John Wright’s looong awaited review of Star Wars Episode Seven –the review of the movie we’ve all been waiting for.:
Like many people, when I heard the news that the Disney corporation had purchased the rights to make Star Wars sequels, I feared they might gut the heart of the series, fumble even basic storytelling principles, and insult the viewers with Mary Sue heroines, diversity hire characters, tangled yet aimless plots, deconstruction and desecration of the original fan-favorite heroes, all topped off with heavy-handed political posturing crammed down the throat of the audience, mangling and mutating the most beloved franchise in movie history into an putrid and unsightly sewer fire.
I am glad to report that I need not have fretted. Two films of the new trilogy are out, and the filmmakers avoided all these pitfalls and pratfalls
You cannot simply have the rebels still fighting the selfsame Empire they defeated in the last movie blowing up yet another iteration of the Death Star. That would be ridiculous! Luckily, they didn’t do that!
It is something of a paradox, since the audience wants the same story that they liked the first time, but not done in the same way.
The cleverest and most satisfying way I have ever seen a writer answer this paradox was E.E. Doc Smith, when he opened GRAY LENSMAN with the startling revelation that the villainous space pirate king, Helmuth, slain in climactic combat at the end of GALACTIC PATROL, was himself merely an agent of a larger, deeper, darker group.
Now, of course, this tradition is not new to EE Smith. Beowulf, after slaying Grendel in the golden hall of Hereot, is permitted no long rest, but must descend into an accursed swamp to fight Grendel’s Mother, a monstrous hag tougher than the first monster.
In this way, the hero, or the hero’s heirs or disciples, is, in effect, fighting for the same cause and against the same foe, but the significance of the first victory is not diminished. Instead, the scope is larger, and the battlefield gets bigger.
How to make something as huge and simple as an evil Galactic Empire merely the outward sign of a deeper hidden power is a question to stump most writers, but I think the filmmaker here answered this cleverly, and in a way in keeping with everything the canon had established.
Let me give a scene by scene review. I hope I can be forgiven for giving such a long and in-depth description, but this film was so remarkable, and the mistakes that could have been made were so neatly avoided, I think it worth the time to ponder how well the Disney writers treated the franchise. Remember how worried we were that it would just be a piece of leftwingnut feminist crud?
EPISODE SEVEN: THE DARK SIDE RISING
THE DARK SIDE RISING in the opening word crawl announces that Luke Skywalker has vanished. The young and untried Jedi graduating from his new Academy are scouring the galaxy, searching for him. However, there is one place no searcher dares to go: the mysterious Black Sun Nebula surrounding the supermassive black hole at the core of the galaxy. One by one, the core stars are going out, leaving whole planets to freeze in darkness. And the nebula is spreading.
One young Jedi, hunted by sinister agents of the power behind the Empire, holds the sole clue to the secret of the dying stars…
I thought it was cool that, as the word crawl was done crawling, the stars were going out, one by one. Then the camera zooms in on one emerald-green planet, Ambria.
We are quickly introduced to the heroine of the film, as well as the heavy. We meet young Lyra Sentara in flashback.
Superb Chinese actress Tiffany Tang (Tang Yan) as Lyra Sentara
She is orphaned when the sun of her home world of Ambria flickers and fades like a dying candle, snow fills the air, and maddened mobs rush to seize any starship to be found, including her father’s one-man fighter parked on the roof of the Jedi Temple. Her father, lightsaber in hand, fends off the panicked crowd on the narrow and un-railed bridge leading to the launch pad. Explosions throw the screaming refugees off to either side, and Imperial Stormtroopers, close in on the father. The father draws his lightsaber. The lead stormtrooper flourishes a weapon that looks like a cross between like a two-forked trident and a Jacob’s ladder (I am sure they got the design from Matt Wagner’s GRENDEL, if any of you are old enough to remember that). The father blasts the stormtrooper with a gush of red lightning right in the face.
The mother sacrifices her life getting Lyra to the one-man ship, cut down from behind. The scene is all the more effective because there is no dialog: only the sound effects, and the stirring music.
The scene where the stormtrooper captain yanks off his burnt and scarred helmet to show his burnt and scarred face beneath, and glare with his remaining good eye at the fleeing X-wing just as the sun flickers and goes out is the one you saw in all the trailers.