A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Star Wars: Episode VII -- The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams, 2015)

I don't see movies in theaters anymore: Before yesterday I think the last one I went to was The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012) which was kind of a family outing. And I hadn't seen one in 3-D since the last time the process was in vogue, back in the 1950s. But I had to see this one not to be culturally retrograde, and I'm glad I did. To sidetrack to 3-D, I'm not sold on its necessity, partly because the process itself is distracting: I'm always conscious of the screen itself as a kind of frame that cuts things off as they are whizzing into and out of it. In regular old 2-D the frame works to contain the action so you can concentrate on it. I found myself distracted whenever anyone walked into the frame because I was momentarily unsure whether they were part of the film or just someone entering the theater after getting some more popcorn. I think that's why it's a process particularly suited for fast-paced action but not much else. But the movie gave me everything else I wanted, including the warm fuzzy feeling of being reunited with Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher), whose grizzled maturity gave a gravitas to the film. It recaptured the feeling I had back in 1977 at the NorthPark theater in Dallas when John Williams's music struck up and the introductory crawl stretched away into space. Episode VII is essentially a remake of Episode IV, if we must call them that, with the young hero on a desert planet, the droid found in the junkyard, the gathering of a team to fight the black-clad villain, and the ultimate destruction of a giant weaponized space station. It's nice that the hero this time is a woman (Daisy Ridley) and that her cohort includes a black man (John Boyega), both of whom are great in their roles. Oscar Isaac shows once again that he's something of a shapeshifter as an actor: I knew he was in the movie, but I almost didn't recognize him at his first entrance, after having seen him recently as the thwarted Yonkers mayor on HBO's Show Me a Hero (Paul Haggis, 2015). He has the ability to play callow and boyish as well as bitter and brooding, as in Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, 2013). I look forward to seeing the movie again, but this time in the comfort of my home and on a smaller 2-D screen. I think it will play just as well there, thanks more to the smart screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt, and to the well-directed actors, including Adam Driver's Kylo Ren, than to the technological whiz-bang.