05 January 2016

My Review on The Force Awakens

I’m not a Star Wars fanboy – just so we clear. So in a way, I did not anticipate the coming of another Star Wars movie in the first place. 

I, however am well aware of the epicness of the Star Wars universe – the extravagant, groundbreaking story of a movie so important in pop culture that it carved its own name in humankind timeline. The first three movies (chronologically according to the real time, that is) are the bomb. Like super duper bomb. That, I could give to the Star Wars.

The first three episodes or the prequels which were released from 1999 to 2005 however were not as satisfying as the originals. 

I remember being starstruck by the motion pictures when I was a kid, even when watching the movies on the small screen. The original Star Wars were nothing short of awesome, spectacular and way ahead of the trend. It breaks every record and exceeds every expectation – it reaches a high point that nobody even thought existed.   

So finally on the 1st of January 2016, against all odds, after ages of cinematic dryspell (aher aher), I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the big screen. 

The new Star Wars, Episode VII is simply a cinematic success, so to speak. The acting and action were brilliant, the CGI was excellent, and the appearance from the original cast made the movie even more bittersweet. But that’s all the good things there are to speak about the movie.

Unfortunately, time changes everything. 

The new Star Wars movies relied heavily on CGI, while the old ones were created from elaborate props and for lack of better word, camera tricks. The new Star Wars could never compare to the brilliance of the originals movie making. The originals were created in a time when it is impossible to create such movies without going to great lengths. And went to great lengths, they did. Yoda, for instance, was a manually operated puppet. If the originals were to be created during our time, I am pretty certain Yoda would simply be CGIed.  

When I first watched the original Star Wars, I marveled at the fact that I could not fully comprehend what I was seeing, with question ‘How do they do that?’ kept playing in my mind. The curiosity kept me interested and for me it was still a mystery. But watching The Force Awakens, I quickly lose interest in the vibrant pictures because I knew it was all green screen and CGI. It was technological-wise, awesome, but that is the best it can give. Awesome, but only on a mechanical level. 

Using real props as opposed to using CGI, the difference lies clearly in the realness of the image. The CGI technology still yet to catch up in providing the audience a sense of realness while watching, and The Force Awakens fails in this fashion. I was hoping the cinematic magic of the original Star Wars are still there – more props, less effects. Sadly, this was not the case. Everything felt too pixelated. 

The original Star Wars was a trendsetter. The Force Awakens, from years of watching similar CGI fest on screen, dulls the whole experience. I was in a way disappointed that the movie fails to deliver that feeling of awe like the originals did to me. The Force Awakens did nothing new than what other 11 or so other movies had already accomplished.  

The mixture of new and old cast however was awesome and it took the audience a walk down memory lane. Seeing Leia and Han Solo in a scene again touches your heart knowing that these people were the same people from the same movie 30 years ago. The raw emotions when they reunited were real and you know that they do really feel what they show on screen – that this was not only their reunion in the movie, this was also their reunion in real life.

The Force Awakens, though was riding on the nostalgia coattail to satisfy the old audience, did so in an amazing, nonchalant way. Not too calculative, not too forcing, just good enough to leave the audience longing for more and leave them crying in nostalgia. 

The plot and plot twists are not so great however. Kylo Ren for me is not a villain created to be hated, nor is he worth of our sympathy. I had nothing to feel about his brutal way and sincerely after watching hours of villain-centric shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, it’s hard to be satisfied when the villains are written in a lazy manner. Maybe they would give Kylo Ren more backstory in Episode VIII, but for The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren serves as a villain who is bad for the sake of being bad.   

The fact that he is the son of Leia’s and Han’s repeated a dozen similar plots in other movies, oh you know the drill – family issues, parents failure, inherit power from parents and gone bad etc etc. Again, nothing new in the villain department.

All in all, The Force Awakens succeeded mostly because it stays loyal to the old audience – it offers some pieces of the originals – Leia, Luke, Han, Chewbacca, C3PO, R2D2 etc etc. It also does not abandon the new audience by offering actions, a powerful cast ensemble (Daisy Ridley was stunning in her role) and enough CGI fest to boot. 

Some of the old audience, the starry eyed kid watching the originals like me, might not be impressed as much, but as I said it earlier, time has skewed our expectations. We expect too high because most of our preexisted expectations has been fulfilled. Maybe we should lower our expectations a bit to learn to enjoy, I don’t know. The Force Awakens was a great movie after all, breaking every record there is, though it falls short in exceeding expectations. 

And for Disney, The Force Awakens is the first base to expand the Star Wars universe even more and this is the new cash cow it can milk for decades to come.

Verdict: A great action movie for all, just not as groundbreaking as the originals.

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