Star Wars: My review and opinion

So this is normally the day when I post some article on an old and crazy Golden Age comic book character but since it’s the Christmas season and since most of the pop culture consciousness has turned its massive head towards one particular franchise for the time being

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I thought it would be interesting to offer my two cents on the movie and the franchise as a whole.

Note: The following below does NOT include any spoilers for the new film.  Feel free to read away at your leisure.

I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens, at least enough to want to buy tickets for the next one.  Let me be clear here, I didn’t think it was “Oh my God this film is the greatest thing ever in the history of movies J.J Abrams is a God among men” good but good enough to bring Star Wars back into the popular consciousness and is a feather in the cap of the movies director J.J Abrams.

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I thought it was a respectful homage to the old cast, I think the new cast did a phenomenal job, and I think the future of the franchise is in very good hands.

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Most importantly I thought the movie succeeded in its most important goal: capturing the spirit and feel of the original trilogy.

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But what exactly does that mean?  How did the Force Awakens succeed in making us remember the original films while going out of its way to say “hey those prequels that everyone hates?  Yeah, those don’t exist anymore”?  Well, let me explain what I think makes Star Wars a huge success.

For starters there’s something we have to come to grips with: the Star Wars movies just aren’t very good.

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Okay, pitchforks down everyone!  Let me explain.

If you take the original trilogy and put it up against another science fiction masterpiece like “2001: A Space Odyssey”

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Then you can start to see a lot of holes and uncomfortable gaps in the plot.

For example: Isn’t it kind of strange how the Death Star is a massive space station the size of a small moon but only needs one exhaust port to vent what must be a massive amount of waste energy into space.  And doesn’t it seem weird that all that exhaust wouldn’t send something as small as a fighter sized torpedo flying outward?

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Isn’t it strange that a farm boy from a backwater desert planet who just recently joined the Rebellion (bear in mind in the beginning Luke wanted to join the Empire as a pilot) was just given a highly advanced space fighter and expected to survive the dangers of combat in deep space?

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Granted, you can make the argument that the Rebellion needed all the pilots it could get and that Luke was familiar with the controls from flying his T-16 back home, but as any actual fighter pilot will tell you combat is incredibly stressful.

And that’s just the first film.  How about the elephant in the room that is the really uncomfortable kiss between Luke and Leia in the Empire Strikes back?

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Or how about how an entire legion of the Empire’s best stormtroopers

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were defeated by these guys?

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Here’s the thing though.  The Star Wars movies may not be very good but that’s okay.  In fact: it’s part of what makes them brilliant.

In the original trilogy George Lucas tells us an epic story filled with space ships, laser swords, and feats of daring that seem so impossible you could call them magic but the story he tells is only part of something that is so much bigger.  Probably his most brilliant scene in the entire trilogy is the Mos Eisley cantina scene from A New Hope.

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Sure the scene has a purpose within the film, the main characters are looking for a ship to take them off planet and it introduces another character in Han Solo

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but Lucas takes time in this scene to let the audience look at all the aliens and other crazy characters that are also in the bar.  You may know Luke and Obi Wan but aren’t you a bit curious about this guy?

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or this guy?

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or how about this guy?

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What’s the back story for these creatures?

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Why is this band playing the same song over and over?

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And how did Cornelius Evazan get the death penalty on twelve systems?

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(author’s note: I do know why because Wookiepedia is a thing.)

Most of these questions have been answered and that’s what makes this scene so brilliant.  The original Star Wars trilogy was wise enough to give us A story within its massive universe but it didn’t tell us THE story.  It granted its audience enough information to be entertained but left enough out there for us to fill in the blanks on our own.  And fill in the blanks we did.  The toy and merchandise empire Star Wars spawned?

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What better way to play out our own adventures than with a Star Wars action figure?  The library of books and video games?

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A chance for other people to put their own stories into the Star Wars Universe.

You want to know why I think the prequels failed to catch the original spirit of Star Wars and were viewed as awful movies?  They tried to explain too much and be more complete movies by talking about things like space politics and…

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And that is why I like Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  We don’t know why the First Order exists or what it’s plan is.

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But we don’t need to because, much like the motivations of the original Empire, we are capable of filling in the gaps ourselves.  We barely know any of backstory or motivations for any of the main characters in the new movie

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but that’s okay we can do it ourselves, at least until the later movies reveal more about them.

Star Wars is a brilliant franchise because it has the courage and wisdom to surrender itself to the fans.  Much like the Force itself the fandom is a an energy field created by each person making their own contribution to the story as a whole no matter how big or little.  It surrounds the fandom and binds the movies, books, games, tv shows, and countless fanfics and wiki articles together.  It is no longer just Lucas’ franchise or Disney’s franchise, it is a franchise that belongs to everyone who loves Star Wars.

