I knew from the opening shot of Rogue One that this wasn’t going to be like every other Star Wars movie. It wasn’t just the visual cues that gave it away. The ominous music and the lack of the legendary opening crawl emanated this vibe that this movie was going to be something different, something special. And oh it was. It was Star Wars like I’ve never seen it before.
Rogue One is tonally completely different from Star Wars as we know it. Rogue One is essentially a war movie, albeit one set in a galaxy far, far away (think Guns of Navarone set in space). It takes the happy, relatively fun feel of the other Star Wars movies and drags it down to Earth (or Tatooine, or Naboo, or whatever, you get the point). It’s gritty and realistic (well, as real as the Star Wars Universe can get), but somehow, it’s still Star Wars. That is what makes this movie special – despite being so different, it still feels so familiar.
I always had a sneaking suspicion that Kylo Ren was Han and Leia’s son, most probably Jacen Solo as in the original Expanded Universe. He has so much in common with Jacen that the connection was obvious – he’s taught by Luke to be a Jedi, then gets seduced by the Dark Side of the Force, becomes a Sith and tries to take over the galaxy. However, when Han calls him “Ben”, I was a little taken aback at first, but then it started to make sense to me. The Original Expanded Universe was made non-canon so that the people working on the new movies could be afforded more creative freedom instead of being forced to follow a set storyline. Things would get a little too predictable in the movies otherwise and the surprise element would just be non-existent for people who have dabbled in the Expanded Universe. However, the crew clearly didn’t discard the EU storylines because Ben Solo is essentially Jacen, albeit with a different name and naming him “Ben” is a nice nod to Luke and Mara Jade’s son’s name in the EU – Ben Skywalker.
Disclaimer: This post is going to be filled with spoilers about The Force Awakens, so that’s a fair warning for you if you haven’t watched the movie. If you want a spoiler-free take on the movie, read my spoiler-free review that I posted just yesterday – https://beingnickyb.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/star-wars-episode-vii-the-force-awakens-review-spoiler-free/
While watching the iconic opening crawl, I was stumped to read that Luke Skywalker had literally gone missing and that no one knew where he was or why he’d disappeared. My mind was buzzing with different theories about his disappearance and also about the plot of the movie. I initially assumed that this would be a “find Luke Skywalker” adventure where our heroes and villains would scour the galaxy for him and I was disappointed by that prospect, but thankfully, I was relieved to find later on that it was not so.
In my review of The Force Awakens, I said that there was a point very early on in the movie when I just knew that this was going to be a really good ride. I can finally divulge the details of that here. It was when Kylo Ren kills Lars von Tekka (Max von Sydow’s character) and Poe shoots at Kylo Ren in anger and then, Kylo Ren suddenly turns around as the camera zooms in and holds his right hand up and stops the blaster bolt mid-air. I’ve seen people using the Force in many ways in the movies, but I have never seen that. This is one of the things that I liked about the movie – they use the Force in many similar ways, but also add some new things into the mix to keep everything fresh. Another example of the Force being used differently is when Kylo Ren just stopped Rey dead in her tracks – it was like she was frozen by a tractor beam. The film treads familiar paths, but innovates enough to make me feel as amazed as when I watched Star Wars for the first time.
There was a point very early on in The Force Awakens when I just knew that this was going to be one of the most pure Star Wars experiences ever. George Lucas said in an interview and I’m paraphrasing of course, “Disney wants to give the fans what they want and love with The Force Awakens.” And what better way to do that than to let a mega-fan direct it – J.J. Abrams’ love for Star Wars shines through in every scene and the love and effort poured into the movie is evident right from the first shot, which by the way is so reminiscent of that of A New Hope. Actually, the plot of The Force Awakens is very similar to that of that of Episode IV, but for the sake of keeping this review spoiler-free, I won’t delve into further details. Nostalgia plays a huge factor in this movie, not just with its beloved returning characters but also with so many easter eggs. I loved how they acknowledged the events of the previous movies to make the galaxy feel old and like it has many, many stories to tell. Nostalgia notwithstanding, the movie is excellent and can stand on its own two feet without resting on its laurels.
