Warning! spoilers! Long rambling, meandering…
“Awakens” was one of the better contributions to the franchise, I thought. It was shallow and manipulative, which is what Abrams does well, but didn’t seem to take itself as woodenly serious as some of the recent offerings have. I didn’t find myself objecting to the carefully choreographed emotional manipulation in the way one often does by bad movies.
The franchise formula remains the same. Title against star fields, followed by plot-so-far synopsis receding into the distance, then panning down… same music.
The plucky female heroine and turncoat clone are worthy additions to the cast.
Other than that, the overall shape of the plot was nearly identical to that of the very first one, and seeing this new version brought back memories of seeing it when it came out in 1977. I want to say “pleasant” memories, but if you think carefully: the graphic massacre, the capture and disturbing torture scenes. Not exactly pleasant, aside from being familiar, which is an odd sensation.
The death star and its destruction which didn’t depart significantly from the first movie in dramatic import, though the effects were obviously much more complex, and there was the predictable inflation of the weapon. Destroying one planet isn’t good enough. We have to destroy multiple planets! At this rate, by Episode 23 they’ll need to destroy the entire universe, which could be a bit inconvenient. It could evolve into a “hithiker’s guide” cycle in which the universe is destroyed at the end of every episode, then recreated at the beginning of the next one.
The other thing that brought it back, of course was the appearance of genuinely aged characters from the first movie. Seeing Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher work together again was a pleasure. Watching Leia pass the torch to Rey I thought of how the casts of “Les Misèrables” grow up and those who played the girl parts later play the women’s parts [Only Victor Hugo’s message was much more vital and relevant to the real world, unlike this festival of shameless simplistic escapism we have come to expect from the videographic products of the engines of commerce].
I felt like I was watching the next season of Buffy, complete with the death of a popular character. Except, Whedon would probably not have milked the drama so egregiously… but this is Star Wars, which is all ABOUT the egregious squeezing of blood from every little plot turn!
I was glad he brought in shades of the dark brooding from “the empire strikes back” (the vision of the lightsabre) The effect at the beginning with the ‘frozen’ blaster charge was fun, too.
For the same reasons I think Abrams was the wrong person to direct Star Trek, he was the right person to direct Star Wars. A movie in which things are what they seem and everything is cut and dried into two distinct factions (light and dark) leaving the definitions of each sufficiently vague that anyone can imagine themselves rooting for the side that wins.
It’s a clichéd poetry, but one Abrams knows well and communicates with fluently.