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Monday, December 21, 2015


NO SPOILERS

Stay with me on the beginning of this review. It makes sense when I am done. Ok, so you know how some iconic rock bands got started in the 70s, and they made timeless rock music using just the basic instruments, and they did so under the guidance of a world-famous producer? The band and the producer keep making great records together, but then the band starts to experiment with their sound and things start to change. After a while, the band and the producer part ways and the band kind of drifts into limbo. After a couple of years, another great producer steps in and says that he is going to strip the band back down to its raw roots and help the band make another great record. The result is a record that is even better than those first few records, and the band’s career is re-energized.

In this scenario, Star Wars is the band and that first producer is George Lucas. I always felt that once Lucas established the Star Wars universe with Episode IV, he should have passed it on to a major studio that could have put talented writers on those projects. Lucas has an unbelievably vivid imagination, but he cannot write a script to save his life. The second record producer in this scenario is Disney. I will say here what I said on Facebook: Star Wars is much better off with Disney and without Lucas.

I have nothing against George Lucas. The guy is a genius and has created some of the most iconic movie franchises in the history of film. Despite his incessant tinkering with his own films, I still consider George Lucas one of the greatest movie makers in the history of cinema. But he just cannot write a script to save his life. He is also way too in love with special effects, and that is just one of the things that killed Episodes I, II and III.

So now Star Wars, the band, gets that slick new producer who wants to strip down the movie franchise to its roots and make something that fans can really enjoy. Star Wars fans freaked out when Lucasfilms was sold to Disney because they were afraid that Disney would replace Luke Skywalker with Mickey Mouse, or something equally as silly. By the time Episode VII is done with its first run (which could take months), even the most hardcore Star Wars fans will be eternally grateful that Disney took over the franchise. If there is one thing Disney knows how to do, it is make movies.

The Disney Corporation’s legacy of film success cannot be denied. The princess animated films, Marvel and now Star Wars show that Disney knows how to put a successful template in place and then follow that template repeatedly. The Avenger movies are great superhero movies, and Fox’s attempts to compete with the Avenger series through the Justice League series will fail miserably. But that will not stop me from seeing the Justice League movies, which is probably the same attitude all movie fans have.

Disney brings all of the old band members back together for Episode VII, and adds in some new players to allow the story to continue. Disney reduced the amount of CGI used for this movie, and that decision succeeded in giving Episode VII a retro feel. But Disney is also smart enough to know that CGI has its place in modern movie making, and this movie definitely benefits from computer graphics. Where Episodes I, II, and III were burdened with too much CGI, Episode VII has the perfect mix of CGI and live action. This is the type of new Star Wars movie that George Lucas would have never considered making, which is why it is best that he sold the franchise to Disney.

While Episode VII definitely ranks in the top three of all Star Wars movies, I do have a couple of issues with the film. The first is that there is not enough development of the new characters. But I am able to let this slide because I know that we are getting buried in Star Wars films over the next few years and I am sure the stories of all of these new characters will get fleshed out. If there was one thing Lucas was good at, it was setting up every single character to be people that we cared about, one way or the other. This movie does not do that. With Episode VII, we get introduced to some likable and interesting characters, but we know nothing about them. But we do learn a little about them as we go along, which is just another way that Disney is making sure that the box office for future Star Wars movies is huge.

The other problem with Episode VII is that I absolutely hated Darth Vader by the end of Episode IV. Lucas’ ability to tell a story presented a Vader that was not vulnerable, and pure evil. Vader did not become compromised until later in the series. By the time Darth Vader develops a conscience, he is already one of the most hated villains in the history of movies. Episode VII has several bad guys, and none of them have any depth. The main bad guy does a horrible thing towards the end of the movie, but he has already been revealed to be extremely vulnerable. I did not come out of Episode VII truly hating any of the bad guys.

But all of those faults can be overlooked because of the one huge positive I took away from this film – Disney cared about making a great Star Wars film. Disney knew that this movie could have been 90 minutes of R2-D2 and C3P0 free-styling and it still would have made $1 billion. But a bad Episode VII would have also damaged the franchise. Disney honestly cares about making good Star Wars movies, and Star Wars fans can rest easy knowing that their favorite franchise is in good hands.

This is a great movie, and it was a great movie to see at the Transit Drive-In. I loved seeing this movie under the stars because, after all, isn’t looking to the stars what the Star Wars movies are all about?

Rating: 4 ½ out of 5

 +George N Root III is a drive-in fanatic who was in his glory at a major movie premier in December at the drive-in. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at georgenroot3@gmail.com.



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