Category Archives: Movies

The strange critiques of The Force Awakens

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The Force Awakens hits Blu-Ray here soon.   And there is something that has been bugging me about the fans response recently to the movie.

First of all, I admit it.  Star Wars takes up a lot of my thinking.  I was 4 when the original movie came out.  Apparently it was the first movie I ever saw in the theater, according to my parents.  And I’m pretty certain they would know.

So when the news hit that Disney had bought Star Wars in October 2012 I was excited.

Episode 7 30 rock

But let’s be honest the prequels left a tinge of disappoint.  (Or for some, complete hatred.)  So there was some worry that maybe we would get a new series of prequels, movie that had lightsabers but  were still somewhat off.

The Trailers

Then the first trailer dropped in 2014 and there X-wings, and the Millennium Falcon.  Holey Moses, the Falcon is back.  (And the radar dish is now rectangle, because as we all know the dish was destroyed in Return of the Jedi.)  It was great, but still, keep those expectations in check.

Then the second trailer dropped in 2015.  And it ended with the perfect lines “Chewie we’re home.”  Chills. Down. Spine.

Chewie, We're home

The third trailer just brought it all home,

“There are stories…”

“It’s true.  All of it.”

That exchange was just perfect.  I admit.  There may have been weeping.

Then the movie.

I saw the very first showing available here in the Richmond area, 7 pm on December 17.  I was giddy from the opening crawl.  Here was an opening crawl devoid of trade federation, trade talks, and blockades.  Instead there was talk of finding Luke Skywalker.

Yes!  The story has always been who is Skywalker!  So here we finally have a story where we are looking for someone.  A holy grail search in a Star Wars movie.

And it’s here that I begin to scratch my head at the complaints that Force Awakens is a retread of A New Hope.  With Force Awakens the entire story is getting us to finding a person.  A person.

A New Hope’s driving plot point was about blowing up the Death Star.

The Similarities and Differences

Yes, there are similarities.  There is a desert planet, Han Solo, Chewie, and Leia are back in the movie, there is something hidden in a droid that everyone is looking for.  And of course there is a new Death Star, Starkiller Planet.

But there are differences.  The first interaction between Poe and Finn, it feels like actors are finally excited and happy to be in a Star Wars movie.  Finn is funny.  Rey is funny.  And not forced Jar-Jar funny, or even worse C-3PO funny in Attack of the Clones.   (Dear Lord in Heaven, C-3PO in Episode 2 is just unbearable.)  Their joy was such a breath of fresh compared to all the other Star Wars movies.

Complaining that the Force Awakens is too much like A New Hope is just spoiled complaining.  For years people complained that the prequels weren’t like the originals, and now people complain about The Force Awakens is TOO MUCH LIKE THE ORIGINALS?!

What the actual heck!?!

Seriously Haters…get a grip.

Creating is difficult.  Complaining that a great movie isn’t the Second Coming Perfect is just stupid.

The deal is JJ Abrams had a near impossible task of rebuilding the Star Wars brand and he pulled it off with flying colors.  Good for him.

Creating is difficult.  If all you do is critique, then you realize that it is difficult, and you have chosen the easy way out.

Creating is difficult.  When creation succeeds, celebrate it.

Also see: Ten Things I Learned From George Lucas.

 

Lessons learned from George Lucas

I am a Star Wars nut.  I admit it.  I was four when Star Wars came out.  It apparently was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater.  From there it took over my childhood.  Now in middle age I enjoy it for the fun of it.  I have long read about George.  There is a lot there to learn from.

These are quick lessons I have learned from reading about his work.

George Lucas

1)  Own your creations

Lucas broke the mold by not accepting a directors fee.  Instead he held onto the rights.  AND THAT MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.

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If you are an independent writer, filmmaker, musician, remember this lesson the most.

2)  Do it yourself.

Kuberick’s 2001 was the cutting edge of special effects when Lucas began work on Star Wars.  No one had ever done what Lucas needed.  When he got the first shot back he didn’t like it.  So he took over the special effects department.

 

From the need to create ground breaking special effects Lucas created ILM, Industrial Light and Magic.  ILM became the go to place for everyone else’s special effects for an entire generation of movies.

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Steven Spielberg uses ILM for all of his movies.  Enough said.

3) Borrow and steal from everywhere

Star Wars comes from everywhere.  I have seen a lot of references to his study of Jospeh Campbell’s work on mythology.  Yes, he studied Campbell.  Star Wars though is the intersection of Campbell, religion, Flash Gordan, Kuirosauara, and movie serials.

In one interview, Carrie Fisher described Lucas as just breathing film.  He took everything he liked and made it his own.

4) Lower expectations and then you can surpass them

For several years the original Star Wars was the highest grossing film of all-time.  Lucas though had no idea it was going to be a success.  In numerous interviews he states that all he wanted to do was to make enough to make another movie.  Well, he made another movie and then some.

5) Be independent and get outside of the group think

Skywalker Ranch not located in Hollywood.

Not only was Lucas financially independent, I would say  that he was also emotionally and intellectually independent.  He set his business, not in the Hollywood capital of Los Angeles, but outside of San Francisco, several hours away from Los Angeles.  Apparently he didn’t want to get caught up in the thinking of Hollywood.

6) Create in spite of criticism

Lucas is also famous for his prequel trilogy.  It didn’t reasonate with the original fans of the of the first three movies.  But he kept making them inspite of people’s down right hatred of them.  In many ways, The Phantom Menace, is the world’s highest grossing indepent movie.  He made The Phantom Menace with his own money that was made from his billion dollar company.  So whenever I hear someone complain about the prequels, I tend to think, “Oh, and how did your multi-million dollar independent movie do?”

Sure, I may not be emotionally as drawn to the prequel trilogy, but if anybody else made the prequels they would be a career highlight and not a side note.

I could go on.  He made the Indiana Jones movies, and others.

He owns education and software companies.

But in the end Lucas has created worlds and companies that affect us daily.

Learn from that.