Star Wars: The Nerdgasm Awakens

Review

Posted January 3rd, 2016

John, Glenn, Matt, and Tom review the new Star Wars movie, discuss the Mormon fascination with Star Wars in general, and then geek out about super hero movies and random pop culture.

Glenn

John

Matt

Tom

  • I have to agree with John: Nothing happened that hadn’t already happened in the first or second films (Episodes IV & V) just because it happened to somebody with a different name or gender doesn’t make it new or amazing. At first I thought they were throwing in meta-like tongue-in-cheek self-references to the originals to draw in the geezer crowd while wowing the newbies. But by the time it was half over, I said to myself, “No, they’re just remaking the first movie.” They did a good job. It was excellent, but it wasn’t new. It left the story where the first two-and-a-half films left it . It should have picked it up from there, but it went around in a big circle and left it there again.

    I think the characters were fine. I liked Rey, but I tend to like all attractive young women. These are good characters, but they are NOT complex. If you want soul-crushing character complexity, rent “Blue Jasmine” or “My Blue Valentine” or “Another Year.” I’m not saying I liked these movies, but the characters are so convoluted and “complex” that you walk out of the theater thinking, “Jeez, I’m glad I don’t actually know any of those people.” Star Wars characters need to be relatable, if not likable, and these are fine.

    I think this film was a shake-down cruise for the Abrams crew. It will be interesting to see where they go when they actually go.

    I love the new rating system. I give “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” 2.5 Yawns: Nimitz-Class Sci-Fi franchisery, but they haven’t taken it out of the harbor yet.

    • Glenn

      So you are saying that in previous Star Wars movies you saw:

      A smeared bloody handprint across a white pristine stormtrooper helmet.

      A storm trooper who switches sides

      A desert graveyard of x-wings, tie-fighters, and massive star destroyers.

      A powerful young very human dark jedi who is going through a crisis of his dark faith and is worried about being seduced by the light. The son of previous heroes who show that the story is, in fact, being continued 30 years from where it last left of.

      A broken down millennium falcon with a busted gun turret that won’t swivel, so the ship has to maneuver into just the right position to blast a Tie-fighter out of the sky after careening through the insides of a ruined star destroyer.

      A kickass female protagonist who is wicked smart and powerfully independent.

      A flash scene of random memories triggered by touching a light saber.

      X-wings flying low over a lake, kicking up spray.

      A mental mind-probing force battle where an untrained novice turns the tables on a young brash highly skilled antagonist just by her strength of resolve.

      A son who kills his iconic father as a way to end his faith crisis and attempt to put any pull to the light as far away as possible.

      Right. Nothing new.

      • New details, yes. And GOOD details, interesting, colorful details, but the Grand Story Arc hasn’t budged. It’s like wondering what will happen next in the Middle East. Short answer: nothing. Yes the names will be different; yes the seats of power will shift, yes the threats to world peace and existence itself will fly IN all directions FROM all directions. And NOTHING will change.

        Don’t forget, I enjoyed the movie, I really did. Kickass female protagonists are my thing. I worship at the feet of Jennifer Lawrence, America’s Kickass Sweetheart (Rolling Stone), but the feeling I had was the feeling I had: I had just seen a very, very good remake of the first of the Star Wars franchise. And I will be there with bells on for the next installment.

      • One thing that did occur to me is that stagnation can be a significant story element. “A desert graveyard of x-wings, tie-fighters, and massive star destroyers,” and Rey finding herself in essentially the same situation as Luke a generation later is, or can be, a big part of the story. Like the Middle East analogy that I can’t quit stepping in, the fact that the region is dominated by Bronze-Age barbarism after 4,000, 6,000 or however many thousand years, IS a big part of the story. Anyway . . .

        • Glenn

          This is highlighting another strong parallel and/or potential appeal to the Mormon Worldview — the fact that the “Grand Story Arc” is really this behind-the-scenes metaphysical war between the forces of Good and Evil, the Light and the Dark. That mortals are surrounded and guided by this supernatural struggle, and this need for balance between the Light and the Dark plays out in the mortal world often using mortals as unknowing agents who think it’s just dumb luck that things are happening in a certain way, but it is really “the force” or “the gospel” moving people like pieces on a cosmic chess board in the great cosmic struggle between evil and good.

