Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Review Roundup (Spoiler-Free!)

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Star Wars’ force finally awakens for fans around the world.

“Star Wars” fans rejoiced at the chance to see the much-anticipated next instalment of the sci-fi saga on Wednesday as the movie began hitting cinemas worldwide, winning mostly glowing reviews. If you’ve been able to make it this far without seeing any spoilers on the minefield that is the Internet, you can get through the next couple of days more easily with the Force Block Chrome extension.

Donning Stormtrooper and Darth Vader masks, dressed in capes and holding lightsabers, fans young and old turned out for screenings of “The Force Awakens”, some queuing for hours to watch the first “Star Wars” film in 10 years. “It is a phenomenon which goes beyond the film itself, it is extraordinary … Abrams himself has acknowledged, somewhat cryptically, it does sneak in a few, more subtle nods to movie history (in addition to the many, many Star Wars callbacks). Twitter reactions from celebrities and industry insiders at the Los Angeles premiere on Dec. 14 were extremely positive, but those are sometimes hard to trust. For example, many fans have already noted the similarities between the First Order’s rallies and the Nazi rallies depicted in Leni Riefenstahl’s The Triumph of the Will (a movie that George Lucas seemed to borrow from, somewhat awkwardly, for the ending of the original Star Wars): While others have noted the similarities between the shot of the TIE fighters shown in the trailer and similar shots in Apocalypse Now (which Lucas helped develop) and at the end of THX 1138 (Lucas’ first feature): These two moments both appeared in the movie’s trailer, but there’s more in the movie itself.

At one point, for example, the camera faces Harrison Ford as he runs from a giant rolling ball (I won’t spoil what it is, but it’s not a boulder) that’s chasing him down a tunnel, in what seems to be an echo of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Google also obtained a shortlist sourced from people who have seen early screenings, which includes specific key phrases that have been input by a single engineer who spoiled the movie for himself to save you. When we first meet Finn (John Boyega), he’s an anonymous stormtrooper, and he explains that he was never given a proper name—just the designation FN-2187.

Some reviewers have criticized the extension for being too sensitive, but considering Walmart and a Chinese “Force Awakens” trailer have already leaked plot details, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry. I could write 4,500 words on the significance of those four numbers to George Lucas and the creation of Star Wars (in fact, here they are), but here’s the Sparknotes version.

Despite the prerelease hype, it won’t save the world, not even Hollywood, but it seamlessly balances cozy favorites—Harrison Ford, ladies and gentlemen—and new kinetic wows along with some of the niceties that went missing as the series grew into a phenomenon, most crucially a scale and a sensibility that is rooted in the human. It has the usual toy-store-ready gizmos and critters, but it also has appealingly imperfect men and women whose blunders and victories, decency and goofiness remind you that a pop mythology like “Star Wars” needs more than old gods to sustain it.

A meditation on man and technology cut together from out-of-context news clips and repurposed snippets of dialogue, it turned Lucas into what he called “an editing freak.” “When George saw 21-87, a lightbulb went off,” classmate and longtime Lucas collaborator Walter Murch later recalled. The movie showed Lucas that you could cut together old movies to make something fresh—just as he later did with Star Wars. 21-87 also helped spark another idea for Star Wars: In one of those out-of-context conversations, a man argues that, behind everything, there is a God-like, hidden “force.” The movie had such a profound influence on Lucas that he began to include its title in everything he did. Abrams and his screenwriters have returned us to the shaggy, tactile spirit of the beloved original trilogy, eschewing overabundant digital effects and boring policy debate for a visceral sense of adventure and wonder. In righting a listing starship, Abrams has done something masterful—he pays graceful homage to what has come before (the good stuff, anyway), while expanding the Star Wars mythology in bold and organic ways. One of the three negative reviews currently on Rotten Tomatoes is by Salon critic Andrew O’Hehir, who said Abrams’s film is essentially a copy of George Lucas’s original formula: This is the work of a talented mimic or ventriloquist who can just about cover for the fact that he has nothing much to say.

He has made an adoring copy of “Star Wars,” seeking to correct its perceived flaws, without understanding that nothing about that movie’s context or meaning or enormous cultural impact can be duplicated.

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