Star Wars: No Spoiler Review

StarWarsUnless you live in a galaxy far far away, you are probably aware that the new Star Wars film debuted this week.

Since not everyone will have seen the film, I’ll avoid giving away any plot points. But this film returns us to the 1977 roots of Star Wars, when the film sat in the top box office spot for 40 weeks in a row.

Revisiting 1977

What made the original movie great?

In Luke Skywalker we had the petulant teen who was stuck in a small town/world. He was an orphan whose aunt and uncle are killed minutes into the film. Having a young male protagonist without parental figures is always a good move in storytelling, since parent figures might actually protect you. And where’s the fun/danger in that?

The ultimate bad guy was Darth Vader, who had once been a promising pupil to the wise old man, Obi Wan Kenobi. Like Lucifer, fallen from heaven, the Star Wars bad guys were once good guys.

It’s hard to remember in 2015, but there was intense speculation prior to the third film (Episode VI) regarding what Luke’s secret past involved. This is something that Episodes I-III lacked, as we knew Luke’s mother would end up dead and his father would end up being Darth Vader. So there was merely the dread of finding out how this terrible event occurred.

If this movie, as currently constituted, could have followed Episode VI, then life would have been sweet. We return to the time when the adults are relatively absent and a new generation must find their way in the world. There are mysteries galore, and enough questions are left unanswered that there had better be at least an Episode VIII.

The downside is that nearly 40 years have passed, and what would have blown us away in 1977 is just one of dozens of amazing offerings. Hollywood storytellers have learned with great exactness how to play audiences to squeeze the most emotion from us, because if the emotion is sufficient, we will pay, first at the theatre, then at the DVD/BluRay market, and then for streaming video. Not to mention all the merchandise.

Core Themes

Star Wars returns to the lovely world where women are fully capable, like the Katherine Hepburn movies of days of yore. There are still times when the men are surprised by competent women, but that merely highlights that they are men who are prepared to protect if need be, rather than men who take women for granted (even in all their bad-guy-busting amazingness).

Star Wars also returns us to a world where children are cherished, and children who have been separated from parents resent this separation.

In Star Wars, friends are loyal. Sometimes they are loyal to the point of stupidity, but such tension (e.g., between loyalty and stupid) just makes the show delightful.

Above all, evil and good are fighting one another, with terrible consequences likely if good fails to conquer.

Unlike Episodes I-III, we don’t know how this new set of films in the Star Wars franchise will end.

And that is a good thing.

[Update – a few comments have spoilers, so I’ve made those “pending” and have put this post on mandatory moderation.]

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

8 thoughts on “Star Wars: No Spoiler Review

  1. There is a lot of idiosyncrasy involved in how we view art, whether in film or anything else. Here are my first two amateur reviews of the new Star Wars movie on Facebook:

    First viewing, Thursday night, late, with bad seat: “Star Wars VII: I’d give it 4 of 4 stars. It wasn’t perfect, but was excellent, with an intriguing story. There are some new characters which are really good for the story, of which we have not seen the likes for awhile. Cannot remember their names now (it’s 1 AM…and when we left the theater an hour ago there was a big crowd to get into the next showing)…but I am thinking of the girl and the black guy. They are good enough to carry the story through for some more films. It appears here that the dark force guy is more the apprentice now, whereas it was Luke Skywalker originally.”

    Second viewing Friday, mid day, good seat: “Don’t anyone tell [my wife], but I went to see Star Wars again yesterday. I gave it 4 out of 4 stars upon my first review. I’d rate it higher now. For a Star Wars movie, in the tradition of the first 3 (i.e. episodes 4-6), I think it is just about perfect. Much of its strength lies upon the strength of its characters, which were casted brilliantly, and upon its restraint.

    George Lucas could do some amazing work, not just in story line, but in casting as well. Hence, “American Graffiti” and the original 3 “Star Wars” films. Then something, happened between “Return of the Jedi” and the next entries of the trilogy. Lucas became overly enamored with special effects through CGI and went back and diddled with the first 3 films and then based the second trilogy, in my mind, almost entirely around CGI and telling a complex story to the detriment of a “good story.” And, his casting was terrible…at least for Anakin Skywalker and Queen Amidala or Amygdala (that might be a part of human anatomy) or whatever her name was. The sale of the franchise to Disney was worrisome. However, its placement in the hands of JJ Abrams was a dream come true.

    JJ Abrams doesn’t always hit home runs. but when it counts and he takes a lot of personal control, he is brilliant as an individual and in the teams he assembles to work with him. Before this Star Wars his highlights, in my mind, were Super 8 and the two Star Trek movies: well told stories, restraint in CGI, great characters which were casted perfectly.

  2. The girl is Rey and the boy is Fin. They have kind of a Leia/Han Solo vibe going on, which in this movie mostly shows up as bickering. But good bickering.

  3. I watched it on Thursday night, and again last night. Like Stephen, I enjoyed it more the second time, despite the theater being less comfortable. I have a couple of additional thoughts. First, I’m not sure why this was PG-13. It didn’t make sense to me, and still doesn’t. There was no sex, no suggestive clothing even. Only three minor profanities, one of which I didn’t even catch in the first viewing. Sure, lots of storm troopers and rebel fighters get blasted, and x-wings and tie fighters get shot out of the sky, and things blow up, but none of it was terribly bloody or gory at all. There were a couple of intense moments with the light sabers, but JJ cut away from what would have been the most graphic things. We don’t see decapitations or body parts getting lopped off like in earlier installments.

    Second, my only real gripe about the movie is the manner in which a certain droid is utilized. I hate to give away anything by saying more.

  4. I enjoyed it. In some ways it may even be better than the first (middle) three with a few caveats.

    There is something about the pace that seemed a bit too fast. I’m not quite sure yet, only watching it once, but I feel like just every sequence had to be punctuated with some kind of action. Not every sentence needs an exclamation point, and not every turn in the plot needs to end with a fight or chase scene.

    The first time we see Solo, I feel is particularly a useless confrontation scene that should have been edited out entirely. The other action scene-punctuation marks were at least more plot related.

    Keep in mind in the original Star Wars we didn’t even see the massacre of the Jawas or Luke’s adoptive parents. The plot and story could have been moved along without jumping from one confrontation to the next.

    And finally, does anyone else think it doesn’t feel like Star Wars if it doesn’t start out with the 20th Century Fox fanfare?

  5. My subjective two cents:

    This was a masterful, brilliant return to what made the original Star Wars so compelling to generations of us: it has heart and soul. This is a foundational movie in that it is setting the stage for the next twenty to thirty years of Star Wars mythography. I’m fascinated by the question marks surrounding who Rey is and why she was abandoned on Jakku, and her surprising and quick affinity to the awakening force.

    In short, I was thrilled. By the way, when a certain climactic scene takes place, there was a woman seated in the row above me bawling her eyes out. There were cheers and clapping and gasps and sighs. In short, the audience I was sitting with was deeply invested and engaged throughout the movie. And they stood and applauded when the credits started rolling. If that’s not a success, I don’t know what is.

    20th Century Fox lost the distribution rights to the Star Wars franchise. Thus, no fanfare.

  6. She is obviously Leia and Solo’s daughter. Take it to the bank –awkwardly long Leia hug on first meeting. Han Solo job offer. Knowledge of the Falcon. The list keeps going…

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