Monday, December 11, 2017

My fourth Awakens

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out in December 2015, I prepared for it by watching all six previous Star Wars movies, chronologically in terms of the storyline, one every two months starting in February.

My preparations for Star Wars: The Last Jedi are a bit more modest. I'm just watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

And I likely would not have done even that except that they revisited their review of the movie on Filmspotting to whet our appetites for the new movie. And whet mine it did. In fact, I became so whetted that after listening to that on Friday, I determined that I was going to watch it on Saturday night -- and wasn't dissuaded from that position even once I found that the movie was no longer streaming on Netflix. Undeterred, I downloaded it from iTunes.

As this was my fourth viewing, it puts the movie in very rare company indeed: It's one of only a few films I can definitely say I have seen four times in the first two years of their existence. In fact, there's only one other one that I am 100% sure of, which is Pulp Fiction, still my personal record holder for the most number of theatrical viewings at four. That record will likely never be broken, nor will the record for the speed of reaching a fourth viewing after its release date. But The Force Awakens is now in rarefied company indeed, reaching its fourth viewing even faster than Spring Breakers, which took two years and four months to get there. (However, Breakers did that without the benefit of two theatrical viewings, which is a different kind of impressive.)

That tends to exaggerate how much I like The Force Awakens, actually. Obviously I like it quite a bit, but if I were making a list of my top 25 movies of the decade -- as I will be in about two years -- I don't even know that I would consider it a serious contender. An honorable mention at best.

One reason I've seen it so much, of course, is that it's Star Wars. My total number of viewings of even The Phantom Menace is four, possibly as many as five. (And will become a definite five and possible six whenever I end up watching it with my kids.) The Phantom Menace is not, of course, a great movie. But it is Star Wars, and that counts for a lot.

I don't know that my fourth viewing has given me many or even any new takeaways, but it did seem worth noting on my blog, if only for the play on words in the subject line and to do a little bit of pre-Last Jedi hype. (However, you should expect a hype post with an actual Last Jedi poster before the week is out.)

I did have one observation that could apply to almost any movie like this, and it has to do with the internal timeframe. How many days is this movie supposed to take? Once the action really gets going, one thing flows into the other and we don't see anybody sleep -- nor is it even implied that they do. This is just a screenwriting shortcut of course -- sleep is boring and you don't need to see it -- but the only nightfall we can even be sure happens is when Rey eats her dinner and saves BB8 from the fellow scavenger. Beyond that, you wouldn't be surprised to learn that the period of time between Rey engaging in her normal daily routine of scavenging parts from downed star destroyers to having a lightsaber duel with one of the most powerful Sith apprentices in existence is about 36 hours.

I also wanted to push back against a strain of Star Wars criticism that I find to be totally unfounded. There's an article going around the internet right now that speaks of Kylo Ren's popularity relative to that of the infamous Jar Jar Binks, the result of a recent survey. Apparently, Binks placed ahead of both Ren and Mace Windu.

I didn't dignify this by reading the details, so I have no idea why Windu is unpopular, but I've heard that Ren's lack of popularity is not only a function of his notorious act of patricide. Apparently, people really take issue with his "emo ways," drawing unfavorable comparisons between Adam Driver's portrayal of that role and Hayden Christensen's portrayal of Anakin Skywalker. I don't think Christensen fully deserves his own bad rap, but Driver definitely doesn't deserve it. Looking at the four major characters introduced in The Force Awakens -- I will include Poe Dameron in that group, and exclude Snoke and General Hux -- Kylo Ren is at an equal level of interest for me as Rey and Finn, and slighly ahead of Poe. And that has entirely to do with Driver's performance. In fact, I would say that I did not like Driver prior to this movie and was wary of his involvement. Now, I look forward to every next thing I see him in.

The next of which will be a little movie called Star Wars: The Last Jedi, opening here on Thursday.

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