There was a moment late in The Force Awakens when, bereft of any new ideas, they have some X-Wings fly down a narrow trench to blast a weak point in an Imperial superweapon and cause it to explode. Now, when we previously saw such antics, there was much tension and drama. It was the climax of the film; the moment when Luke Skywalker used the Force. Here, it lasts for 10 seconds before we move on. There, we did it. Remember when that happened in A New Hope?
That was cool.
What we have here is a movie so afraid to stand on its own that the villain wears a Darth Vader-esque breathing mask apparatus that he doesn’t even need. He wears it because he is so obsessed with Darth Vader’s power that he wants nothing more than to be him. The villain is essentially a deranged fan of the Original Trilogy. He’s actually more than that, but we’ll save the spoilers for later. Wait a minute, nobody reads my reviews anyway. Let’s just get to them now!
SPOILERS, IN CASE YOU GIVE A FUCK
The villain of the film, Kylo Ren, is actually the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia. His real name is Ben Solo. Now, my memory is a bit hazy. I remembered the bit about Han Solo’s son turning bad from the Star Wars novels and comic books, but the name seemed off. Sure enough, after looking it up, Ben was the name of Luke Skywalker’s son in the novels and comic books. You know, the same novels and comic books that Disney struck from the record so they could branch out in exciting new directions!
For example, in the old video games and whatnot, the remnants of the Empire were called the Remnant. Or, at least, that’s how I remember it from Star Wars: Dark Forces III: Jedi Knight II. Here, though, it’s called the First Order. Why? Well, this way, Disney didn’t have to pay the guys who wrote all those novels and comic books back in the 90s. We need to maximize that profit! It’s also why they don’t have Luke Skywalker speak at the end of the movie. When he showed up, and the music kept blaring over his visage, all I could think was, “Is he going to say anything?” Of course not; speaking roles require more payment for actors. Anyway, Mark Hamill had more lines in Kingsman: The Secret Service than in the fucking Star Wars sequel. Jesus Christ!
So, nobody involved cares about the novels that covered the events after Return of the Jedi. It’s a brand new story, for no real reason. Is it any surprise that the movie has issues? They just don’t respect the classics. When you were in high school and reading Star Wars novels, JJ Abrams was out at parties. When you were playing through the Jedi Knight games, JJ Abrams was having sex. See? This is why the movie’s all fucked up.
Also, why is the new Empire called the First Order? Wouldn’t it be the Second Order? Disney, are you retarded?
Anyway, in case you missed it, they made another Star Wars movie. It stars some girl as a junk scavenger stranded on the desert planet Jakku, and some guy as a Stormtrooper who defects from the Remnant. Wait, I mean the First Order. Did the Remnant become the First Order? What happened to Thrawn? Why didn’t they just film the Thrawn Trilogy? What the fuck?
Guys, I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish this review. I can’t even finish a paragraph. Oh God, what am I doing?
The first half to two-thirds of this movie is pretty enjoyable. It lacks the Star Wars feeling of the other movies, presumably because of the lack of any involvement by George Lucas. There are no old-fashioned wipes for scene transitions that I noticed, and the environments, creatures, and overall universe lacks a lot of the obsessive polish that the other movies had. Still, it starts out as a nice enough tale set in the whole post-ROTJ era of the Expanded Universe. You know, the Expanded Universe that Disney has said is no longer canonical because they’re replacing it with this film.
At around the halfway point, the girl‘s destiny starts to be revealed, the villain’s nature is revealed, and everything starts to collapse under the weight of that most American of institutions: Bullshit. It just becomes too much. The Remnant has a new Death Star! It’s the Death Star 3.0, and a handy hologram demonstrates that it’s like 10 times the size of the last one! Shit just got real! There’s a fairly bizarre sequence where Rey has an acid flashback after touching Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber for the first time. The pacing is all fucked up in and around that sequence; the entire “new Cantina” bit and subsequent assault seems like it was rewritten so many times that nobody could tell the difference between the erasure marks and the pencil marks anymore. Also, the trash compactor scene from the original film is verbally referenced near the end of the film. Hey, remember that time when Han and friends fell into the trash compactor on the first Death Star? Han does! Let’s just rip off things rather than think of anything new. It’s easier.
You know, it’s like poetry. It rhymes.
I’ve got to say that I have a lot of respect for George Lucas. I believe I previously shared my thoughts on this matter in my old Starcrash review, but I feel like this movie has helped me to truly come in from the rain. I feel like I’ve won the battle over myself. I love George Lucas. Whatever else you want to say about the prequels, they were his movies. Sure, they would have benefited from another writer and director to smooth over Lucas’ limitations, but they were full of amazing ideas. George Lucas almost seems determined to undermine your expectations with those films. More than anything else, he does not seem to want to repeat himself. You want Anakin to start as a teenager like Luke (and Rey in this film)? Fuck you, he’s a 10 year old. You want the bulk of the narrative to focus on Obi-Wan and Anakin fighting in the Clone Wars? Fuck you, that happens between Episodes II and III. You note that the presentation of Anakin’s turn to dark side, complete with child murder and force-choking his pregnant wife, makes all the warm remembrances that Obi-Wan has of Anakin completely nonsensical? Fuck you, it’s Lucas’ movie. It’s Lucas’ world, and we’re just watching it.
