Wednesday, December 30

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

There are a few choice words that come to mind when I think of Star Wars, but beyond the popular "saga", or "epic", resides one that could potentially be hidden in plain sight: Generations. The tale of Star Wars has became one that has paralleled each generation of its audience; it began with humble potential, grew in scope, developed flaws, and has now matured into an experience greater than the sum of its past. Each generation of characters encounters similar obstacles, and along their individual paths, there are themes that we see come about in different ways, and the same can be said with Episode VII.

Seeing a title that conveys more than one meaning is always nice. Save for an unfortunate attempt at an explanation in Episode I, the Force has always carried a certain mystique in the Star Wars Universe. The light side aligns with philosophies we Earthlings might refer to as Zen, which integrates minimalism as its fundamental lifestyle; it is attained and flourishes when tranquility encompasses one's being. When one is consumed by fear, the dark side falls in a maelstrom, and is difficult to escape. Every decision made is rooted in either love or fear, and the truth of these two polar-opposite motivators is the foundation of the Force. It was refreshing to see that understanding being so commonly referenced in this episode.

Diversity is something we see everyday in Nature, and is the vehicle by which species adapt and survive, so to see it represented in films is only natural, also. In the past, representation of different people and their cultures was challenged, to say the least. With films like Star Wars that portray the endless possibilities of forms in which life may exist, the inclusion of diversity in the human form should be all too easy. Likewise, the capabilities and judgements of characters of different origins is also a topic that should need no discussion, as it happens everyday and in ways that are good or bad. Effective casting is always very intentional, and garners immediate impressions. The characters of Episode VII were performed admirably.

During Episodes I, II, and III, there was a distinct atmosphere of distrust in the audience to understand what was happening, and as such there was a perceived requirement to verbally explain the emotions and intentions of the characters. This penchant for "hand holding" effectively destroyed any potential subtlety that would have given those films a true sense of life and allowed a real connection with the audience. However, to the relief of this Star Wars appreciator, that was exactly what was restored. An impressive amount of time was dedicated to the lost art of silent, emotive conveyance: To acting. In fact, some of the most potent moments in the film were when not a single word was uttered. As for the rest of the film, elements and impressions of the world were made clear through appropriate use of conversational dialogue. Our third-person perspective on any conversation allows us limited insight into what is understood between the observed parties, and so again, the situation is made clear through events or is inferred through context. This important technique was revived in Episode VII; only when appropriate were the foreign languages of droids and biological species given on-screen translations. The humor in this film was also a considerable improvement that gained from the aforementioned benefits. While there did exist some comic relief, it was only that, instead of the juvenile, distracting spectacle that mired the earliest chapters of the saga.

Humans have developed a taste for technology, and that drives them to improve the power of their tools constantly. In many ways, that increase in power can be found to be either good or bad. Like the Force, there must exist balance to avoid suffering. This is a truth that has yet to be fully realized in our world, which is somewhat ironic, as that same technological power is the tool used to tell stories of that very meaning. Regarding what can be done with that technology now, this film boasted the most seamless integration of CG elements with live action to date. Beyond that, the true visual beauty of this film was born of another revived and all-but-lost art: Practical special effects. The over-reliance on CGI in the early chapters of the Star Wars films actively detracted from not only the story, but gave the movies a sterile atmosphere. This time around, the return to practical effects, sets, and miniatures, coupled with the newfound abilities of computers to help digital artists generate seamless imagery have all converged into a film that should stand the test of time better than its predecessors. The IMAX 3D experience was immersive, and visual elements used to create the illusion of depth were executed wonderfully.

As the credits concluded, my mind and Claudia's both echoed with what took place before us on the silver screen. Our following discussions flowed and dove deep into the significance of all presented to us. The lack of vision in finding nothing more than excitement and adventure in Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an unfortunate point of view, because as with the best of the chapters that preceded it, this film offers far more for those who choose to find it. Should one choose to purchase a ticket for this installment, when they quiet their mind, they will feel the full force of all that was intended.

Happy movie watching!

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