Day 62. 228 pages, 109,125 words.
I’m not entirely sure why I’m doing this, but the idea came to me last night (or earlier this morning, whatever). As well as posting animated gifs of tumbleweeds to a few friends’ blogs that I regularly check and have recently been disappointed by the lack of activity. That seemed like a good idea too. No, dreameling, I didn’t do yours because I know you are going for an intentional one-post-per-year thing, but I can totally add one if you feel left out.
Anyway, here is my spoiler-free review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You should note that at this point I am not even spoiling myself, because I’m not seeing the movie until this evening. So I might post a follow-up tomorrow, with a review of the actual movie instead of the one I’m just pretending exists right now. You know, collapse the ol’ probability thing.
Well, after all the build-up and anticipation and hype, of course this movie was always going to be a little bit disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, or even so disappointing as to deserve the “disappointing” tag – it’s just that there was a lot of expectation riding on this, and it had to be perfect and amazing and brilliant, and it wasn’t quite perfect and amazing and brilliant. As a follow-up to IV, V and VI, it was never going to live up to the hopes and dreams of the middle-aged Star Wars devotees, but it did its very best. And its very best wasn’t bad at all!
Now, what The Force Awakens did manage to achieve was an exorcism of I, II and III. I’d read somewhere that Disney were all about pretending the prequel trilogy had never happened, and I’d read somewhere else that this was nonsensical because it would be throwing away three whole movies they bought the rights to so they definitely needed to make Jar Jar Binks into a Jedi Master. But no, they didn’t seem to do that here. They walked the line well. There was acknowledgement of the prequels and the universe they set up, but no full-blown referencing and certainly no character reclamation – well, you know, aside from a few of the characters from the prequels who went on through the original trilogy and now ended up in the sequel trilogy. But even they didn’t seem to dwell on the past very much. Okay, they dwelled on the past a bit, but only insofar as they were all about the original trilogy.
 Although there was at least one beautiful little reference to Jar Jar, or at least the Gungans, that I spotted, and probably more. Made me laugh.
 Most specifically in the concept of bringing balance to the Force, and the can’t-have-one-without-the-other nature of the Jedi-Sith relationship.
Still, that was all just in the background. This was clearly an attempt on Disney’s part to reclaim the Star Wars fan base after they’d been so disappointed by the prequels. To erase their scepticism and make them believe in that galaxy far, far away again. And the best way to do that is to pin a lot of importance on the original trilogy, and the nostalgia value of those old beloved characters coming back. And that’s exactly what they did – for the hype. Yes, the original cast were a big part of this movie, and they were almost all of the promotion for the movie, but they certainly weren’t all of the movie. They weren’t even as large a part of the movie as the trailers and teasers made them look. That was just to get everyone’s attention.
Do we have your attention? Good. Then we’ll begin.
I think what they were aiming for was a bit of an X-Men handover, a movie to show the old characters bowing out (having warmed up the crowd) and allowing the new characters to stand on their own. I’m not sure, given the sheer power of the old characters and their place in our hearts, that the new characters were quite there yet by the end of the movie, but Episode VIII will almost certainly feature the new generation more and the old generation less.
 Gaaaaaah we have to wait another whole year.
Like I say, that was background stuff. What was in the foreground, for me – as ever! – was the BST factor.
For those of you who have forgotten, BST stands for Bright Shiny Things, and this movie obviously had them in spades. It wasn’t bad BST, like in I, II and III – it was more like the BST factor in the Star Trek reboots, although even less gleaming and smooth. Which makes sense I guess, since this was also Abrams. The use of practical effects was hailed as a saving grace in this movie, and I don’t know that I’d take it that far since it was all pretty dramatically touched up in post-production … but it was certainly fun to see even as much practical work as there was. And there were still plenty of spacey whizz-bangs and explosions and aliens and other stuff, which is what I go to see a Star Wars movie for.