I’ve come to realize that George Lucas doesn’t give a shit. So why should I give a shit? If he doesn’t care, then I’m not going to care. I realize now that Lucas was just having fun making the kind of 50’s B-movie you would find on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Those movies weren’t renowned for their coherent plots. Lucas doesn’t give a shit about the details because to him, it’s just a B-movie. It’s a film of the moment, to be watched with the mind of a dreaming child, not to be nitpicked and analyzed with pesky things like logic. It’s Fire Maidens From Outer Space with a megabudget. And finally, after all of these years, I get it. No wonder George Lucas has finally had it with everybody. He’s just washed his hands of it and moved on.
What I’m trying to say is that George Lucas is kind of like your dad. Sure, whenever the topic of Black Lives Matter comes up, he makes you cringe as he rants about how “those people” are “out of control”, but he’s still your dad. You can’t really get mad at this stuff. If he didn’t say these things, he’d be a completely different person. The part where Jar Jar Binks steps in animal droppings is George Lucas sharing his thoughts about Jesse Jackson. You just have to kind of phase out of reality and pass these moments by. I mean, it’s a free country. We have the right to rant about African-Americans, and we have the right to make a movie with a shitty script. It’s all good, man. I cast no judgments.
Anyway, the prequels were batshit crazy, but at least I felt a human connection of some sort. They had a soul behind them. Sure, George Lucas wasn’t the same man that he was way back when (i.e., prior to his divorce…) but he was making the movies his way. He didn’t give a fuck. He was, in the parlance of our times, straight gangsta.
When you think of JJ Abrams, do you think “straight gangsta”? Fuck no.
So here we are: Star Wars reduced to the basest level of corporate product. Nobody really gives a shit anymore, so they’re just going to remake A New Hope and see if they can make all of the nerds ejaculate in their pants. Well, I’m not ejaculating in my pants, god dammit! I already did that yesterday!
If the prequels were a case of interesting ideas and stories being undermined by stilted direction and, uh, less than exemplary writing, The Force Awakens is a case of the opposite. Here, the actors are well-directed, and the writing is fairly good aside from a few “splicing in elements of another draft” moments, but the overall story just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It’s perfectly fine in the first half, but then they try to make it epic, and it falters. They lean way too hard on nostalgia rather than opening up and being their own film. The sad part is that I don’t think it was necessary. The film was perfectly fine without all of these connections. The corporate suits want to play it safe, but this isn’t a time to play it safe. This is a time to reassert Star Wars‘ dominance in the cinematic landscape! Like the fortune cookie says, Go Big or Go Home. Wait, maybe that was Del Taco…
Nothing sums up this film more than seeing Princess Leia. I know Carrie Fisher’s had her battles with cocaine and alcohol (and whatever else), so I’m not judging. Lord knows I’ve had my owns issues with alcohol. Still, I’m not sure I needed my childhood memories of Leia tainted by her busted up looking face. Again, no judgment! I’m just stating empirical facts here. But, in all honesty, I felt like I could see her dying with my own eyes. I thought this was supposed to be an upbeat Christmas film? Sheesh!
You know what else is a downer? Don’t scroll down if you don’t want the twist spoiled for you:
HAN SOLO FUCKING DIES
That’s right, Kylo Ren (Han Solo’s son) straight up murders him in cold blood after Han tries to talk him down. He is cast off the side of a tall bridge, to fall into the void of an imploding Death Planet. Sure, it’s what Harrison Ford always wanted for Han, but why did it have to be like this? Also, how many planets is JJ Abrams going to blow up in his movies? They don’t grow on trees, you know.
So anyway, that’s a bummer. But what pissed me off the most about this movie was that they have Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber in it, and it’s blue. Now, didn’t he lose the blue lightsaber in Cloud City? Didn’t he have to build the new green lightsaber for Return of the Jedi? Where in pluperfect hell did he get the original blue lightsaber? JJ, are you fucking this up?
Maybe this was a great movie, though. Maybe I’m just dead inside. Still, I’m not sure this new “official” Expanded Universe is going to be as interesting as the old one. Apparently, they’re making a movie about stealing the plans of the original Death Star. They already had this as the first level in the original Dark Forces game, but whatever. It’s going to be an exciting new take on the established mythos! It’s going to be great.
It’s going to be great. It’s going to be great.
Anyway, on a scale from Fant4stic to Sicario, I give it an Age of Ultron.