Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an OK movie that represents the death of artistic vision in cinema. I hope this doesn’t come off as jaded because it’s not supposed to (too late). It’s a decent movie but really when broken down I think it’s awful. As in, it is an ambitionless action movie that did exactly what it had to do to appeal to audiences in 2015. That is all. The film sought to prove nothing, and it proved nothing. It just showed that JJ Abrams is a competent action director and that the screenwriters knew where to toss in an action scene or a nostalgic beat to distract from the thin, thin, terrible storyline. The film comes across as Part I of a trilogy but on its own it’s just like Jurassic World – a pretty good spectacle that decays with time and months later seems pretty average.
The prequels, for all their faults, had ambition. George Lucas sought to portray the death of a democracy and the rise of an empire, and the political manipulation that leads to the death of freedom and the end of a heroic institution of wise spiritual leaders. Had the writing/acting been any good, these movies could have been classics for the age of oligarchy, subversive and masterful blockbusters. They fell short but frankly that ambition is more respectable than simply delivering the action-nostalgia package of Episode VII that a robot could have cooked up in a lab.
I liked Kylo Ren. I liked Finn. John Boyega and ‘Darth Millennial’ were the best characters in the movie. Other than that, there isn’t much to say. Rey has a huge amount of promise but so far they haven’t developed her quirks as a human being enough to make her feel fully realized. Finn, like Luke, is likable because he sucks. Luke sucked for two movies. He got saved at every turn. But A New Hope was an adventure movie, a Sunday morning sci-fi serial executed with heart on the big screen. Force Awakens is an action movie. Is Star Wars really supposed to be straight-up action like this? I don’t think so. I think the overstuffed action really gets in the way of an actual story. Of course, this is intentional, because Force Awakens is a product and a business decision and the impetus for its existence was not creative in the slightest.
“Green-light the movie.”
“Uh…do we have any ideas?”
“We’ll come up with some.”
They did. They came up with Finn and Kylo Ren. The rest is action fodder or shameless nostalgia.
Does anyone really care about what Han was up to at age 70? I don’t. He was originally supposed to die in Return of the Jedi so his death 30 years later fell flat for me. He survived the original trilogy. He won. In this movie we find out that he dies as an old man later. Yeah, and so what? Yeah, he gets killed by his own son, but we have no idea what their relationship even was. Their relationship is paper-thin: ‘He was seduced but he’s my son, be good again my boy’ and ‘Dark side wins’ as it obviously would, because having Ren switch sides at this point is an impossibility because then there would be no SABER FIGHT. Star Wars movies can only build up to a saber fight or the blowing up of a Death Star. These are not unpredictable films. This movie featured both. It had Starkiller Base, the THIRD massive base in these movies. Why have it again? WHY? Just to have X-Wings? Just to blow up a planet? This spectacle means nothing. The Finn/Rey/Kylo fight was excellent and was all the movie needed. The Starkiller Base was an afterthought tossed in because the screenwriters need a B action finale scene to cut to. Fuck this uninspired repetitive film-making.
Some people have called Rey a Mary-Sue. Some ideologues have called these people sexist. I don’t really care either way. Rey is a bland character who can handle every challenge tossed her way. Unless you think this somehow empowers every woman, (which is a bizarre idea) this really isn’t interesting. Finn is a better character because you get the idea that he’s raw, he’s not skilled, he can actually lose. I admit I loved the scene where they find the ‘junk’ Millennium Falcon but such a ridiculous chase scene right after? My eyes glazed over during it. I know they won’t die. I know the falcon won’t be shot down. It went on too long. And the scene where Rey looks at that old woman scrubbing a machine part, as if the screenwriter was screaming at us: “REY WILL BECOME ALONE, POOR AND OLD UNLESS ADVENTURE CALLS”. This scene was stupidly overdone.
The whole Maz Kanata canteen part was also bland and uninspiring. It revealed the pacing of the movie for what it was – go here, empire bombs, go here, meet Han Solo, pointless action scene, exposition, then empire bombs, then Starkiller base. Maz Kanata is no Yoda, her visual design is not that interesting. I loved the Kylo Ren temper tantrum thing being played for comedy though. The scene where the Stormtroopers just turn away after they hear him raging is pretty funny.
