Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Movie ReviewWalt Disney Pictures.
PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.
Running time: 135 minutes.
Three and a half stars out of four.

You guys have all seen “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” by now, right? So I can go ahead and wallow in all the spoilers?

Actually, I wouldn’t dream of it. Not here, at least. (If you’re interested in a spoiler discussion after you’ve seen the movie, though, feel free to hop on over to our What the Flick?! review.) But I did want to write a little something, just because I loved the movie so much and I’ve had such a good time over the past few days talking about it with folks — those who had and hadn’t seen it alike.

I had the pleasure of bringing Nicolas (who’s 6) with me to a screening on Tuesday afternoon at the Disney lot. Those of you who know me or have read my previous posts about “Star Wars” know that my kid is obsessed. I showed him all six films — in release order, of course, because I’m a good mom — back when he was 4 1/2 years old. Since then, he’s dressed as Darth Vader for Halloween, carried various “Star Wars” lunchboxes to school each day, romped about with his collection of light sabers and played countless hours of the Angry Birds iPad game. I was more excited for him than I was for myself; he’d only seen the movies at home on television, so this would be his first time watching one in a packed theater with all the excitement and ritual that entails.

He sat in my lap the whole time and was transfixed — although he did ask who Han Solo and Princess Leia were when they came on screen for the first time. (Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher look a little different than they did 32 years ago in “Return of the Jedi.” It happens to us all.) But even before the film began, just during that brief, silent pause between the words: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …” and the first blast of John Williams’ stirring fanfare, there was a palpable sense of anticipation and even reverence. This mattered, no matter how old you are.

And J.J Abrams didn’t disappoint. He actually exceeded my expectations of what this experience would be like — and it truly is an experience on both a cultural and an emotional level, and not just your everyday Saturday night at the multiplex. When Abrams was handed the franchise, the expectation was that he would return it to the glory of the the original trilogy. If anybody could, it was this director. And he did. Working from a script he co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan (who also wrote the best film in the series, “The Empire Strikes Back”) and “Toy Story 3” and “Little Miss Sunshine” writer Michael Arndt, Abrams beautifully combined the elements of the first three films that we loved so much with a fresh sense of purpose. Characters, images, themes and even lines of dialogue that make the “Star Wars” lore so rich co-exist seamlessly with new faces and adventures and a revitalized energy.

It also blends much-ballyhooed practical effects with the best of what crisp and shiny computer-generated imagery can achieve. “The Force Awakens” flat-out dazzles, filled with a wide variety of perfectly-paced set pieces. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a chase involving the Millennium Falcon zooming through the remnants of a crashed star destroyer that’s the most thrilling sequence I’ve ever seen in the entire series. And yes, that includes the climactic destruction of the Death Star in “Star Wars.” This is not hyperbole.

But speaking of the original film — yes, a lot of what we see here is awfully familiar, but with enough tweaks to provide some novelty. You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned the plot in the slightest, but there’s a desert planet where a droid (the adorably perky BB-8, arriving just in time for Christmas) is entrusted with secret information. There’s a cantina where various intergalactic freaks meet to mingle and menace (although this time, the owner is a woman, played by Lupita Nyong’o in a vivid bit of motion-capture performance). There’s a giant planet that destroys other planets but also has an Achilles heel that makes it vulnerable to an X-wing attack. And there’s snappy banter between Han and Leia, only now they’re older and filled with regret, which adds a sense of wistfulness to their exchanges.

As for the newcomers, Adam Driver provides real depth and inner conflict as Kylo Ren, Dark Side head honcho and leader of a new evil empire known as the First Order. The black helmet, cape and mechanized voice may all seem familiar, but once again we know the whole film aims for a different perspective when it allows the character to reveal his face and true identity. That element of humanity actually makes Kylo Ren even scarier.