So in conclusion, go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s a wonderful way to get back in touch with your imagination.

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The Primordial Soup: What is Star Wars?

So this little movie is going to be coming out soon.

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Probably won’t be that much of a big deal…there’s a good chance not too many people are going to see it.

Yes, like many people on the internet with a blog I love Star Wars, but why?  After all, if you look at it at the surface level it’s just a bunch of guys with cool swords flying around in cool ships  and shooting lasers at each other.

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But most people who watch and enjoy these movies, and believe it or not I have met people who don’t like Star Wars, know that there is something much bigger and deeper to it.  Over the next couple of weeks I, and most likely half the Internet, will be posting a series of articles talking about one of the greatest movie franchises of all time in an attempt to answer a very simple, yet incredibly complicated, question:

What is Star Wars?

Well, in order to do that let’s look at where Star Wars came from.  George Lucas was an up and coming director in the 1970’s, part of the nascent film school movement that would give us Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese.

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These are the men that became the titans of American entertainment and created many of the most iconic works of art the world has ever seen.  Here’s the thing though.  Those men in the picture?  They didn’t just come with their ideas on their own.  When they were learning how to make movies they had inspirations of their own.

These guys learned from the classic films of the cinema scene from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.  The movies these guys grew up on were the ones that inspired them to make a new generation of American classics.  After all, this

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is basically a better directed and better funded version of this.

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This,

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is basically a better version of this

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and this,

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took quite a bit of inspiration from this.

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But what about Star Wars?  Well, in order to find out what inspired Star Wars we have to dig a little bit deeper.

First and foremost: what’s the first genre you think of when you talk about Star Wars?  Science fiction.

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Believe it or not there was a time when science fiction was treated as a small time genre in Hollywood and most of the science fiction movies of the 1950’s were pretty cheap and throw away affairs.

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Granted, Hollywood did produce some genuine sci fi classics at the time.

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and a little known producer named Rod Serling had some really interesting things to say.

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But for the most part science fiction was relegated to B roll status.

So that’s one part of where Star Wars came from but there’s quite a bit more to it then that.  Star Wars opened up a whole new world in showing us what movies could do in terms of action and excitement and it’s pretty safe to say that it didn’t get its sense of excitement from old school sci fi.  I mean, in these old films the space ship tends to just…float and sit there.

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Granted it’s safe to say that it was probably because of budget constraints but while early sci fi did that Star Wars gave us this.

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Can you imagine sitting in a movie theater in 1977 and seeing THAT for the first time?

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Lucas didn’t get the epic space battles that Star Wars is known for by watching B movie schlock sci fi so where did he get it from?  Well, you know how Darth Vader’s helmet looks like a Nazi helmet?

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Besides serving the purpose of letting the audience know that THIS IS THE BAD GUY!!  Star Wars borrowed a lot of its action and fast paced bits from the footage and movies about World War 2.

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So Star Wars was created on a foundation of early science fiction movies and given a boost with exciting action inspired by World War 2 fighter pilots but there is one final thing missing.  What about the guys with cool swords?

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Bear in mind, I am talking about the Jedi within the context of the original three movies (we’ll get to the prequels believe me) and when you’re talking about the Jedi you have to talk about one of the all time legends of movie making: Akira Kurosawa.

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For those of you who don’t know Kurosawa is one of the greatest film makers of all time.  He is basically the entire reason we enjoy samurai films

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and he created what is possibly the greatest adaptation of any Shakespearean play to film.

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He’s done plenty of other work but all we really need to know within the context of this article is that he made the samurai one of the most iconic figures in cinema.

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Lucas saw Kurosawa’s work and liked it so much he decided to borrow a whole bunch of stuff for Star Wars.  The term Jedi is a play on the Japanese word “jidai” which is a reference to the Japanese genre of historical films. R2-D2 and C-3PO

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are robotic copies of two comidic, yet incredibly helpful, peasants Tahei and Matashichi from the Kurosawa film Hidden Fortress

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Yoda

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is modeled after the wise and war weary Kambei Shimada from Seven Samurai

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and the whole idea of fighting based off of intuition and feeling?  Of emptying your mind in order to anticipate you opponent?  Using the Force?  It’s an overly simplified version of Zen Buddhism.

So there you have it.  Star Wars took elements of early American sci fi, World War 2 action, and Kurosawa’s samurai films and built one of the most iconic film series of all time on it.  Granted, there is much much more to Star Wars then this but hey…we have to save something for later.