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Our opinions awaken as we take a look back at Star Wars: The Force Awakens

STAR WARS EP VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS has been one of the most talked about films as of late, breaking records left and right. So let’s see what the film is all about.

Now that the movie has been out for a decent length of time we here at BrutalGamer have decided to put together an opinion(s) piece amongst ourselves. A little something to take a look back at The Force Awakens, and maybe even vent a little about it. As you might expect too, there be spoilers here…

Carter

Well, I did it, I finally got the opportunity to go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. After the initial ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ high from the production value, my mind went straight to work on how I felt about the movie. I almost went full circle on my initial impression. I went from a “yeah, that was pretty good,” to “I’m not sure if I liked it or not.” by the time I got to the car.

Where to even start, it’s hard to say. Let’s just point out the obvious, it turns out this wasn’t the movie I was looking for. But rather, it reminded me of Star Wars: The Old Republic (The Star Wars MMO for any non-gamers), which although it was decent, it was just World of Warcraft reskinned to look like the Star Wars universe. Basically what I just witnessed is A New Hope “reskinned” (re-written) into a whole ‘new’ movie, The Force Awakens. Even the name is similar.

For obvious reasons this next episode (episode VII) takes place about 40 years past the end of Return of the Jedi; great, this shows potential. However I feel like this movie was supposed to be an introductory film, to re-engage the audience and show them what has happened to the galaxy over this time. However, it did a poor job of that for me. Yeah, it asked a lot of questions that we now have to ponder until the next film comes out, but it didn’t really explain what had been going on in the galaxy since Episode VI.

Being a big Star Wars fan, I have a fairly strong understanding of the galaxy that has been created and developed by the films, the games, and the novels over the last 40 years. It could easily supply so much material that could make a great story, rather than just following the Skywalker genealogy. Don’t get me wrong, following the Skywalkers keeps the majority of the audience in-the-know, but why does the new sith, Kylo Ren, have to be related? Rather than anything fresh and different they went with the safe route and did what worked in the past, and clearly it worked. The majority of the people I talk to about the movie really enjoyed it, and to me it really seemed to cater to the general public.

The Empire is (was?) a massive power in the galaxy, and aside from a planet that has been modified and terraformed into a more powerful Death Star-like weapon, it felt like that was the entirety of the Empire. Of course this may not be the case, I can only assume that the First Order was the first attempt of the Empire at creating more Stormtroopers without cloning more Fetts on Kamino. Surely now that the Republic won’t foot the bill they’ve gone with the cheaper route of gang pressing toddlers into service to get a similar effect, stone cold killers with no emotion.

Clearly the Empire/First Order doesn’t learn from the past, two Death Stars didn’t work because some sort of critical system was damageable from the outside of the ship. Star Killer Base seemed the same. Let’s spend years of time and a vast amount of resources creating this base, and then let’s put everything on the surface of the planet! Really?

While I was disappointed in the story, I feel like the 8th installment of the series may clarify all these things, and 8 and 9 will most likely, hopefully, carry this film. Of course JJ Abrams had a daunting task ahead of him, as there are multiple generations of people/families in love with the franchise. Almost anyone will agree that it’s one of thee greatest movies series’ of all time, and maybe he crumbled under the pressure. So hopefully the rest of the new trilogy can pick up the slack. Maybe George needs to smack him around a bit.

There’s so much more I could go into, so much more in my head that could be put to digital paper, but I feel I’ve said the major points, which in their own right spark off so much more. Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Mack

JJ Abrams – the man behind Star Trek, Fringe, Lost, and more – brings his action-packed style to the Star Wars franchise. Returning to the franchise are Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker. Joining them are newcomers Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac.

Return to the ‘galaxy far, far away…’ and see what has become of your favorite characters. Leia Organa has risen in the ranks of the Resistance, becoming a General. Han Solo & Chewbacca disappear, most likely doing what smugglers do best. Meanwhile, the Jedi have disappeared, and are spoken of like a myth.

The Empire we are familiar with has fallen, but in its place has risen the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke and his pupil, Kylo Ren. Ren, as we learn, is obsessed with Darth Vader. It seems as if Snoke is seeking to run the galaxy much like Palpatine had, years before.

There are plenty of theories as to the identity of Snoke, and would it be a Star Wars title if there weren’t the possibility of a dual-identity here? We have had Darth Tyranus/Count Dooku and Chancellor/Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious after all. With Disney changing the rules and throwing out the expanded universe, we really could see just about anything happen in the upcoming films.

We know the identity of Kylo Ren, though it makes you wonder why someone has not broken him, let alone broken him of his tantrums. Will Kylo be the new running joke, as Jar-Jar was for the prequels? If you ask me, Kylo Ren can’t die, or convert, soon enough. His personality makes me hope he slips and falls down a garbage chute or something.

