So, I made the following comment on one person’s review of, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” before seeing the movie (please forgive the grammatical errors):
“I’m relieved, yet I’m still on the fence. One one hand, yeah it’s great to have them finally make a good, “Star Wars” movie again, and when said good movie has resulted from nice tweaks that make the universe of, “Star Wars” more attractive to modern/diverse audiences (at least, they do so for me), that’s a big plus.
On the other hand, I can’t help but shake the feeling of witnessing the world’s most expensive sausage factory. Yeah, the morsels are delicious and the ingredients are solid, but one can’t help but search for something a bit more fulfilling. Then again, the movie (and the series in general) already touches upon some pretty weighty themes: destiny, war, history (and the making/unmaking thereof) and loss. It just tackles them in a way that’s engaging and fun, especially with the characters. Nothing wrong with that, I’m just waiting for another, “Empire Strikes Back” before I can begin to be truly enthusiastic, and if that doesn’t pan out…well, at least we have the Gendy Tartakovsky-helmed animated shorts. And the video games.”
And after seeing it? Yeah, I think the movie is pretty damn good. A big-budget Original Trilogy fan movie that is perhaps a little too reverent to the source material…until it’s not, and that is when the movie truly wakes up and becomes something close to great, with interesting characters/characterization leagues above the prequels, but not as great as that in the Original Trilogy…yet. That’s the thing: if one walks in expecting to be fully satisfied from just this one movie, they’re out of luck. The same kind of game plan Disney/Marvel has with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also being laid out before our eyes here. For better and for worse, we’re witnessing a rebirth of the old-time serial moviemaking that lived and died back in the age of silent movies…only to be picked up again by works like Doctor Who, Flash Gordon, John Carter Of Mars…only to be taken and embraced by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Bill Finger, Bob Kane and others in comics…and then all of that stuff and then some is picked up and adapted by Speilberg, George Lucas and others…and now here we are, with Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams, Collin Trevorrow and Rian Johnson taking the helms and telling the same stories but with their own twists.
What can I say, Everything is a Remix. But does it HAVE to be? That’s the thing that bothers me about, “The Force Awakens”, even with it’s neat tricks and subtleties that perhaps would give the story more impact were everything not edited in a rapid pace (and that would be getting into spoiler territory, so I’ll save that for later). In an age where one can access the older Star Wars movies with ease, do we really need to be reminded of them? This isn’t like what happened with, “The Illiad” and, “The Odyssey”, where once upon a time there were a lot of stories and sequels in-between each grand work, which have since been lost to time. One can pirate the shit out of the original movies if they wanted to. So to see the movie lean SO HARD on stuff from the original movies feels like the worst kind of…well, I don’t want to say, “pandering”, because I understand that term is used to refer to sex workers in a negative light. I think a better word for what is going on with this movie is, “insecurity”.
And for at least 2/3rds of the movie, it feels like exactly that, except during that time it builds up to some pretty interesting conclusion(s), using characters like Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn, Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, and Oscar Issac’s Po to introduce wonderful actor chemistry and some neat wrinkles in a world that looks to the past with reverence…only to turn around and give it a punch in the gut. This is especially what happens with Kylo Ren, who I already see a lot of fans pissing and moaning about not being a great bad guy, but is actually a subtle, “Fuck You!” to fanboy reverence. I wouldn’t say it’s up there with, “Mad Max: Fury Road” and its critique of patriarchy/environmental destruction, but I personally find it amusing to see even the big wigs look at the same Special Snowflake consumers they themselves have bred and go, “You know what? We recognize you, but we don’t respect you. Time for all of us to move on.”
At its best and at its worst, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a multi-million dollar fanboy project with self-awareness. At its worst, it carries all of the baggage of the older movies to a point where it can be a bit obnoxious, cringe-inducing, even. At its best, it has the guts to recognize things and say, “You know, just because these things I look up to are old doesn’t mean that they are exactly right.”, and that brings forth a lot of interesting, disquieting implications for not just the movie, but for the Star Wars universe as a whole. I can’t wait to see the next installment.
Edit: Here’s Part 2 for SPOILER TALK
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