The Force Awakens Review

(60 comments)

Well, it’s no “Tilotny Throws a Shape.”

It seems almost obvious to suggest that The Force Awakens is a film that feels more like it was engineered than created as such. There is never a moment within it that doesn’t feel calculated. This is hardly surprising; the original film’s conscious aping of Joseph Campbell is at times overstated, but in the post-Save the Cat! cinematic world we live in the idea that a Star Wars screenplay was ever going to contain anything that seems to be there because of some actual interest, concern, or idiosyncrasy of the screenwriter is blatantly absurd. The cold reality is that The Force Awakens basically just had to shoot on film and go back to the “used future” aesthetic that Lucas ditched for the prequels and it was going to debut to cheery reviews about Star Wars being back.

Even by that standard, however, there’s something intensely rote about The Force Awakens and its unblinking tour through all the classic bits of Star Wars. It would be going too far to say that it’s cynical - everybody is clearly having a good time making Star Wars. But there’s a palpable sense, in basically every scene, that what they’re having fun is very much making Star Wars as opposed to making this particular movie. There are exceptions - in particular Domhnall Gleeson, who has clearly never tasted finer scenery in his life - but by and large nobody seems invested in this film.

That’s not terribly surprising, I suppose, given that this film (like Star Trek before it) really isn’t interested in anything more than “here is the setup for a new version of this classic thing.” The main beneficiary here is Rian Johnson, a filmmaker with an actual track record of interesting and challenging movies who inherits the plum Empire Strikes Back position, an accomplished cast, and an actual premise, and who thus presumably gets to go be interesting without having to waste acres of time going “look! Another plucky hero on a desert planet!”

Ah, yes, Rey. Along with Finn, the good part of the film. For two reasons. The first is simply the hilarious idiocy like the review Vox Day posted to his PUA sub-blog that objected to a girl beating a boy in a light saber fight before concluding that “women ruin everything,” or the Return of Kings review that says everything you’d expect it to say. The second, quite separate from the genuine pleasure of impotent nerd rage, is simply that it’s fucking wonderful to see heroes like Rey and Finn. A world where Daisy Ridley and John Boyega get to play the heroes of an action/sci-fi movie is a nicer world than one where they don’t. Countless movies have gone less well-cast because they didn’t have the bravery or ingenuity to hire actors like them.

And yet for all that the choice of sobriquets reveals the ugly motives for the critique, it’s hard not to have a whisp of sympathy for the people who accuse Rey of being a Mary Sue. It’s the wrong diagnosis, not least because “Mary Sue” has become a devalued snarl word for “female protagonist. And yes, any suggestion that she’s less well-characterized than, say, Qui-Gon, Mace Windu, or, hell, fucking Anakin is nonsense on stilts. But “no worse than the prequels” is exactly what we’re not supposed to have to say about The Force Awakens.

But the real problem is just that we’re wasting Daisy Ridley doing Star Wars stuff. Because in the end, that’s the problem. The only reason the film can think of for why we should care about her is that she’s an orphan in the desert who finds a droid that could change the fate of the galaxy just like Luke Skywalker. Everything in the film is pinned to him, from the first word of the opening crawl to the final scene. The problem isn’t that he’s not in it; indeed, one of the screenwriters noted in an interview the problem with having him in it, which is that his presence dragged the emphasis away from Rey and FInn. No, the problem is that even when he’s not in it he’s hanging over it. We’re supposed to care about Rey because she can get us to the hero of the forty year-old film this is based on.

On one level this is just the killjoy critique that gets made about things like the female Thor or Sam Wilson as Captain America in Star Wars’s corporate stablemate of Marvel Comics - that women and minorities are only suitable as the second preference replacement for white male heroes. And yes, that’s frustrating. As is the entire ideological basis of corporate-owned and perpetually copyrighted mythology that The Force Awakens and the coming annual succession of Star Wars films represents.

Obviously I’m not someone who minds a well-made long-running franchise, and there are better hills to die on when it comes to diversity in media than a film that’s doing better than most. I’m glad people who look like Daisy Ridley or John Boyega get to see themselves in a huge pop culture moment. I have tremendous respect for the sense of heritage and legacy involved in narratives that span generations of audiences, even if I resent the corporate ownership of that history. And I recognize that a two-hour adaptation of "Tilotny Throws a Shape" would be an objectively worse idea than a two-hour remake of Star Wars.