          This struggle never goes away. It is eternal. But the people/characters engaging in the struggle do change. And that is ultimately what the Star Wars movies are about: the Skywalker family and the key role they play in this cosmic struggle.

    • Ryan Gregson

      I agree that TFA didn’t do a whole lot to move the plot as far as the greater galaxy-wide good vs evil goes. I guess. But I didn’t bother me either. This movie, being the first of a trilogy is all about set-up. The characters were introduced and introduced well. Pieces were moved into position for shit to go down later. Meanwhile there was still plenty of action and goings-on to keep this movie plenty interesting.
      Also, I think it’s kind of strange/unfair to compare the character building in Star Wars to those heavy dramas. I’m sure there was more complexity in those characters, but those weren’t adventure movies. Kylo Ren alone was a more complex character than one would normally get in an adventure film.

  • Brenda

    I loved the Star Wars movie and thats coming from someone that doesnt even identify as a “star wars fan”. I went with my husband and boys for my hubbys bday, and I ended up loving it! Who knew? The only part that was difficult for me was Kylo Ren being Adam Driver.. he’s one of the main characters on Girls! It was so hard for me not to see him as the guy on that show. lol!

    And Bob, I’m a huge media and movie junkie too! What is your Top 10?

    • Lol, I tend to agree about Adam Driver. Fun seeing him, but it’ll take a lot more roles for me to think of him beyond his Girls character.

      As for my top 10, it’s not cemented yet, still finishing up last year movie watching… But I can tell you, as a preview in no particular order, 2015 movies like Unexpected, Grandma, Spotlight, While We’re Young, Far from the Madding Crowd, and Citizenfour will all be on the list higher than Star Wars.

      • Brenda

        Come back and comment after you’ve seen “What we do in the shadows”

        And, I really like Don Verdean. So, I guess I go for the more campy movies.

        Citizenfour is an important film. I find Snowden so admirable and courageous. I’m glad it’s on your list because I think it’s a movie that everyone should watch. More people need to be informed.

        • I have seen it. Here’s my mini-review from back in March:

          “What We Do in the Shadows (3.5/5): What’s not to love about a mokumentary about four vampire roommates figuring out life in the modern world? Well, had me smirking plenty but some of the silliness and goriness was a bit off (for me).”

          I liked it but felt like it’s best stuff was probably 30 minutes scattered throughout, and the rest was ok even if uneven, kinda fun but overall hard to recommend (my 4’s and higher).

          Haven’t seen Don Verdean, but I suppose the Mormon connection means I really should see it. And I definitely have Mr. Robot in my queue!

      • Brenda

        Oh and Mr. Robot! I know we were talking about movies, but Mr. Robot was easily the best new tv show of 2015

  • Ryan Gregson

    I thought what they did with Kylo Ren was very smart. They knew they couldn’t create a villain to compete with Darth Vader. So they made one that is actually trying too hard to be Darth Vader. It makes him sooo much more interesting as a villain than another over-serious humorless bad guy (see: Ronin from GotG).

  • albertinamel

    In reference to the fleeting question about how long Wookiees live, my kids actually had me look it up bc we thought Chewbacca should have aged a bit more. (He was the only original cast member without any gray at his temples!) Apparently the answer is roughly 400 years, according to the Wookieepedia website. 🙂
    http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Wookiee

  • Jonathan
  • Seb

    I am currently listening to this episode on my 30 min. commute, pretty entertaining as always… And I just saw this discussion on my FB feed:

