Oh for the love of god! Of Course there are spoilers! But I am at least giving you the opportunity to tune out now by putting in a filler paragraph followed by a first review paragraph that contains little but musings about George Lucas. So if you don’t want anything spoiled and you read past this point, tough shit. You were warned.
If you’ve read my previous post “My Life With Star Wars”, you know that Star Wars, however much I enjoy the movies, comes with a side order of disappointment. I put that mostly down to circumstance, but also George Lucas’s inability to tell a story. As far as ideas go, the man is a genius. As far as inspiring people to make amazing movies the full force of creative technology behind them, the man is a God.
There is little – if any – doubt that the cultural landscape and the process of movie making changed irrevocably with the advent of Star Wars.
But his skill as a director? Not so good.
So having the series taken over by a guy who can really spin a yarn is a good thing, right? RIGHT??
One thing I don’t particularly want to dwell on here, are the colossal plot holes. It seems grumpy in the extreme to say that part one of a three act play doesn’t wrap everything up neatly. There’s time for that still, so it has the benefit of the doubt.
Of course, even the phrase ‘colossal’ is giving it a gravitas it doesn’t really deserve. The plot was, with the best will in the world, slight at best. All it really seemed to do as a movie we reintroduce the Star Wars Universe and play out exactly as “A New Hope” had done.
We have seen almost everything in The Force Awakens before. Admittedly it wasn’t previously with such verve and panache, but everything that happens in that movie has a direct analogue in the the original trilogy. It wasn’t so much “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” as “Star Wars: A New Hope (re-recorded version).” We deserve more than that.
If you were going to reboot a series, this would be the way to do it, but to call it Episode Seven, when really it’s episode 4 remixed is dishonest and misleading.
It’s laughable that people are demanding spoiler spaces or warning when if you seen Episodes IV, V and VI, you already know the story.
It’s little more than lip service and fanwank. This is even played out in the movie where Kylo Ren isn’t much more than a Darth Vader fanboy. When unmasked, he was basically a nerd with tech. And perhaps hidden tech, why did he keep slapping his legs in that final battle? Was it to make his malfunctioning metal legs work? Anyway, In that respect, he reminded me of Syndrome in The Incredibles, but I’m digressing.
R2D2 shutting himself down for however many years made no sense whatsoever. She had information that was vital to finding Luke and refused to give it up by essentially having a pre-pubescent tantrum. Instead of holding her breath until she went blue – not having to breathe and all that – she shuts herself down. What annoyed me about that was that although it was all of the galaxy except the one bit where Luke was hiding, the sector that was missing was at least a starting place. She hid that information, essentially prolonging the search by years and all because of a strop.
Of course, the thing about a map is contains an indication of a location, not a person. A person can move on. Is the map really what’s happening? It might explain why R2 shuts down, I suppose; maybe Luke wanted to be found at that point? I dunno. It’s all a bit . . . convenient.
All this aside, it’s an absolutely beautiful movie. It’s taken what we know of the old Star Wars universe and made it utterly breathtaking. The TIE fighters coming out of the sun; the water stirring as the X-wings fly over it; the Falcon crashing through the trees. There has never been a Star Wars movie that looked so fantastical and yet so ‘real world’. It’s an absolute joy to watch. Even the destruction of worlds at the hands of the First Order using the Starkiller Base were simply beautiful; never has the sight of billions of lives boiling away into space looked so wonderful!
The art direction is staggering and – being an ex-puppeteer – I could happily have wept at the wonderful puppetry on show.
On the downside, given that this is the third de facto ‘Death Star’ the Empire/First Order have constructed, you would have thought that they might have learned to seal up those nasty little exhaust ports that would allow massive destruction/annihilation to occur should an sort of intelligence fall into the hands of the rebels. They should have been a priority infact and yet . . .
But the thing that really irks me is that the minimal plot is so reliant on coincidence. It’s all so pat that Poe Dameron just happened to be on the same planet as the force sensitive/new jedi who just happens to run into a renegade stormtrooper who just happens to find the Millenium Falcon and then just happen to run into Han Solo and Chewbacca. You might say it was “the will of the force”, I’d say it’s the kind of plot development Hollyoaks might have second thoughts about.
Kylo Ren, was a character who provided most of the annoyance, though. His powers fluctuated and were as strong or weak as the plot demanded. This was a guy who could stop light and blaster bolts, but couldn’t beat the crap out of an untrained fighter wielding a weapon that takes massively skill to use but has only had it for ten minutes. There may be an argument that Rey psychometrically learned a lot about her force powers on touching Luke’s lightsabre – even if it was a bit “The wand picks the wizard” – but that, I think, is pushing it.
Still, there was something comforting about The Force Awakens – which may be the problem. Everything was familiar. In the thirty plus years since the Return of the Jedi, little has changed. I had hoped to be shocked; I had hoped that there would be a seismic shift in the Star Wars universe, but it wasn’t to be. Maybe it will happen in the sequels but at the moment, it’s just treading water and basking in prior glories and again, we deserve more than that.
The cast, though, were magnificent. The new characters were actually a damned sight more convincing than the black hat/white hat tropes of the original movie. They gave nothing less than stellar performances and they will be why I go back and see Episode VIII. They were so convincing that despite a lacklustre plot, I genuinely cared for them. I want to know what happens to them next. I want to know if Rey kickstarts a new Jedi Order and I also want to know about her family (did that baby become Phasma?) I want to know if Finn comes back from his injuries and if he becomes the new Han Solo (please God not the new Lando!) And as for Harrison Ford. Well, he puts in probably the best performance of his career.
There are so many elements that are so hopelessly under-explored (not least Snoke!) that the cast has done a tremendous job in piquing my interest and making me want to see more about their characters, but I hope to God that the sequels will deliver something more that this simultaneously brilliant and disappointing movie.
Most unforgivably, I suppose, is that this movie is all surface gloss, there is nothing here with any depth – well, there is one moment that’s a game changer but it was too little too late. While undoubtedly better than the prequels in terms of promise, characters and sheer chutzpah, it still doesn’t match up to the depth and breadth of the original trilogy. Which is kind of sad.
It might do eventually and I really, really hope that it does but at the moment, disappointment rules.
Was my excitement wasted? No. It just impacted on the surface.
BB-8 was damned cute, though.