But all the same, there’s something almost brutalizing about the sensory assault involved in a sustained two hour shout of “we made a Star Wars!” For those for whom the nostalgia has intense value, I imagine it's satisfying in much the same way the classic TARDIS set in Hell Bent is for a certain type of Doctor Who fan. Except The Force Awakens never moves beyond that "oh wow the classic TARDIS set" thrill. For those for whom Star Wars was a fundamental part of their childhoods, and there are millions of them, it's probably great fun. In terms of authentically recreating 70s experiences, though, it's more Planet of the Daleks than Star Wras

Comments

taiey 1 year, 10 months ago

...yeah, no. It was perfectly enjoyable on its own merits, those being the perfectly decent plot of A New Hope mildly altered, with better characters and better dialogue.

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taiey 1 year, 10 months ago

I care about Rey because she's tough, isolated, subsisting on half and quarter rations a day and wringing the last drops of water from her flask. I'd say "and then she turns down months of food for the sake of a droid she's just met" but I was already sold before then.

I care about Finn (for the deuteragonist, you sure have nothing to say about him) because he's a soldier without a name who won't shoot even though they can read your mind and brainwash you for it, who imprints like a wee duckling on the guy he meets for ten minutes in their escape... and that was enough.

Mostly I continued caring because they're really, really cute, individually and together, and have reasons not to do the hero thing but then do, generally for each other, and it's cool. Luke Skywalker's just an excuse.

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Caitlin 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes to all of this.

Another thing I think it's important to note is that Rey and Finn always need another reason to move from set piece to set piece. Escaping the First Order, rescuing a friend, realising they need Jedi training, there is constantly a stronger motive. Luke Skywalker is simply there to provide a direction of movement to the movie.

(I should also say, that on the list of "characters I was interested in seeing again", Luke was a long way down the list)

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Jane Campbell 1 year, 10 months ago

Another yes to all of this.

I think Finn's characterization is particularly rich, especially once he returns to the desert planet and meets other people as himself and not as a Stormtrooper. Sure, he's still recognized as a soldier (fighter pilot) but he's no longer faceless. He's met with warmth instead of fear, and that's immediately important to him. His days of Stormtrooping become a source of shame to him, and he struggles to keep that hidden. Which is very difficult, because he obviously longs for human connection.

The whole Luke thing is a McGuffin. I didn't find that to be the source of nostalgia hanging over the movie. No, what's really hanging over it is Han Solo. When Ford is in a scene, it's like he's always framed to the center; he becomes the focal point, rather than our new protagonists. This extends to what's supposed to be the emotional climax of the film... and, I dunno, part of me cheered when it happened. If he represents the heart of the film's nostalgia, then that's the moment when it finally starts getting put to bed.

No,it's not perfect. For all that Daisy Ridley is front and center as Rey (oh she's marvelous!) there's still not enough balance in gender representation -- one out of four new main leads, meh. Carrie Fisher doesn't really get much to do, and both Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline Christie end up hidden by costume and special effects. Worse, there's still an awful lot of militaristic jingoism -- as long as it's the "good guys" of course, then the structure of military itself isn't really questioned.

Yeah, sure, in the end it's just Star Wars, a swashbuckling action-adventure flick dressed up in a science-fiction aesthetic. It's really not trying to do more than be that. But at this point it's also iconic, and serves to reflect mainstream cultural values. In some ways this is what's most interesting about it, the kind of cultural coding it brings to the table. And in this respect it's still a big step forward. Messy, but progress is always messy.

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Max Curtis 1 year, 10 months ago

I totally agree about Finn's characterization and the surprising amounts of depth it has. Still, it bothers me that the film continues to have our heroes cut down Stormtroopers as if they were still clones.

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John 1 year, 10 months ago

Why does being a clone make your life worthless? Just because you're genetically identical to someone else doesn't mean you're not a real person. Otherwise it would be okay to murder identical twins.

