Spoiler: My (Spoiler) Thoughts on (Spoiler) Star Wars: The Force (Spoiler) Awakens
Posted by Alan Edwards
Here is the non-spoiler portion of this post: There is a movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I have seen it.
This is the end of the non-spoiler portion of the post. Seriously, everything that comes after this will spoil everything, including movies that haven’t even been written yet. That’s how spoilery this shit is. After this, if you see something that ruins a crucial Jabba the Hutt related moment in the movie for you, that’s entirely your fault and not mine.
OK, now that the current state of internet spoiler warnings have been dispensed with, here are my thoughts on the latest Star Wars movie. First, here is the TL;DR version: Better than the prequels, not as good as the originals, awesome in some places, bad in others.
Now, time for the JCWHEGFP (Jesus Christ Will He Ever Get to the Fucking Point) version.
As a kid, I loved Star Wars. Fucking loved it. I wanted to see the movies every minute of every day, wanted every Kenner toy (still got my Darth Vader carrying case), and got excited every time I heard the 20th Century Fox fanfare on TV because there was a chance it would be Star Wars. I loved it so much that I completely avoided every shred of the Expanded Universe, because fuck that. I didn’t need to read shitty novels from authors-for-hire about someone else’s vision, full of really terrible names (unfortunately, that part stuck in the new movies. The only new characters’ name I could remember in FA was Finn, because it’s an actual name and it was a story point. Everyone else was Main Girl or Pilot Guy or Darth Nose or Blond Hitler) and half-baked plots.
So I was excited for the prequels. I saw Phantom Menace with a bunch of friends who cheered and clapped and laughed throughout the film while I went from eager to concerned to shocked to unsure. They left the theater full of praise and gushing about the movie and when they asked me what I thought I said, “I don’t think I liked it”, my tone questioning and disbelieving. These people will tell you now that they hated it immediately. They are lying. The prequel backlash took a little time to catch hold.
Anyway, I hate the prequels as much as I loved the originals. They are poorly written, poorly acted, poorly directed, and poorly remembered, for very good reason. They were unnecessary (as most prequels are – they are talking about making Hunger Games prequels. Why? We know Panem exists, however absurd the world is [seriously, from a strictly economic point of view, none of it makes sense, which is why the first two books/movies work because they involve actual Hunger Gaming while the last book/movies are terrible because the premise of the world only exists as a backdrop and reason for the Games to exist, so trying to examine the world outside the Game only served to show how paper-thin the premise is], so taking us from some point to the beginning of the Hunger Games movies serves only to make some people a lot of money at the expense of everyone else).
Of course, this is not my Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2 review, but if you’re curious, it is this: what a complete pile of shit.
Anyway, I hate everything about the prequels, especially how small they made the galaxy seem. Making Anakin be from anywhere besides Tatooine and having him not be the builder of R2 and Threepio (seriously, WTF was that anyway?) would have helped some, but those things are turds through and through, except for Ewan MacGregor who is awesome in every way.
OK, enough, now about Star Wars: The Force Awakens (a title that in no way makes any sense, unless it was supposed to be The Force Awakens in Rey [which sounds like a soft-core Star Wars porn], because I’m pretty sure I saw some movies that took place before this one that had the Force in it, but anyway).
Here is what I liked about the movie:
The new characters (mostly): I really liked Finn and Rey and BB-8. I was interested in their stories, I thought they were incredibly well-acted, fun, interesting, the whole thing. Finn’s exuberance was fun and needed in what turned out to be a bleak movie. Rey was kick-ass, even though they tried a little too hard to make her that way (a running theme throughout) – like the scene on the Falcon that played out thusly:
Rey: Some idiot put a converter on the Falcon.
Han: WTF n00b. That’ll mess up everything.
Rey: I know, right?
(Falcon fails to work when needed. Rey and Han scramble to figure out what’s wrong. Everything works again and Rey holds up a wire)
Han: What did you do?
Rey: I bypassed the stupid piece that we already discussed was a bad idea and was messing things up.
(Han looks amazed and in awe of the mechanical genius as he clearly never in a million years would have thought to do this)
BB-8 was awesome. The fact that it was a practical effect made all the difference, crafting a presence and weight that no CGI construct could. These three were awesome. In fact, they were so strong that I said to my good friend, Sir Barrington, who just happens to be the biggest Star Wars fan in this galaxy, that I thought this movie would have been better with just the new folks and none of the old folks (save Luke). I stand by that.
The practical effects: Like I said, BB-8 was delightful in every way. The thumbs-up was my biggest moment of joy in the film. The practical effects stood out from the overly-CGIness of the other effects in that they looked like they were really there, since they were, as opposed to the CGI things that looked like they weren’t actually there, which they weren’t.
Kylo Ren, Helmeted Version: Cool voice, nicely menacing, an intriguing unknown character. I loved seeing him rage out – that’s what I think of when I think embracing the Dark Side. (See below for Kylo Ren, Unhelmeted Version)
Jakku or Jakuu, or Jacku, or whatever: The place looked awesome – the wrecks everywhere, the sand blowing around, all that shit – the massive scale of everything was impressive. If Anakin had at least been from Jakuu so it made some semblance of sense to hide Luke on Tatooine, the prequels would have been improved by at least 10%.
Here’s what I thought was meh:
The story: Rebels go after a base that houses a powerful weapon. A fight ensues. A weak point is found and the enemy is blown up. I have a feeling I’ve seen this before. Han even says “These things always have a weak point”. This was one of the film’s weak points. I didn’t feel any tension during the movie.
