(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Doug (vo): I know I already reviewed The Force Awakens as a Sibling Rivalry for Disneycember, but a few years have gone by, and even more Star Wars movies have come out, so I think it makes sense to look back and see if it still holds up. Force Awakens is the first Star Wars movie that pretty much had no input from George Lucas after he sold Star Wars to Disney. The funny thing about it is, it's probably the Star Wars movie that plays it the most safe, yet somehow also still takes a few risks.
Doug (vo): The story is years later, the Empire are gone, but the First Order is now in charge, a...well, let's just say it...another Empire. They didn't even change the Stormtrooper clothes. You'll find there's a lot of repeating in this, though, as a droid has some information about the First Order that could be incredibly helpful. An escaped pilot named Poe and an ex-Stormtrooper named Finn escape the First Order and get to, what a shock, a desert planet. They come across a poor young person who doesn't know her family and, coincidentally, happens to be really strong with the Force, and she's being hunted by a dark, masked entity. The race is on to get the droid to the Rebellion, while also getting help from Han Solo and Chewie. Wow, didn't even need to change the names on that one.
Doug (vo): So, yeah, as everyone has said before, this is pretty much a retread of New Hope, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't exactly a big fan of that. While what actually happens in the movie is a little too familiar, the setup is actually kind of different. Details that some fans might find upsetting, other fans find actually kind of intriguing and good at continuing the story. For example, Han Solo and Princess Leia are no longer together. And I'll keep this spoiler-free, but if you know how A New Hope goes, you know there's a death in it. And while it's not exactly a shocker, it is still kind of a risky move. The original Star Wars trilogy combined a lot of different elements of myth and fairy tales and folklore and philosophy and religion, all these different things.
(An image of the final scene in Return of the Jedi is shown)
Doug (vo): The ending, though, is mostly fairy tale. It's a happy ending, the people who should be together are together, the people who should be dead are dead, the people who should be alive are alive, and they're all happy. This definitely throws a wrench in that fairy tale, and people are either gonna love that or hate it. For me, I like the idea that I can just accept the original three movies as they are, and then see this as kind of another continuation that I don't have to accept. If I want, I can just say it ended at Return of the Jedi. But if other movies are gonna continue, this is not a bad way to continue them. I'd be lying if I said I didn't really want the book versions to make it to the big screen, (An image of three Star Wars Legends books is shown) but for something entirely original, which I can see why they want to do that, too, I guess this makes sense. It's kind of like comparing the Dune books. (The posters for the 2000 and 2003 TV shows Frank Herbert's Dune and Frank Herbert's Children of Dune are shown) The first one's about the coming of the Messiah, and he comes and brings balance. In the second one, reality sets in, and you find out it's not all that simple. While I see the charm and even sometimes the importance of the fairy tale ending, at the same time, I do like questioning happily ever after, I do like saying what happens when real life gets in the way. How do you confront it? How do you win it? Can you win it? What happens when you fail? These are more interesting questions that I feel can help people along with life.
(Footage focusing mostly on the film's special effects, mainly the practical effects, as well as several characters, is shown)
Doug (vo): But it also still keeps that mythos, fantasy angle, and, yeah, I have to be honest, it's the first Star Wars movie since probably Return of the Jedi that really felt like Star Wars. Revenge of the Sith came close, but it was still a little too modern Lucas-y. This had a lot of practical effects, this had a lot of dirt on everything, this had stuff that was really there, and aliens with interesting identities, and people with interesting identities, and they were charming and they were funny, they had mysteries set up, they have villains that were complex. I wanted to see where everything was going with these characters. And as I said in my Nostalgia Critic review, I think that's why there was so much repeating, to show that they can do a Star Wars movie. This is Disney now, Lucas is gone, they want to show that they can do this right. But again, there are still just enough risks taken that it did keep my interest and I did want to know where the movies were going. If I saw any of the prequels on their own, I wouldn't care what was in the next film. But if I saw this on its own, I would have to know what happens next.
(Footage focusing on Han Solo, as well as the film's main villain, Kylo Ren, is shown)
Doug (vo): One of the things that surprised me the most about this movie was Harrison Ford as Han Solo. I don't know how to put this nicely, but the past few years, Harrison Ford hasn't exactly been that amazing an actor. (An image of Indiana Jones from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is shown, as well as an image of Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde from Cowboys & Aliens) It always feels like he's trying to overcompensate, he's trying to act super-tough to show that he hasn't been away for too long, he's not too old, and so, you just kind of see the bottom of his teeth jutting out and him acting really mad, and it always felt kind of phony. But here, he's Han Solo, and he's older, and he's great, and he's hilarious, and he's smart, and he's...just...he's a really great character in this! The rest of the acting is really good, too. Kylo Ren, if you were to describe this villain to me, I would think would not be a particularly strong character. But the way he's played and written, he is so complex, he is so interesting, he is so torn. You want to help this guy out, you want him to be accepted, but at the same time, he's done so many terrible things and will continue to do terrible things, and you just go back and forth with him, which is what I feel you should do with a villain like this.
Final thought Edit
Doug (vo): I'll admit, it is a little weird watching it now, knowing the direction a lot of these films go. I do remember kind of this excitement when the films started, and we were back in Star Wars. But now that we're getting one, sometimes, even two a year, (Posters for Rogue One and Solo are shown) I'd be lying if I said the size and magnitude of this movie hasn't gone down a little bit. But watching it years later, it still has a lot of atmosphere, a lot of great effects, a lot of charm, a lot of jokes, a lot of great characters. It's still not only a decent Star Wars movie, but just a good movie overall. It's entertaining, it's action-packed, it's got some great effects, it's got a lot of imagination. Now the more we do get is kind of a different story, and we'll get to that soon, but for this film, watching it years later, it's kind of like meeting up with an old friend again, an imperfect friend, but still a friend nonetheless.
(One of the film's final scenes, showing Rey preparing her next journey to find Luke Skywalker, is shown)