it "makes sense" regarding its FTL travel or space-worthyness. The Millennium Falcon, in all its shabby glory, is a big (and needed) piece of the franchise. It's like the Enterprise for Star Trek...you just don't get the same experience without it.
Likewise the Geezers. I have probably downgraded Harrison Ford over the years in a way that's unfair. He's like Madonna...not the greatest range, but she gets everything she can out of it. Ford brings as much nuance (if not more) to "Old Han Solo" as he ever did to Indiana Jones. It makes you realize that before he was ever a galactic hero, Han Solo was kind of a hotshot loser. And now you see where that road leads: sad sack loser. Still with the heart of gold, still with the quick wit (and quicker trigger finger), but this guy never really was Jedi material...nor was he ever really in the same league as a princess. Ford (and his character) are a highlight of the film.
The other highlight character (for me) was Kylo Ren, the villain. I haven't written my blog post on the Ant-Man film yet, in which I wanted to discuss how the villain really makes (or breaks) any kind of "heroic cinema." Kylo is great, truly disturbed, and fascinating to watch...powerful, yet flawed. His image is an echo of Darth Vader as originally imagined (if you read The Secret History of Star Wars, before the mask became a permanent fixture), and his character is what I always imagined Anakin was supposed to be (before the prequels gave us...well, what we got). He is the young, power-hungry Mordred...twisted and tragic. And his get-up is as visually cool as Darth Maul.
|Looks like all my KOTOR characters.|
What is up with J.J. Abrams and the abandonment issues?
Seriously, how unhappily neglected was he as a child? There is this constant theme of orphaned, abandoned, unloved, and disappointed children that runs through his shows. You saw it with most of the main characters in the Lost television show, you see it in the reimagined Star Trek film (where both Kirk and Spock lose their parents), and now you see it with Fin, Rey, and Kylo. What's up with that, man? My wife said the movie brought up a lot of "maternal instincts" in her...me, I just got the idea I ought to do a better job of taking care of my kids.
And speaking of which...my son really wants to see the film, and both my spouse and I really want him to see it, but there are definitely some pretty intense, nightmare-inducing scenes in the movie, not to mention some pretty scary themes (killing and abandonment stuff). Right now, we've decided to recount the story to him verbally to see how he handles it, and then we'll consider taking him...but maybe not. A guy I know is taking his six-year old to see the movie in a few days, and I want to know how she handles it. That might decide me.
Anyway, that's all I want to say about the film at this time...except that again I can't help but think Cascade Failure is a great jumping off point for a Star Wars game (really works with the rundown future concept). Okay, maybe now I can get some sleep.
May the Force be with you.
[sorry...couldn't help myself]