Uhhh Guys, I think the Force Awakened Sucked…

I’ve been mulling it over in my brain for quite some time, and I hate to say it, but the Force Awakens sucked! I think this review by J. Olson hits the nail on the head.

For the first ten minutes of J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” – ten beautiful, perfect minutes – it seems as though “Star Wars” may finally be back.

First, the opening crawl.

Inveterate Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing. His sister Leia (Carrie Fisher), now a General, leads the Resistance against the First Order, an offshoot of the long-defunct Empire.

At once, in grand “Star Wars” tradition, we’re dropped into the middle of a small story with obviously big implications. Abrams and co-screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt thus begin their long, slow zoom out.

Resistance X-wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, Llewyn Davis himself!) is on the Tatooine-like planet of Jakku to secure a map of Luke’s whereabouts. But when he’s confronted by murderous, Vader-worshipping, would-be Sith Lord Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and a mass of Stormtroopers, Dameron is left with no choice but to jettison said map by means of his cute astromech droid, BB-8.

These are all welcome, deliberate echoes of the original “Star Wars,” re-establishing George Lucas’ initial vision for the series: a vast, never-ending space opera that exists somewhere between the screen and our imaginations.

But time ticks by without a trace of Luke or Leia (the first of whom appears 80 minutes in) and Dameron vanishes, leaving us with two brand new characters played by virtual newcomers to carry the weight of the first “Star Wars” sequel in thirty-two years. Given the screenplay’s thinly drawn dramatis personae and sawed-off story – not to mention impossible expectations – they don’t stand a chance.

The introduction of Finn (John Boyega) is the movie’s first sign of trouble. His transition from reluctant Stormtrooper to deserter to hero is completed in a five-minute stretch, as banally convenient as anything Abrams has ever done (including his “Star Trek Into Darkness” villain reveal). Moreover, Boyega’s performance is a sizable step back from his debut in 2011 sci-fi actioner “Attack The Block.”

With so little characterization to chew on, the British actor is forced to play things broadly: ever wide-eyed and panicky, searching for an epiphany (or at least a laugh) in every line of dialogue. Apart from better writing, the part begs for someone with more depth and comedic experience (like, say Donald Glover), but Boyega’s struggles aren’t his alone.

Complete newbie Daisy Ridley fares similarly as Rey, a young Jakku junk collector with a mysterious connection to the Force. It’s invigorating to see a “Star Wars” heroine who doesn’t need to be rescued or don a metal bikini, but the script hammers home the point with such obviousness as to siphon out all impact. Equally problematic is her penchant for possessing whatever skill the screenplay calls for at any given moment. Rey’s late-game, out-of-the-blue lightsaber skill set is a prime offender.

73-year-old Harrison Ford returns as swashbuckling smuggler Han Solo, getting significantly more screentime than Luke and Leia combined. It should be a highlight, but the actor seems as plainly uninterested as ever, with the character reduced to comic relief, nearly tangential to the plot. Han’s reintroduction (with Chewbacca in tow, of course) comes off like a “Saturday Night Live” digital short and his ultimate fate is the worst thing to happen to the series. Ever.

Not only do Abrams, Kasdan, and Arndt unwisely reprise the original trilogy’s father-son plot device (it turns out that Kylo Ren was born Ben Solo, son of Han and Leia, grandson of Vader), but they kill Han off at the hands of his angsty, noxious offspring. The duo’s eventual “Dad, you don’t understand me!” moment that represents the movie’s climax (Ren might as well be wearing a dog collar and a Misfits graphic tee) is plainly a result of Ford not wanting to keep playing the character. Fair enough, but it didn’t have to be like this.

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What’s more than the cruelty and unusualness of making us watch Chewie watch his best friend die, the joy of imagining Han Solo speeding off to more adventures and eventually soaring off into the sunset dies with him. It’s a death that has absolutely nothing to do with the original trilogy’s version of the character and everything to do with the cold, calculated storytelling that nearly swallows up “The Force Awakens” – a constant drone of characters looking for other characters, all the while swapping the original trilogy’s sense of happy coincidence for expediency in franchise building.

