"They wanted to do a retro movie. I don't like that. Every movie I work very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships, make it new." -George Lucas
So, after managing to avoid all articles, reviews, and spoilers for The Force Awakens, I finally had the chance to go see the return of a "galaxy far far away" on New Years eve. While I enjoyed seeing it and really wanted to love it, I came away feeling DISAPPOINTED, not only in its lack of originality and heaps upon heaps of fan service but in having witnessed everyone's willingness to embrace these things as a return to form. Now, I'll let it be said that I personally do like the prequels, warts and all, and probably somewhere my thoughts have already been written by another. I haven't read those pieces. These are my own thoughts.
Here we go.
It is now more clear to me than ever that it was Lucas' desire to tell a different and original story that really pissed people off, and not an arguably poor script that did the trick. From Prometheus to the Prequels, as long as audiences continue to respond negatively to filmmaker's desire to do something different than before, we will continue to only ever see the repackaging and representing of the same old thing.
Ready for my thoughts on the film? You're not going to like them, but here we go.
#1: Rey (while well acted, cute, and likable) was so laughably perfect at everything and in every way. I'd imagine that this is what is called a "strong female character" by those who don't understand the definition of a strong character. A strong character doesn't mean that they can handle anything. It means that their traits and flaws, along with the journey they take within the story create a fully realized, believable character. Being one step ahead of everyone else in a film is the opposite of a strong character, but the good people at Disney know that most people in an audience don't understand this, so they serve up an idealized version of a woman, and call her strong.
#2: Besides, how can any character in this movie be strong if deus ex machina steps into every other scene? Seriously!
#3: The resistance is still a resistance after 30 years? Was the end of episode 6 all for nothing? Han is still a smuggler? I know, I know, he explained it in one line. He went back to doing what he did best, bla bla fan service bla. Honestly, what is with sequels undoing character development, just so they can re-do it, and poorly?
#4: The new Death Planet, or whatever it's called! Did the producers just say, "I've got it! It's like the Death Star, but bigger."? Good one guys, that's really raising the bar. That's what I call some politician level pandering/fan service, right there.
#5: Han's death was played out as if it were saying, "Okay folks! He's been talking about it for the past 30 years, you knew it was coming, and now we're going to see it. Ready? Ready? Ready? It's about to happen and... here it is. Okay, let's give it a moment to sink in. We removed the hand rails just for the dramatic fall to really drive it home, and Harrison Ford can breath easy knowing that he won't get written back in. (but the joke is on him, because we're going to write flashbacks in Episode VIII.) Okay good? Good. Moving on." (Maybe, that's more Han service?)
#6: Again, I did have fun, but really this whole thing was just a cobbling together of stuff from the first three movies, but with all the sense of danger and adventure removed. Things never really go south for our heroes, giving their impossible odds any tension, or sense of real danger, while moments that could be really important, like the obliteration of Coruscant, are just kind of thrown away.
I could pick out another dozen things, but I think you get the point. I'm not invested like most fans are, I'm just applying my most basic of storytelling standards. My conclusion? It wasn't a bad movie. It just wasn't a good movie.
Honestly, this is why I want to produce my own films. I know what I do will be only be blip on the radar of a few, while behemoths will rule the hearts and minds of most (often and disturbingly to the point of indoctrination) but I feel like it's time to move ourselves individually beyond all of this. I don't mean beyond Star Wars. I think Star Wars is just fine, but rather what we deem to be quality these days, when it's really all very shallow and retread waters. I don't know if this is Abram's fault. He's a good director. He's just working for Disney.
I think he did a very good job of reinventing Star Trek and moving it forward when I was sure that the franchise was dead, but that was because he was asked to reinvigorate it. Here, he was asked to make a film for the fans, which is what he did. Very well, but as Alan Moore once said:
"It is not the job of artists to give the audience what the audience want. If the audience knew what they needed, then they wouldn’t be the audience. They would be the artist. It is the job of artists to give the audience what they need."
I think on that front, The Force Awakens failed spectacularly. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't the norm for mainstream pop culture. Now you can say I'm just being a hipster indie filmmaker, or I'm bitter because they ripped off elements from my film Girl In The Window, or that I obviously am not qualified to judge this new masterpiece, because I liked the prequels. Take those cheap shots if you like, but do me a favor. The next time you go see a movie, ask yourself these questions.
- Is it really anything I haven't seen before?
- Did it add anything to my life experience that I didn't already have?
- By supporting these films, am I just really asking for the same thing over and over again, to suck up my time?
- What would happen if I were to let go of my childhood, instead of longing to revisit it, and seek new artistic experiences elsewhere, as an adult?
The answers to these questions may surprise and delight you.
UPDATE: I have been informed that I'm far from alone in my opinion of The Force Awakens. This article from the Daily Caller does a wonderful job of expanding upon my points even farther and this video hits the mark far better than I ever would take the time to. Remember folks, it's just a movie. Have some ice cream and a good cry, and then back to your lives. *wink wink*