Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


   This movie is not okay. Following my viewing of the fantastically entertaining Rogue One, I decided to revisit The Force Awakens. I take back what I said. This doesn't hold up at all, and what little time has passed since its release has really not been kind to it. This movie is a massive carbon copy of A New Hope, a movie over thirty years old by now with probably billions of fans. I've called The Force Awakens a 'necessary' movie because good will towards the franchise was dashed by the prequel trilogy. But, you know what? Star Wars fans did not deserve the prequels. The prequels were too good for them.

   George Lucas was faced with the daunting task of revisiting the mythos of the world he created when he tasked himself with writing Episode I. He didn't do a great job. But! Think about all the new things we saw for the first time. Podracing, the droid army, and most importantly... OTHER FUCKING JEDIS. People take that for granted! Aside from Obi Wan and Luke, IV, V, and VI had no other jedis to show us, let alone give us a detailed look into their religion/order/club/thing. A jedi council? The term seems commonplace now, but it sure wasn't before 1999. What new things does The Force Awakens give us? NOTHING.

   Objectively, nothing. BB-8 is just a cuter version of R2, and it's a BALL. How fucking innovative. How creative. Kylo Ren is a thematic stand-in for Darth Vader, Rey is a stand-in for Luke, Han has become the old wiseass dude like Old Ben, Finn and Poe are essentially the buddy duo that Han and Chewie were back in the day. And if the similarities ended there, I'd have much less to gripe about. But, in the entirety of every creative thought process that was contributed to this project... it boiled down to, "Lets just have a bigger death star, guys." And the other guys said, what, OKAY? The first order is the Empire, the Resistance is the Rebellion. Stormtroopers have hardly changed as well.

   Thirty years is not a long time. Characters in the movie act like the events of Return of the Jedi are myth and legend, which is like a high school kid in 2016 acting like A New Hope is as old as a dinosaur fossil. There's a massive lack of perspective there. The rest of the movie follows A New Hope, beat for goddamn beat. But, what's pissing me off is how so many people kept saying to me "It's SO much better than the Phantom Menace!" No it's not! Not even close! The Force Awakens was a 'necessary' movie only because of people like that. People who were closed off to new things. Sure, the storytelling in the prequels were shaky at best, and unintelligible at worst, but upon closer examination, they actually were trying to DO something.

   They didn't always do it right, or well, but there was a major effort and it showed. The action scenes alone were stunning and inventive. The podracing scene? The duel of fates? The city-chase in Attack of the Clones? Also in that one- the big showdown in the arena? Or perhaps EVERY action scene in Revenge of the Sith? All of the action scenes in The Force Awakens seem recycled. They're not inventive, or original. They're just a riff on the old. The massive and everlasting hatred towards the prequels has driven the corporate machine back to square one. And it has regurgitated A New Hope. And fans fucking love it.

   Finn is a fun character. Poe is a fun character. Rey has... potential to be more than a mary sue. There's mystery in her past, BUT WHY IS IT A MYSTERY? Why is it being saved for later? So we could have A New Hope tediously rehashed for us? This is what all the good stuff is being set aside in favor of? Oh my god. Somewhere between the trio of Finn, Rey and Poe, there was a great Star Wars movie to be made. The Force Awakens wasn't it. It's so safely made that it's sickening. It's so commercial and FULL of mind-numbing plot conveniences that I can't really stand it anymore. How is the Millennium Falcon conveniently on the same planet that had a piece of the map to look, which is also the same planet that mystery Force girl Rey is on.

   The movie tries to play her off like she's just a random bystander who gets swept up into this, but the movie also hints that she has a SUPER IMPORTANT MYSTERIOUS PAST. You can't have it both ways! Why does EVERYTHING revolve around Jakku? The movie never offers up any solid reasoning for that... or anything else. How does Maz Kanata have Luke's blue lightsaber? How does ANYONE have that? We're not told why Rey was left on Jakku, or why the clones were decommissioned from being Stormtroopers, or why the New Republic's army is the resistance, or why Kylo Turned to the dark side.

   Why are fans okay with this lazy storytelling? That's the big question here. The Force Awakens is NOT a movie. It's a 2 hour long trailer for Episode VIII. It raked in billions of dollars and waves of acclaim, but it's not a good movie. At best it's a guilty pleasure that ends up being fun despite it's insipid storytelling, and insultingly 'safe' plot. I like John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac. I think the fact that they've shined despite the material is really saying something and I HOPE that future installments are worthy of their charisma, charm, and talent.

   Star Wars should mean more to fans than just practical effects and witty one liners. Star Wars should be about hope and adventure. There's nothing adventurous about repeating an entire story twice. That's the opposite of adventure. Seeing things you've never seen before, that's adventure. And it's sad that the critically bashed Phantom Menace still feels more adventurous than this critically praised ridiculous excuse of a movie. Star Wars fans need to have better standards. I can't pretend like I didn't enjoy this movie at all, I like it. I do. But it's not a good movie, and I think more people need to accept that. It's also time for people to start reevaluating the prequels- which, The Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith, specifically, are far superior.

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