The Original Trilogy characters, except Han and Luke: Like I said above, the film would have been better without the OT characters. R2 was already upstaged by BB-8 and sat there like a lump. C3PO was on-screen long enough to be annoying and point out that ZOMG HE HAS A RED ARM NOW BUT DON’T ASK ABOUT IT BECAUSE NO TIME. Seriously, who gives a fuck that his arm is red? I’m sure I can buy the comic book series or book that tells the harrowing story of How Threepio’s Arm Was Made Red. I just don’t see the point. Chewie was OK, but he was conveniently injured and shoved aside for part of it and didn’t do much (shooting Stormtroopers is not exactly thrilling stuff. Literally everyone in these movies does that). Leia was, well, more on her in the Han section below. Basically, the old characters were there to remind us that they – at best – had been replaced, and see below for the At Worst section.
Pilot Poe: He is described as the Rebel’s best pilot. He says he is a pilot. He is a pilot. That is pretty much the extent of this character. He did have a good exchange with Finn when he gave the former Stormtrooper his name, which elevates him to Meh status, because otherwise he’s a who-cares-character. I wondered why he was so thin character-wise, then I learned that he was supposed to die but after the actor was bummed JJ Abrams added him back on the back end of the movie. “Yeah, I woke up and was like OK I guess I’ll somehow manage to leave the planet even though there was supposed to be some problem with leaving easily but anyway I’m here.” Meh.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Captain Plasma: The Stormtrooper with Chrome Armor! That is literally the best thing you could say about this character. I’m assuming that she’s actively working for the Rebellion – er, sorry Resistance – because she’s truly awful at her job. She gets a gun put to her head and threatened into disabling the shields that apparently protect the whole planet. Why in the world would a high-ranking member of the Empire – err, excuse me, The First Order – allow themselves to die to save their side when they can just give up and probably die anyway? She’s not dead, of course, because she’s supposed to be cool, but she definitely was a shiny pile of poop in this one.
Kylo Ren, Unhelmeted Version: Wow, his menace dropped off a fucking cliff when I saw his face. Intimidating he is not. Darth Dudebro was not what I expected. I still don’t know why he was called Ben (not like Han knew the guy well or Leia ever knew him when he was Ben, but instead of naming him Lando or Luke or Anakin or anything they went with Ben. Huh. OK) but he seemingly willfully took the name Kylo Ren. Star Wars names like Jacen are terrible, and so is this one. When they referenced the Knights of Ren all I could think of were the Squires of Stimpy. There is a reason they left Vader’s mask on until he was dying.
Snoke: Again, dumb name. Full of menace this name is not. And don’t get me wrong, I love Andy Serkis, but Smoke looked like Gollum and the Emperor had a baby. The facial, and especially the mouth, movements were too recognizable as Gollum’s. He is fail.
The First Order: When I referenced the Trying Way Too Hard earlier, I was also thinking of the First Order. The only thing they needed to make their point more obvious is to add a little moustache to Blond Hitler (formerly a Weasley Twin!), and then cut from the film to a live shot of JJ Abrams sitting in a chair earnestly leaning forward to say, “Hey, guys, I’m making a comparison to the Nazis in this scene.” By the time Hitler’s stupid speech ended, the point was made, but when the Stormtroopers did the Nazi salute my wife and I both busted out laughing. Real subtle, JJ. I wasn’t sure I was picking up what you were laying down.
Here is the worst thing about the film:
Han Solo was my favorite character in the OT. He was snarky, wise-cracking, funny, roguish, handsome – he was everything I aspired to be. He was awesome. He grew through the trilogy, going from scoundrel to reluctant hero to full-on general leading the ground assault on the key point to the entire Rebellion. He grew and changed, fell in love with an equally bad-ass woman, and really turned into someone awesome. His arc was the best arc.
Then this movie came along, and made him a fucking loser.
Seriously, he’s a fucking loser. He’s a shit father whose son is a rampaging murderer. He’s a shit husband who separates from his wife to roam the galaxy as a shit smuggler. He’s such a loser that he can’t even find the fucking Millennium Falcon, because he’s such a loser that it was stolen from him. He’s a shell of himself, with everything great about him taken away, and he’s right back where he started in the OT except overwhelmingly more pathetic and worthless. It’s like having a sequel to the Lord of the Rings where Aragorn is a bum wandering around the forest looking for his sword. I find it an affront.
As one of my favorite internet writer’s Rob Bricken put it, “The Force Awakens has destroyed Luke, Leia, and Han’s happy ending.” He’s right. Go back and watch the end of Return of the Jedi now. Watch them celebrate the defeat of the Empire, knowing that Luke will do such a shitty job of being a Jedi Master that he gets his students killed and gives rise to a new Sith wannabe, his own fucking nephew at that, and instead of dealing with what happens he just fucking leaves until the nephew kills his best friend. Knowing that Leia will be alone, leading a Resistance against a new foe because what else does she have since her family is gone, stuck listening to fucking Threepio do nothing, abandoned by husband, brother, and son. Knowing that Han will be reduced to a sad pathetic husk of a once great character, ineffective and unwanted and unmourned. As Bricken says, “There’s no silver lining here, no way to spin it – our heroes, the ones I grew up with, spent most of their adult lives alone, in anguish.” It makes no sense to me to walk back the growth of characters in a story, to do away with it, in furtherance of someone else’s story. It’s poor writing.
I don’t hate the movie. I don’t really like it, either.
BB-8 was the shit though. Somebody needs to buy me one of dems.