Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Star Wars The Force Awakens
The new Star Wars movie is here and as expected it's big on excitement. For the first time in many years- a new Star Wars film. But is it a good movie? Well that depends on what you're looking for. I've seen it and honestly, I was disappointed. I went in with my expectations firmly in check and I was still disappointed. It felt like Star Wars in a way, but it's also hard to recapture that lightning in a bottle. It's fine, I suppose, but the plot holes are pretty big and it feels... forced. They tried so hard to make this feel like Star Wars, and for me it only marginally worked.
First the good news. There's lots of action, humor and character moments and the new leads do a great job. The franchise seems in good hands with them at the helm (and let's face it, as nice as it was to see the Big three again, they're not getting any younger). It's time to pass the torch... and I think that was done. The pace is frenetic with a ton of action scenes, and lots of call-outs to the original trilogy (maybe too many?). It's a fine line between nostalgia and blazing a new trail in an established and much loved world- and that leads me to my problem with the film.
This movie is set thirty years after Return of the Jedi, and it just seems like the status quo is the same as it was thirty years ago. Leia is still fighting (a general now instead of a princess) and instead of a rebellion we have a Resistance. What happened in the intervening years? We don't get any information on that.
Not only that, but this film is just like the original movie. Same story beats. Loner living on a desert planet, finds droid with secret info, flees bad guys, goes to good guys, fights super weapon. It's Star Wars (1977) all over again. There's nothing new. I was excited to hear that J.J. Abrams and Larry Kasdan were collaborating on the script- Kasdan after all wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi- it was in good hands right? Well it's basically a remix/ mash-up of the original three movies. Many reviews have noted this but I was shocked how derivative it really is.
It's a little shocking to me that they couldn't come up with anything better, more original. But didn't Abrams do the same thing with Star Trek? He rebooted that franchise with younger actors but revisited many original series points (Khan anyone?). I was skeptical of Abrams taking on Star Wars for that very reason, but in interviews he said The Force Awakens was not a nostalgia trip. Well, considering how similar it is to Star Wars I'm not sure I agree. It feels like Star Wars 2.0.
The other problem I have is the Big Three. I think it's outrageous, frankly, that Luke Skywalker doesn't show up until the end. I was afraid of this, as that story point has been leaked months ago, but I was hoping it was wrong. Nope. Star Wars is the story of the Skywalker family, primarily Luke- he defeated the Emperor and redeemed his father, after all- and it would be nice to see Luke again. Instead he is introduced at the last minute and we have to wait for the next movie. I still can't believe they did that. Is it staged effectively? Sure- cool scene. But I hate that story choice.
Lastly, Han and Leia. One can be forgiven for assuming that they would be together after Return of the Jedi, right? And apparently they were, for a time. But seriously- Han has been gone all this time? Harrison Ford was fine I guess but he just seemed crotchety, for want of a better term. Again it just feels forced. And Leia has nothing to do here. Threepio and Artoo are hardly in the movie, and BB8- while cute- is obviously the droid of the hour, relegating the other two to basically cameo roles. I think it's interesting that when Threepio speaks for the first time the crowd cheered- too bad he's hardly there.
So this movie could have been so much more. It could have had a better story, frankly. All my concerns proved justified, based on the leaks, and I was so hoping to be wrong. My fears about Abrams taking over the franchise came true. So disappointing... now we move on to Rian Johnson, a director I don't know much about, and Episode VIII. Hopefully that movie will be somewhat original based on what Abrams did here.
Star Wars The Force Awakens is a welcome return to the galaxy far, far away but it could have been so, so much more.