John Boyega is enormously charismatic as Finn, a disillusioned Stormtrooper who must figure out what he believes in and then choose to find the strength to fight for it. If you’re one of the few who saw “Attack the Block,” you know what a pleasing screen presence this young, British actor has. Now the whole world will now. And I love the fact that the massively versatile Oscar Isaac has such a crucial, meaty supporting role as bad-ass pilot Poe Dameron. In the past few years, he’s shown he can really play any kind of character in any kind of film, from “Inside Llewyn Davis” to “A Most Violent Year” to “Ex Machina.” (Isaac’s “Ex Machina” co-star Domhnall Gleeson, who’s also been all over the place lately, is chilling as the First Order’s military czar.) Now, Isaac brings his formidable acting chops to the biggest blockbuster imaginable and provides it with even more substance.

But this is Daisy Ridley’s movie all the way. She is just a superstar. It’s as simple as that. As the plucky heroine Rey, a resourceful scavenger who discovers abilities she never knew she had, she has an electrifying presence but also a down-to-Earth accessibility. It’s a tricky balancing act she pulls off: a mixture of daring and vulnerability, smarts and openheartedness. We now have a “Star Wars” movie for a whole new generation in which the central figure is a woman — and a strong woman, at that. Rey never needs to be rescued. She’s the one doing the rescuing. Ridley has excellent chemistry not only with her fellow newcomers but also with veterans Ford and Fisher. Fellow old friends Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C3-PO (Anthony Daniels) and even R2-D2 are welcome sights once more, with Chewie enjoying a significant and even poignant storyline this time.

“The Force Awakens” is a complete blast but it also features real stakes, which woefully were missing from most of George Lucas’ duly derided prequels (although “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” was actually pretty good). A dramatically lighted scene on a catwalk is a prime example of this; again, I wouldn’t dream of divulging what happens in this moment, but I will say that its familiarity in no way diminishes its power.

That’s what’s so impressive about the tricky balancing act Abrams has pulled off with “The Force Awakens”: He’s made a movie that’s simultaneously gripping and a huge release. We are in good hands, at last.

32 Comments on “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens

  1.  by  Gerardo Valero

    After reading Rotten Tomates and noticing the way the reviews were headed (including you guys at What the Flick!) I was just about certain this would be a wonderful movie, which made it all the more frustrating to find out otherwise. Episode VII has all the elements I would have liked in a new Star Wars movie except a worthy reason to bring these old characters back for more heartache after they beat the empire in Episode VI and were suppossed to have lived happily ever after. And for what? To fight a new “Emperor” (Snoke) whose light years away from being as scary as Palpatine and a new Darth of sorts (Keylo Ren), an overgrown teenager with daddy/grandaddy issues who’s defeated by a relatively small girl (obviously the daughter of another Jedi) who has received no training whatsoever!. I also found the movie’s grand twist horribly dissappointing, Han Solo. one of the greatest action heroes in movies deserved so much better a death scene (think Judi Dench in “Skyfall”). At any rate, after failing to understand why so many critics disliked the terrific “Spectre” last month I find myself ever more clueless on why they did apprecaite Episode VII. I’ll tell you one thing, it’s a lot better to find yourself liking something that others didn’t instead of the other way around!
    Merry Christmas Christy!

    •  by  Rodrigo Mainardes

      You forgot to mention that, after all this time, we have to see AGAIN a droid wandering in the desert with valuable information, found by the would-be Jedi, another death star coming to blow the rebel base, and so on, and so on. C’mon…. no fresh ideas at all?

      •  by  Geoff

        I am so glad that I wasn’t the only one thinking the exact same thing!

    •  by  Jesse

      You have some good points technically, but I should point out the reason Rey was able to stack up to Kylo Ren was because he was heavily injured by Chewie in an earlier scene.
      We also see early in the movie that she knows how to fight with a weapon (beats the crap out of some bandits trying to steal her droid as Finn rushes to help her), so no training may be a stretch.

    •  by  Christy Lemire

      I love it — my sweet friend Gerardo stirring up trouble on my website! (And Merry Christmas to you guys, too.)

      •  by  Durge

        Sure, he doesn’t like a re-hash movie, he must be boring as hell!


