Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer: George Lucas
Today’s guest post is by a disgruntled Star Wars fan who would like to remain anonymous so the fandom can’t track them down and send hate mail. 😉
This movie is an abomination, and an affront to what was once, the holiday special notwithstanding, a dignified franchise. Indeed, this movie is so terrible it makes me reminisce fondly for The Phantom Menace.
For the record, The Phantom Menace was terrible. But at least it was an original sort of terrible. Yes, the pod racing scene was long, boring, and unnecessary. But at least it made logical sense that young Anakin would be a ridiculously amazing pilot, since he was trained to be so. The Force Awakens‘s homage to the pod racing scene, involving, of all things, the Millennium Falcon and a decrepit husk of an Imperial Star Destroyer, is equally long, boring, and unnecessary, but it is additionally completely nonsensical; the audience is forced to believe that poor, impoverished Rey, reduced to selling hunks of metal to keep herself alive, is somehow able to out-fly a couple of TIE fighters the first time she touches the controls. Yes, Darth Maul was a terrible, wooden villain who had a grand total of one line of audible dialogue. But at least he had his moments of awesomeness; the scene where he engages both halves of his double lightsaber alone justifies the price of admission and, in spite of his utter lack of character development, Darth Maul is at least still enough of a badass to dispatch Liam Neeson, of all people, in single combat. The “villain” in The Force Awakens (I forget his name; he was that terrible) is a petulant teenager who combines all the loathsomeness and punchability of Revenge of the Sith era Hayden Christiansen with all the insipid worthlessness of a storm trooper. Finn, a former storm trooper himself (and above that a bad one, who dislikes violence until he begins slaughtering Imperial – ahem, “First Order” – troops en mass), is somehow able to hold his own in a lightsaber duel with our “villain” the second time he touches a light saber. And Rey, the first time she uses a lightsaber, proceeds to whoop his ass so badly that the only thing that will allow him to be Vaderized for the inevitable sequel was a ridiculous deus ex machine involving a chasm with a better sense of plot development than any of the scriptwriters. Say what you want about The Phantom Menace, but at least it wasn’t a hundred and thirty five minutes of things stolen – ahem, homages – from other movies. Heck, The Phantom Menace even had the real Kiera Knightley in it, instead of the cheap, knock-off Kiera Knightley cast in The Force Awakens.
Speaking of homages, a lot of other reviewers have already covered how much this movies shamelessly borrows plot elements from other, better Star Wars movies (like the whole damn plot of A New Hope, from the droid-with-the-valuable-information-lost-on-a-desert-planet premise to the we’ve-gotta-blow-up-the-death-star-before-our-base-gets-blown-up finale). All I would like to add is how much this movie steals from things that are not Star Wars. The scene from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where Saruman looks out over a vast orc army? Yep, that’s in The Force Awakens. The ridiculous “Hail Hydra” guy from Captain America? He’s in there, too, though no longer with the weird alien stuff that made him anything other than a stupid caricature. Hell, even the new, improved hyperspace look is stolen; the blue swirls looked so Dr. Who I half expected to see a TARDIS appear. In fact, even though I hate Dr. Who with a passion, I wanted a TARDIS to appear. That, at least, would have been unexpected.
But a much as I hate the utter predictability of everything from Han’s death to the “villain’s” remarkable escape to the eventual reveal (I presume it will come in the sequels) that Rey is somehow blood related to Luke and Leia (seriously, this “force is strong with this one” only occurring in particular bloodlines pisses me off. Can’t for once the Star Wars universe give us a Hermione Granger? And I don’t even like Hermione Granger – but I digress, back to the review), that is not what irked me the most about this awful piece of dreck. No, my greatest ire is reserved for the premise. What is there to say about the premise? Is it awful? Yes. Could the whole movie have easily been avoided if someone had only force R2-D2 to wake up earlier? Yes. Could the whole movie have been avoided if Luke decided not to throw a hissy fit and leave? Yes. Would the events that inspired Luke to throw his hissy fit have made for a better movie? Yes. Do we ever stop to wonder why Luke is so valuable that the resistance and the Empire – ahem, “First Order” – are willing to sacrifice oodles of blood and treasure to find a map that maybe just maybe might lead to him? J.J. Abrams sure as hell hopes that we don’t. Dare we ask why Luke left a map behind in the first place if he really wanted to go into hiding? Shut up and watch the movie! See, pretty pictures and explosions. You like pretty pictures and explosions, don’t you?
