Thanks to my mom, I finally got to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Blu-ray disc. Overall, I liked the movie and found it an enjoyable cinematic experience. I'll be honest that I do understand some of the criticisms against the film. But any critical concerns didn't ruin Episode 7 for me.
The one major thing that I have to agree with the critics is how much this film mirrors a new hope. Without giving too much away, there are definitely some familiar settings. At many points the plot is even a bit too predictable. But as a “passing of the torch” sort of film, the familiar plot elements didn't diminish the experience for me.
What made the film work was the new characters. They were all enjoyable and unlike the prequels, they were well acted and well written. The action was pretty intense and the film was well directed. I've always liked J.J. Abrams as a director personally. Yes, his legendary love of camera lens flare effects is on display in this film, but not quite to the extent that it was in his two Star Trek films. The film still looked like a Star Wars movie.
Speaking of which, there wasn't CGI overload in this film as there was in the prequels. There were plenty of effects, of course. But they weren't just there to be eye candy. This film focused on real people. Even the CGI characters were real characters. They got that part right.
The nostalgia is well balanced in the film, far as I'm concerned. But yes, sort of knowing what's going to happen was a bit distracting. They definitely played it very safe with the plot. That's why it is a sound film. It did what the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, did right. The cliffhanger ending I felt was perfect. I really don't think that Episode 8 will be a clone of empire strikes back. Lucasfilm really just didn't want to screw this up with a new generation of fans. They wanted to start off on the right foot. Far as I am concerned, they did.
I can't really say much more without giving things away. I may do a spoiler laden review at another time. But I will say this. It's really cool that they have a female protagonist for these new films. Yeah, Rey will probably become a Disney princess. But I'm ok with that.
I give The Force Awakens a solid B. Not a perfect film, but it has its own charm that I simply love too much. I'll be watching it again and again, that's for sure.
by Joshua Packard, Fullness of Happy
I have just finished watching the final episode of the "Star Trek" spinoff, "Enterprise". With the exception of possibly a few "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episodes, I can now say that I have watched every Star Trek episode and movie made to this date. With the advent of entire seasons of television shows on DVD and streaming websites like Netflix and Hulu, there is an expansion of the phenomenon known as "binge watching". I have been binge watching all the episodes of "Star Trek" and its spinoffs for a while now. I jokingly call "The Next Generation", "Deep Space Nine", and "Voyager the "synoptic Star Treks" because they all take place in relatively the same timespan in the future, and they are very similar looking and feeling. With "Enterprise", the show has a very different feel from all the previous incarnations of the sci fi franchise. The series takes place about 100 years before the events of the original classic series of "Star Trek". "Enterprise" goes into a lot of the origins of various events, institutions, technologies and other things that appear in the earlier series.
In this Star Trek, transporters are a new technology, the Federation does not yet exist, and the starship Enterprise is the first Earth Starfleet warp 5 ship. Enterprise is the first human vessel to explore deep space. It is captained by Jonathan Archer, the son of a scientist who pushed for the creation of faster warp vessels and the exploration of space by humans. A lot of the episodes elaborate on the relationships of humanity to other species such as the Vulcans, Andorians, Klingons, and others in the galaxy. There is a lot of emphasis on how different cultures interact, and whether it is a good idea to form alliances with other planets and share technology and interact. A lot of people blame the Vulcans from holding humans back from developing new technologies, claiming they believe we are not ready for such technologies. The origins of the future doctrine known as the Prime Directive has its seeds explained in the course of many"Enterprise" episodes. In later episodes the wisdom of interaction between species is explored more in depth, I think possibly as a metaphor for the existence of racism today, which in "Enterprise" has been eliminated on Earth.
In Enterprise, there is more continuity throughout the series than in earlier Star Trek spinoffs. Especially in the second and third seasons, there is a long arching plot-line throughout, as Enterprise and her crew seek to prevent the destruction of Earth by an alien coalition which is being manipulated by time traveling transdimensional species, who see human beings and the future creation of the Federation as a a threat to their existence. Many of the episodes focus on Captain Archer and the crews attempts to seek out the species determined to destroy them and stop the elimination of humanity. It is a race to find the alien species and stop their weapon, which will be capable of destroying earth and eradicating human beings from existence. Many of the episodes are based on time travel, and I found them interesting.
In most of "Star Trek", the most interesting aspects of the stories are the characters. Each Star Trek series had their own unique characters. Enterprise has some interesting and likeable characters as well, who excel in their fields of vocation and in their possession and practice of heroic virtue. There are also some villains and other characters who are interesting as well. One of my favorite characters was actually the Andorian, Commander Shran, played by Star Trek regular Jeffrey Combs, who can be somewhat of a bastard, but possesses a sense of morality and honor which leads him to practice heroic acts in helping the Enterprise crew and humanity. At first it took me a while to get used to the new characters, but eventually the viewer gets to know and like them very well. The two alien characters on the ship, Vulcan first officer T'Pol, and Denobulan doctor Phlox, are very interesting and likeable. One thing I disagree with is that Vulcans suppress their emotions. To me, Vulcans are almost always pissed off and annoyed at everyone. That is my own observation, and I think it amusing to notice how pissed off the Vulcan characters constantly seem to be. Maybe I am wrong. Decide for yourself.
Overall, I think I liked this spin off of Star Trek more than the others. I recommend checking it out if you have the time, and I hope you enjoy it as well.
Read more of Joshua's work on his blog, Fullness of Happy.
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