    •  by  Geoff

      I totally agree. I’m trying to fathom just how a professional movie reviewer can write positively about a retread story that trots out just about every tired plotline from the old movies. WTF? I just walked out of the movie theater wanting to scream WTF! Another Death Star type weapon? Are you F’ing kidding me? Another Emperor type character, another Darth Vader character, another Tatooine planet? I mean I haven’t even scratched the surface on how stupid and unoriginal this plotline is. Pffffftt! No respect for Abrams and ESPECIALLY no respect for reviewers that are calling this a good movie. It isn’t. And I actually liked the new characters. If they only had a good plotline to work within, this could have been great. It’s not.

    •  by  Charly

      How come she liked this un original story line so much.
      Maybe she got paid by Disney?
      We all have seen this before,another droid with vital information,a guy that looks and sounds like vader but is not,no reason to go on,this new movie is a disgrace to starwars.

  2.  by  Jeremy N

    Technically it was well executed. The score under delivered, which was a first for John Williams. Daisy Ridley was fantastic. The story was lazy and uninspired. It’s the first Star Wars movie where the plot was not advanced. This movie completely negated the original trilogy. The protagonists are right back in the same situation as Luke, Han, Lea, Chewie, and Ben from a New Hope. This movie couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes to write. Substitute the Empire for the First Order, the Wall-E robot for R2D2, the Falcon crew for their kids, Vader for Ren, the Emperor for Voldernort, the Death Star for the star killer, and you have Episode 4. JJ Abrams has turned Star Trek into a generic action movie, and has done the same for Star Wars. The prequels at least advanced the plot and had an original story. I could have written this script using a Star Wars Mad-Libs template for much cheaper. I hate I spent so much effort avoiding trailers, because had I known this was a reboot and not an original story, I wouldn’t have been so dissapointed.

    •  by  Geoff

      Spot on. These comments are SPOT ON! I feel like Ripley in Aliens where she says “Did IQ’s just drop sharply while I was away?”. I suppose if I had never seen A New Hope and Return of the Jedi I would probably like this movie. But I did see those movies. And they have pretty much the exact same plot as this one. I mean, can you imagine being on the writing team for this movie. Did they have discussions like “And this time we’ll have an even bigger Death Star Weapon, this time the size of a small planet, so it will be even more dramatic!”. I mean WTF!

  3.  by  Jason

    Gerardo, it’s hard to find you very imaginative when one of your gripes is that someone is “defeated by a relatively small girl”

    If Star Wars is about anything, isn’t about the fact that size and gender have nothing to do with the outcome of a struggle? Is your complaint really that the outcome of a battle in a galaxy far, far away, doesn’t conform to your idea of who should win a physical confrontation? You’re not going to complain about the physical impossibilities of harvesting a stars energy to destroy other planets, but you will about the girl holding her own in a fight?

    I don’t know if there’s hope for you if that’s what you took from this film. But you should consider what it must be like for kids to watch this movie and gain a vision for overcoming adversity that is probably better than what you could have told them is possible.

    •  by  Gerardo Valero

      I actually loved the Rey character but by having her defeat Kylo Ren with such ease and without any training, the filmmakers effectively made the latter look like a wimp and, considering he’s suppossed to be the movie’s main villain and the one who gets to kill the great Han Solo, this really ended up hurting the movie. Imagine if it had been Luke who ran into Darth Vader in the Death Star and easily defeated him. Would anybody still care for Vader after all these years?
      Episode VII lacks the truly great character of the earlier films like a Vader, a Yoda, an Obi Wan or a Palpatine. Heck, I would have settled for a Count Dooku.
      Personally I feel that we owe George Lucas an apology, it turns out that making a Star Wars movie is not as easy as it seems.

      •  by  Mike



        I’m not sure I’d characterize the fight between Rey and Kylo Ren as an easy win for Rey. And besides, they went through some pains (pun unintended) to show that Kylo had been hit by Chewie’s bowcaster, was bleeding pretty badly, and took a few lightsaber nicks from Finn before he fought Rey. Even so, he was arrogant and overconfident (much like Anakin in Episode III, I might add) and paid the price as a result.

