Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This post contains spoilers. Unapologetic spoilers.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a space battle takes place as an oppressive evil that has overtaken star systems strives to capture a resistance fighter in possession of plans they want and need. But alas, the fighter hides the plans in a trusty droid. After a daring escape, the droid ends up on the sandy, arid planet below where it encounters a lone resident who is then catapulted into a journey that will fling our motley band across the stars. They meet up with Han Solo and his faithful companion, Chewbacca, smugglers running from those who want their due. Together, they escape in the Millennium Falcon, a galactic hunk of junk that made the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs. They're captured, but eventually escape again in time to blow up a massive weapon, all while trying to elude a dark-masked villain out to capture them.

Sound familiar? There's a reason. While The Force Awakens successfully blends the old with the new, at its heart, it's a rehash of Star Wars IV: A New Hope that contains elements that will remind viewers of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Catwalk over a lot of space where a confrontation with the masked villain occurs leading to one hero falling into the abyss? It's there. Struggle to break into a building and lower the force field so fighter pilots can destroy the planet-sized weapon that destroys planets? It's there. Cantina where one character tries to find transportation off a planet? It's there. There's more, but I know one needs to stick with three examples.

I'm told it's called paying homage to the original trilogy, but I call it recycling. Which leads me to the following question: Why, J.J. Abrams, why? You do a fantastic job, but as with Star Trek, you had a blank canvas with few restrictions before you. Why rehash an old story, especially when a third trilogy exists along with an entire Extended Universe of stories from which to draw? And sending Han back to smuggling? That's totally contrary to the character growth we saw in Star Wars IV - VI.

Don't get me wrong, the movie is well done with plenty of action and a story that moves along at a nice pace. New characters are introduced, and screen time is provided to the old. And thankfully, it lacks the cheesiness that was the Ewoks, Jar Jar, and the dialogue someone for some reason gave Ewan McGregor, a fine actor who didn't deserved those silly one-liners (when he was finally given permission to act, the third movie improved exponentially.)

Another reason I'm dismayed is that I'd read Abrams was pulled into the project by the intriguing question, Who is Luke Skywalker? After watching Force Awakens, I believe the question really was, How can we pretend the movie is about Luke Skywalker? Why?

WARNING: spoilers, spoilers, spoilers......

Because Luke has about forty-five seconds of screen time at the very end of the movie. And he wasn't given one line. Not a single word. My cousin reminded me it was a powerful moment. I'll grant him that, but for those of us who have loved Luke since that magic moment where he stared at the double sunset on Tatooine wondering about his future, that's kind of upsetting. So was the catwalk scene, but you'll see it coming.

Bottom line: If you go expecting an action-packed movie, you'll enjoy The Force Awakens. If you go expecting no more than to meet new characters and to get a good jump-off to upcoming movies, you'll enjoy it. BB-8 is adorable, you'll watch lightsaber duels, the old cast is in it, and overall, it's a fun movie millions love. Clearly, since it's breaking records. Just don't go expecting a new storyline. The disturbance in the Force you'll feel will be your minor sense of disappointment.




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