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Max Curtis 1 year, 10 months ago

The prequels coded "clone" as "disposable troops whose deaths the audience should have zero qualms about". So you know, no offense to twins or anything.

My point is that troops, even when fighting for an evil empire, even if they're clones, have lives that matter. Problem is, The Force Awakens has us empathize with an ordinary Stormtrooper, but ONLY that single Stormtrooper. Lightsabering the rest of those unenlightened bad guys is a-OK.

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Jarl 1 year, 10 months ago

Sounds like the talk of a TRAITOR to me!

Also, I suspect you're being disingenuous about not wanting to kill twins. You seem the type to enjoy a good twin-killing. Whatever the -icide for that would be, I dunno.

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John 1 year, 10 months ago

geminicide

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Josh04 1 year, 10 months ago

the prequels present the jedi as not caring for the lives of clones - but the jedi are not the good guys. the clones are 'disposable' in the same way the droids are 'disposable' in the original trilogy - i.e. they're an unprotected underclass who are exploited mercilessly.

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Josh04 1 year, 10 months ago

the prequels present the jedi as not caring for the lives of clones - but the jedi are not the good guys. the clones are 'disposable' in the same way the droids are 'disposable' in the original trilogy - i.e. as an unprotected underclass who are exploited mercilessly.

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 10 months ago

"The prequels coded 'clone' as 'disposable troops whose deaths the audience should have zero qualms about'.

Right, but the tv show -- which is the main incarnation of Star Wars for the current generation -- changed that pretty decisively. (Not so good a record with battledroids, alas.)

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Hypo-Calvinist 1 year, 9 months ago

Is it no longer okay to kill identical twins? I can't keep up. God, things were so much simpler when I was a kid.

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Jane Campbell 1 year, 10 months ago

Yup, that's the completely unexamined war culture shit. Of course, it is in the title.

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Prankster 1 year, 10 months ago

Finn is particularly interesting because he doesn't fit any of the classic Star Wars molds. Rey is the Campbellian everyperson hero (I mean, putting aside Capbell's issues with gender, she's basically exactly the same kind of character as Luke) and Poe is the roguish, two-fisted charmer like Han, but Finn is something new, and it's a great continuation of the themes of moral greyness that the original films developed. For all that the OT is pegged as being a very straightforward tale of pure good vs. pure evil, Star Wars has been thematically trying to complicate that--if often in a simple, fairy-tale way--since The Empire Strikes Back at least. (And while I feel it was a bug rather than a feature, the Prequels certainly made it hard to tell exactly who we were supposed to root for...)

I agree with Max Curtis, though, that I would have liked to have seen some acknowledgement of the idea that more than ONE stormtrooper was capable of acting like a human being. "deprogramming the armies of the First Order" would be an interesting tack to take for the upcoming movies (and would hopefully deal with my biggest problem with this movie, namely the lack of political context for the First Order and the Republic/Resistance).

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Roderick T. Long 1 year, 10 months ago

I saw a nice comment on AICN -- http://www.aintitcool.com/node/74029#comment-2418630365 -- to the effect that the new three are "analogues, but shifted versions" of the original three:

"Poe has the situation of Leia (respected member of the Rebellion/Resistance) and the attitude/charm of Han Solo.

Finn has the situation of Solo (fugitive/criminal on the run) and the attitude of Luke (humble guy caught up in something he might not be able to handle).

Rey has the situation of Luke (humble nobody on a desert planet, curious about the larger galaxy), and the attitude/strength of Leia."

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Sean Daugherty 1 year, 10 months ago

I've never been much of a Star Wars fan, but I enjoyed my time in the theater for The Force Awakens. There was nothing particularly groundbreaking about it, but I've never thought there was anything especially remarkable about any of the previous Star Wars movies outside of special effects, so I'm not about to start complaining about that for the seventh installment. It was a enjoyable bit of fluff, made by a slightly more competent set of hands than usual for the franchise.

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Josh04 1 year, 10 months ago

And of course, Actually the Prequels were Good.

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Lambda 1 year, 10 months ago

No.

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arcbeate 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes, they were. They were very good films, they just weren't identical to the origional Star Wars films.