        I do think it’s a bit odd that Rey could do the Jedi mind trick and use the force to retrieve a lightsaber without any training, though. It may have been smarter for them to show Rey using the force (albeit unknowingly) earlier in the movie – say, by making extraordinary jumps while scavenging and having a precognitive sense of when she’s about to run into trouble. They sort of hint at this when she flies the Falcon, but they probably could have played this up a bit more. As is, it comes off like she goes from ordinary human to force-user in the space of a day with no training.

        In any event, I think Kylo Ren is supposed to be an unformed and deeply flawed villain. In fact, he is very much a dark-side version of Luke from Empire Strikes Back. Snoke makes it clear that Ren’s training is not complete, and Ren is arrogant, overconfident, and prone to whining and temper tantrums. He gets his hand cut off as a result and needs to be rescued by General Hux. In Empire, Yoda makes clear that Luke’s training is not complete, and Luke is whiny, overconfident (“You’ll find I’m full of surprises”), and ruled by his emotions. He gets his hand chopped off as a result and needs to be rescued by Leia and Lando. I don’t think any of this is a coincidence.

        Of course, by the time of Return of the Jedi, Luke is a bit of a badass. I’d be shocked if Kylo Ren weren’t much more dangerous in the next two episodes.

    •  by  Geoff

      There’s nothing wrong with a girl holding her own in a fight. But imagine, if you will, a teen girl in the Middle Ages with no sword training going up against a Templar Knight in a sword fight and winning. That is how ridiculous this is. If she use her own polearm weapon, that would be more realistic. As it is, it’s just stupid. I really love the idea of the character, they just didn’t do the actual treatment very well.

  4.  by  Peter Gamba

    If this was the “first” Star Wars movie, I would applaud all of it – as this takes place 30 years after and contains too many parallels to the original trio, I was greatly disappointed. Yes, the new characters are well cast, with the exception of Driver. I don’t believe he has the range to be ominous. I look at regular life and say thirty years is a long time especially in a pseudo technologically advanced world. Same Tie Fighters, same X-Wings, same scenarios just doesn’t cut the mustard on showing me a future. I could go on, just suffice that the folks that believe this was everything it should have and could have been didn’t see the same movie as I.

  5.  by  Fan25

    I have to agree with some of the commenters here. Daisy Ridley’s character defeats Kylo Ren with no previous light saber training. Her transition to amateur jedi knight is too quick, and I don’t like it. That being said, it is a solid film and I thoroughly enjoyed the shit out of it.

  6.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Re: Science Fiction Genre

    In discussing this movie, the members of Christy’s panel went out of their way, to distinguish between something called ‘fantasy’, and something else called ‘science fiction’. This is shallow, in my humble opinion. I think that the comparison with the character of Judi Dench in James Bond, and that which Harrison Ford plays in Star Wars, is a valid one. I don’t know what ‘genre’ that we would have to lump James Bond into – espionage thriller? Dunno. But the genre which all of these fall into, is big box office movie, and that’s really about the size of it.

    There are a few very different takes, on ‘the future’, on science fiction, that have been explored in cinema over the decades – and in my opinion, they all deserve recognition – for the parts of science fiction that they do well. Ben Mankiewicz in his observations about this movie, saw the value in this movie, in the audience getting to know more about the world of a ‘Storm Tropper’ – something which hadn’t happened in earlier features by George Lucas. But then, we think about this. We think about movies in the series Alien, beginning with the original directed by Ridley Scott a long time ago (in another galaxy far away). Ben Mankiewicz, mentioned that he would like to see Storm Troppers with their helmets off, enjoying coffee break in the canteen.

    This is what ‘Alien’ movie series was about. It introduces the audience into the ‘domestic’ environment, on a distant planet. It introduces us to people who ‘sleep’ whilst making long distance travel. Alien introduces us, to live on the space-aged frontier. It ain’t pretty, it ain’t exciting. If all were going well, life would continue to be boring – except for the intrusion of the ‘Alien’ – the very same one that always manages to sneak into the cargo bay, and hop from one galaxy to another – creating death and destruction in the process.