    TBM 1: About Rey mastering the force so quickly (as well as Kylo Ren, when we think about it…), I thought about the idea (in the Church) which says that the generations to come are some kind of elites reserved for those last days and it made sense to me, both on a spiritual and scientific level.On a scientific level, it is now known that genetic evolution, or whatever we may call it, doesn’t only happen over a long period of time, but some mutations may actually happen over a very short period of time, from a parent, or a grandparent, to a child.
    In this perspective, it doesn’t surprise me that both children (Rey and Kylo) were so quickly powerful because they were both born into the Force and they inherited it from highly trained masters…

    TBM 2: Kylo way taught by Luke and he is a skywalker. We know that the Force is strong in this family. Rey is a Skywalker too, but she had zero training. It doesn’t make sense that she is so powerful because it doesn’t follow the same arch than all the Skywalkers. The training with the mentor is missing. Even if the Force is awakening in her, how on earth could she know how to make Jedi mind tricks? If I use the church analogy too, we can pronounce priesthood ordinances if we don’t know the words.

    TBM 1: I’m making the analogy more with the Holy Ghost… You know some apostles or prophets speak of being born with the Faith and the Spirit. They inherited a greater sense of it thanks to their parents who practiced a good life of service to God…

    It seems to agree with the fact that Mormons see a lot of parallels between gospel/lds teachings and Star Wars. Actually, while watching the movie as a now Ex-mo, it made me (stupidly) feel uncomfortable at times, thinking about how my parents would feel while watching the movie…

    Anyway, I love your work guys! Sending my best wishes for 2016 from France. Actually, your podcast really, really helped me in 2015 in my transition out of the COLDS

  • exmo_in_ohio

    Halfway through and holy shit, it amazes me how strenuously people will defend such a mediocre movie.

    • Yeah, almost as strenuously as those that defend their position of a movie being mediocre.

      • exmo_in_ohio

        Hahahaha! Thanks for proving my point.

        • You’re welcome and thank you too, our points complete each other.

  • Gail_F_Bartholomew

    Glenn,

    I am with John I think you are kinda full of shit on Star Wars. Please understand I listen because I typically love hearing your opinions. Yes Ray is a strong character, but complex none of the characters are complex. Then again I am not sure there has ever been a complex Star War’s character.

  • albertinamel

    Oh, no. Someone actually combined Star Wars and The Princess Bride on Buzzfeed. Nine out of ten chance s/he is LDS. http://www.buzzfeed.com/andyneuenschwander/star-wars-with-princess-bride-quotes-is-somehow-perfect

  • lobizao

    This one was way too nerdy for me, so I stopped listening when the topic veered from Mormonism and into nerd land. But it’s cool, not all the episodes are for everyone.

    My only complaint is that I thought it was pretty crappy of Glenn to add his commentary during editing, giving himself a way stronger voice than everyone else had. It was pretty caustic too, which I thought was unnecessary.

    • Glenn solicited everyone’s additional reviews and commentary and specifically asked me to record my review so that he could include it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get mine recorded in time for him to include it, so the fault was mine, not Glenn’s.

  • For those interested, here’s a link to my review where I make my points in essay form: https://reviewtrek.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/theforceawakensreview/

  • Pink-lead

    I enjoyed the film, I think they did a fair job passing the baton to a new generation. But it definitely broke the barrier that separates paying homage to the legacy and simply overusing previous successful plot elements, character roles etc. Too many of these.

  • I think John and Tom are way off on this one. I am in full agreement with you Glenn.

    I loved the movie. I loved how they made it like Star Wars. To bring in parts to remind us of the great movie. But it also had it’s own story. And JJ has said that they didn’t want to reveal too much. About Rey and Fin, they wanted their stories to play out over 3 movies and not just give us everything in the first one.

    But there are always those who can’t go to a movie and just enjoy it. “Oh that star killer is so stupid. Like they could really do that.” Ah, this whole thing is made up guys. Relax a little eh? I mean it’s a fucking movie. Learn to chill out. Sit back and just enjoy.

    And you know what, not everyone will like the movie. That’s fine. You can’t please everyone. But I loved it! Yes I am a big nerd. Yes I am a Star Wars fan boy. So what, I like me.

  • Dan

    This one is for Glen – in case you haven’t seen it yet. Stories within stories.