Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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last posted Feb. 23, 2016, 10:24 p.m.
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I'm initially gathering thoughts here privately and I won't publish them until after 25th to reduce spoilers (unless they are obviously spoiler free).

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I saw Star Wars The Force Awakens this weekend in IMAX 3D. It was amazing in many respects. If you're a fan of the series, do go see it, you will not be disappointed. I will not reveal any spoilers in this stream, but I will try to explain how I was also let down by it to a certain extent.

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I saw it in IMAX 3D on Friday morning in Perth, Western Australia so before most of the US.

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When the opening crawl starts, you have to remind yourself: this is new stuff, I need to pay attention.

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There are a number of films throughout the history of film and throughout my life that I've gone to see that were simply mind blowing. Mind blowing because they showed you something either in the visuals or in the story that they told that was completely unique; something that you've never seen before. While TFA has some of that, I think most of it was really just intended to instill a comfort that the series is in good hands and that a new generation will treat it with care moving forward. I'm OK with that. There are other things that I'm not OK with however. There were things that didn't sit well with me. Maybe some of these things will resolve after another viewing but I'm not so certain they will.

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First up: the film does an amazing job of feeling like it's part of the same story as the original trilogy, more so than the prequels ever did.

I suspect that's a combination of being shot on film, better integrated computer graphics and actually going back to doing a lot of practical special effects and scenes on location.

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It took me a little bit of time to work out what the tone was going to be, so the first time there's humour it actually jolted me a bit.

But I quickly realised this is aiming for the tone of the original and does a pretty nice job of it!

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I realize that it's a fantasy series, but I want the science in some ways to be at least marginally believable. There are a few things in here that are a bit too far fetched even for a fantasy series. Maybe I'm old and getting a little crusty. Maybe I should shut up and just enjoy it for what it is. I'll wait a few weeks before going into some of these points in detail, but I'm curious to see if others pick up on some of these things as well.

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Aside from occasionally over-intense expressions, Daisy Ridley did an amazing job with Rey. Easily my favourite character.

I loved the way early on Finn kept trying to help her and clearly she was far more in control than him: "why are you holding my hand?"

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There will again be no spoilers, but I felt as though the story was way too formulaic. Almost as if it was so concerned about upsetting the loyal followers that instilling a sense of comfort meant relying way too much on familiar story devices and plot structures. Perhaps the series has painted itself in a corner in that way, or perhaps I was so blown away by what JJ did with his Star Trek reboot that I was expecting something similar here; that he remain faithful to the original series as possible, but go outside the box a bit and take us into some really new territory.

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I found Poe a very flat, comic-book character. Likeable enough but not really of any consequence. When you think he's dead you don't really care (or at least I didn't).

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It raised far more questions than it answered. I realize that in a continuing saga you need to leave some things unresolved so that you can address them in later installments, but I think a bit more background or support for some of the things that they're laying the groundwork for could have been done.

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Even though this was a continuation and not a reboot, it had SO many elements of the first film in a way it serves as both a continuation AND a reboot.

I found myself often thinking, "okay, THIS is the bit that corresponds to THAT in Episode IV".

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I liked the way they implicitly conveyed that a lot went down between VI and VII (e.g. what happened on Jakku, how did the First Order emerge) without wasting any time on exposition. Made the universe feel much richer.

At some point I hope they explore some of that but I'm glad they didn't in this film.

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A lot of questions surrounding Snoke: Who is he? What is he? Even, where is he?

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The big questions prior to the film around why Luke wasn't featured in the trailers (other than voice over in the first trailer) actually played really well into his absence in the film which was, of course, crucial to the plot.

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Obviously Kylo Ren's return after "finishing his training" will make for an interesting VIII.

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But the big mystery is of course, Rey's background. Who is she and why was she left on Jakku?

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I kinda got sick of the Starkiller (Deathstar Mk III) thing.

At this point it’s getting a bit Road Runner and Wile E Coyote.

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Went to see it again last night. I don't watch a lot of films in IMAX 3D, but after watching the film again last night in just a regular 2D 4k theater, the visual effects felt more real and didn't distract as much from the story. While I still left with some of the same concerns that I'd voiced earlier, I enjoyed the film quite a bit more the second time around. I also left with the feeling that 3D isn't something that I'll seek out much in the future. It seems as though it distracts me too much from the story.