Case in point: Luke’s lightsaber becomes a focal point of Rey’s search for him, and when it’s located in the basement of a Mos Eisley Cantina-esque bar, the tavern’s owner (an uninspired CGI lump played and voiced by Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o) is asked why it’s there. “A good question… for another time!” she answers.

It’s a rancid piece of dialogue that shines a harsh light on Abrams’ “mystery box” brand of plotting: trinkets in lieu of layered storytelling, smoke and mirrors on top of smoke and mirrors.

Moreover, the picture’s interpolations of the original trilogy are frequently the wrong ones. “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back” remain nearly perfect movies, but they’re more than perfect; they’re inclusive. Inclusive to characters and viewers alike, requiring no outside knowledge; only a taste for adventure.

“The Force Awakens” lives and mostly dies by references to movies past, much like Lucas’ prequels did, but here that conceit is exacted. Abrams assumes that each viewer is already deeply invested in the universe at hand but then goes out of his way to contradict its past at every turn, from disregarding the original trilogy’s explanation of the Force to some garish stylistic choices. The movie ends with an aerial helicopter shot, for God’s sake.

It’s an unconscionably directed scene that caps off the film’s use of Luke Skywalker as a prop to set up the next episode, a neat bow on all the other promises it fails to deliver on: not overdoing the computer generated effects (they’re everywhere), not rehashing old plot points for the third or fourth time (the weapon at the story’s center is nothing more than an oversized Death Star), and returning the personality that the prequels were missing (it’s all Force-choked out by the clunky scripting).

Read the rest of his review here:

http://www.cinemixtape.com/movie-reviews/star-wars-the-force-awakens/

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6 thoughts on “Uhhh Guys, I think the Force Awakened Sucked…”

  1. Interesting take on the new movie, I read else where that the writers had a hard time reintroducing the cast from the original trilogy. Once Luke shows up, nobody cares about the new characters. I heard this is the main reason he only appears in the end.

    They played it safe with so much money on the line, wanting to appeal to the broadest possible audience. My biggest complaint is they could have introduced more new ships and fighters, but the rebels cartoon is really doing the heavy lifting there. I don’t think it sucked, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Kevin Smith. His review of the movie is on YouTube, funny stuff.

    1. I also saw Kevin Smith’s review and couldn’t get through it all.

      I agree that Rebels is doing all the current heavy lifting for new ships and I’d add it has a much more compelling story than JJ’s stuff.

  2. I wouldn’t be too hard on The Force Awakens. If we forget the prequels for a second and just focus on the original 3 movies, there’s enough problems you can find in there if you look hard enough, especially with Return of the Jedi.

    We never really get a sense of the Empire’s end goal, other than that we’re told that they’re the bad guys. We mostly just follow these characters around on their adventures and it’s a great whimsical ride.

    Was Luke’s rescue plan in Return of the Jedi just the dumbest thing ever?! What if Jabba’s minions decided to inspect R2D2 for sabotage, as I’m sure a guy like Jabba would be insane not to be wary of Jedi bearing gifts without at least checking to see if the little robot had a bomb inside it. They would have found that lightsaber in no time at all.

    Of course the best part of that whole plan was that as soon as we catch up with our reunited heroes, they’re hanging out amidst a giant fleet of warships. And Han is a General now for some reason, but worse yet, so is Lando. The same guy that sold out their primary figurehead and her friends in the previous movie. So if Han was so important to the Rebels that they’d make him a General (presumably on the spot?), then why not dispatch a ship or two and some fighters, roll up to Jabba’s Palace and demand they release Han or else they’ll start shooting? I could see Jabba being too stubborn to let Han go at any price, but surely the Rebels wouldn’t have left Han there to twist if he mattered that much?

    But that’s a whole essay waiting to explode right there. Back to the topic at hand;

    They had to play it safe with Episode 7 by working in the classic cast appropriately enough to show us what we know while giving us time to meet the new generation. Our heroes are too old to be doing this shit by now. Going cold turkey wouldn’t have worked so to me this is fine as a way to pass the torch, and as a bonus, Harrison Ford finally succeeded in his mission to get Han killed off.

    Luke showing up at the end is the only way to do it. If he appeared in the forest to help Rey fight Ren, for example, it would have been really lame, narratively, though I’m sure a section of fanboys would have squealed with delight.

