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Monday, December 21, 2015

"Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens"

Above, the official poster.
Today was the day for me to go out to see the J. J. Abrams Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens.

Denise and I decided to see it today as there would likely be fewer crowds to fight on top of the traffic jams at the local malls for the final few days of Christmas shopping.

We began the day with breakfast at Coco's up in the Chatsworth area. Following that, we headed over to the Pacific Winnetka Theaters for the movie.

The auditorium was about one-half to three-quarters empty, so we had no difficulty to find seats that suited us.

Following the fifteen minutes of coming attractions trailers, the movie began. It struck me odd that the only studio logo card before the usual start of the Star Wars movie was for Lucasfilm, Ltd. There was no Disney logo card (or even Touchstone Pictures). I was wondering how they were going to handle that. I missed the 20th Century Fox logo card and fanfare.

Getting into the movie, the story begins 30 or so years after the events of Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi. A new bunch of baddies, the First Order, are trying to pick up the fallen baton of the former Empire. It is kind of like Vladimir Putin's efforts to rebuild the Soviet Empire. The Rebellion has been replaced by the Resistance. Same thing, different name.

Much of the first half of the movie is introducing new characters to the saga, which, in my opinion, made the film drag. It was at least about 40 minutes or so before we get to see the first familiar characters from the first trilogy, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).

Rather than go into the story and spoil it for everyone, I'll just give my initial impressions.

First, the movie was beautifully photographed. I am happy that J. J. Abrams did not go overboard with his "glare" lighting effects as he does with the Star Trek movies. There were none of those here. The special effects were excellent.

Second, it was good to see Ford, Mayhew, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill back. Seeing them as they are now is a bit of a shock since it seems like only yesterday (actually about 31 years since their last appearance together) they were battling Jabba The Hutt and the Empire. Alas, time marches on and we all can't stay forever young, can we?

Third, I liked this movie more than the "prequel" trilogy as a whole, although I enjoyed the Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) very much (has it really been ten years since that one was released?). There is much more suspense here as we don't know where the series is headed, whereas, we pretty much knew ahead of time were the prequel trilogy was headed. That's my main beef with prequels.

Fourth, there were no cute teddy bears (Ewoks) or annoying Jar Jar Binks characters to mar the movie. It played pretty straight.

Fifth, of the new characters introduced, I liked scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) the best. The others, meh.

Overall, I don't see this movie deserving of the raves that some of my friends gave it. It was okay. It doesn't top Star Wars (1977) or Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Empire is my personal favorite). I found the two recent Abrams Star Trek reboot movies more satisfying. This almost seemed like a pale remake of the original Star Wars.

My grade: B+. I would have given it an A- had the first half didn't drag so much.

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