One of the things my family has done in recent years at Christmas time is to treck to the movie theatre and take in one of the recent offerings by Hollywood. There seems to be no shortage at that time of year of prime movie experiences as many movies are released late in the year to sneak in at the tail end of the consideration for the years Academy Awards.
I didn’t spend a lot of time preparing for the movie by trying to understand what it was about or how it fit into the Star Wars project. I was told ahead of time that the movie would operate outside the normal Star Wars sequence and serialization. One last bit of personal trivia is that last week we watched “The Searchers”, an old John Ford/John Wayne collaboration which I was told influenced that Star Wars production with it’s visual iconography and stunning desert scenes. I was curious if I would see that influence or not.
All in all, the movie was a very pleasant ride through what we have all come to expect from the Star Wars franchise. Interesting and often scary-looking creatures in shadowy multi-cultural settings are one of the items that is on my bucket list for any Star Wars production. The hint of some kind of romantic interest is normally planted early on. The dramatic tension is drawn between the empire and rebel forces and there is no doubt in our minds that this is where the real story is.
The main disappointments in the film were the CGI effects used to revive Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing, who died in 1994) and the frontal shots of the rebel pilots in what is so alarmingly similar to the orange jumpsuits worn by many prison inmates.
There were no light sabers in use during the film (at least that I can remember) but there were many references to the “Force” and for the need for any upstanding rebel to find a way to channel it for the many conflicts in the movie. One character, Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), repeatedly envokes the “Force” through a repetitive mantra. The Force thematic element always strikes me as a vague, mushy form of spirituality that seems almost seamlessly compatible with the many watered-down versions of the Christian Gospel that are so prevalent now especially in American culture.
I definitely did see the “Searchers” look throughout the many planetary scenes and also, I am amazed at how many movies pay some kind of corollary homage to the “Wizard of Oz” scene where Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion have to find a way to break into the “castle” against almost all odds