Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fischer, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, john Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels and Max Von Sydow
written by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt
directed by J.J. Abrams
I watched this much-anticipated film on Sunday, December 20th in the city of Ebina, in Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo. Far from the packed, sold-out Tokyo venues where cos-play fans were making life hell for ordinary citizens. I was in Ebina for a late-afternoon part-time job. When the job was finished and I was on my way back to the station I decided to stop by the local Toho Cinema just to see if the movie was playing there, and if it was what the show times were, and if the time was convenient if there were tickets available. The movie was there, the time was convenient, and tickets were available for the 7:10 p.m. show in English. (There was an earlier 5:20 p.m. show dubbed in Japanese.) I phoned home to report that I wouldn’t be home for dinner, then I ate at a local “oum rice” restaurant before walking back to the cinema. It was seasonably dark by 5:00 p.m. Shoppers were out enjoying the X’mas illumination at the local outdoor shopping arcade. Little children were running around excitedly under mom and dad’s eye in the nippy air (no racist pun intended). It reminded me of winter time holiday outings in the car with my family when I was a kid.
The theater I went to was not full, even though the big opening night was only two days before. I wasn’t impressed. The story was dumb and the acting was crappy. The story was a re-hash of an old Star Wars story lines, with a significant amount of the dialog lifted almost verbatim, or patched together from earlier scripts. There were many Star Wars in-jokes delivered by Harrison Ford’s character, Han Solo, that cater to hard core fans, but don’t make for a particularly good script. It felt as if the script was written by a committee, or something. Enter C3PO with his same old existential complaints. Won’t someone please turn him off? And why is someone of Max Von Sydow’s stature and reputation in this movie? The Star Wars franchise always attracts high profile actors - Alec Guiness, Peter Cushing, James Earl Jones, Samuel Jackson, Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, etc.
By the time the Star Wars films are finished there will be nine of them, three trilogies. Episodes IV to VI (starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fischer) are the originals starting in the 1970s. When Episode I The Phantom Menace (starring Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson) was release in 1999 some fans were well satisfied, while others were significantly put out. A lesson to remember is that each trilogy has its own character and ambiance, making it difficult and maybe even inappropriate to overly compare one set of the saga to another set. Maybe that’s what I should remember here.
The Force Awakens was filmed in some exciting locations: Los Angeles and London’s Twickenham Studios, naturally, but also places like Iceland, Ireland and Abu Dhabi (for desert scenes).
I attended the 20th anniversary digitally remastered theatrical re-release of the original film, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope in Tokyo. Amazing how it doesn’t seem like that long ago.