"Historical Period Sci-Fi serial costume drama about the fall of a fictional republic and a millenia long religious conflict" is the kind of weird shit you go to the prequels for.

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Scott 1 year, 10 months ago

To each their own, but while "historical Period Sci-Fi serial costume drama about the fall of a fictional republic and a millenia long religious conflict" is fine, it's not synonymous with "very good film" either.

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Sean Daugherty 1 year, 10 months ago

The prequels are really, truly terrible films. But the reasons they're terrible are widely misdiagnosed, IMO. People complain about the fact that The Phantom Menace is about politics and trade negotiations, which is neither here nor there. In a well written, well directed film, that could be just as entertaining as any of the original three.

I still feel that episode 1 and 3 could have been decent films with only minimal revisions to the scripts and a director capable of a more nuanced touch than George Lucas. The biggest problem is that Lucas is famously more concerned with the technical side of things (visual effects, etc.) than his actors, and the kind of story he was trying to tell in the prequels really needed to focus less on large-scale battles and more on properly selling its characterization. Anakin should come across as tragic and conflicted, not spoiled and petulant. The Jedi Council's actions should come across, at worst, as well-meaning but ultimately misguided, but instead they come off as petty despots for no clear reason.

The only one of the three I think is pretty much unsalvageable in its entirety is Attack of the Clones. Lucas's tin ear for dialogue, combined with his problems telling a plausible love story fatally handicap the script itself. On top of that, there are massive pacing problems that make the most critical moments of the film, when the Jedi, against their better judgment, agree to use the cloned army, fall utterly flat. And many of its character's motivations are utterly incomprehensible (Jango Fett's hostility, in particular, is inexplicable: he's cooperative and helpful to Obi-Wan until, suddenly and without any logical reason, he isn't). In the hands of a better director it might have been less head-slappingly ridiculous, but the only way it was going to be a *good* movie was with an almost entirely different script.

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encyclops 1 year, 10 months ago

Having just rewatched them, I agree with Sean here.

For me the biggest problem with them as movies (as opposed to stories) is that there are maybe four or five scenes in all three prequels where it sounds like two human beings are talking to each other using the kinds of words human beings say. The script is thuddingly literal, the actors hopelessly wooden. There's absolutely no subtext outside of the scenes with pre-lightning Palpatine and maybe a Qui-Gon moment or two.

As stories the prequels could have worked. They're dense with ideas, or at least the germs of ideas; the idea of a clone army alone is potentially interesting enough to anchor the entirety of the second movie. But as Sean says, you'd need an entirely different script. Lucas had more important things on his mind, like conceiving toys and video-game sequences. More power to him, but yeesh.

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Josh04 1 year, 10 months ago

shakespeare doesn't sound like two human beings talking to each other either; the modern preference may be for naturalistic dialogue but that's not what lucas is going for in any way.

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Sean Daugherty 1 year, 10 months ago

Encyclops, though, wasn't complaining that the dialogue wasn't naturalistic: he was complaining that the dialogue was wooden and almost entirely free of subtext (and, I would personally add, any sense of interiority or nuance). Shakespeare didn't write naturalistic dialogue, sure, even by Elizabethan standards, but that's just about the only thing he and George Lucas have in common. Hamlet, or Macbeth, or Juliet are better characterized and presented than Qui-Gon Jinn or Anakin Skywalker by leaps and bounds.

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Josh04 1 year, 10 months ago

the dialogue is indeed wooden. george lucas is pretty open about this. but dialogue is not the be all and end all of a film, and there's bucketloads of subtext and structure in the prequels at almost every other level.

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Sean Daugherty 1 year, 10 months ago

I think we're just going to have to disagree, here. The biggest problem with the prequels, in my mind and in the mind of many of its critics, is that they lack sufficient subtext. Lucas pretty clearly wants to tell a more mature, nuanced story than the original three, and that's admirable. But what he wants to do and what he's actually capable of pulling off are two very different things. There is basically no major character beat in any of the three movies that isn't relayed to the audience through dialogue. We learn of Anakin's hatred of his childhood origins via a hamfisted bit of exposition where he announces his hatred of sand. His prophetic dreams of his mother's death are all told to us, rather than shown or indicated non-verbally. Ditto for the supposed growing love between him and Padme. Basically, everything rides on how well Lucas can convey these things through dialogue. And, frankly, he can't: the stilted, wooden nature of the script is a fatal flaw under those circumstances.