    Another more recent franchise in the science fiction part of the ‘big movie’ spectrum – one like ‘Riddick’ – picks up on some of the best parts of Alien. The idea of things climbing aboard space barges, when they aren’t supposed to. The ‘space’ or science fiction explored by these movies, doesn’t have any Mellenium Falcon. The space ships in a lot of science fiction movies, are more like trucks that haul cargo across large distances. The places they visit are like road side truck stops. The characters who inhabit those places are work-a-day types. It’s mundane.

    But somehow in the middle of it all, these characters like Riddick and Ridley appeared, and became unlikely hero’s of sorts. The original Star Wars had something of that. The individuals who became hero’s were unlikely ones. Han Solo for example, had to be dragged kicking and screaming, into making a commitment to any cause, or any greater mission. Both Riddick and Ridley, were also selfish characters in some ways.

    Matt Atchity, refers to this as a ‘character arc’, I think. And his observation of the most recent Star Wars episode, may have truth to it. We wonder, if the new Star Wars hero’s come a little bit too ‘pre-packaged’, and don’t have to struggle enough, to finally become the hero’s that they become. I mean, in the old Star Wars, six and half a dozen, the Han Solo character flies off in his Mellenium Falcon, closing the hatch behind him – and leaves Ben Kenobi, Princess Leia, Luke and the whole shutting match – on the planet behind him, to be chewed alive by Darth Vader, or whomever. That’s what Han Solo started out as – and we saw his character undergo a transformation over the series.

    But why stop at ‘Alien’, or ‘Riddick’? Heck, I’d even throw the Matrix, or even ‘Terminator’, in there too, for good measure. Because those movies also, contribute something into the canon of science fiction and movies, in the broadest sense. It just happens that the Matrix and Terminator, are very planet Earth-centric in their story lines. However, that doesn’t seem to prevent their stories from seeming terribly important, and futuristic, and exciting.

    The important point I think, is to understand how some new movies – in the examples of Riddick and the Matrix – have managed to re-invent the science fiction genre, in very fresh and exciting ways. I can’t help but thinking, when I look at movies like those – that that is where Star Wars ought to have been – on a similar kind of ‘bleeding edge’ of movie making and science fiction. However, because Star Wars hasn’t been able to explore that bleeding edge, a lot of these other worlds, and other characters have been created.

    I think that the point, that Ben Mankiewicz may have managed to stumble across, in the panel reviews of this movie – is that there is scope within Star Wars – for it to become more like Alien, or more like the Matrix, or Riddick. There is scope to try out those experiments with Star Wars, and not have it damage the original concept, in any way. And now that I think of it, I wonder why, Star Wars has not managed to produce some kind of ‘kick ass’, machine, bad-guy – in the way that ‘Terminator’ has been able to do. When I think about it now, I’ve seen at least a dozen, bad-guy robots of one sort or another in George Lucas movies – and I don’t remember any of them – like I remember some of the ones, that have appear in Terminator.

    Why is that? Why can’t a robot (Darth Vader was an example of what I mean, more robot than anything else), in a Star Wars movie, be something that won’t go away – like they are in Terminator? Why do robots only really kick ass in Terminator – and not so much in Star Wars?

    And why can’t something other than a human being, be the leading character – as in the case of Riddick? Why is Star Wars so reluctant to go there? One of the strengths of earlier Star Wars, was it’s willingness to place something like Jabba the Hutt, as a leading character in the middle of the plot. All best, B.

  7.  by  Phoebe

    I wonder if I can find a review that praises the new film and doesn’t trash the prequels. Apparently not.

    The film was absolutely fantastically great, though unoriginal. The review was also great. Except for the quip against my favorite films in the series. -_-

  8.  by  Jim

    First, thanks for the forum and the review. Like many others here, I have to say that I have mixed feelings with the movie. It DID stay true to the original and I enjoyed it but there are an awful lot of plot holes and inconsistencies. I appreciate the new charecters and think they’ll be great in upcoming releases but the story line was disappointing and unimaginative.