Beyond the ridiculously stupid premise, the plot is full of a large number of inconsistencies and stupid cliffhangers left over to be resolved in the endless stream of sequels to follow. Who the f*** is that old, Obi-Wan looking dude at the beginning? Why the f*** does he have a part of a map that leads to Luke? Why the f*** does Poe think he has the map? If he does, how come the “villain” didn’t get to him first, considering that he and the “villain” obviously have some history? And that’s all in the first five minutes. Surely J.J.Abrams knows we have these questions, too. But you know what his answer is? “F*** you. Buy your advanced tickets to the sequels.” But of course there’s more. Why the f*** can’t C3PO find what part of the galaxy the map fragment is of when it is revealed at the end to take up a good 5% of the total galaxy? F*** you, that’s why! Why the f*** do people think Luke Skywalker is a myth when that motherf***er blew up two motherf***ing death stars a mere thirty f*** years before, destructions that we saw celebrated across the galaxy at the end of Return of the Jedi? F*** you, don’t you remember Luke saying similar things in A New Hope? Not that that made much sense after the prequels revealed that there were these violent-ass and certainly very memorable clone wars that annihilated the Jedi two decades before, or anything, but at least he had the excuse that he had an overprotective aunt and uncle. I’m sure the Rhino-like alien giving Rey just enough credits to avoid dying in the desert wanted to shelter her from the horror of knowing about her father -ahem, Luke Skywalker. (Please, J.J. Abrams, I beg of you; change this now! If you make it that Rey is just some random girl on some random planet, may then I will forgive The Force Awakens the way I have just forgiven The Phantom Menace. Please!)
By this point in the review, you might be asking if there is anything in movie that I like beyond some pretty pictures. In fact, there was one thing I liked quite a bit; I loved how they humanized a stormtrooper. Without him saying a word, we got to watch his moral struggle starting from the moment a bloody handprint got left on his face by a dying comrade. It was beautiful, poignant, and touching. But then it got completely ruined, and it made me all the more pissed off at this atrocious piece of garbage that dares to call itself a Star Wars movie; the helmet came off, and suddenly he was just another thug-busting action superhero, with no moral qualms at all about offing endless waves of dehumanized storm-troopers. There was a great movie here. I would have loved a movie about a storm trooper who had a moral revelation and then tried to flee, passively and without killing anyone, to a haven on the far reaches of the galaxy. It would have been beautiful, but we wouldn’t have had quite so many explosions and quite so many nameless, dehumanized drones being gunned down to the delight of the clapping audience, so of course we got Finn Solo instead. But they could have done something. Hell, they could have at least made a joke about how bad Finn’s aim was or something. But no; as soon as he’s trying to get with knock-off Kiera Knightley – ahem, “with the resistance” – he wields a blaster the way Legolas wields a bow.
Speaking of knock-off Kiera Knightley, her character was also a constant source of irritation to me, and not just because she was an ever-present reminder that I would much prefer to be watching Bend It Like Beckham. I get it; it’s 2015 and every female lead character has got to be an ass-kicking superheroine because damsels in distress are so cliché and oh-please-radical-online-feminists-don’t-accuse-us-of-misogyny. But I hate it. I hate it for the same reason that I hate the damsel in distress – it’s cliché. We’ve seen this act a million times before. When Princess Leia whooped ass in A New Hope, it was original and different. Now every action movie from Mad Max on down to Kung Fu Panda needs a girl who can – without any training or explanation whatsoever – whoop primo ass, and it’s become as stale as the villain’s zany sidekicks in Disney movies. But my dislike for Rey’s ass whooping abilities goes far beyond the fact that it’s cliché. It also craps all over the idea, central to the Star Wars universe, that mastery of the Force requires careful training. By the end of the original trilogy, Luke can whoop serious ass, but that was only after long sessions in the swamp with Yoda. Meanwhile, Rey discovers she can pull Jedi mind tricks ten minutes after she feels the effects of the force on her for the first time; I guess perhaps she was able to leech the power off our insipid, worthless “villain” for some bulls*** reason, but how she had that power? F*** you, that’s how. Similarly, remember that scene in the cave on Hoth when Luke is trying desperately to use the force to summon his lightsaber when it is literally a foot away from his hands? Well, guess what – Rey, without any training, who a day ago thought the Jedi were mythical beasts from legends, can summon a lightsaber from fifty feet away, all while overcoming the power of the “villain’s” own use of the Force. She then proceeds to whoop his ass. Hooray for feminism, I guess.
In all, this movie is garbage, garbage taken from the same pail of worthless “we’ll do anything because you stupid rubes will go see it anyway” s*** that inspired Peter Jackson’s one hour per page adaptation of The Hobbit. If you haven’t seen it, don’t. But of course, like everyone else, you’ve already seen it, and you’re already planning on seeing the next one, even though you know it will also be an insipid, uncreative rehash of other, better movies. But it will be pretty. And it will have explosions.
And with any luck, they’ll finally kill off C3PO in the next one. I’m not hopeful, but then again I haven’t been hopeful since The Phantom Menace, and yet I’ve dutifully gone and given George Lucas my money every time a new one comes out. Maybe the problem is me. Maybe the reason why Lucasfilms continues to dash my expectations of greatness is because I will go and watch his movies regardless of how unoriginal, asinine, and downright terrible they are. Maybe if only I refused to patronize such loathsome excuses for filmmaking, the quality will improve.
Yeah, I know. I’ve already got May 26th, 2017 circled on my calendar. But you do, too, so don’t laugh. Now pardon me while I go vomit up what’s left of my dignity.