And while there is certainly structure, of a sort, it's all fairly straightforward and unremarkable. There's precious little about the prequels that suggests a story that was actually worth telling, little that adds substantially to the "recap" provided by Obi-Wan (and, later, Vader) in the original movie and in The Empire Strikes Back. Structurally, in other words, the nicest thing that can be said about the prequels is that they're competent. And even that is more credit than I'm willing to give to Attack of the Clones, in particular, which actually makes some inexplicable leaps of logic and explanation (anything done by Jango Fett, for instance) that a competently structured movie would generally avoid.

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Josh04 1 year, 9 months ago

fair enough; if you interested in what subtext people can pull out of the prequels, starwarsringtheory.com is not exactly to my opinions but is a very interesting (and well-researched) take

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Prankster 1 year, 9 months ago

The ring theory thing is interesting, but again, it speaks more to a technical level of craft rather than an ability to portray characters as human beings and tell stories that people can relate to. It's true that the characters in myths and folklore are often very simple token characters, but that's down to the nature of the story, in which everything is conveyed in broad strokes for the sake of a story that can be told in about ten or fifteen minutes at a bedside or around a campfire. Movies don't work that way; you have to transcribe dialogue, show what the characters are doing moment to moment, and so on. We have to believe them as people, we have to see and understand the world they live on in more detail than "they lived in a castle", and so on.

Spending all this time structuring the films around recurring motifs and mirrored plotting is an interesting idea but it doesn't actually make it worthwhile to watch. Stories need something for us, the audience, to relate to, and "this thing happens, and then it happens again in reverse six hours later" is not that. Andy Warhol's experimental films are interesting ideas in concept, too, but they're famously not something many people have watched beginning to end, either.

At any rate, the real issue with he prequels is that the characters have no inner lives and don't behave like people--this is most notable with Padme agreeing to marry Anakin RIGHT after he's admitted to cold-bloodedly slaughtering an entire village. Even the famously shallow OT felt like it was populated by humans (and "humans") with the same kind of concerns you and I might have. In the PT, though, no one has a single thought or motivation that they don't blurt out for the benefit of the audience, with the exception of Palpatine, who is thus portrayed as a master manipulator because he doesn't go around explaining to everyone that he's evil. And even then he's an open booster of the Dark Side, which you'd think would be a little suspicious.

Without thoughts and feelings allowed to pass unspoken, the result is a movie full of cardboard cutouts that no one can relate to, whatever the movies' other virtues. It's all reminiscent of Garth Merenghi claiming "Subtext is for cowards".

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Josh04 1 year, 9 months ago

Well, I disagree. Movies can succeed or fail on their own merits, but there's no one set way to make a movie or grade a movie. Plus, those terms are... woolly, at best. "Inner lives"? "stories that people can relate to"? "believe them as people"? They call to mind 'gossip about imaginary people'.

The prequels were, as well, wildly successful in their own day. They didn't tank. Whatever they do which people dislike so strongly was not immediately evident and derived from first principles.

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Scott 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm reluctant to contribute to what is increasingly becoming a hard-to-read- line of text, but it's Important to note that they were wildly successful financially, which is also not exactly synonymous with successful creatively or critically. I think if there was any film franchise which was almost guaranteed to make bank, it was the Star Wars prequels, but even then the critical notices and reactions weren't exactly setting the world on fire.

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Josh04 1 year, 9 months ago

nor did they tank critically, which is what you'd expect given the hard line people take on their structural deficienies

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Prankster 1 year, 9 months ago

"Inner lives" is a very simple term. It means that the characters seem like they have thoughts and feelings that aren't explicitly spelled out by dialogue or otherwise. Like actual human beings.

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Josh04 1 year, 9 months ago

that's entirely a matter of opinion in any case.

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Scott 1 year, 10 months ago

That's as maybe, but lines like "Hold me, like you did by the lake on Naboo; so long ago when there was nothing but our love" are far from Shakespeare.