Remember when Finn wanted to abandon everyone cause ‘he had to escape the First Order’ and ‘this wasn’t his fight’? This was pointless drama to fill pages. We saw you in the trailer with that lightsaber, we know you aren’t going anywhere. This scene in the cantina where he’s supposedly going to run away is stupid. Yes, it fits his character, but it was just such a ‘movie’ subplot to write in for 8 minutes.
The Nazi design on the First Order looks nice but Jesus Christ, these people have no imagination.
“DERRRR BAD GUYS WHAT WE MODEL THEM AFTER?”
“DERRRRR NAZIS!” It’s just so basic and reveals the absolute lack of political ambition in this movie. Who runs the galaxy? The First Order? The ‘Resistance’? I have no idea. it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that X-Wings come in and fight shit.
Poe Dameron sucks. He’s ‘snarky plucky character no.99’ pulled right out of the gears of Hollywood. They needed a pilot character, so they had to give him a couple of cooked-up lines to make him seem cool right at the start. “Are you talking first or me? I can’t understand you with that mask”. I never saw him in the promotion, so I don’t care about him. He won’t be important. And indeed, he isn’t important. He could’ve just died and I wouldn’t have really minded, though I’m sure he’ll have stuff to do in VIII and IX. But same goes for Captain Phasma. It’s okay that they’re being built up for bigger things but Dameron in particular just felt so phony to me. Why do we need an X-Wing pilot? Because Star Wars consists of ‘force’, ‘sabers’, ‘X-wing’, and ‘Death Star’. You need all this or it’s just an average sci-fi action movie. But it’s so easy to see through.
Can we have a quiet moment with Finn and Rey? Oh no, something on the Falcon broke! Quiet moment? Oh no, we’re getting abducted! Oh, it’s actually Han Solo! Quiet moment? No, we’re gonna throw in a downright AWFUL scene that felt like a Star Trek deleted scene, featuring the guys from The Raid getting eaten by tentacle monsters. Why? So we can have an action scene instead of pretending this movie has any heart. Oh look, Finn accidentally activated the alien Chess table. Remember that?
Why leave a key resistance fighter with a single Stormtrooper, Finn, who has never even seen battle? Why leave a single Stormtrooper to guard a known force user? Plot, plot, plot. Why would Phasma not go out with integrity? Is she a coward? Why would she give up the whole base just for own survival? Unless she’s intentionally being portrayed as a coward.
The planets blowing up was well-executed but it’s just so stupid. Why are the First Order so evil? What do they seek to accomplish? They’re an Empire repeat but with less power. At the end of this movie their whole army gets blown up. What threat do they possess? Oh, Kylo Ren lived. So now Rey needs to train with Luke! Why? So we can get another lightsaber battle!!!
I admit this movie has set up a lot of promising threads for Episodes VIII and IX. I’ll be interested to see if Luke can be a sincere presence of wisdom like Yoda was in V. But in the end, Force Awakens is an average and copy+pasted sci-fi action film with Star Wars paint on it. It was predictable, safe, satisfying, a product of corporate fear to churn out a product with pop appeal but no ambition. Should that be applauded? No. The era of the commercial visionary filmmaker is dead. There won’t be another Quentin Tarantino, or even another Christopher Nolan. Hollywood knows it’s in its final years of a monopoly on mass-released films, to be usurped by streaming and web content, so they’re terrified. They won’t take risks, they’ll churn out products, rewritten over and over again without vision.
This film is not special. It is so middle of the road. It hides its lack of ambition and heart with constant action, rather than allowing action to reflect the characters, as it so perfectly did in Episodes IV and V, and the masterful final battle between Luke and Vader in VI. We won’t reach those heights again. Everyone knows this, so…why are these films being made? Oh right, Disney has to make good on an investment. I’m not being cynical, this is just the truth of things.