I saw “Star Wars The Force Awakens” this morning. I just came back from the theater and I am pounding out this review even before I take off my coat.
First of all, I promise in this review NOT to give away any plotline points. I am pledging a No-Spoiler-Alert.
All of you must know how it feels to put on a well-broken in pair of shoes or jeans that have been washed at least 25 times. The leather on your shoes conform to your feet and the cotton in the denim is soft and supple clinging to every curve of your body no matter how big or small. Well, that is what like when the Star Wars distinctive logo slide came up on the opening credits. The familiar vanishing point crawl followed with story updates and explainers and the theater crowd surrounding me roared with excitement, claps and cheers.
Good filmmakers and good storytellers get right into the flow of action with the first frame of film, especially with a sequel. And this film did not disappoint. I cannot tell you how it opens or who it opens with the first screen reveal. But I will say this, that from the moment it started to the moment it ended time seemed for me to race by or was suspended. I “fell” immediately into the screen and story no theater noise would distract or my concentration on what I was seeing.
And that continued locked-in concentration on what was happening or my surmise as to what might happen was because of three reasons that really come down to one person. That person is Director J.J. Abrams. I believe he is equal to a Spielberg, Ridley Scott or any front line director these days. And here comes a bold statement, I even think he did a better job with this Star Wars than its originator George Lucas. J.J. did have the technology advances that Lucas did not have but I think his first job in crafting the script with Lawrence Kasdan was superb and made this film ultimately a success.
If you have both top notch Story and Direction then you have a well-crafted movie. And this movie was well crafted. And above all I think his work on the script was perfect. Nothing was wasted. No throw away lines that could have been discarded, no silly dialogue, and no pre-planned action sequences that could have been removed. And let me emphasize the point by adding that, yes, there was great CG or computer graphics and yes the action sequences were executed perfectly, not too long or short, but it was the overall movement and pace of the story within the script that made it easy and comfortable to watch this film. Nothing got in the way or slowed down the continuing heartbeat of the story in any act of this film.
Direction…if you have the script down cold, which is how J.J. Abrams got his early chops, you then proceed with perfect Camera and Cut you can have a masterful piece of work. It took 3 years to complete this first film. Disney purchased the rights for George Lucas in 2012 and moved straight ahead with production. I only hope there was second-unit photography to give us a behind the scenes look at the production process. That was done with the King Kong and the Lord of the Rings series by Director Peter Jackson and I hope this was done with the new Star Wars as well.
Camera…I saw great movement of the camera throughout with good close-ups, tracking, medium shots, and fascinating wide shots as well. But I want to make the point again that the camera movement and the CG in the new Star Wars did not get in the way of the flow or the pace of the story.
Editing…J.J. Abrams and his team have it down cold. When you can mesh the pace of the story, the flow of the shots, and the precise beat editing into one project then you have a Mona Lisa film.
Acting, flawless performances in this film. A good measuring stick to determine whether a film had outstanding acting performances or not, it is not necessarily the acting that you see on screen to make that determination. Just as important or more important in my opinion is how an actor reacts to a line of dialogue or piece of action. Because that reaction reveals the thinking process of the actor which make a linkage to the audience who is also reacting in their minds to the piece of dialogue or action they just heard or saw in a movie. It is kinda like a simpatico relationship audience can have with characters. Does than make sense to anyone besides myself?
I guess I can truly say that this is a film that you MUST see if you are a Star Wars fan and I can only imagine there are very few countries on earth, probably where technology and electricity do not exist, that have not seen the previous Star Films.
And I can also say that there is a distinctive line between the first Star Wars films you have seen and this Star Wars. The first films were about what happened with the story in the past. This Star Wars film turns around 180 degrees and projects into the future what will happen next. There is no looking back now. The Star Wars film now will be forward-looking with echoes from past threads throughout the story.
I think I have just caught myself by realizing that I am concentrating on the story. You have to forgive me. I am a science fiction novel writer and I have written unproduced but film-studio optioned scripts, “SETI” by Columbia Pictures, in the past as well. I write stories and so it is important to me. But the story is the basic architecture element of any written work of art, even in non-fiction. Stories drew our ancestors around a campfire 10,000 years ago and the campfire still burns in our imagination when we hear a good story…a good story like my “SETI” trilogy, now expanding to a total of nine books.
There is so much I want to tell you about my reaction to the twists and turns I just saw on the screen but I can’t. Therefore, you will have to judge for yourself whether my enthusiasm for this film is warranted or not. I can tell you that you won’t be bored, you won’t be disappointed and you will be very happy you and your family saw this movie. It is great entertainment and I think a definite “bucket list” to-do item during the holiday season and beyond.
But don’t feel that this is it for Star Wars, because it isn’t. Disney will produce one Star Wars film per year until the year 2020. So, there is a lot more to come. Go see the first one, please.
Now, finally, a personal note about why I am so happy to praise this film and welcome the coming Star Wars films in the future. As a two decade long employee of ABC-TV in Hollywood, ABC now owned by The Walt Disney Company, my retirement income from Disney depends on the continuing financial success of that company. I have often thought that as long as there is a Disneyland and Disney World here in the U.S. and select countries around the world, my retirement pension should be safe. But now, after seeing “Star Wars The Force Awakens” I am positive it will be safe. It cost Disney 4 billion dollars to purchase the rights for Star Wars from George Lucas. Early estimates on just the film on box office are 1.5-2 billion dollars. I would not be surprised if that number was even higher for the film box office in the U.S., around the world, and download and DVD rights. And that is not to mention what the merchandising could rake in. So, I would also not be surprised if Disney does get back that $4 billion purchase rights money just with this first film. From then on for Disney it will be gravy. I think I heard it cost $200 million to make the film. That will probably be made back by this weekend.
Thank you George Lucas, The Walt Disney Company and J.J. Abrams for an excellent movie experience. I absolutely loved it. Now, if I can just generate the same excitement for my SETI Trilogy I will be even more excited. Stay tuned, folks, more to come from this channel.
P.S. After a while, after you have seen this film, will someone please remind me to finish the following thought and question: Do you remember the 1962 film “Taras Bulba” starring Yul Brynner, Tony Curtis, and Christine Kaufmann?