By SABRINA RICHARD
WESTFIELD, Ind. (Dec. 2019) - I have vivid memories of waking up early to turn on Cartoon Network and watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It was magical, and I was obsessed. I intensely loved how alive the characters became through the episodes. For instance, the last time we had seen Anakin Skywalker as “Anakin Skywalker,” he was all “I hate sand,” so seeing a new version of him with maturity, war strategy, funny quips and a bit of a temper was really exciting and it only made me appreciate and understand Darth Vader more. With the 2014 cancelation and release to Netflix, I started watching it over and over, knowing some story arcs by the Instagramable quotes at the beginning of each episode.
So in 2015, when The Force Awakens was released, I rolled up to the movie theater in a Chewbacca onesie and watched the story unfold. For the same reason I loved the Clone Wars, I loved the new sequels. I had new characters to root for, new governments to overthrow and new planets to explore through movies and comics. I didn’t have twitter opinions or fanboys calling ‘fake’. Then, a galaxy far far away was further expanded with the inclusion of standalone movies, introducing new characters and developing well known and loved characters. Walking into the movie theater for the final movie felt a little bittersweet. The Skywalkers have developed through five decades, and now it’s ending.
Now the Review:
I wrote this while leaving the theater, and let me say: I'm having feelings. As a journalist, I have to do my best to convey those to you.
First, I will not talk about specific plot points, but I will mention some Easter eggs I caught. I will also share my overall belief, as a fan, as to how the final Skywalker movie went. I didn't look up review articles, and I have avoided any fan theories from the movie. Of course, you hear what people think, but I want to keep my review of this movie pure and unbiased to any review. This is from my wide-eyed beliefs while watching my favorite movie series come to an end.
There is a very big place in my heart for Star Wars and a lot of that transpires from the people behind the scenes. I found the concept art released from the film, and I have such awe and respect for what those artists do. I feel the same way about the casting producers who introduced new, wonderful characters that I can't wait to see more of and the set designers who make you want to step into those worlds. From the costume designers to the makeup artists who expertly designed and made the different characters come to life, everyone involved made the galaxy far far away feel a little bit closer.
I also have to give a shout-out to the writers. While I can't agree with every decision made, and I know many fans will critique and blame them for how the story went, they took a 42-year long saga and ended it with a new and exciting but nostalgia-hitting movie. The quips and resistance from each character were put full-force into the movie and with the loss of my favorite General, Princess, and character, they took what they were given and they were respectful and clearly mindful of what the fans would want to see. They did throw a lot of hope-swelling one-liners at the wall, but none of them stuck like the original “May the Force be with You" (and also with you).
There are some movies where you can see the actors acting and you see the character at its face value. This was not that movie. I loved the way the characters worked with each other, and the chemistry between Poe, Rey, and Finn reminds me of Luke, Han, and Leia. Each character also felt like an individual, and any wit or hardship they faced was well-conveyed. Like in the last movie with that little moment where the one soldier tastes the dirt and confirms it was salt, even background characters had their own personalities, and as they came on screen, you had to wonder what their story was.
There is also the stunt team and fight choreographers who coordinated every fight scene in the movie. In the first movie (A New Hope), the only saber fight we see is between Obi Wan and Vader. It is slow, deliberate and methodical. In Phantom Menace, we get Maul vs Obi Wan and Qui Gon, which is fast-paced and unlike anything before it. In the new trilogy, we see new, undisciplined fighting styles. Rey hasn't had professional discipline from a young age; she has only worked with the lightsaber for a short time, so we see a new, adapted kind of fighting from her. It’s really interesting to see the difference between Rey, Kylo and past Jedi.
It takes a village to make a movie, and there was definitely a village in the editing and graphics department. As someone who regularly sits through credits (thank you, Marvel!), seeing that list and reading those names is humbling. Every creature that will definitely be in stores next year was made by a person in front of a computer. We wouldn’t have the iconic glow of a lightsaber without the graphics department. The reason why the screen isn’t full of green men and green backgrounds is all from those people. With such high demand for CGI and shock value, they delivered on what they were given.
As someone who loves symbolism, I ate up every little nod and wink given to the audience. They hit the nostalgia feels with sets, locations, props, and symbols. My favorite (spoiler-free!) was a wall; however, unlike all the other dark and shiny walls of the First Order, it was pale and padded, very similar to the Alderaan Messenger ship of the first movie and then Cloud City in the second. It was such a small detail, but it made me feel like I was watching those scenes again.
No place is safe from battle, and that is well conveyed through the movie with the grungy sets. A galactic war would cause food and resource shortages, and there are times where entire planets look like they're in a lower class and can barely get by. The contrast from cold cities to vast deserts to the base of the Resistance and the First Order is so wonderful to watch and see between each scene. The First Order has a certain sense of military coldness, while the Resistance is smaller, but so bright and comforting.
I have to talk about color theory and color contrast. Throughout the movie, there is constant contrast between black/white and red/blue (kinda like the light and dark side of the force?? Woah!). One excellent fight scene had amazing inside/outside contrast as well as prop contrast between dark and light. However contrast in warm tones and stark tones also play between the contrast in factions. The Resistance dresses and is surrounded by warm neutral tones and shades of green, while the First Order is black or white and red. Blue is also very evident throughout the story--it isn't only in Skywalker's lightsaber, and a lot of Rey is shot with blue lighting especially during important moments of her story. It made the story's whole aesthetic easy to watch, but also important to notice.
Nothing hits into the nostalgia quite like the music. With new and modernized elements of the old soundtrack, it felt like a tie between old and new. Sitting in the theater and hearing the opening theme, Luke's theme and the Imperial March is sure to make any fan smile with the auditory easter eggs throughout the movie.
For the actual story, there were a few moments where I felt like it was probably quickly changed or just unnecessary, and those scenes were sadly added for either shock value or due to the death of the amazing Carrie Fisher. The big reveal was interesting. While The Force Awakens had a hint-hint nudge-nudge towards the reveal it was maybe too cliched for the Star Wars Saga. For the trilogy overall, going from the first movie to the second and back to the third is jarring and it makes plot points feel like red herrings
There was one small plot point that was likely there for laughs, but it was never resolved, until later in a press interview. The point of a movie is to tell and complete a story - or set up for another. With this being the final movie every plot point should be resolved in some way, storytelling should not rely on added press interviews or visual guides.
There was an action I completely disagree with--that was the only real, uncharacteristic outlier in the movie that I just can't shake, (Spoiler: Reylo). You can ask my brother, but I actually said "ugh" when it happened. I am not hiding my disgust about it well. While I don't think that action was the right way to go, it is forever immortalized on screen (which makes it so much worse). The ending itself wrapped up the series in a way it could. They took a direction and executed it.
I am excited to see what else will come from a galaxy far far away. I know there will be a seventh and final season of Clone Wars and many new movies, trilogies and TV shows are planned. I look forward to reviews of those too. Until then, may the force be with you.