Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens…Next To Someone It Never Found Attractive
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens worldwide this weekend to new box office records and merchandise sales. Presumably a few Bears will take a girl on a date to see it so we’ve shoe-horned this review into the blog in this basis.
My co-author and I are die hard Star Wars fans and have spent the last 18 months arguing about Disney’s ability to convert this once great – and somewhat sullied – franchise into a ridiculously watchable money machine like the Marvel franchise.
As Frank Oz once said (at the request of George Lucas’ personal assistant) ‘fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering’. Sadly it is our collective view that Disney has, perhaps out of fear (the sort of fear that comes naturally when you spend $4b on something), taken a ridiculously cautious approach to our favourite franchise and the suffering it has caused is ours.
The Forced Paycheck is a remake of Star Wars: A New Hope. Plain and simple. We just spent 12 hours arguing over the many things that are wrong with this film. We don’t want you spending the same amount of time reading these thoughts so we’ve distilled it into a very readable list for you.
Science has died…
If there’s one thing Lucas got right in the prequels its that technology evolves over 20-30 years and the ships look different. Why the hell is the Resistance still flying X-wings and why is the First Order (…of Kylo Ren merchandise) still flying Tie Fighters!? If the U.S. decided to attack Russia today, would it still be flying the same jet fighters it flew in 1985? You know what else was popular in 1985? The Delorean (yes…I understand it sold terribly). And the only time I’ve seen one of them in the last three years is the video clip for Thrift Shop. The only reason these fighters are in the film is because Disney wanted to give the fans visual cues from the original trilogy. It makes no sense otherwise. And don’t bother telling us about the mind blowing modifications they’ve made…like painting them red or splitting the engines.
…Except for the new Death Star
The greatest criticism levelled at Return of the Jedi is building a new Death Star. The first one was cool, Lucas ran out of ideas and they built a new one. With a different but more easily exploited fault.
Lucas understood when making the prequels that audiences might struggle with another planetoid object that blows stuff up and so there is no planet destroying space station in sight in the prequels. So what does Jar Jar Abrams do? Goes back to the well and drags up the Star Killer (aka Franchise Killer) – a large planetoid space station that blows up planets. I’m just going to call it Death Star #3 because it basically is.
The great thing about the original Death Star was its simplicity. It fired a laser, which blew up a planet, and could be destroyed by a precise shot at an exhaust port. Death Star #3 is built into a planet, sucks the energy of a sun and can fire multiple lasers which blow up multiple planets. To destroy it, you need to:
- Sneak on board by flying a ship which everyone in the galaxy knows was complicit in the destruction of two very similar space stations;
- Lower the shields (which it appears any First Order employee above sanitation consultant can do at any time without alerting anyone);
- Blow up the thing that keeps it stable…;
- …From the inside and the outside; and
- Wait for it to gradually implode, allowing key personnel on both sides to escape, no matter how badly injured.
Much like A New Hope, there is a countdown to the destruction of the remarkably static Resistance HQ. Instead of counting down to 1 and building the suspense, the countdown is bizarrely aborted at about 30 seconds because they weren’t quite ready to kill off Ren and Finn yet and needed to time to move their injured bodies.
Three of the last four films chronologically have now featured a Death Star type battle station being blown up.
Who is running the Galaxy?
It was obvious in episodes 4-6 that the Empire ruled the galaxy with an iron first and in episodes 1-3 the Senate/Republic governed the galaxy from Coruscant. When the emperor and Vader died and the Death Star blew up again, most would have assumed the Rebellion would have reinstated the Republic and got back on with democracy. There is a vague reference to the Republic in SFA (…sorry, TFA). Just before it gets blown up. I can just see the committee meeting at Disney: ‘How do we top the destruction of Alderan?’ ‘How about instead of blowing up one planet that the audience has never seen, we blow up five?’ Who cares – you know nothing about who died or what their role is in the Galaxy.
So just like that the First Order nukes…the Republic?! Does the Republic have an army? Is the Resistance the Republic’s armed forces? If so why does it only have 15 X-Wings at its disposal? How does the Republic maintain order? Why are they so understaffed they have to send their best fighter pilot on a covert reconnaissance mission that a commando type would clearly be better suited to? Why is it that the Empire can keep making planet sized weapons undetected and the Republic has only a few 30 year old star fighters at its disposal?