    The repetition of motifs is not something I see as a negative, as Lucas likes to claim that this cyclical pattern of father-son conflicts, “it’s like poetry, it rhymes”, etc etc is part of the show, and if we want to pretend this like Greek tragedy at work, that’s fine.

    The offshoot movies like Rogue One are where I’d be more concerned about the so-called lack of originality. I think an “Episode” needs to stick to that formula in a sense, but these one-shot movies have room to grow.

    Star Wars is a big sand box to play in, offering a lot of options for filmmaking as pretty much any genre you can think of would be able to tell a story in that world.

    Manage your expectations, people. If you were old enough to have gone to see the Phantom Menace in 1999 and be let down by that, and the following 6 years of production of a madman, then you should at least have gone into The Force Awakens with a cautious reservation.

    This is an era of big budget sequels and remakes. Everyone is playing it safe. At least with Star Wars they have built a universe to allow them to keep telling the same stories with different people in them.

    It’s not like trying to expand on something like Ghostbusters where you literally have no room to move, and you can’t possibly hope to meet, nevermind exceed, the lightning in a bottle comedic value of the 1984 classic. Oh, wait…

    TL;DR

    The original Star Wars movies had some dumb logic problems too, especially Return of the Jedi, so let’s all get grounded again before we think too hard about Episode 7.

    Now let’s all get back to doing something productive, like pushing our plastic spaceships around a tabletop…

    1. I don’t think the original trilogy was as bad as you say Dave.

      Since it dealt in archetypes we didn’t need an outlining of the Empire’s goals – the Empire was just like any other aggressive Empire in history, be it Rome, Nazi Germany or the USA. We get the implicit threat and that’s good enough.

      We don’t know how R2-D2 snuck in the lightsaber, that’s a waste of film time imho. Lando and Han are generals because they were put in a position to excel and rose through the ranks. Kind of like how Horatio Hornblower always gains rank after rank in each book. It’s an adventure story.

      I don’t think anybody “has to” do anything. The studio chose to play it safe, they didn’t “have to” play it safe. This movie reeks of Hollywood management meddling. It is not a daring movie, it is not a movie directed by a visionary with something to say. It is a re-hash of ideas for marketing more garbage at us.

      The re-hash of content is not akin to a Greek tragedy. There aren’t 7 versions of Oedipus Rex, there is only one.

      I agree that Star Wars is a big sandbox to play in. Yet the studio decided not to risk something new (no surprise there). Star Wars was the first blockbuster ever. Everyone thought “you cannot top Star Wars, it’s impossible to live up to the expectations.” IMHO that’s the worst argument EVER. If it were true, explain Empire Strikes Back?

      I agree that this is an era of big budget remakes. Personally I think this Hollywood “play it safe” philosophy is lazy, disgusting in it’s obvious greed and bad art. I do not excuse it, I loathe it.

      I think a brilliant writer and or director could expand on Ghostbusters. There are 300 million people living in America. The key is finding the right people to make it happen. Hollywood execs are not the type to do that.

      I disagree that Force Awakens suffers from “logic problems” just like the original trilogy. If Force Awakens shot from the hip with a compelling new story and vision, there wouldn’t be any complaints. No one complains about Empire Strikes Back, right?

      Sure, Return of the Jedi could have been a better movie, but that’s no excuse to make garbage re-hash like Force Awakens and let things slide. I will allow myself to be disappointed again. I refuse to put on my blinders and ignore the possibility that another Empire Strikes Back can be made if only the right people were put in charge.

  3. It was for me the most disappointing movie I ever liked. On my first watch, I couldn’t make any sense of the story, everything was not logical. I mean, Kylo Ren stopped being a villain as soon as he removed his mask…but on my second watch, I stopped caring about the story and just enjoyed the ride, and I liked it a lot more.

    1. I can’t bring myself to stop caring about the story.

      Maybe if Empire Strikes Back was never made it would be a different thing, but then again I wouldn’t like Star Wars as much.

      As far as watching it for the sake of “a ride” I think Guardians of the Galaxy kicks Force Awakens’ ass in that regards. Hopefully the newer movies will get better. Fingers crossed for Rogue One.

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