Star Wars: The Force Awakens (but doesn't leave bed yet)
Here it is, I'm dusting off the cobwebs on my DA page to review the most anticipated film of 2015. Please note that this review will have spoilers, so don't read if you want to avoid those.
I had tickets booked yesterday, the 27th, to see it at an AMC theater in HD 3D. It was the earliest I could get decent seats after it came out (this theater practices assigned seating like concerts). First I want to complain a bit about the rabble I shared the film with. There were too many young kids. This was an undeniable side effect of the "Clone Wars" and "Star Wars Rebels" series. Although I don't mind sharing the theater with kids, the occasional exclamations and asking whether a character is okay shook my ability to be immersed in the movie. Fortunately, this faded as the movie progressed. Now, to address the movie....
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW!
Here's my view on the characters.
Kylo Ren, encountered early in the movie on Jakku, is a powerful wielder of the Dark Side of the Force. He can stop a blaster shot in mid-air, has a fiery lightsaber fashioned like a claymore, can read minds, and can force push like a whirlwind. He is also easily enraged and conflicted by pulls towards the Light Side and a fear of falling short. He wears a black cape and mask which filters his voice to sound more threatening. Every thing he does is to impress Snoke, Supreme Leader of the First Order (which sprang from the remnants of the Galactic Empire), and to emulate Darth Vader. This character interested me. He functions similarly to the Sith, but is very unstable. While the Emperor and Darth Vader channeled their emotions like a pipe channels water, Kylo Ren is given to outbursts of destructive rage. He also is physically handsome under the mask, an unusual twist. Furthermore, his character reminds me very much of the portrayal of the Penguin in the "Gotham" TV series. However, some of the facts about him didn't feel decently established, such as his being the son of Han Solo and Leia. Then again, in "A New Hope," nothing about Darth Vader's background was explicitly delineated. Although the character's emotional roller coaster was an oddity to me, I applaud the writers for trying to break free from the mould of Star Wars villains being cool, brooding types. This character is clearly still developing. When he was defeated on Starkiller Base, he was injured and likely to come back scarred and darker.
Poe Dameron, the Resistance (which sprang from the Rebel Alliance) ace pilot, is an underdeveloped character. When we first see him, he's a wonderful homage to the old wartime serials. He wears a bomber jacket and he seems like he's straight out of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." However, we don't see much of him despite him being a major character. He's presumed dead for some time and we don't see him again until Act 2 when he's rejoined the Resistance. We don't spend much time getting to know him aside from some short meaningful periods like we did with Han Solo.
Finn, a defected stormtrooper, was a solid character. His trauma was palpable when he saw all the bloodshed against innocents on Jaku. Although his breaking from his life-long conditioning as a stormtrooper was a little too easy, he was almost certainly an outlier who had enough humanity left to resist. I enjoyed seeing his chemistry with Poe Dameron while they stole a TIE fighter. The human moments he offered with other characters were something the prequel trilogy was horrendously lacking. He also was surprisingly decent with a light saber for someone who is (AFAIK) not Force-sensitive.
Rey, left on the desert planet of Jakku by her parents as a child, lives a rough, repetitive life. She salvages parts to trade for food rations, but that changes when she encounters BB-8 and Finn. Her development was well-done, if a little thin. You see her and believe her to be a scrappy person. You see that not only is she Force-sensitive, but she is destined in the same way Luke and Anakin was and is capable of developing some basic Force abilities on her own. Her early, but persistent desire to return to Jakku was a little inexplicable. She's been left alone for at least a decade. Her family is probably easier to encounter off-world than to stay on Jakku and keep waiting. Later on we see, if the vision she had when she touched Luke's original light saber was any indication, her destiny lies with the Jedi. Her, along with Poe Dameron, are two characters I really hope get some meat to them in the next installment.
Now, for a few of the major plot points.
The First Order was frightening. Not only are they militaristic, but they're very close parallels to Nazi Germany. When General Hux addressed the First Order's military (before First Order banners) prior to using Starkiller Base to exterminate the star system that houses the New Republic, it was practically a carbon copy of the rally depicted in "Triumph of the Will." Furthermore, their stormtroopers were much more effective than the Empire's and were headed by the somewhat underutilized Captain Phasma. Their superweapon on Starkiller Base had a firepower greater than both Death Stars combined and presented much greater threat. And Supreme Leader Snoke is clearly in command and has a plan as he showed no real concern when Starkiller Base was being ripped apart at the end. Snoke, like Emperor Palpatine, will undoubtedly be slowly revealed in further installments.
Another major plot point is Han Solo and Leia's issues with their son, who became Kylo Ren after he turned to the Dark Side and slaughtered Luke Skywalker's class of Force-sensitive students. This I had trouble fully accepting into my mind, but likely due to us being away from our heroes for over 30 years. A LOT can change in that time period. We can see that Kylo Ren's betrayal not only pushed Luke away into seclusion, but it separated Han and Leia. Han sees no hope in Ren, but Leia does. Finally, we see Han Solo put it all on the line to try to redeem his son, but his son is too broken to fully take it and see the big shock of all shocks as Ren kills Han Solo. Leia, who is Force-sensitive, but never really developed her powers, knows when this happens, but still may hold hope for her son.
In the end, it was an excellent movie. It fell slightly short of my high expectations and probably doesn't deserve its 95% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, but I was very satisfied. It was a movie with human interactions, wonderful imagery (that doesn't use CGI as a crutch), and felt like true Star Wars. Even if it felt rather thin, that is something that people who saw the original back in 1977 might have felt not knowing what to expect in any sequel.
I give it a 4 out of 5 and recommend it.