Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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It took 32 years, but we finally have it: A film completely worthy of the ‘Star Wars’ mantle, a mantle that has been dragged through the mud, restored, battered, and remade, but one that has always been at the forefront of pop media since the debut of the original film back in 1977.

Yes, we did get the Prequel Trilogy starting in 1999, but they always felt like they were missing something, and J.J. Abrams has given us exactly what that was with ‘The Force Awakens’: an underdog fight.

Say what you will about the Prequels, but from ‘A Phantom Menace’ through ‘Attack of the Clones’ and up to ‘Revenge of the Sith’, they never gave us a story that the masses could get behind. Honestly, I’m not even sure if any of us even knew that this was what was missing until seeing the new film.

‘Star Wars’ requires a strong, ever-present dark side to balance out what is essentially a coming of age story for our heroes and their discovery of the The Force. All three of the Original Trilogy films had an out-in-the-open big bad and the Resistance resonated with the general audience all the more for it.

With that little background information behind us, let us finally get to the meat of this little blurb. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is just simply a fantastic blockbuster film. It is not perfect, and there are a few things I that I could nitpick but I won’t for a while, but it is damned entertaining, and is a great example of how to tell a story.

You may run into some people that will lament that ‘The Force Awakens’ comes across as a shot for shot remake of ‘A New Hope’, and as a result will also begin to tear into Abrams’ reboot of ‘Star Trek’ from 2009. Don’t listen to these people. Yes, there are some similarities between the very original Star Wars film from back in 1977 and this year’s release, but that is bound to happen, as there was clearly a story that work and Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan went back to scratch from.

Of course, with any film this big, this anticipated, and under a microscopic lense from day one like ‘The Force Awakens’ was, there are bound to be a couple of slip ups, and the biggest, as far as I am concerned, was the casting as Adam Driver as the big bad, Kylo Ren. Spoilers will prevent me from diving into this right now, but this is the one major item that I wish could have been improved upon.

On the flip side of the coin, I think we are seeing the debut of the next big name actress as Daisy Ridley is the star of this film. We are left with some big questions as to just who Ridley’s character, Rey, is, but this was a masterstroke from Abrams and Kasdan, even if neither is returning in a writing role for the next two films to come. These questions will surely be the carrot to the horse for the story of Episode VIII in 2017, and I for one cannot wait to see how that plays out.

Ridley has the ability to give a complete range to her character, and most of that is built on her eyes, which is nicely tied into the film during the second act, to the point where you ask if she was cast to fit the role or if the role was adjusted to her. Either way, Ridley’s Rey is the character that the Sequel Trilogy will be tied to.

As good as Rey was and as much as I wish that Kylo Ren could have been a tad different, ‘The Force Awakens’ is stolen by the returning Han Solo and Chewbacca. Harrison Ford seems like he has been waiting for the past 30 years for this film, and be it true or not, appears to be having a sincerely great time returning to one of the two roles that made him a household name.

His chemistry with our favourite Wookie, Chewie, has never been better than it is in the new film, and the way that they play off of each other allows the film to move from the first act into the third, and provide not only the film’s key doses of nostalgia, but also the necessary torch passing to not only Ridley’s Rey, but also to John Boyega’s Finn.

At the end of the day, the easiest way to describe ‘The Force Awakens’ is this way: take everything that you love about the Original Trilogy, couple it with today’s CGI, motion capture and special effects, add some well placed nostalgia, sprinkle in enough new blood, and what will you get? A new generation’s epic sci-fi space opera. Exactly what we all hoped for 16 years ago, we just may not have been ready for it yet.

I will do a further review after the next time I have seen ‘The Force Awakens’, one replete with spoilers, but ones that will allow me to properly explain all of my thoughts.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Also, take a moment to peruse my past reviews, and let me know what you agree or disagree with. Cheers all.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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2014 was a year of change for me, and part of that change resulted in a scaling back of how many movies I saw, both in the theater and at home. One of those films to get pushed by the wayside as a result of this was the reboot of the 1980’s parody styled, cult comic book, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

While the characters have spawned numerous TV shows, two different film franchises and other media, there is nothing quite like what happens when rights to characters are sold to a new company, and that is exactly what happened when kiddie-TV company Nickelodeon bought the rights to the Turtles in 2009.

Eager to capitalize on the current trend of comic book/toy/board game/anything from the 1980’s being made into films, Nickelodeon found an eager partner in Paramount and producer Michael Bay, and lo and behold, here we have what might be the worst of all five of the Turtles movies that have been released to date. The key part there is “to date” as this reboot is getting a sequel next year.

To put it bluntly, 2014’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is a mess. From Megan Fox’s “acting”, to Will Arnett’s gravely voice miscast as a TV cameraman, to Shredder’s armor, this film is one bad scene after another filled with director Jonathan Liebesman’s vision of a Michael Bay ‘Transformers’ film, but fleshed out with talking turtles instead.

As one should expect when Michael Bay is involved though, the visuals are the best part of this movie, and with that being said, I don’t have any issues with how the actual turtles looked, it was an interesting take on using the trend of motion capture to allow CGI animators the chance to give us four distinct characters in shape and size and not just characterization.

In the end, as much as I wanted to hate this movie from the reviews and word of mouth about it, and regardless of how much I love the Turtles characters and wanted to love this idea, I could do neither. ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ just ends ups as another average run of the mill film that we seem to be getting from big budget Hollywood lately.

It will be interesting to see what 2016’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ brings, but I will not be holding my breath for anything different.

At least the Turtles didn’t end up being aliens…

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and take a peak back at the old list of reviews and see if there is something that peeks your interest. If you disagree, feel free to let me know. Cheers everyone.