Friday, January 15, 2016
Star Wars: A Discussion (Episode V)
The answer is probably way more complicated than it ought to be, but it is what it is.
So let's start with the good...
Oh! There will be spoilers. Probably a lot of them.
[As it turns out, all but one spoiler has been pushed to the next post.]
It's a good movie. A very good movie. I say that not as an evaluation of actually quality but in its ability to make me want to watch it again. [I've seen it three times and want to see it again.] And, hey, it's Star Wars. It's full of action, non-stop action, in fact. The special effects are amazing, as you would expect.
Probably, the best thing about the movie is Adam Driver. It was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser for me when he got cast, though less of one when I found out it was as the villain. He has an interesting intensity about him, and it worked really well as Kylo Ren. He's able to do a lot with his voice and gave a much more nuanced performance than anyone in a Star Wars movie other than, perhaps, Ewan McGregor. Plus, his height made his stalking-walk very effective.
Finn and Rey are great additions.
I think it must be difficult to convey emotion while wearing stormtrooper armor, but John Boyega manages it. He is equal parts enthusiasm and naivete... well, when he's not being freaked out by what's going on around him, that is. I liked his performance, and I like the character.
Rey is great. She is now both my daughter's and my wife's favorite character in Star Wars (okay, well, my daughter may still like both R2 and BB-8 better) AND she is my oldest son's favorite character. Yes, even more than Luke Skywalker (though my son has been a devoted follower of the Empire for years, now, anyway). Daisy Ridley is good in the role.
The Force Awakens is actually as close you can probably get to the "perfect" fan movie for Star Wars. Except not for actual fans in the actual meaning of the word. Most people who call themselves a "fan" of something don't actually mean that; what they mean is that they like the thing. Actual fans invest themselves into the thing they're a fan of, hence the origin of the word from "fanatic." So, sense everyone gets to be a fan these days just for liking a thing, this movie is perfect. It's perfect for all of those people who saw the movies in the theater almost 40 years ago and thought it was great but, then, didn't think about Star Wars anymore until the prequels came out, which they hated, because what they wanted was another experience like A New Hope. The Phantom Menace was not that experience, but The Force Awakens is.
The Force Awakens achieves this by being almost the exact same movie. Except faster and more intense. This is a point of conflict for me. On the one hand, it is a fun movie but, then, I have to ask, "What's the point?" Of course, I know the point: Disney wanted to make a buttload of money, and they have succeeded admirably. But, seriously, from a story standpoint, why tell the same story again? From that perspective, I sort of feel gypped, because I already watched the one where they have to take down the shields so that they can destroy the giant planet-killing machine.
Which brings me, obliquely, to the major issue I have with Force: It feels like a movie about Star Wars but not quite like it is actually Star Wars. Honestly, effectively, that's what it is. The Force Awakens is a piece of officially sanctioned fan fiction. The fact that movie moves so quickly contributes to this feeling. So, while the non-stop action is attractive to the larger audience, the non-stop action also rushes past any feeling of being Star Wars. It does not "feel the Force." Ever. It's the lack of originality that really does it. The movie feels most like the kind of story a kid would make up to use his action figures with and destroy an EVEN BIGGER AND MORE POWERFUL Death Star. (Okay, there was your spoiler.)
Don't get me wrong; this doesn't make it a bad movie. It's an Abrams movie, and Abrams knows how to do big action and all of that. And fast. Very fast. So it's good. And fun. A good and fun bit of fan fiction that Disney has made into actual Star Wars canon. Maybe that's not a bad thing. I don't really know. All I know is that I wish Disney had actually held true to Lucas' story like they said they were going to do when all of this began. But, well, you can't stop them from following the scent of money, I suppose. Clearly, they have taken the "quicker, easier, more seductive" path.
Next post we'll talk about BB-8 and why he exists.