Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Star Wars

One thing I hate about movie reviews is when the reviewer spends half the review detailing the plot of the movie he or she is reviewing. I just skip right over it. I don't know if it's because I hate hearing the same thing twice (foreshadowing of what's to come) or because it comes across as patronizing or because I'm prideful or because it is genuinely unnecessary. No matter the case I'm going to assume you've already seen the movie and will not bore you by retelling a story you already know (more foreshadowing).

I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I really liked it. It's clearly better than episodes I-III. It is not better than episodes IV-VI though it certainly edges in on Return of the Jedi. The new actors were good. I liked Rae and Finn and Poe. The rapport between Rae and Finn was excellent. I liked watching them work together and it was a refreshing break from the "we are polar opposites and unable to get along" trope that so often plagues movies today.

I liked the special effects. They were solid.

I liked the new spin on Stormtroopers. I liked the villains. I thought they were pretty cool.

I liked that the guys from The Raid got cameos. 

The movie was very good and a solid reclamation of what was once a top-notch series.

I liked that the movie wasn't as PC as I thought it might be. I thought it was going to be all about girl power and overcompensating in regards to diversity but it was all rather organic and never interfered with the flow of the story. 

But there are major issues I must take with the movie as an objective observer of cinema.

The first issue is the most obvious and most obnoxious.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is basically Star Wars: A New Hope. I've seen the movie twice (again, it's very good) and both times I was struck by how unabashedly familiar the plot was. An oblivious Jedi on Jakku finds a droid that has secret information about a legendary Jedi. Then we have the operation to destroy not the Deathstar but the Deathplanet. We have the father/son betrayal story. We've got an inevitable twist about who Rae's father is. We just had a bunch of stuff that was all too familiar.

This isn't the first time this has happened. All James Bond movies are essentially made from the same formula with slight variations in tone, villain and ethnicity of Bond-girl. I love the Bond movies and I understand the need for that formula and it doesn't bother me but it did bother me in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This exact dilemma is exactly what kept Jurassic World from being as good as it could be but I still think Jurassic World strayed from Jurassic Park more than The Force Awakens strayed from A New Hope. 

My second issue was with Han Solo playing a major part. It seemed to me that Ford mailed in his performance. He was the worst actor on the screen and, at least for me, drug the movie down. I was ready for him to go and kept thinking the whole time "golly, I really hope he's not this heavily featured in the next 2!" And now he's dead! So I got my wish and I won't apologize for it because you should be thanking me because deep in your heart you know his acting was bad in this episode. Search your heart, you know it's true. 

My third issue is based on a projection of what might happen. If Rae is Han and Leia's daughter then it's a dishonest twist. There's no clues the audience could have picked up on to figure this out. This type of cheap trick is exactly why I hated the twist ending to Fight Club. You couldn't figure out the ending. It's like if Say Anything ended with Lloyd Dobbler being an alien and then people acted like it was a great twist! Sure it was completely unexpected but that's because it made no sense and there were no indications he was an alien. 

Rae has to be either a Kinobi (granddaughter or niece or something) or Luke's daughter whom he trained and then erased her memory. That's the best theory I've heard. But if that's not the case then her suddenly being able to tap into all the Force's energy is absurd. It annoyed me that she bested Kylo Ren. That really makes him less intimidating. If he's getting bested by an untrained teenage girl, then exactly how tough is this guy? He was a great villain until he took off his mask and then a below average villain when Rae beat him. Hopefully her instant abilities are cleared up in the next episode. 

Superficial side note: Rae is the worst onscreen runner I can remember and she ran in like every other scene. It drove me nuts. 

There is a good and bad side to Disney purchasing Star Wars. The movies will never be awful. They will always be very good. That's the good side. The dark side is that they'll max out at a very good level (8/10). Disney won't take risks and won't do anything to jeopardize a cash cow. They'll make a good movie with a big budget and please the audience enough that they'll return. Disney is incapable of making The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, Mad Max: Fury Road or any other truly great addition to a franchise. Disney is also not going to make anything as bad as any Fantastic 4 movie. But Disney can't rise above an 8. None of the Marvel movies rise above an 8. Disney is Tony Romo; very good, but you know the ceiling.

I'm happy to see this movie again. I'll be happy to watch the next 2. I'll gladly buy the ticket like I do with most Marvel movies. Until Disney breaks away from its own grasp it cannot rise above the very high ceiling above its head. 

Again I give this movie an 8/10. That's a really high score! Don't stone me! 

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