For those of us who are familiar with the films that have come before, there is a wonderful reunion with the return of familiar characters. Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb are continuing the good fight, while C3PO seems to have been aiding the Resistance where he can. Entering a new trilogy, we are treated to some new faces. Supporting characters such as Poe Dameron and Captain Phasma seem like they may stick around, while Maz Kanata livens up the cantina, and Unkar Plutt makes you glad you are not in the deserts of Jakku. Though we are left with the questions of what Rey’s story is, what has Luke been doing, and what happened with the Jedis… for now anyway.

Abrams certainly knew to handle the Star Wars films with care. The following of this property, from the books to the movies, is immense and his reputation is on the line. The original Star Wars trilogy was produced with puppets and animatronics, and only minor amounts of CG, where applicable. This gave the films a feeling of realism, and Abrams utilized the same techniques in filming The Force Awakens.

A healthy portion of the filming took part in the deserts of Tunisia, where some of the original sets still existed. This lends itself to aiding the trilogies in having a very cohesive feel. Those familiar with JJ Abrams’ previous work should have little difficulty recognizing his style. Lens flares aside, The Force Awakens is a well put together return to the Star Wars film franchise, and I for one am curious to see how the story will play out.

Jason

Whoo boy, where to start this one off… I have the pleasure of adding my thoughts to this piece last, so I’ve read through Mack and Carter’s contributions beforehand. I agree with a lot of what they’ve said, however whereas Mack was pretty positive about the film and Carter was somewhere in the middle, I have to fall a little lower on the scale. I’m shocked to have to say this, but I didn’t like all that much about The Force Awakens.

First the good stuff though. The biggest plus for me was far and away that this movie felt faithful to the old series, I don’t think there’s any arguing that. The mix of practical and digital effects was tremendous, and the gritty feel of a ‘used galaxy’ was palpable throughout the production. And as usual with these movies, I loved the design of almost everything.

Now, I’m actually not knocking the prequels in that regard, so don’t get me wrong. I’ve actually come to enjoy Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith just fine. Though the writing was suspect at times and some of the stuff was a little too cartoony for my tastes, the story that ran through those last two prequel was really well-done – and that leads into my chief problem with The Force Awakens.

There are a lot of moments in The Force Awakens that pay a little too much homage to the original films, and even those prequels. There’s a cantina scene, there’s a desert planet, a forested planet, and a snow planet (kind of), there are stormtroopers that might as well be clones, there’s a trench run- and actually, while we’re talking about the trench run, the whole Starkiller Base thing is basically just the Death Star again. Again. A Death Star that, for some inexplicable reason, has the ability to fire it’s beam across the heavens at faster-then-light speed. I don’t know how what basically is light can travel faster than it can in nature, and that little fact it left up to the imagination as well.

And that lack of exposition isn’t unique. Most of the film asks questions and it’s aggravating how few answers there are. Sure I know that most (if not all) of these mysteries will be addressed in future films, but there was so much here that was left unanswered by the time the credits rolled that it was highly unsatisfying, and I’m not even talking about Rey – her mysterious past I understand.

The lack of explanation on everything else though? It all left TFA as coming off like purely a set-up film for future installments. And I didn’t like that at all. While the original Star Wars movies (and the prequels really) did have cliffhangers, none of those movies felt unfinished. I clearly remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back as a kid and loving it just for what it was. I wanted to see the followup, definitely, but I didn’t feel like the movie told an incomplete tale, and likewise with the original (though that one I had to catch on home-video).

As for the characters, some of whom have caused no end of complaints from the more hardcore fans out there, I actually liked most of them. Han Solo and Chewy you already know, and they’re mostly the same as you probably remember them, but Rey, Finn, and Poe are all pretty cool in their own rights. However, I don’t like Kylo Ren that much.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that he’s a punk that lost to two people who don’t really know what they’re doing, as he was badly hurt in the final battle and he’s basically a learner as well, just advanced thanks to the tutelage of Snoke. While that climactic fight didn’t bother me though, I generally thought the character came off as bored for most of the film. Outside of emotional outbursts that were oddly comic in tone, he was dull and pretty lifeless.

There’s more that I had issue with, like the bizarre ending, but I think and I’m going to wrap up with this thought- I loved Star Wars as a kid. Hell, I like it just fine today, but a lot of the magic that made those movies so much fun and such a part of the pop culture landscape doesn’t feel present in this new effort. Look, it’s not a terrible film at all despite my whining, but I can’t call it a stellar effort either. And I know it’s number 3 all time now and it’s made tons and tons of cash, and if you loved it then more power to you.

All the same though, for me it was a letdown.

About Squatch

Squatch

I am an avid gamer residing in Ontario, Canada. I play games from almost all genres, but my favourites are Strategy games and RPG’s. Hobbys I have other than gaming are playing bass, reading, and building/upgrading computers.

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