Yes, this is a post about The Force Awakens. Thar be spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
I waited a long time (relatively) to talk about this for two main reasons. One, I’m not a superfan of Star Wars. I like it, I think it’s generally entertaining, I can hold conversations about many aspects of it, and it’s had an impact on my brain. Not a superfan. Two, I had an unexpected reaction to the movie and have been trying to puzzle it out since I saw it almost a month ago.
My friends, I didn’t like it. The movie bored me. It had some cool space ship battles and lightsaber fights. Kylo Ren’s tantrums were pretty awesome. Rey and Finn are both pretty darned good characters. It took me a while to figure out why I didn’t like the movie, and it’s not the reasons the hipsters are hating it.
Zero feels. I genuinely had zero feels while watching this movie. When I watched and read a variety of reviews and talked about it with other people, I got the impression I might be an emotionally stunted jackass. Until I thought about it and considered my opinions about the original movies.
I like the original trilogy. In my opinion, it’s got plenty of flaws, but the one thing it does brilliantly is execute the Three Act Hero’s Journey. The story is Luke’s, and he goes from being a whiny nobody brat to the Hero Knight who Saves The Galaxy. His friends help him, and they also experience character growth, and it’s just all-around a quite excellent example of this particular thing. Also, did I mention space battles and lightsabers?
Much has been made about the echoes of IV in VII. I say, they should have paralleled it more. Why this horse puckey about a map to Luke Skywalker (Yes, I’m aware it was to a Jedi temple he’d apparently told everyone he intended to visit. Not the point. It’s referred to many times as a “map to Luke Skywalker,” which is horse puckey.)? Deep in my heart, I know we all would have squeed way hard if it had been a schematic map to the super-Death-Star-planet-thing obtained by Bothan spies and passed on to a droid.
Tangent Alert! Granted, this makes it harder to introduce Finn, but his two minutes (was it that long?) of backstory were atrocious anyway, so some other explanation for his breaking of lifelong conditioning and social pressure besides “OMG, people DIE?” would have been welcome. Anyway, moving on.
I agree with the Belated Media guy about the opening crawl lacking very useful, relevant information about politics and stuff. I didn’t like not knowing why there’s both a New Republic and a Resistance. Resistance to what? The First Order, sure, but then why not make them the Army of the New Republic? They could have satisfied that with a sentence or two. So, this is a minor gripe. Another minor gripe: Would it have been so hard to make Poe’s last name Antilles? Would it? Really?
On with the major issue of feels. When Alderaan is blown up, which happens so early in IV you really have no idea wtf is going on, it feels weighty and immense. Tarkin blows up billions of people to get Leia to talk. That’s some serious badass Bad Guy shizzle-whacks going down. You’ve got to have some serious Bad Guy cred to pull that. Leia is not only seriously distressed by it, she begs for mercy on their behalf, and then she lies about the intel Tarkin wants. Hot damn, that’s one badass lady. You go, girl.
In TFA, the Hitler Youth–a little too hamfisted about the Hitler thing for my tastes!–I mean the First Order blows five planets up because…they can? I don’t know anyone on those planets, I don’t know anything about the New Republic, the First Order doesn’t gain any intel or resources from blowing them up, and no one has anything at stake in the movie relating to those five planets. There’s no weight attached to the deaths of billions of people or the violent dissolution of the New Republic. We don’t even know if it was a ginormous mess that needed to be cleaned up or pure as the driven snow.
“Oh, look, some pretty special effects. That planet death ray is really powerful. I guess someone we care about will be threatened by it later, but for now, we’re just going to see how powerful it is.” Whoopee. Leia has maybe a beat of being upset about that. Then nobody gives a crap, other than “OMG, people DIE?”.
Therein lies the crux of my problem with TFA. It never manages to give me a human connection to anyone. Even Han Solo’s death meant very little. Yeah, sure, it’s about Kylo Ren turning to the Dark Side. News Flash, he’s already there. As if the temper tantrums and not batting an eye about the death ray planet-blowy-uppy-thing didn’t make that abundantly clear. For those who felt it was a super-feely moment, my opinion is that Solo’s death meant nothing in that moment. He died for no real reason. Nothing changed except Chewy going berserk, which arguably didn’t improve the situation for anyone on either side.
So far as I saw, Han Solo chose to walk onto that narrow catwalk over a giant bottomless pit of doom because he promised his estranged wife he’d see about chatting a bit with their deranged son. He was done setting the charges and about to sneak back out and go meet Chewy for a post-sabotage latte (or whatever). Then he turns and everybody knows everybody is there but pretending not to know. If Han had decided to step onto that catwalk because he needed to buy Chewy time and knew it, and the charges were going to Save the DayTM, that would have meant a whole lot more. It should have been that Han Solo dying saved the goddamned multiverse, not that he kinda helped blow the thing up, which let someone else blow the thing up more. I would’ve bawled at the heroic martyr action that would’ve satisfied and honored the character arc of the original trilogy.
I can actually rant about Han Solo a fair amount for this movie. Han Solo is an awesome character, but I felt like this movie treated him like the aforementioned horse puckey. He was objectified–turned into another piece of furniture for Kylo Ren to whack, except it wasn’t even another glorious tantrum. He was also devolved–back to shady smuggling deals! At the end of Jedi, he goes back to help his friends. Are you seriously telling me that because his son turned out to be a demented, emo fruitbat, he dropped everything and ran back to smuggling? Huh?
How about giving him some goddamned dignity? He could have been, oh, I don’t know, maybe…WORKING FOR THE RESISTANCE THAT HIS BADASS WIFE CREATED IN THE FIRST PLACE. Can’t you just see him proposing and carrying out jobs of all sorts that keep him away from home all the time? He loses the Millennium Falcon in a gamble on First Order intel and it winds up out of his reach. He scrambles around, trying to fix all the problems his son is causing, making excuses for the kid. Or he pretends to switch sides and acts as a double agent. Or something that’s more of a tribute to the man Han Solo should have become based upon the original trilogy.
Yeah, yeah, there’s books and the animated series to fill in the gaps. VII had an opportunity to make me want to catch up with all that stuff. It failed. I’ll probably still see VIII, but I doubt it’ll be in the theater. Kinda like how I waited for II to come out on video. If you loved TFA, more power to ya. I didn’t, and that makes me sad. Because I wanted to.