    I would have liked to see some forward development (technologically) and had a bit more revealed about why and HOW the old empire managed not only to survive but THRIVE in the new Republic and build an even bigger and badder super weapon!??? Why are the rebels and Republic separate? ODD…

    Our favorite hero’s have obviously been through some tough times but here too I see obvious parallels. Children seperated at birth…siblings, perhaps? A new emperor and apprentice…Kylo. An absent Jedi master…

    Again…great job at reviving the originals but a bit too predictable and sadly…unispiring. There’s some great story there waiting to be uncovered and I anxiously await the next one in the franchise to see if they’ll be revealed. If your a fan, you’ll enjoy the movie and the return to that galaxy far, far away. Just don’t exspect too many insights into the how, why and where.

  9.  by  Doug McWilliams

    Spot on review! Really, well done. I completely agree. This was a great movie

  10.  by  - Jon -

    I found the movie lacking any creative talent whatsoever. It failed to capture any of the grandeur of the original trilogy and felt more like a budget movie in size and scope rather than a 200 million dollar behemoth. The plot… well I am still trying to figure out if there was one. The backstory of what happened since Return of the Jedi and current day is beyond vague. It’s like Disney spent 4 billion dollars acquiring the rights to Star Wars but forgot to hire any talented writers. This could have been huge and Disney blew it as far as I am concerned. I will not go blindly to see the second movie. In fact, I am probably not going to go see it at all. I love what JJ Abrams did with the second Star Trek film, but this is just pathetic.

  11.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Commentator above writes :

    “There‚Äôs nothing wrong with a girl holding her own in a fight. But imagine, if you will, a teen girl in the Middle Ages with no sword training going up against a Templar Knight in a sword fight and winning”.

    Good analogy I think.

    In this future galaxy, which Star Wars depicts, this thing of medieval swordsmanship, Samurai like code and greatness with the weapon – is a key part of the ‘culture’. It was present in greater or lesser measure, in all Star Wars episodes. It’s not as if writers and directors of George Lucas movies, haven’t enough material to draw upon.

    There exists, the whole canon of Samurai stories, characters and movies made down through the years. But somehow, Star Wars, manages to feel that it is above and beyond borrowing hints and lessons from the best movie making – outside of Star Wars. For my money, I’ll know that the George Lucas folk have ‘got back on track’, when I see the following.

    When I can watch a new Star Wars movie, where some electronic intelligence, or Dark Force imbued robot manages to create havoc in the Republic and threaten it’s survival. And at that stage, the Jedi are literally sent packing across the galaxies – in search of some solution – or some intelligence (perhaps a human derivative or ‘fork’ like the ‘Furian’ in the Riddick series), that is able to deal with the big bad machine. That is, where the Matrix series went I think – and managed to do it convincingly.

    There are a lot of elements present in Star Wars, which would lead Star Wars, to be able to explore these avenues. But, the folk who make Star Wars movies, pretend that science fiction has not moved on, since the 1950’s. They pretend that audiences who watch Star Wars, don’t watch other stuff too. Stuff like Riddick, Matrix, Alien, Terminator etc. The writers and directors have never had a confidence, or a courage, to attempt to go down that path – more is the pity.

  12.  by  Runner 5

    Let’s not be so hasty to lambaste this one for retooling old plot devices. The central moment of the film (the cantina encounter, where both Rey and Finn face a choice take up the fight or run from it) all but lectures us that those who live long enough will see history repeating itself. It’s for the filmmakers to deliver on these obvious repetitions in some deeper way than simply playing them out as a hit parade for uncritical fans, and we have yet to see whether they will successfully do so.

    They have set enough in motion to make something interesting of the persistent moral and cosmic themes embodied in the original trilogy, and now we get to see if it happens. I did feel these repetitions took some uncritical fandom for granted and were often rushed into action rather than deeply fleshed out. If the later films back up a bit and add some substance, it could be a great success.

  13.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Commentator writes :

    “I did feel these repetitions took some uncritical fandom for granted and were often rushed into action rather than deeply fleshed out”.


    What the first, second and third have (from 77, 80 and 83 respectively), is the benefit of not having ‘built up a franchise’, to an extent that it exists today. Star Wars back then, still had to fight for it’s own corner.

    In the late seventies and early eighties, Star Wars did not have the same ‘captive audience’, that it has now.

