Friday, 8 January 2016

Star Wars 7

I’ve never talked about a movie on my blog before, and I don’t really know why I chose to start now, but fuck it, I write about what I want.
I guess by now every man and his dog has seen The Force Awakens, and every man and his dog has written, told, or otherwise foisted his and his dog’s opinions upon you. So, if you’re sick of hearing about it, maybe click away now. If you never clicked on the link to this in the first place, I don’t need to tell you that this sentence is useless.
First things first, I enjoyed the movie. I like the riot squad trooper, and the anti-lightsabre weapon was a great idea. The new characters are good, and BB-8 was done very well. The pacing was good, it’s good(ish) to see a strong female lead (more on that later), the action was solid, and there are some great nostalgia moments, even for someone like me, who’s not a full on Wars Head. (Full disclosure, I like Wars, but I’m a Trekkie at heart.) I don’t regret seeing the movie, at all, and I was excited to see that opening text roll. But, I guess what I do feel is disappointment. This movie could have been so much more than it was, and in the end it just ended up being A New Hope 2.0.

Here are key gripes (in no particular order):
  1. Kylo Ren isn’t scary. He’s an emo douchebag. And it’s not just because I’m much older now than I was when I first encountered Vader. That dude was scary. Ren is just some guy who ceased being scary once his (unnecessary) helmet comes off. He possessed none of the cool and calm Vader did, and it doesn’t help either that he gets his ass kicked quite easily. And even his officers cuss him out. Vader would have force choked that dude in the first five minutes. I feel like an opportunity was missed. It would have been fun to see a bad guy who was almost unstoppable. Who they good guys encounter and get their asses kicked by, and they only manage to escape because of luck, or the planet breaking up, or Han nobly sacrificing himself. So the movie ends with this threat hanging over everything, the characters not only reeling from a loss, but wondering how the hell they’ll stop this guy. The way it ended leaves me without any real anticipation for part eight. I guess that’s another gripe, but it can stay within this entry.
  2. Rey is too good at everything. I tend to agree with Max Landis on this, and I think that to fail to hold female characters to the same standards as male ones would be more sexist than otherwise. She’s an interesting character, but the vague idea of her waiting for someone to return is never really fleshed out, and she is inexplicably good at staff fighting, fixing ships, piloting, and somehow defeating a Sith-in-training. The last one especially made things feel contrived, and cheap.
  3. Finn's change of heart comes out of nowhere. It would have been nice to have some backstory to this. This is out of left field, but I would have loved to have seen a story line where the resistance have somehow been exploiting a weakness in the way Stormtroopers are made; they tamper with the mix, as it were, and the troopers start rebelling, in greater and greater numbers. Anyway, Finn’s moments of conscience are well acted, and I like his story arc, but his change of heart comes from nowhere, because we don’t see him before that moment.
  4. Captain Phasma isn’t scary. Similarly to Ren, this character seems to be building towards a fearsome moment, and then really fails to deliver. All she does is, what, get thrown down a trash compacter?
  5. Luke just leaving. Ok, this one is minor, and can be explained but his character, but if you fuck up majorly, why not stay around and try to fix it, Luke? How is running off to the other side of the galaxy going to help?
  6. The Order's lack of proper security protocols. Finn is able to escape from a star destroyer fairly easily (well, easy-ish), by just saying he wants to move the prisoner. Wouldn’t there be checks in place for that kind of thing? I suppose you could say the Empire (sorry, the First Order) believed its soldiers to be completely loyal, but it’s not as if no-one has ever put on a Stormtrooper suit before to fool others. Oh, and they take out the destroyer’s guns fairly easily, no? Also, why would a tie fighter have a parachute? Aren’t they designed for use in space? I guess it conceivable for it to have one, but wouldn’t the crashed fighter have been really easy to track down?
  7. Point number seven is really a bunch of points around the repeated themes and actions which occur during the movie. Deep breath, here we go. (a) The Death Star 3.0. Really? Hasn’t this been done to death. Oh, this time it’s a planet? Great, so different. It even has one weak spot, just for convenience. (b) Next is the First Order, which is really just the Empire reset. The same toys, for the most part, the same boring agenda. (c) The mysterious evil leader, too, some old, pale, decrepit guy. I get that the dark side burns up your body and so on, but couldn’t they have mixed it up a little? Supreme Leader Smoke is boring, and he, too, isn’t very scary. Ok, I keep saying that. I guess my assumption is that the bad guys should be scary. I’m sticking to it. Also, I'm tempted to say that movies are escapism, and we have enough of old white dudes being the bad guy in real life. Hey, I can say that, because I'm white. (d)  Keeping it in the family. Again, I know this is a key thing in Wars, and sensitivity to the Force (I won’t use the m-word) is passed down from parents, but couldn’t we get away from the family dynamic for a while? Surprise, this time it’s the son who’s evil. Great. (e) Important intelligence secreted in a droid. Where have I seen this before?
Ok, so I just wrote a lot (bitched a lot) about the film, despite the fact that I said I enjoyed it. As I say, I just feel like the opportunity for change was there, and the same paths have been trodden, which doesn’t lend itself to exciting storytelling. I know that, no matter what happened, no matter what the movie as like, the weight of expectation and of legacy means it would be hard pressed to be fresh, innovative, and new while staying true to its predecessors and keeping hard core fans happy. I also know the difficulty of making movies, creating stories, creating any art that people will see. And so to that end I understand that it might not be fair for me to be so harsh in my judgements. But a Death Star again? Really?
p.s. when writing this I discovered MS Word has lightsabre in its dictionary. Just thought I’d let ya’ll know that.

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