Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens



Despite the critical acclaim it has received (even from trusted friends), I went into Star Wars: The Force Awakens with only one thought: “I have a bad feeling about this.” So it would not be accurate to say that I went away disappointed. But it would be accurate to say that I consider J.J. Abrams' version of Star Wars a major disappointment. 

You have to understand that in spite of all the flaws in the original Star Wars film (e.g. some wooden acting and inane dialogue) I loved that film so much that on the day I first saw it, I went to the noon screening and stayed in the theatre for all four screenings. It was utter magic for me, especially the first half of the film with Alec Guinness, who was wonderful. It was the perfect epic adventure and the perfect enactment of Joseph Campbell’s archetypal hero’s journey at exactly the point in time (I was a very young man) that I needed it. It was also gorgeous to watch and an absolute delight to listen to (i.e. John Williams’ score). I have seen that Star Wars film about 35 times and it remains my second-favourite film of all time.

While, unlike the critics, I didn’t like The Empire Strikes Back as much as the first film, it did have Yoda and Dagobah, which were also magical. Things generally went downhill from there as far as Star Wars films were concerned, though I have a soft spot for Revenge of the Sith. But knowing that Abrams was also a big fan of the original film, I did have hope that maybe he could inject some real class into Lukas’s brilliant concepts. Sigh.

Note: Rather than write a vague spoiler-free review and then come back to the review a month from now, I decided to write this review with some details that would qualify as minor spoilers (number 4 on the second list below might even be called a major spoiler, but we all knew it was going to happen, which is one of the film's many flaws). So if you have not yet watched The Force Awakens, you may want to stop reading at this point and come back later.

So, what I liked about The Force Awakens: 1) the fact that the hero was a mysterious young woman this time and that she’s more skilled than Luke; 2) the overall acting quality (esp. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Harrison Ford and Adam Driver),which was the best of the entire series; 3) the overall dialogue, also the best of the series; 4) the character of Maz; 5) Harrison Ford (and Han and Chewbacca); 6) Max von Sydow’s cameo; 7) some of the Kylo Ren character; 8) BB-8; 9) the way Finn refused to shoot and the way his character develops; 10) the last thing Han Solo does in the film; 11) the return to the feel of the original film.

What I didn’t like about The Force Awakens: 1) the endless violent action, with much more shooting than in any of the previous films; 2) the incredible lack of originality in the plot, as if we needed to watch the same film again; 3) the First Order Nazis; 4) the much greater sense of incredulity at the way a handful of resistance fighter planes and the three-person crew of the Millennium Falcon could, with almost no time to plan or act, bring down the greatest technological achievement ever created, which should not have had a weak spot or should have been defended by a fleet of thousands of ships, because any power that can produce the weapon should have no trouble amassing such a fleet; 5) the clever nods to the original film that weren’t so clever (e.g. the garbage compactor? Really?); 6) the way Finn had no trouble shooting as long as it was for the good guys; 7) the fact that a strong lead role for a woman has to come with the ability to be as violent as any man; 8) the general lack of magic, which only the first two Star Wars films (IV & V) possessed; 9) the lacklustre cinematography (probably caused by making it for 3D) and score; 10) did I mention the endless shooting?

The bottom line is that, thanks to that overwhelming violent action (AGAIN!!!), I found The Force Awakens mostly boring instead of entertaining and kept waiting for the magic moments that never came (the encounter between Maz and Rey came closest but was far too brief). The last scene involving Han Solo had a different kind of magic, and was the best thing in the film for me. So, again I must say sorry to Gareth (whose reflections on this film I mostly agree with, but with a different overall result) and to all my friends who loved this film. I had hoped for much more and don’t think I can give The Force Awakens more than a solid ***. My mug is up. 

3 comments:

  1. Ah, someone else who is disappointed! I thought I was the only one.

    I thought it was largely as wizz-bang car chase action movie with little acting.

    The plus sides were limited to the new droid and that Rey had me thinking she was a re-generated Luke Skywalker, and a few nostalgic re-appearances.

    Nothing to compare with the very first Star Wars.

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  2. Well said. I agree wholeheartedly! That's why when people ask me what I thought of it, I can only say: "Meh...".

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  3. Well, we are very much on the same page about this film. The new characters save the film but the lack of originality is absolutely shocking. I've been very surprised how most people seem ok with that. But I'll match your *** with a somewhat disappointed mug up.

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