*SPOILER ALERT* Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Review
Skot, King of the Nerds, and 10 of his #SkotWars disciples got to see Episode VII first and all cried and held each other the whole time. WARNING: MASSIVE, LIFE-ALTERING SPOILERS WITHIN!
As soon as Skot Thayer discovered that all of his hopes and dreams were becoming a reality and Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens was landing in Egypt a full three days before the the US, thereby validating his move to our nation and instantly making him understand why Masr was om el donya, he immediately booked tickets for the first showing and challenged the city's biggest geeks to join him. Stars Wars fanatics across Cairo had to display their starriest, warriest, commitment to the movie and Instagram it, hashtagging #SkotWars. They won tickets to the first showing followed by an epic post-movie breakfast (and heated round table discussion) at Mince. Here's what happened inside that magical cinema... And also in a galaxy far far away.
30 years have passed since the death of Emperor Palpatine and the galaxy is much different place than last we saw it. Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie have all been through quite a bit since the events of Return of the Jedi. The emotional ties to these characters that two entire generations of people have developed in the last 40 years is unlike almost anything else in pop culture. People who don’t even have the slightest interest in Star Wars know the stories of the original trilogy. The pervasive myth of the hero from Tatooine’s journey from whiny moisture-farmboy to the last of the Jedi is so ingrained in the psyche of the most of the world, you could probably ask your bawab who Han Solo’s tall furry friend is and they wouldn’t even have to think about it (update: I asked, and my bawab definitely has no idea what I’m talking about). When Disney announced it would be wiping the slate clean and bringing us back to a galaxy far, far away many fans’ knee-jerk reaction was a gut clenching, face punching, prequel bashing fit.
Now that it’s here however, I can tell you: Episode VII is not another prequel. This film directly address several of the issues that fans and living human beings in general had with Episodes I-III. Practical effects, real sets, stronger characters - it’s true, all of it. Newcomers are actors that are allowed to emote instead of making the audience cringe, while old favourites deliver reasons to fall in love with them all over again. While there are certainly points at which the film is less than perfect overall The Force Awakens delivers in just the right places for a funny, fast-paced, exciting adventure that still manages to be the darkest film of the franchise. Also, BB-8 rules.
Ok guys and gals, angle your deflector shields 'cause you’re entering a spoiler zone. Turn back now because I don’t want to have to read your mean comments. The Force Awakens’ opening crawl is just one big giant “Whaaaaa…” Luke is gone, as in disappeared. The Republic has been reborn but from the ashes of the Empire has come The First Order; a bunch of Sith worshipping Nazis who like the smell of their own farts. The Resistance, lead by General Leia Organa and backed by the Republic, fights valiantly against their tyranny. What happened to Luke? Why is the Republic not just taking these fascist douchebags head on and putting up a Resistance instead? How do people get around now that there are seven movies worth of giant yellow letters floating around the galaxy? The questions Episode VII makes you ask are good ones, for the most part, that make you want to know about what you missed in the 30 years you spent in boring old real life growing up, living your life, or just not existing for all you kids born in the 90s.
The first scene, of one of the new First Order Star Destroyers’ silhouette piercing the planet Jakku was a great way to open the film in way that felt both familiar but looked totally badass. This is one of the strongest things about the movie, that it makes you feel like you’ve been here before, you just don’t know this story yet. The dirty and dented denizens of Jakku feel real. Likewise Rey’s introduction, basically just an insight into her daily life, makes her feel like a real person, She has a job, has to eat weird space bread and has to worry about paying the cleaning lady to keep all the sand out of her home (which she made in the shell of a fallen Imperial AT-AT).
The other two new poster worthy good guys, Poe and Finn, are a pure joy to watch. Poe’s encounter with the new dark helmet of the series, Kylo Ren, within the first few minutes of the movie catches you off guard with its sheer awesomeness. Poe proves he’s not intimated with charm and Kylo gives us a glimpse of what a dark sider can do when he’s not limited by an respiratory issue. In these brief moments we’re introduced to a character played by the legendary Max von Sydow who has a link to the past that is only ever so slightly hinted at. Poe needs to get Sydow’s intel to “The General” and Sydow responds with “To me she’s royalty.” How does this guy know Princess Leia? How did he get his hands on this map to Skywalker? Gah, tell me Disney!
As the action builds we’re reintroduced to the dynamic duo of Han and Chewie. The pair have stuck together all this time, though Han and Leia seem to have split, and their banter is hilarious and endearing. Ford’s performance fits an older simultaneously more and less cynical Solo that’s really been through a lot. The big familial reveal of the movie comes in early and finding out that Kylo is the offspring of two of the Rebellion's greatest heroes, and trained as a Jedi under Luke no less, raises more questions that I cannot physically wait to be answered. No, really, make a TV show, give me a comic series; I need answers! Adam Driver’s Kylo “Ben” Ren is an interesting and flawed character that clearly wants to be Darth Vader but can’t seem to keep his angsty tantrums in check.
While Ford’s performance is great, Carrie Fisher's’ reprisal of Leia Organa seems like a missed opportunity. She spends most of the movie looking morose and all she seems to really do is sit around and hug people when they show up. Not sure if her performance is due to her just not being interested in the project or what but her totally amazeballs public appearances means she capable of being much more animated.
The big climaxes at Starkiller base is totally reminiscent of the attack on the Death Stars but is also exhilarating to watch unfold. Home to some of the best shots in the movie like the “go-pro stuck to the side of an X-wing” moments, or watching the battle in the skies from a grounded character’s perspective. Likewise the First Order’s attack on Maz’s castle is a great vehicle for Finn to show his determination to be on the right side of this war. It feels like a few opportunities were missed with the new chrome clad female Captain Phasma. We all saw the shots of her and pictured her kicking ass and shooting resistance scum in the face, but she never even shoots her blaster, not once. Also, are they really going to tease the appearance of Jedi Master Skywalker to only have him in last 5 seconds of the movie? The plot suffers from a bit of deus ex ‘droid’ica for my taste as well. But all in all, Star Wars Episode VII is a great way to kick off the next generation of the most famous story ever told. Especially because of BB-8. The roly-poly droid stole every scene he was in and his relationship with his buddy Poe Dameron was the big tear jerker of the movie. That’s right, the reunion between pilot and astromech got me in the feels harder than the death of Han Solo. There I said it.
R.I.P. Han Solo, I can’t wait to see your origin story where I hope you’re played by Chris Pratt.