Film Reviews

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

By • Jan 17th, 2016 •

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Bravo! Ford ignites the movie.

J.J. Abrams must have gotten serious grief for not anointing the next Robert Pattinson for the pre-teens to swoon over. While agents handling actors are positioning their male clients as possible candidates to be the next James Bond, every twenty-something new-hot-thing in the male marketplace was angling to be chosen by Abrams to pick up where Han Solo left off.

No one puts Harrison Ford in the corner.

Everyone assumed the old timers were going to be given exalted cameos. Abrams tricked us. Han Solo is the male lead in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Abrams might be super-successful, rich and important, but few can instantly create a star.* Abrams has made a star out of Daisy Ridley in one stroke.

Instead of passing the torch to an actor to anchor and move the story forward, Abrams and his co-writers, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, chose a heroine Rey (Ridley) to reboot their substantial investment. The jaded New Yorker in me assumes it’s a strategic marketing decision. The Disney Company may have been built on a mouse, but little girls drive commerce.

Could Rey topple Cinderella as Disney’s “bottom bitch”?

Ridley is absolutely terrific, but I wonder what her contract is like. Does Abrams have total control over Ridley for the next ten years? Wouldn’t you love to take a look at the fine print of her Disney contract?

Abrams had a clear responsibility to two generations of Star Wars fans. And bringing back the iconic 3 stars (along with Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO) could have gone terribly wrong – look how filmmakers successfully killed off The Terminator. Arnold’s mythic character was turned into Grandpa Silly and everyone kept mentioning how old he looked.

Not getting old was one of the perks of being a Terminator!

The hue and cry over the casting of John Boyega as Stormtrooper Finn (I thought Stormtroopers were robots who obeyed human commands) was made by fans before the film even opened. The question of “why him?” was answered by Abrams. He said he wanted to showcase “inclusiveness”. If that was truly his intent, Abrams should have been told that China’s population in 2014 was 1.39 billion and in India that same year it was 1.27 billion.

The junk scavenger should have been Chinese. The deserting stormtrooper should have been a Hindu!

It is not a fluke that humans look the way we do. Adjusting to certain climates made changes in the overall physical appearance of the human population. Furthermore, though no one mentions the obvious: Throughout ancient history dominant males did not allow other males to procreate. Genghis Khan fathered at least 1,000 children, possibly as many as 2,000. Genetic analysis has shown he is the ancestor of 0.5% of the world’s population. What is not said is that by having an enormous harem exclusively for his own use, Khan did not allow a few thousand men to have children.**

It’s good versus evil as the good guys – the Resistance – organize a rebellion against the mean First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Just how oppressive is The First Order? What is their platform?

The First Order’s stormtroopers capture X-Wing Fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and wants answers from him about Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts. Poe has conveniently given his droid sidekick, rolly-polly BB-8, the key to finding the hidden and mystically revered Luke Skywalker. BB-8 is on a mission. Luke has become a symbol to the people and an irritant to The First Order.

Let’s hope Luke remembers how to properly structure a sentence.

Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) is disgusted by the “neo-cosmic-Catherine’s Wheel” torture of prisoner Dameron and decides to help him escape. In doing so, Finn is giving up any promotion due him and has become a wanted man, a deserter. Finn seems a little befuddled especially since he appears not to have considered the consequences of his action.

A sinister voice barked an order to Finn. It’s the voice of Capt. Phasma (I read the credits and it’s the voice of Gwendoline Christie). Considering the amount of appearances Christie made for weeks prior to the grand opening, I thought I would at least see her. The captain’s shiny costume completely encases her body. She is wearing a mask.

When are we going to start wearing full-face masks? Just imagine all the imperfections that a mask can conceal. I think the time has come and SW:TFA is the official announcement.

Let’s hope Abrams gives the deserving Gwendoline Christie a sex scene in the next chapter of the saga.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) sells scrap parts on a desert planet called Jakku. She’s been abandoned and is waiting for her mother to return and claim her. Rey grew up with the legend of Luke Skywalker. When Rey comes across BB-8 and deserter Finn, they join forces to find Skywalker.

They need a plane and Rey knows where a junked one is. It’s the Millennium Falcon! As Rey and Finn get the Falcon ready, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) arrive. These two have been together so long, they finish each other’s sentences. Rey sees the Falcon as an ancient relic. Solo is outraged at her dismissive attitude towards his beloved Falcon. Solo states he is “back home” and agrees to help find Luke. He knows who might be able to find him – General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).

The General and Solo have history.

So it’s off to one of Solo’s old haunts, the Cantina. Somewhere, sitting at the bar is Maz Kanata (Lupita Njong’o). Considering the amount of appearances Njong’o made for weeks prior to the grand opening, I thought I would at least see her. Maz made no impression on me. Being cast in SW:TFA is a major “get” but being the man in Chewbacca’s fur suit has done nothing for Mayhew (unless he was allowed to wear the costume at kids’ bar mitzvahs), so being a Star Wars creature does not have much impact on a career.

Quick! What is the name of the actor who played Darth Vader?

Meanwhile, the hunt for the bouncing ball – BB-8 – sets other fractions of the First Order to join the search. General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson), leader of the Starkiller Base (and a man who knows the power of a statement outfit), foams at the mouth while giving orders. Hux was probably parroting Mein Kampf.

The Supreme Leader is so big he doesn’t get around much. He has nurtured and trained a special young man, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Ren has gained incredible powers over gravity and human minds. What happened to Ren and why he fled his family and chose the Dark Path will likely be explored in another STAR WARS. I’m betting Ren was seduced by the costume.

Harrison Ford’s participation in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS was not stunt casting. He is the star of the movie and brings with him all the charm and fun of the character that made him not only a movie star but an icon.

The screenwriters honored Han Solo by not changing a thing. Solo is still the devilish man of 30 years ago. He hasn’t matured. He is still hustling. He is still a rogue.

I was shocked by Carrie Fisher’s appearance. There is not a trace of beloved Princess Leia. Fisher looks like an 80 year old grandmother after her last face lift. My Princess Leia would have retained a sense of glamour and held on to a spark of femininity. By giving herself an ill-fitting masculine uniform instead of a provocative costume and a fashion-forward mask, General Leia has already surrendered her woman-ness. There’s no fight left in her.

I did not expect to see a 50-year old Princess Leia in a jewel-encrusted bra and harem pants but at what age should a woman give up representing herself as a woman?

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is truly a sensational movie. Yet I keep thinking about Carrie Fisher’s strange new face. It disturbed me. Yes, even princesses get old, but Han Solo did not rush into the Falcon weighing 400lbs, wearing an ill-fitting pair of pants and with a wild hair sticking out of his nose.

Hosanna’s to Abrams and his co-writers for not putting Mickey Mouse ears on Solo. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is mature and exciting. We don’t want “cute”. It’s called star WARS, after all.

And, Abrams should remember that it is males who made STAR WARS the phenomenon it has become. It is ultimately a boy’s movie. It’s about a boy’s rite of passage to manhood.

*I assume Barbara Broccoli, who co-produces the Bond films with Michael G Wilson, shared the power to choose Daniel Craig to play James Bond and will pick his successor.

**Alaouite , Sultan of Morocco is said to have fathered 867 children with multiple wives and concubines. King Abdulaziz (1876–1953), the first monarch of Saudi Arabia, had 45 recorded sons and about 30 daughters from 22 wives and concubines; by 2001 he had 2,500–3,500 direct descendants.

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society:www.lvfcs.org

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at masauu@aol.com.

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