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Josh04 1 year, 9 months ago

that's a pretty solid line, as is the one about sand which people are so fond of mocking.

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Prankster 1 year, 9 months ago

Those are terrible lines. Terrible.

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Scott 1 year, 9 months ago

No offence intended, Josh, but if you sincerely think the line about sand is 'solid', then I'm not going to be asking you to write a screenplay with me any time soon.

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Josh04 1 year, 9 months ago

it's an awkward, grating line of the kind teenagers with a crush for the first time come out with. i know i had some catastrophes on about that level when i was younger.

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Scott 1 year, 9 months ago

So did I, but I wouldn't write any of them into a screenplay or film them in a movie. Because they're awful and clunky and would sound ridiculous coming out of an actor's mouth (particularly in what's clearly supposed to be a romantic moment), as do these examples. As Harrison Ford once said to a certain writer-director, you can write this shit but you can't say it.

But I get the increasing feeling we're not going to see eye to eye on this one, so I'll leave it there if you don't mind.

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Josh04 1 year, 9 months ago

well of course we're not, or we wouldn't be butting heads in a comments section! ;)

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Josh04 1 year, 10 months ago

your issues with the film seem chiefly to do with what you'd rather it were, than what it is. the prequels are an inversion of the original trilogy, a remarkably hostile reflection on what people took from them. you might want the jedi to be misguided heroes at worst rather than institutionally corrupt bureaucrats, but that's not a fault with the film, where they are consistently displayed as such.

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Sean Daugherty 1 year, 10 months ago

Not at all. I don't particularly want the Jedi in the prequels to be anything. "Institutionally corrupt bureaucrats" seems like a lovely approach, and honestly would have been a nice variation on the black-and-white morality of the original trilogy. The problem wasn't that they weren't heroic: it's that their corruption had little obvious motivation. When a real-world politician does something ethically dubious, there's typically a reason for it, be it greed, cowardice, or even old fashioned ignorance. The Jedi Council in the prequels doesn't.

They never act of any clear self-aggrandizement, they're not consistently cowardly, and the script continually drives home the point that they know exactly the consequences they face. But they continue to make powerfully, self-evidently stupid decisions anyway. The only real conclusions are that they're not actually being written as corrupt, or that Lucas simply doesn't know how to convey the idea of "institutionally corrupt bureaucrat" to the audience in a plausible manner.

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Tom Marshall 1 year, 10 months ago

It's a carbon copy of Episode IV, sure, although I quite like the way it essentially takes the same structure of that story and says, "yes, but we're doing this with new types of characters now - a strong, practical, feminine yet not at all sexualised female lead, a black guy within a fascistic empire who realises the insane wrongness of the society to which he belongs and turns against it, and a temper-tantrum-throwing banality-of-evil type who is petty, childish, and terrified that he is not going to live up to his own idol". Those are three pretty different character types to anything we see in IV.

I agree that it will be Episode VIII where anything *truly* new happens, though. This was very much constructed on the premise of "it will be a basic pleasure to see Original-Trilogy-style Star Wars done again".

My review, FWIW: http://tommarshallwriter.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/a-review-of-star-wars-force-awakens.html

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Wack'd 1 year, 10 months ago

I think the fact that Luke hangs over the film is...well...it's sort of the point, isn't it? Rey, but for the loss of her family, is intensely eager to join the fight, up until the very point where a Luke drops an incredibly powerful artifact in her hand that causes her severe mental trauma, which she responds to by saying "fuck this" and running off into the woods. Luke's involvement, insofar as our new protagonist is concerned, is an active deterrent to something she was previously very excited about. Yeah, she wants to find him, but that's not the same thing as having him and his blade of flashbacks hanging over her head.

Yes, she uses his lightsaber at the end, but there's no real reason to assume that's supposed to be read as an acceptance of Luke. If anything, it's there primarily on the basis that it's a thing Kylo Ren cares about--and Kylo Ren, if you think about it, is basically the villain because he's a OT fanboy who can't see past his own obsession. (The novelization gives us a cut scene in which his resentment for Han arises from the fact that Han can't live up to his reputation.)

