Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

December 21, 2015

(Caution: major spoilers below.)

★ ★ (out of five)

“The Force Awakens” wasn’t a good movie. I’d originally intended to point out how it’s just “A New Hope” with better special effects and more grey hair on Harrison Ford, but the writers spent so much time and effort beating that over your head that you would have been sleeping through the movie in the parking lot not to have noticed it. I can understand Disney’s desire to use a tried and tested formula, but I don’t think a spark of originality after waiting thirty years for a sequel is too much to ask.

Some people are pointing to J.J. Abrams’ signature talent of being able to breathe fresh life into a dead husk, minus the depth or wonder that made the original great. I think there’s some of this going on, but The Force Awakens is quite a bit worse than his Star Trek remake. At least the latter came with an original script.

The cameos were fun, but the original actors should’ve left the bulk of the movie to the new generation. Carrie Fisher in particular just wasn’t bringing it, with every one of her spoken lines sounding a mile off-mark.

I had so many other gripes that I boxed them to just what came to me in the first five minutes:

  • After the destruction the Death Star II and their entire capital fleet, the Empire (or its close relative) is once again the predominant force in the galaxy? (Effectively giving us a perfect reset to the beginning of episode IV.) What were the first three movies even for? I want to see a mockumentary on how a rebel insurgency was able to execute some impressive military coups, but failed miserably to establish the “New Republic” as a successful governing body come peacetime, thus allowing the Empire to regain a foothold.
  • No matter where anyone crash lands on Jakku, a big empty planet full of hostile desert, town is only a hop and a skip away (on foot).
  • Were the keys in the Millenium Falcon’s ignition? Why is everything in this universe so easy to steal?
  • Out of all the places in the universe, Anakin’s lightsaber just happens to be located on the same planet that Han Solo drags everyone to for a bar visit. Thank-you, the Force.
  • Upon seeing that Finn has a lightsaber, a stormtrooper decides to abandon his blaster and fight him hand-to-hand with some kind of riot gear. This is in-line with what we know about the stormtroopers’ traditional sense of honor and moral obligation to fight fair. Wait.
  • Demonstrating the important sci-fi soap trope of antagonist inflation, the Starkiller Base is an even bigger, badder, and more expensive version of either Death Star. The Empire didn’t learn their lesson the first two times they lost a decade’s worth of galactic budget to single capital project with a design flaw, but maybe the third time’s the charm.
  • We learn later in the movie that after surviving the TIE fighter crash with Finn, Poe Dameron, who was willing to die to keep the map to Luke out of the First Order’s hands, inexplicably bailed out of his mission to retrieve it and returned to base. Lucky for the Resistance, Rey and Finn picked up the slack for him. Finn is awarded a cool jacket for his trouble.
  • It’s sure lucky for the Resistance that every stormtrooper is fully aware of the Starkiller’s weaknesses and how to destroy it. Find one defector and a dozen or so X-wings, and you too can take down a Starkiller.
  • Kylo Ren may have doubts about whether he’s living up to Vader’s reputation, but he’s doing a magnificent job of following in Hayden Christensen’s footsteps of being a whiny, angsty teenager.
  • Han spends about three and a half seconds figuring out how to bypass the Starkiller’s shield to get the Falcon in. It’s obviously built by the same contractors as both Death Stars.
  • One Stormtrooper captain (Phasma) has the knowhow to permanently disable the Starkiller’s shields in a way that apparently can’t be undone. Even the Death Star II needed an army of stone-wielding anthromorphic raccoons and some log traps to finish the job.
  • And on that subject, Captain Phasma may be the single most extraneous lauded character of the modern age (or at least since Boba Fett). She has cool armor, but contributes nothing throughout the entire duration of the movie.
  • A guy who’s never held a lightsaber before (Finn) can hold his own against a Sith. What happened to Force push/pull/throw/steal/fistbump/anything?
  • A girl who learnt that she was force sensitive the day before (Rey) can defeat a Sith in single combat.
  • After forcing the universe’s most powerful forces to go on a treasure hunt costing hundreds of lives to find him, Luke’s just been hanging out on a nice island looking at the ocean and waiting for someone to hand him a lightsaber. At least he’s got a cool new beard.

We get to end the movie with a nice game of “guess Rey’s heritage”. I’m hoping a secret second twin of Han and Leia in a homage to Jacen and Jaina in the books. Many others guess Luke’s daughter. But given that she’s almost certainly related to somebody, and that somebody was selected by the writers throwing darts at a board while doing tequila shots, the real answer is “who cares”.

The actual mystery of the film is how it’s sitting at 8.8 on IMDB and a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes even though it’s only nominally better than “The Phantom Menace”. Hopefully this is just an aberration caused by the early visiting hordes of diehard fans, and that time will show an appropriate correction.

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was published on December 21, 2015.

Find me on Twitter at @brandur.

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