    If I’m honest about it, probably the best thing that happened Star Wars, was the failure of the trilogy in the 2000’s, which has prompted serious re-evaluation of how to ‘make’ a decent Star Wars feature length film. It was almost, by the 2000’s, the original creators had forgotten it themselves.

    But it happens.

    A documentary about the music group from Scandinavia, Abba, interviewed a lot of the old members of that group I recall. And even when they set forth to create a ‘musical’ for stage, based on the music that they had created themselves, decades earlier – they found it difficult to understand – how the formula had worked.

    The truth is, is that directors, music writers and artists, are all very different people in middle age, compared to the people they were, when they were in the fullness of their youth.

    All one has to do, is look at old photos of the set of Star Wars from the late seventies and early eighties – and one just knows – here are a bunch of people who are in the best form of their lives. They weren’t locked up inside of ‘office parks’, busy making stuff move around on a computer screen. They were in the thick of it, where the physical action really takes place.

    I listened to actor Jeremy Renner discuss this too, in relation to his first performance in the new ‘Bourne’ franchise – a similar thing, where that movie brand or franchise – is working hard to establish some new direction for itself, after the success of the three Matt Damon features.

    Renner’s observation, was that the success of Bourne, had to do a lot with the high portion of physical ‘live’ footage that was incorporated into the movie, and the story telling. And Renner, who has worked in the industry now for a while – makes the point, that fewer movies nowadays – see it appropriate to spend the kind of budget, needed to achieve that real life camera work.

    It was disappointing however, to listen to the panels review of ‘The Revenant’, which went to considerable lengths to capture real life footage and lighting. However, I’ll wait to see that movie to pass my own judgement, but I am looking forward to it.

  14.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Just as a side note.

    I had seen the movie ‘The Fifth Estate’ (2013) not so long ago. I went back and viewed the panel’s What the Flick review of ‘The Fifth Estate’.

    I think that Ben’s contribution to that review, contained something relevant. The movie, The Fifth Estate, spends an awful lot of time, plane hopping around the continents and across the world. True, this idea of geographical connectivity and ‘media’ in a modern time, is part of the story about Julian Assange and Wiki Leaks.

    But the point is, is that the physical action and different locations, connect back to the story telling, in the Bourne movie series.

    For some reason, in The Fifth Estate, which received an appallingly low score from all of the critics on the panel – Ben’s point was correct I think. The Fifth Estate spends a lot of time moving around different cities, airports, different countries. But rather than support the story, it ends up becoming an annoying distraction.

    Ben’s comment about Star Wars was also interesting. While the earlier movies from the 70’s and 80’s, did give some idea of the size of galaxies, and we traveled around in them a little – Ben’s point was that in the current movie – space felt much smaller.

    One of the best things about the old Star Wars, even though the effects and stunts were probably basic (Matt Atchity noted how the old Light Sabre fight scenes did not look terribly dramatic), in the original Star Wars, the audience did get a little sense of traveling through different planets and galaxies.

    If one were to choose between having poor Light Sabre battles, or having a sense of ‘scale’ to the universe in which the Star Wars characters play their roles – many people would probably choose the later. Probably one of the best features of movie franchises like ‘Battlestar Galactica’ perhaps, and to a large extent, Riddick, Pitch Black etc – is that it gives an audience the sense of the ‘scale’ of space – and the remoteness of some of the planets where action can take place.

    Alien manages to do that too, in it’s sequels.

    Heck, even a movie like ‘Gladiator’ about ancient Rome, makes one feel like the world was an awful lot larger, from a personal travel and movement point of view, than it is now. In that sense, science fiction, and movies about the future don’t take us into the future. Instead, they have a way of taking us back into our past. B.

  15.  by  jozielee

    A truly spectacular reboot. Took mom and sister to see it. The best time we’ve had at the movies in many years. Can not wait for the next installment.

  16.  by  Kevin

    Not sure why anyone was expecting “originality” with Abrams at the helm, after seeing what he did with (to?) Star Trek. I wonder how much creative control he had or if higherups dictated that all those rehashed elements be included?

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