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Welcome to Michael's blog. Michael Andrew, (aka Michael The Maven) is a freelance producer, photography instructor, tech innovator, and when needed, disaster aid specialist. Disclaimer: Michael is a participant in Bhphoto & Amazon affiliate programs that provides an advertising commission if you purchase through links on this website.

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12.20.15         movie reviews  

Star Wars - The Force Awakens - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Review by Michael The Maven

First let me say that this review contains spoilers. Many of them. You have been warned. I would strongly suggest that if you have not yet seen the movie to not read this until after you have. This is a post for those who want to read a review, after they have seen it. It is also the longest review I have ever written, so you can see I am taking this very seriously.

If you have not seen any of the original Star Wars (and many of my friends haven’t), specifically in the order they were released, you should do so before seeing The Force Awakens, otherwise you cannot fully appreciate everything that happens in the new film.

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being that you are a member of the Jedi Church, 9 that you attend Star Wars conventions, I judge myself as about an 7.5-8.0 I love the franchise, but nothing over the top to too crazy on the collectible toys, so there is some bias towards this review, but I am also a film producer and critic, so I can take a step back and speak frankly if I felt there were some mistakes and let downs (and there were).

My reviews are usually, whether you should see it in theaters, rent it as a DVD, or skip it altogether. This is definitely one you want to see in theaters.

There are two really great ways to measure how good a movie is:

1. How you feel after. For example, after Karate Kid, you cannot help to feel AWESOME. Any film that invokes real emotion within your heart is powerful.

2. How many times you check your phone (or even play a game) during the movie. The more you check your phone, the more bored and disinterested you are.

Suffice it to say, I did not check my phone once. I was on the edge of my seat for the full length of the film, completely engaged and feasting on every morsel of Star Wars eye candy.

I left the theater feeling sad, empty and even angry at JJ Abrams. I wanted to run over to every Kylo Ren dressed attendee and kick them right in the balls as hard as I could. As more and more people watch the film, fewer and fewer will dress up as the new Sith Cry Baby. I felt ashamed for those movie goers who did, not realizing what he represents. If your kids insist on pretending to be this baby turd Kylo after seeing the movie, its time to have them evaluated.

The Good

I have long been a fan of JJ Abrams. Nearly everything he makes is gold. There were many, many things done right in Star Wars The Force Awakens and it brought back many of the feelings I had as a child watching in theaters.

- BB-8 The new droid is one of the best “new” ideas of the film. They actually invented a real BB-8. From a creative and technical standpoint, he was spectacular. He was cute, funny, loyal, and had character.

- The idea of a stormtrooper feeling remorse and reforming was another fantastic original idea. Seriously, there are so many of them and they do so many terrible things, you would think more would reform.

- The acting was superb. Harrison Ford really brought back Han Solo, just as he always has been, cocky, funny, lots of swag. The new comers were excellent. All of them.

- There are CGI characters in the film, but unlike Jar Jar Binks, the animations are so good you would be pressed to tell which ones are real and which are not. Most of characters felt like they were actually real. Lots of practical sets which was what made the originals look so good.

- Many very funny scenes and one-liners.

- Feels like the old crew is handing things over to the new cast. They are in good hands.

- It is a very entertaining and strong film. I expect to see it another 2-3 times in theaters.

The Bad

- There are just wayyyyy too many similarities between The Force Awakens and the original trilogy. I thought when Return of the Jedi came out, another Death Star was a bit of a stretch. In the Force Awakens, this is the third time we see a Death Star type weapon which can be taken out by the Resistance fleet only after it’s protective shield is taken out. Yes, the film is going to break all kinds of records financially and in that sense, is a success, but from a purely creative aspect, I thought this was playing it too safe. Even many of the same lines are repeated. Cantina scene reboot. Even a computerized deep voice for Kylo, piercing like Vader’s. I felt like JJ was so worried about messing things up, that he stuck with what worked before and that was a bit of a let down.

- The sets and many of the action scenes felt “small”. I clearly remember in ROTJ seeing so many X-wings attack the new Death Star that my subconscious could only assume there were thousands of them. In both attack sequences in The Force Awakens, there cannot be more than 2 dozen x-wing fighters. For the size of the First Order as shown very specifically in the Hitler Nazi like assembly, seems like there would be more tie fighters as well. There were not. General Huxx even says “send out all squadrons” and there were like 15. At the Rebel base, it looked like they just moved the same tie fighter around. Looked awfully small.

- There were some glaring mistakes in the writing. For example, the Millennium Falcon jumping into hyperspace from an enclosed space cargo ship, never been done before. Han even mentions it. Coming out of hyperdrive to the surface of the Star Killer without being detected, also tough to swallow. Never seen that in a Star Wars movie. Could those tactics not have worked in other Star Wars movies? My guess this was done to speed up the pacing of the film and nothing more.

- Too many unexplained and convenient coincidences:

“Oh look, the disenfranchised Stormtrooper sent for reconditioning is also the one we will trust to transport our most important spy prisoner. Just when he needs it!”

“Oh look, here is the Millennium Falcon sitting here ready to go, just when we need it!”

“Oh look here is Han Solo and Chewie showing up, right after we stole the Millennium Falcon, just when we need them!”

“Oh look, here is Luke Skywalker’s light saber from Empire Strikes Back, the same one that Darth Vader “disarmed” on Bespin and fell into that 10,000 foot city spike thing….well here it is. Just when you need it!”