The actors are past it
Boyega, Isaacs and Ridley are young, energetic and can act. They deserve credit. But…Carrie Fisher is no longer capable of human expression, Anthony Daniels provides us with the bizarre concept of a robot’s voice aging and Kenny Baker was reportedly found dead in a model R2 unit in 2004 after Lucas decided to replace his wobbling tin can in its final shot with a CGI version that can fly and forgot to let him out.
We all wanted the old cast back but Hammill is the only one mentally agile enough to turn in a good performance and he literally doesn’t have a line. Ford is enthusiastic but crashed what he thought was the Millenium Falcon into a golf course during filming and was heard asking for his whip and hat before filming some scenes. He belongs in a museum.
What value did it add having the Tie Fighter Finn and Dameron stole Go back under the star destroyer to take out the guns, only to see the fighter shot down anyway? What was the point in the two Prometheus vagina squids running around on Han’s barge? Frankly, Maz Kanata’s entire planet could neatly have been written out of the film. It offered little in terms of plot development.
Perhaps instead of these pointless time fillers, time could have been spent showing the operation of the new Republic for a minute or two before wiping it from existence so we might care when it happens. Perhaps someone other than Chewy could have reacted to Han’s death. Word has it that to get Carrie Fisher’s timeless reaction to the love of her life being skewered by her son they had a stage hand tell her the pensioner’s bus had been cancelled and she would have to wait until 6.15pm for a replacement service.
The trailers set Finn up as the budding light side Jedi but (in an ok twist) it turns out Rey is the force sensitive one. This means all of the scenes with Finn wielding a light sabre are now useless. A storm trooper with a baton kicks his backside so you know Ren will sort him easily. He’s a nice guy but he’s a crap fighter and can’t fly. Watch for Rey to friendzone him in Episode 8 and run off with Latin lothario Poe, the galaxy’s best fighter pilot.
Kylo Ren is an interesting character but struggles to beat a non-Jedi in a duel, gets convincingly beaten in a mind duel and then a lightsaber duel by a woman who has no training and has never held a lightsaber before and he cuts up furniture when he doesn’t get his way. Not exactly Darth Vader is he?
Then there’s the evil genius behind the whole thing, Supreme Leader Snoking Cough. For months fanboys have speculated who this guy might be, noting they had to get Andy Serkis in to play him via motion capture because of his ‘idiosyncratic’ bone structure. He looks human! Why not make him a bloody alien!?
Oh, and there’s the film’s biggest letdown, Captain Phasma, whose entire arc involves reprimanding Finn, lowering the Death Star’s shields and being thrown down a garbage chute offscreen. All the hype around her chrome suit amounted to stuff all. She’s more inept than the worst storm troopers in Return of the Jedi.
We’ve already seen a very yellow desert planet, a forrest planet, a lakey wet planet and a snow planet in previous films. Why does every planet have to look like a surface on Earth!? At least the prequels showed planets that look nothing like ours. Use some imagination for Gods sake! Even Interstellar got this part right. We aren’t paying to see what we could jump on a plane and see when we come to a Star Wars film. Show some alien landscapes!
They fucked it
In short, Disney was spooked by the reaction the prequels got and decided to go repeatedly over old ground to the point of just recreating parts of A New Hope rather than create an original film. Why are the rebels effectively still fighting the imperials? Forget the new names, this is what is happening. Why not show a new threat? Why not develop new characters properly instead of cramming in the old ones? Why not show new locations? Sorry but Jakku is just Tatooine.
They revisit plot points and visual cues from the very popular first two films, bring back stars that should be retired for a farewell tour and spend two hours setting up the new franchise rather than telling a new story – it’s basically Star Wars: Genisys. They’ve just sold the fans back something that they already had.
Anyway, with the exposition largely out of the way, Han dead and Leia likely to be in the background from here, hopefully the next one will start to tred its own path. In the meantime the Bear predicts the critics will soon awaken.