And in the end, yes, she goes to Luke Skywalker. She doesn't ask to be trained, she doesn't fanboy about him, she just...gives him his dumb sword back. That's the note we leave on. Rey apparently handing Luke's legacy back to Luke. Now we can get on with the business of doing something else.

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ScarvesandCelery 1 year, 10 months ago

"Kylo Ren, if you think about it, is basically the villain because he's a OT fanboy who can't see past his own obsession."
Okay, that's a hilarious and brilliant piece of analysis, that.

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encyclops 1 year, 10 months ago

Big +1s on a lot of the comments above, particularly Jane's and Tom Marshall's. Those were the things I zeroed in on when I saw it: not the New Hope palimpsest, but the differences in what had actually been written over it.

I've been fascinated since the trailers by the premise of a Stormtrooper who is essentially a child soldier defecting from a cause he can't stomach, and I love that Rey turned out to be so fantastic. The trailers made it look as though Finn would be the proto-Jedi and I love the reversal that it turned out to be her. From the minute we saw her in the torture chair and she realized she could resist Ren's probing and turn it back on him I wanted to cheer.

I wasn't the only one. My girlfriend has never been a huge Star Wars fan; she kind of likes the "adorable" aspects of the original trilogy (Yoda, the Ewoks, to a lesser extent R2) but most of it does nothing for her. In my recent rewatch she only watched Jedi with me and bailed after Leia and Wicket meet cute. Then she went with me to the new movie and halfway through she leaned over to me and said of Finn and Rey, "I really like them." She really responded to Rey's role in this film, and neither of us is even a kid so you can imagine what her kindergartner niece is going to make of this.

To me Star Wars just isn't about the plot or the world; it's about the aesthetics, and I think they absolutely nailed them on every level. It was unbelievably moving to see Rey taking a breather in the shadow of the foot of a fallen AT-AT, and in some ways I think that sums up what was good about the film for me.

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Tom Marshall 1 year, 10 months ago

Thanks! I love what you say to. Finn and Rey are just very likeable, aren't they? They may not yet be Harrison Ford Likeable, but there's still two films to go.

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Tom Marshall 1 year, 10 months ago

*too, dammit.

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wanderingarmageddonpeddler 1 year, 10 months ago

Oh, the new characters are all fabulous! Finn in particular gets quite a bit more depth and complexity than your average "everyman protagonist" is usually afforded, and Boyega does a fantastic job conveying that. Rey manages to come off strongly in spite of how much of her character is obscured by mysteries that don't really get revealed.

Except... I dunno, the actual character arcs don't seem to quite come off for me. I mean, it watches fine, but there's a running problem of several story beats feeling insufficiently justified. To pick one reasonably non-spoilery example, Rey goes from "reluctantly letting BB-8 follow her around" to "attacking people on BB-8's word alone" with, like, no screen time in between. It's not a "plot hole" as such, it makes sense that they've spent some time together since last we saw them and have grown closer, but the linking material feels a bit weak. There's a definite extent to which the movie ends up running more on a logic of spectacle and shorthand and expediency than on a character logic.

Which is what makes it kind of weird; it's a movie with fantastic characters, better than you see in most blockbusters these days by far, that doesn't quite land as character-driven storytelling.

Ironically, the one character whose arc 100% works is Han Solo, and that does buy the movie quite a bit of emotional heft.

And I mean it's not like it kills the movie or anything. It's obviously the first part of a larger story, the characters do get to change and grow and get to have some nice climactic moments, and our understanding of their place in the narrative gets to develop. And the spectacle is universally pretty damn spectacular. And for all that many of the plot beats feel a bit weak there are tons of absolutely gorgeous character moments scattered throughout the movie. It's a really good movie, go see it. But it's quite a bit weaker as a story than as a movie.

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Prankster 1 year, 10 months ago

I was frankly kind of astounded at how long we're allowed to spend in the company of the new characters--Han doesn't show up until, what, the 45-minute mark? And while he perhaps starts to tilt the film towards himself once he does show up, I never felt that he was sidelining Rey and Finn. They're a team, a bickering team of pals like the old crew. (Plus, of course, there's what happens to Han at the climax...)

