I hope they take things in a new direction with Episode VIII. Maybe they’ll write an original script with interesting and well developed characters.
So yeah, let’s talk about Star Wars VII, The Force Awakens. Spoilers Ahead.
I don’t want to be one of “those people” who hate the new movies. I really don’t. I mean, I genuinely liked the prequels. And I don’t hate this movie… after all, hate leads to suffering and the dark side. Unfortunately, there were things about this movie that really threw me and force-choked some of the enjoyment out of what could have been a much greater movie than this was.
But first I’ll start with what I liked:
The special effects were great. No surprise there. Have you seen a movie recently with bad special effects? I haven’t. So although though there were many truly awesome special effect sequences in this film, I guess that’s not really enough to carry an entire movie these days.
Now lets talk about the rest of the movie:
Issue 1: Lack of Originality
This is a big one. Abrams stuck to the script… the script for Episodes IV and VI that is. It feels like a hasty mashup of plot points we have already seen (multiple times) before. This story could have gone in any direction. The first half is promising, and seems to build to something epic and new, but suddenly the movies slides backwards, totally undercutting its villain, employing excessive Deus Ex Machina in the abilities and luck it inexplicably bestows on it’s characters. It all feels rushed and empty as the movie retraces the steps of it’s predecessors but fails spectacularly in giving them the same dramatic and emotional weight.
When the dust settles, the “rebels” (re-branded as the resistance) have destroyed three “death stars” in four movies. Not only was this new death star bigger and more powerful than the other two (It’s built into a planet), it was also just as easy to destroy. The procedure was exactly the same as in Episode 6: send down a team to deactivate a shield, followed by a frontal assault with small fighters. You might think that the bad guys would catch on, but nope. It is shameless… developing a plan to take out the new super weapon takes all of 30 seconds. Han Solo even notes how easy it is to “blow those things up”. Meanwhile “our Hero” must face the “dark lord” in a light-saber duel and ultimately prevails despite her utter lack of Jedi training. Which brings us to:
Issue 2: “Strong” Female “Character”
Rey, our heroine, is pretty much able to do anything she puts her mind too. Including, learning everything about the force in one movie that Luke and Anakin learned in three movies. She does this without a teacher, in oh, about an hour. Just in time to defeat Not-Darth-Vader. Someone might say “well you wouldn’t complain if it was a male character in her place” … and that is just ridiculous. As I said, it took Luke three movies, and private training by two of the greatest Jedi masters of all time, to learn how to do all that stuff… so allowing her to do it so quickly undermines everything we know about Jedi training. But that is only where our problems begin. She was abandoned by her parents on not-tatooine, but unlike the ever tortured Anakin, she seems to cope with this remarkably well, and is very practical and well adjusted. Much like you would expect for someone who spends most of their time alone in the desert… right? Also, scavenging for parts in wrecked star destroyers has apparently made her a genius mechanic who is able to reconfigure a hyper drive in mid-jump, among other things.
Ok, but her excessive abilities aren’t the real problem. The real problem is her lack of meaningful character development. For the amount of screen time she has, we learn remarkably little her. Aside from acquiring new powers, she doesn’t really change at all. She plays on easy mode. Like, really easy mode. And while easy mode can be fun sometimes, ultimately it makes your accomplishments hollow, and that’s exactly what happens here. Let’s grow up for a moment. This isn’t about women, or gender equality, it’s about bad characterization and lazy writing. A Strong Female Character (or Strong Male Character, for that matter) should simply be a character who is, above all, a multidimensional and well fleshed out human being. Giving a character virtually unlimited abilities only makes them an uninteresting audience surrogate at best, and totally implausible at worst. The Ace Pilot, was an even worse example of bad character building (see below).
Issue 3: Male “Characters”
We have an Ace Pilot, who can fly better than Anakin Skywalker, taking out a half dozen tie fighters in the space of a few seconds. It is he who is the one to deal the final blow to the “death star”. But we learn basically nothing about him beyond what we already knew from the opening text scroll. (He is the best pilot in the resistance)
Then we have the Black Character. He is a Stormtrooper who, after 20 years of indoctrination at the hands of not-the-empire, implausibly grows a conscience when his buddy dies in front of him. He then decides to free the Ace Pilot and together they steal a tie fighter and fly away. He then meets our heroine and falls in love. Yay. Also, aparently taking off his helmet somehow made him the strongest stormtrooper ever, even able to competently use a lightsaber. And he probably isn’t dead in the end. Despite his relative lack of importance to the plot, he is arguably the most well developed character in the film because he gets over his initial fear and decides to do his best to fight against not-the-empire.
Issue 4: Sith Boy
The dark side wasn’t destroyed for long. Now it is back, powerful as ever, or at least it seems that way at first. The new bad guy, Not-Darth-Vader, just so happens to be Han Solo’s son. For the first half of the movie, he appears to be even more powerful than Vader was, able to extract information from people’s minds and freeze people (and blaster bolts) in place. But all the hype is quicky undermined when we find oit that he is really just a brat. Not even a tortured brat like Anakin. Just a straight brat. People complain about Anakin’s portrayal in the prequels… well this guy just made that look much better. Apparently he turned to the dark side because he thinks it’s a cool way to lash out at Mom and Dad. I have to say, the moment he killed his father (Han Solo) was probably the highlight of the movie… a welcome respite from the onslaught of episode-six-knockoff-lameness that dominates the second half of the film. But then he somehow gets shot by Chewy (despite being able to effortlessly block a similar shot earlier in the movie) which apparently weakens him so much that he, who has been training all his life, is defeated by a girl who just taught herself to use the force an hour earlier… but wait, if he was so weak, how he manage to intercept them in the forest on the first place. In the end, I think that despite what his father says, he really did need his helmet; once he takes it off, his abilities never recover.
Issue 5: Unrealistic Expectations
In the end, I suppose the only real problem is that I am trying to take it all too seriously when its really just fun, mindless, entertainment. Even still, I hope they take things in a new direction with Episode VIII. Maybe they’ll write an original script with well-developed characters. I really hope they do, because like it or not, this is the new Star Wars and its not going away any time soon.
Well, what do you think?