Star Wars: The Force Awakens never had a chance to be a great movie. It’s not controversial, it’s just a fact. J.J. Abrams and his creative team had too big a task, with too many moving parts, too many things to accomplish, for this movie to ever be great.
This is a movie that had to introduce a new generation of characters, reintroduce and reconnect audiences with 30-year-old characters, that had to re-establish credibility with Star Wars fans who felt burnt by the sins of the prequels, that had to remind audiences why they love Star Wars in the first place. Plus, it had to compete with people’s nostalgia, and a long-forgotten childhood is hard to compete with. And people expected this movie to be great, too? The fact that it even holds together as well as it does is really an achievement!
Sure, The Force Awakens plays things safe. There’s a lot of tread-upon territories returned to here, not a lot of risktaking. But ultimately, for a film to lay as much groundwork it does as competently as it is is something to be recognized even if the movie isn’t a great cinematic achievement.
I liken it to making a series of a TV show – and after all, what is the Star Wars saga if not a TV show, set against the most epic of scales, told in hundred-million-dollar mega-length episodes?
Not every episode of a great TV show can be great, simply by virtue of how a TV series is structured. Sometimes, you have to just connect the dots, lay a foundation, and know that it’s the hard work that will never be recognized. I’m honestly glad that Disney is rewarding J.J. Abrams’ hard work by letting him direct Episode 9 – it’s a chance for him to show what he can do when he’s not forced to check quite as many boxes.
The particular brand of puritanical / Satanical horror that The Witch is a part of has never been on my wavelength – it’s why I never got around to watching even a film as iconic as, say, The Exorcist. I’ve made clear my opinion of horror as an overall genre before, and while there will always be exceptions to my distaste for the genre, things haven’t changed.
So, in watching The Witch, I was struck with an appreciation for the technical mastery, the absolute confidence displayed in Robert Eggers’ debut film, while still finding the film entirely distasteful.
Continue reading “2017 Movie #94: The Witch (2015)”
Green Room, written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, is a taut horror thriller about a punk rock band that gets trapped in a bar with a bunch of neo-Nazis. There’s really not too much more to it than that, which is of course why this movie is so effective.
Continue reading “2017 Movie #78: Green Room (2015)”
Steven Spielberg never really had an edge. In his old age, he’s really leaned into that aspect of himself – and in no film is this more clear than in 2015’s Bridge of Spies, an old fashioned morality tale about a Good Guy lawyer who is always Right. One person’s quaint naiveté is another person’s uplifting drama, and I can see why Bridge of Spies might end up being a polarizing film as a result.
Continue reading “2017 Movie #43: Bridge of Spies (2015)”
My second movie of 2017 was something of a palette cleanser from the first one. While Kingsman: The Secret Service (hereafter referred to as Kingsman) is not an exceptional movie, it is a capably made action film, with standout lead performances by Taron Edgerton (who I first discovered thanks to this film, and is clearly a star in the making), Mark Strong, and Colin Firth (in an unexpected turn as an action star).
While I describe Kingsman as “capable”, that should not be taken as a slight – capably made action movies that manage to occupy my attention for their full length are increasingly hard to find, and while there were elements to this movie that I found distasteful or distracting (Samuel L. Jackson’s annoying lisp comes to mind here), the action was fun to watch (the church shootout, the skydiving sequence) and mostly overcame those flaws.