I think this strong narrative focus on Rey and Finn negates the potential "DC comics legacy" aspect of this film. Frankly I would have liked *more* Luke, but making him into a macguffin in Rey's story is a pretty bold choice and speaks to the creative team wanting to make it clear that this isn't going to be purely a nostalgia tour. Abrams and company could have easily reassembled the Main Three (plus droids and wookiee) and had them pal around for two hours with some new kids in the background. That they didn't--and that they spent the time creating genuinely interesting and likable new protagonists (while to a certain degree clearing the deck of the old ones) has to count for something, surely?

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Tim B 1 year, 10 months ago

The criticism that a franchise that markets itself using Campbell's The hero of a thousand faces Is telling the same story is kinda weird. Particularly enjoyed the direct on screen visual comparison in the tactics meeting (And I really want to know when the unofficial spoiler embargo ends)

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Matt M 1 year, 10 months ago

I thoroughly enjoyed my time watching the movie but felt a bit ambiguous afterwards. Structurally, it's an exhausting movie - one set piece battle after another thrown at the audience. You can guarantee that pretty much every location you see will be blown up 5 minutes later. The original Star Wars starts with a crash bang opening and then dials it down for the next section in order to gradually build up to the finale with an accelerating number of action sequences. The structuring is as competent as the dialog isn't.

This action blizzard actually drains excitement out of the finale third of the new movie. The destruction of the Republic - the murder of billions - comes across as "they've just blown another thing up". The destruction of the Starkiller base is "they've just blown something else up - like the end of Star Wars but not as dramatic". It becomes difficult to invest in any one action sequence after a while. But this is the blockbuster norm.

Also worth noting that while the actors playing Rey, Kylo & Fin do sterling work, everyone else gets shortshrift. Dameron is barely a character. Ditto Phasma & Hux. Max von Sydow's character is at best a joke (haha, you think this is our Kenobi, nope, he's dead), at worst the waste of one of the world's best screen actors.

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encyclops 1 year, 10 months ago

I was REALLY confused by the von Sydow cameo. I could have sworn I heard some implication that we should recognize him, but I had no idea who he was supposed to be.

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T. Hartwell 1 year, 10 months ago

Yeah, I thought for sure he was Wedge Antilles when I was watching it, come to find afterwards he was a totally new character. Which didn't quite make sense.

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Jarl 1 year, 10 months ago

I think he's supposed to be our "you fought with my father in the Clone Wars" for the movie. That is, a reference to a whole history we're not aware of, possibly to be filled in later.

When he popped up, I at first thought he might be an analogue to one of the discarded EU characters, like Garm Bel Iblis or Winter or one of the other characters from her past.

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MDavison 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm not sure we are in a position to judge this movie yet. Is it finished, or do we need to wait 20 years for the special edition to see what was actually meant to happen?

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Sean Daugherty 1 year, 10 months ago

The fact that there doesn't really seem to be a single, all-powerful auteur equivalent to George Lucas makes me hopeful that we're going to wind up with the same sort of diminishing-returns kind of tinkering we did with the original six. At this point, I honestly can't see Disney choosing to endlessly revise old installments instead of making new ones.

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Sean Daugherty 1 year, 10 months ago

That should be "makes me hopeful that we're *not* going to wind up with the same sort of diminishing-returns kind of tinkering," of course. That's what I get for writing comments at 1 AM.

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numinousnimon 1 year, 10 months ago



Yeah, I'm afraid I am going to have to politely disagree. The best take I've read so far is here:

https://basilmarinerchase.wordpress.com/2015/12/21/the-power-of-myth-the-first-act-of-violence-star-wars-the-force-awakens/


"This Christmas, children will take their action figures and Legos and video games or just go outside and grab some sticks. And Rey will save the galaxy by coping with loss. And Finn will save the galaxy by rejecting the spiritual self-mutilation that’s been asked of him. And Poe Dameron will save the galaxy by being friendly and trusting.

They will save the galaxy millions upon millions of times, in millions upon millions of hands. A woman, a black man, and a hispanic man will save it from a man who believes anger is power, while love and sympathy must be carved out of himself to achieve it. And his weaknesses believing this will be exposed again and again and again."

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