“Oh look, here is Poe Dameon, alive and well. Right when you need him!”

“Oh look there she is” just bumping into the person you are looking for on a planet 30 times larger than the last Death Star, just when you need to find her! Not only that, but you are the only ones on this whole planet that can find her when every other inhabitant of it is also looking.”

“Oh look, this crack in the earth is going to open up precisely in between hero and villain right when there is a chance to end this once and for all.”

“How is Rey learning all these Jedi tricks so fast?? Just when she needs them?’

I’m all for serendipity, every once in a while, great! But when it happens too often in the direction of good luck, it makes it harder to swallow. Serendipity combined with bad luck is a bottomless pit for good screen writing, because thats how life really is, things go wrong often. Too many things going right in the moment of need doesn’t feel real. Once is ok, twice or more is generally too much.

The Ugly

- There were some major mistakes made with Kylo Ren. For example, he was unmasked a couple times showing a boyish face. What lies beneath and unseen is always more terrifying and interesting. Heck, we had to wait for 3 movies to see Vaders face. In the beginning Kylo was made to be an extremely powerful villain and it dissipated over the course of the movie. He became an undisciplined, incompetent and spoiled cry baby. Nothing like his idol, Darth Vader, who terrified me in every way as a child. I was truly afraid of him. Kylo Ren is a spoiled, ungrateful punk. He is more easily despised than feared. A truly pathetic character, I can’t wait for this guy to be wiped out, I want Chewie to pop his head off like a giant zit.

- There are far too many villains. This is also a mistake because it was distracting trying to try to keep track of them all. Phasma serves no real purpose, and wouldn’t have changed a thing in the film if she wasn’t in it. After being stuffed into a garage compacter, we can only assume she is long gone.

- Growing up, I was always Han Solo when we played with my best friend Danny. Always. He was Luke, I was Han. There was so much of my boyhood and imagination fused into this character. When that thing we-do-not-want-to-talk-about happened, I felt part of my childhood died. I think knowing that at the end of ROTJ you just assumed Han is out there doing his thing somewhere, a long time a ago, in a galaxy far, far away. That cannot be anymore. It feels like JJ murdered part of my childhood imagination and when it happened, it wasn’t just Han being killed, it was many fans feelings towards the series. Kill Chewie or C3-PO, heck kill Leia, any of the new comers. Not Han!! Boooooo! I don’t think Ill ever be able to not think of JJ as the guy who killed Han Solo. So sad! I think this was a mistake.

What is coming next

If you are not into spoilers for the next film, you should skip this as well. Probability suggests a few things that can be inferred:

Rey is almost certainly the daughter of Han and Leia. By the end of the movie, it is clear she is the next Jedi.

In the original books written after Return of the Jedi, the story line was that Han and Leia had twins (Just like Leia and Luke were twins) and these twins were both were strong in the force. What seems to me is that in this new series, is that Rey is the younger daughter and once Kylo went off the deep end, Han and Leia decided it would be best to put Rey into hiding on Jakku, swearing to never speak of her again as long as the First Order existed in order to protect Rey from being captured and groomed into being a Sith after the Luke-Kylo debacle.

We leaned in the second trilogy that those who can use the force, do so by the concentration of midi-cholans in their blood, which suggests that the trait of force-use powers is genetic. The only two people who were strong in the force by the end of ROTJ were Luke and Leia. Assuming Luke is still being a good virgin Jedi, that leaves the only possibility with the Han Solo-Leia family.

Furthermore, as we saw in Empire, Leia and Luke were connected telepathically. Rey has visions of Kylo’s fall and they even begin to communicate telepathically. We already know brother and sister can do this. Kylo even tries to convert Rey and train her in the ways of the Dark Side as all bad relatives with the force try to do.

We even hear Kylo say to her when he reads her mind:“Han is like the father you (Rey) never had”.

Lots of good evidence to strongly suggest Rey is the daughter of Han and Leia, I would bet money on it.

This is another reason Luke went into hiding, so he could train Rey once she matured enough, and the Light part of the Force would guide her to him. Luke had to self-preserve for the greater good, as he is the last of the Jedi. The only other possibility is being a daughter of Luke, which would make much less sense.

Nearly everyone knows who Rey is except Rey

Mas asks Han who the girl is, which is then cut away, after which Mas tries to give her Luke’s lightsaber.

Mas also says that those who left her on the planet are not coming back, but to look into the future with Luke Skywalker (implies these are two different sets of people).

Kylo Blows his lid when an officer mentions the droid and Fin escaped with “the help of a girl”

Snook says “If Luke Skywalker returns, the next Jedi will rise.” Implying Rey (obviously)

Leia, at the end of the film hugs Rey like a mother would.

Huxx is probably going to be killed in the next film:

Snook instructs Huxx to bring Kylo Ren to him, “so he can complete his training”. In the past, for Siths at least, this means killing someone.

Did you catch?

1. Daniel Craig, aka James Bond, as the Storm Trooper Rey uses the force on?

2. The opening attack was Fin’s first?

In the end, yes - it is overwhelmingly an awesome movie, and many of the things I listed as not liking are really small, but if you are any real Star Wars fan, you cannot help but to feel sad inside for the sake of Han being murdered by his own son in a moment that rejects the purest of fatherly love.

Michael The Maven is an independent film and video producer, camera reviewer and disaster aid specialist.

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