While the movie did suffer somewhat for some of the most spectacular and fun bits being put in the trailers, they did save a lot of really amazing stuff up their sleeves for the actual movie. The take-off / landing scenes, from ground to space and vice versa, were one. The micro-to-macro battle scenes were another. Really well-crafted. Have you noticed how Abrams likes to do those vertigo-inducing sudden-yawning-gulf shots where the hero is just about to fall into something? Well, I have no complaints here.
The plot was a satisfying combination of simple – good guys, bad guys, a fallen Empire and an attempt to rebuild in the ruins – and complex – specifically, the sheer number of moving parts. Lots of characters, and they took advantage of the audience probably knowing most of them from earlier on. The new characters introduced were nice and simple, although their emergent back-stories and motivations had plenty of material in them for the drama-junkies. There was nothing much to think about, and you could just sit back and enjoy the movie’s visuals and dialogue – entertainment for its own sake.
 Although I did sort of wonder just how much infrastructure was lost in the collapse of the Empire. What, did all the big settlements get wiped out? I understand the Rebels living in makeshift bases when they were Rebels, and I sort of get Luke’s self-imposed Yoda-act, but why is the new Galactic Republic government still going from backwater to backwater?
 As evidenced by the opening crawl! No political and socioeconomic crap, just plain exposition all the way. Excellent.
 I’ve said before that, while I, II and III had terrible dialogue, the original trilogy wasn’t much better (feel free to shout at me again). Yes, there were charming one-liners and a lot more wisdom, not to mention between-character chemistry, but they weren’t dazzling and insightful works of modern wit. The Force Awakens was more of a return to form in this respect, with some fun lines and a bit of thought-provoking depth … but man, there were also some clangers. Which I think is fine. It’s Star Wars!
The villain, Kylo Ren, was another example of simple-yet-complex. As a black-clad, red-lightsabered Bad Guy, he was your basic Darth Whoever – and yet, he changed it up a bit, and showed that the Star Wars universe is evolving. His back-story and motivations, like those of the ‘good’ characters, are emergent and interesting … but also, he’s just a Bad Guy.
When they put him on trial, the prosecution just held up this picture, then took a four-hour lunch break.
The appearance of Vader – or Anakin – as a ghost to show Ren the way was interesting. I’d assumed for some reason that the Force Ghost thing was only a skill the ‘good’ masters got, and the appearance of Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi alongside Yoda and Obi-Wan seemed to suggest that he would be there for Luke. This, unless they’re still aiming for a really awkward reveal later on that Luke is somehow still Kylo Ren in disguise, didn’t seem to be the case.
 I’m doing my best to ignore the remastered “who are these people” version of Luke’s final vision.
The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. Who else would appear to Ren? He’s doing the ugly work of restoring balance to the Force, and trying to correct the mistakes the Empire made in the past, and Anakin’s redemption at the end of Return of the Jedi makes him the perfect mirror to fallen Obi-Wan in A New Hope. He knows what needs to be done and will try to get Ren to do it in a manner as un-evil as possible.
No more killing younglings, that shit solves nothing and is political poison.
I’m looking forward to seeing how that other classic mirrored-plot, specifically the Jedi training between Yoda-Luke and Luke-Finn, plays out. Will Luke, disillusioned by the here-comes-the-new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss squabbling of the new Republic and the collapse of all his hopes and dreams after Return of the Jedi, manage to learn from the mistakes he, Obi-Wan and Yoda made during his training? Will Obi-Wan’s helpless creation of Darth Vader haunt Luke’s ascent to Jedi Master? Will Luke join the Ghost Patrol? And if so, will they edit him to look young again?
 John Boyega, by the way, was fantastic. He was like … I won’t say a non-whiny version of Luke, because he had the angst … but he was certainly a non-annoying version of Luke. His flailing and vacillation got frustrating by the end but I suppose this is an origin story and he did have a lot to process, so I will accept it as part of his arc. As long as that shit’s over now. I really like the character and it was really well played. Tish and pish to the complainers.
All in all, though, this was a very fun film and you can’t expect more. It’s a huge step in the direction of fan-faith restoration, and is actually worthy of being placed on the shelf next to IV, V and VI. Just … keep in mind that I said the same thing about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
So. Three hundred and sixty-four days to the next instalment?