Today was one of the best days of my life. I’m not exaggerating, it’s not just a phase that’s going to pass over soon – today was the day I watched a Star Wars movie in a theatre and what made it sweeter was that it was The Force Awakens. The movie actually released a week late in India, i.e., the 25th, not the 18th because of some stupid Hindi movies that didn’t even do that well at the box-office. Even then, I watched it 6 days after its release in India – seems strange for a Star Wars fanatic like me, but luck wasn’t on my side and I had scheduling problems. I’d made plans to watch it on the 26th with a friend, but the guy was as unreliable as a Stormtrooper’s aim and the plan went blew up like a thermal detonator. For a brief moment, I thought that I may actually miss the movie and I’d never forgive myself for that. So, I was dogmatic in my approach when I asked my father, no, demanded that we (my family) watch it as soon as possible. I was probably this aggressive because we were scheduled to go on a short holiday with my aunt, uncle and two cousins to Bhubaneshwar and Puri and fitting in things such as movies in a holiday is as difficult as quipping better than Han Solo. Thankfully, my father said that all of us would watch the movie on the 1st of January. At the time it seemed like a long way away, but if I could wait over a year for the movie, I could surely wait a few more days.
As an ardent Star Wars fan, I must shamefully admit that I played the critically acclaimed Knights of the Old Republic game only a couple of years ago. Though, it wasn’t really my fault as I have been trying and failing to make the game run on my computer for almost 6 years. I originally got the game when I was 10 only to discover that, for some reason, it refused to work on my PC. It didn’t launch and if it did, it crashed as soon as I reached the main menu. I tried to fix it, but at that age I really wasn’t very knowledgeable about these matters and soon gave up. My second brush with it was around two years later when a friend told me that he had gotten the game to work on his computer. He said that some of the files on my CD must have been corrupt and so, he gave me his CD to install the game from. I remember sitting excitedly in front of my monitor waiting for the installation to finish so that I could get on to playing the game, but once again, I was disappointed. This time, an error popped up on my screen every time I double-clicked on the launcher. I scoured the net for solutions, but none of them seemed to work for me. This attempt to run the game ended the same way as the last – in my surrender. Finally, I got my hands on it again two years ago and this time I was determined about fixing it. I spent hours digging through forums and watching YouTube videos on the subject. Eventually, I think the game sensed my frustration and acquiesced. I literally leapt up in joy when the game worked. However, there were still a few kinks to solve – the game refused to save, cut-scenes refused to play and the aspect ratio was stuck at 800×600. These required an hour more of work, but when it was done, I felt so relieved. I reclined in my chair and prepared myself for a great Star Wars experience. However, I never anticipated it to be that good.
Star Wars and I go way back; I was introduced to it at a very young age by my father and was instantly entranced by it. Yoda, Luke Skywalker and Jabba the Hutt were my favourite characters at the time and my father often pokes fun now at how I used to pronounce Luke as “Loop” when I was a child. The series was what got me so interested in space and even science and I remember nights when I would stare doe-eyed at the stars and imagine myself flying an X-Wing. Star Wars really is like a fairy tale – it has a protagonist who is the quintessential good-guy, a villain who is as evil as the protagonist is good, a fantastic story that takes place in many elaborate locations, the age-old notion that good always triumphs over evil and of course, a happy ending. Just like a fairy tale, Star Wars has endured, maybe even grown, in popularity in the 38 years since its inception.
I remember being very confused by the ways the movies had been numbered – I remember being stumped by the fact that the fourth movie, A New Hope was made before the first, The Phantom Menace. I didn’t really know the history of Star Wars at the time and thus, it was one of life’s big mysteries, that is, until I asked my father about it many days later (I don’t know why it took me that long) and he answered the burning question. Star Wars has a very special place in my life because of the massive impact that it has had on me. The Jedis are the embodiment of good, of what is right, of purity of mind and spirit. I always wanted to be a Jedi when I was a kid and there were many times when I would spend almost an hour trying to move a door or a bucket by using the Force or try to force-choke my annoying cousin (that’s more Sith, but hey, a lot of Jedis have temporarily turned to the Dark Side. For example, Kyle Katarn). I would have lightsaber battles using these plastic lightsabers that my grandfather bought for me from a toy store with that same annoying cousin who I tried to kill by holding three of my fingers in the air.