Awakenings!

Hooray, The Force Awakens was great. Let me quickly gather some spoiler filled notes of reaction, now that it’s been a day or so since I watched it.

(Do check out Jason Kottke’s also-spoilerrific 15 thoughts about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, too.)

  1. I read all the spoilers about the movie months and months ago, from great sites like Making Star Wars and I don’t feel it diminished my enjoyment of the movie at all. Even knowing about That One Huge Moment With Han Solo a year ago didn’t make me feel any less excited about the movie.
  2. All of the new actors are great, though as part of the small minority of viewers who’ve seen Adam Driver in Girls and in Lincoln, it was hard at first to see him within this universe and not be distracted by the familiarity.
  3. All of the characterizations (including those of the “classic” characters) were far more loose and natural in this film, as compared to Lucas’ formal, even stilted, direction. For the most prat, that was fine and appropriate, but when it got more jokey or self-aware, it felt a bit like, “That’s not Star Wars!”
  4. Just as the characterizations were modernized, so too was the pacing. Parts of the original trilogy are downright languid, and of course parts of the prequels drag on endlessly. But in switching to contemporary, fast-paced editing we lose a little bit of the epic feel from the original trilogy. That’s a fair trade, as quick reveals like the Millennium Falcon’s unforgettable first appearance in the movie more than justify the change in style.
  5. John Williams was very restrained in not relying very heavily on the themes from the classic trilogy, but as Creed (which is excellent!) showed, smartly deploying a legendary musical theme in the seventh episode of a franchise can have powerful effect. That was really only used well in the case of the Force Theme when Rey finally takes the lightsaber, which I loved. Otherwise, the new music in the film was pretty unimpressive. While it’s fair to note that great themes like the Imperial March weren’t in the first film from the classic trilogy, it’s also worth noting that the prequels, for all their many shortcomings, averaged having at least one great theme per film.
  6. The places where the movie references the rest of the Star Wars universe are great. The nods aren’t generally too heavy-handed, and it doesn’t veer into obsequious fan service. By contrast, the reuse of Star Wars story elements is just tedious. There is a direct analog for nearly every character in a New Hope. There’s a trench run. There’s a weakness in the battle station. Hell, the could have made the Starkiller at least shaped like a cube or something — that might show that the First Order learned a little bit from the Empire’s shortcomings!
  7. There was a lot of detail that will clearly reward repeat viewing. The Star Wars Leaks community is already assiduously cataloguing those (I didn’t see a grave stone by Luke!) but I know I missed a number on my first viewing. At one point, Han and Chewie are standing in a ship doorway and Chewie does something that Han reacts to, but I didn’t quite pick up what it was. I’m sure many other small character-building moments (or setups for payoffs like the crossbow blaster’s shot power) are throughout the film waiting to be noticed.
  8. BB-8 was a lot better a character than it had any reason to be.

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