Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens is the best installment since The Empire Strikes Back, but it’s no brave new world; it’s well-trod territory that will make you feel like you’re watching another special edition of A New Hope.
All the signature tropes from the 1977 original are here, such as:
A disaffected orphan loner on a backwater planet? Check.
A beeping droid carrying something vital for the Resistance? Check.
A black-clad, masked Big Bad? Check.
Daddy issues? Check, check and check!
But it’s 2015, so in this reboot for the post-millennial world, the loner is a woman, Rey (newcomer Daisy Ridley), who can really handle herself in a scrap. The movie takes pains to populate the Resistance and the First Order (the evil group that succeeded the Empire) with women of various ages and races. Grrrrl Power!
It turns out there was a very good reason that this movie is called Man of Steel instead of using some variation of Superman in the title: There’s barely any Superman in it. Sure, the main character comes from the planet Krypton and wears blue longjohns and a cape — but he only very rarely behaves like Superman.
The movie opens on Krypton — which has been reimagined as a hybrid society of Game of Thrones and The Matrix, where liquid-metal robots exist side-by-side with dragons a man can ride to his high-tech cave — a doomed planet where scientist Jor-El (Russell Crowe) wants to save the planet’s genetic information from destruction, and General Zod (Michael Shannon) decides to stage a military coup even though the planet is falling apart around him. Defeated, Zod and his forces are exiled to the Phantom Zone just minutes before Krypton is destroyed. But not before Jor-El sends his newborn son to Earth (along with the Codex, the genetic that could one day rebuild Kryptonian society).
It’s not hyperbole to call The Avengers the greatest superhero movie of all time — better than Captain America: The First Avenger, better than The Dark Knight, and better than Spider-Man 2. And the best superhero movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD starting today.
The cardinal sin of most superhero movies is that producers change too much from the page and the screen, and then crowd the story with too many characters (especially villains) that all have to be introduced. So how does Avengers — a movie featuring six heroes, a villain, a host of supporting characters and an entire top-secret international organization — manage to not only avoiding becoming an overstuffed muddle, but pull it all off brilliantly?
One name: Joss Whedon.