The Force Awakens: And It’s Groundhog Day
By: Carmichael Dave
Note: I have waited a couple of weeks since the release of the movie to publish this. I hate people who spoil things, and I hope there’s a special place in hell for those who do. So PLEASE be advised that this is filled with a recap of the movie, with TONS AND TONS of spoilers. Read only if you’ve seen the movie.
I went and saw the new Star Wars movie, and then I immediately went on vacation. The time off gave me ample space to think long and hard about how I felt viewing the first addition to the SW universe in decades, and to get comfortable with those thoughts.
I gave the movie a 3/10 score. Before I get to the details explaining why, I should say a few things.
Boy were people pissed at me when I tweeted my score.
What’s strange is: I’ve never been on that end of the nerd rage (I say that lovingly, because I proudly consider myself a nerd). I’m usually the guy that pushes the nerdy sci-fi/fantasy flick, and the holy triad of Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter is something I’ve taken a lot of crap for, being a sports talk radio guy and living in a male 25-54 world.
I was told repeatedly that I was trolling for an audience, that I couldn’t “truly” feel that way. Note- I’m on vacation, so I’m not pulling extra radio audiences. And I get paid absolutely nothing extra for tweets, facebook comments or blogs. As a matter of fact, I’m still on vacation, and I’m writing this just to enjoy (or duck and cover) the ensuing conversation about a story I love. People know of my Harry Potter affliction, and have accused me of being biased because there are no pre-teen witches, vampires, Ewoks or Jar-Jars in the new movie. Breaking my opinion down before they even read it.
I even had an ex-girlfriend, a woman I lived with for 3 years, tell me “shame on you.” She was serious. Being married for almost 10 years to a different woman, that was an all too familiar phrase from someone I used to share a life with.
The responses amazed me. In a sense, I could understand them – I have a strict “no spoiler” rule, and if you’ve seen the movie you understand there are a myriad of spoilers to spoil. So I refused to get into any sort of substantive conversation on social media, as to not ruin it for anyone else. So without being able to talk to these people who hated me, I certainly couldn’t supply them with any reasoning (not that I’m going to change anyone’s mind).
Which brings me to my other big issue – changing people’s minds: I don’t want to.
The movie is so universally loved and successful, and the SW universe is a generational backbone, I don’t want to be “that guy.” So there’s really only two outcomes from writing this – either people say I’m stupid and don’t get it (likely), or maybe I take some of the luster off the film, which is far, FAR worse. I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone.
That out of the way, here are a couple guidelines:
If you read any further, there WILL BE SPOILERS. Please don’t continue unless you’ve seen the movie:
- These are MY thoughts on the movie. Not yours. I am fully comfortable being on an island here. Nothing I say should change your mind about anything.
- I am a massive fan. My mancave is littered with memorabilia and posters, including a badass fathead of Han Solo encased in carbonite on the wall. My first dog’s name was Leia. I say this only to prevent those who don’t know me from thinking I’m some “hater” of the movies, and would hate the new movie no matter what.
- This is a preliminary review. This is a vital point. VITAL. My opinion is based on this movie alone, without knowing what is to come. JJ Abrams and Co could raise my 3/10 to anywhere from a 7-8/10 depending on the next three. I can only go on what I’ve seen, and not what is to come. I absolutely have to make clear that its very possible he and the crew have all kinds of surprises in store that will make me go “Ohhhhhh ok” in the future. But I didn’t want to wait 5 years to review this movie. So slap a giant asterisk on this entire thing.
Now on to the movie.
The Look: 3/10 means (in my mind) that I loved 30% of this movie. And its true, there was a lot to love. Let’s start with the look and feel- gone are the HD crisp, metallic looks of the prequels, back to the softer, more 80’s feel of the original 3. They hit it out of the park with this one.
The Actors: Another home run. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are tremendous, the result of perfect casting. Doesn’t hurt that they have some great dialogue to work with. That’s back too, and can’t be underestimated. The snappy back and forths, the quick wit, and most importantly HUMOR is back. People forget some of the hallmarks of the series are Han or Lando or whomever busting out some snarky comment in the middle of certain doom to break up the monotony and pressure. The writers did well here.
After that though, my problems start to boil up. Now keep in mind, I KNOW we are talking about a movie in which people use some unseen power, droids talk, and countless other things occur that make you need to suspend reality. I get that. But to me, there’s a difference in allowing for a fantasy world and having your intelligence insulted.
The Plot: Now we get into it.
Many have said this movie was an homage to A New Hope, that the movie needed to reconnect new viewers to the old material. I say BS. This is Star Wars. I’d bet most people know more about who Luke Skywalker’s dad is than know about our American Presidents. This is a part of history and lore. And if there’s still a question? The movies are available everywhere on digital download and blu-ray.
Also, don’t come to me about the films needing to be successful. You could’ve shown a movie with nothing but Chewbacca taking a dump for 2 hours with a snappy John Williams soundtrack and it still would’ve made a billion dollars. Abrams and crew had a tremendous amount of pressure, but making money wasn’t one of them. They had a legion of moviegoers fluent in the SW universe to work with.
But they dumbed it down anyway.
Where to start? How about the beginning of the movie?
Poe Dameron, Resistance/Rebellion/Whatever pilot, is being chased by Imperial/New Order/Whatever forces. He rolls to some planet, and meets with Max Von Obi Wan Sydow who is promptly killed by NewPerial forces as they search for Dameron, who escapes.
The pilot realizes he’s screwed, so he entrusts these magical plans with secret info in a trash-can looking and very cute droid, with instructions to deliver them to General/Princess Leia or whatever. He also meets up with a stormtrooper guy who was trained from birth to be a stormtrooper but was a custodian and is now having second thoughts and with no real trepidation teams up with Poe to escape the ship they are now both on. They crash land on Jakku, a desert planet which should be called “Not Tatooine”, where Good Stormtrooper escapes. Apparently Poe escaped too, but we are left thinking he died. I guess he escaped but decided to abandon his mission or trusted Good Stormtrooper would just finish his mission or something. Yeah, I was confused too.
Oh, and some black caped/helmeted forc-y bad dude shows up and stops a laser in mid air (which was rad) and is obsessed with these plans, but can’t find them.
Let’s recap so far:
-Imperials giving chase
-Black helmeted/caped forc-y guy obsessed with plans/info
-Torture of good guy while looking for plans/info
-Cylindrical beep boop droid escapes and rolls around said desert planet
Sound familiar? Let’s continue.
So the cylindrical droid called BB-8, or Not R2, escapes and rolls around the desert planet with the super secret plans/info to find Luke/destroy the Death Star/Whatever buried in his casing, and he weirdly enough runs into our heroine, the very gritty and pretty Rey.
Rey is a junk gatherer or something, and barely makes ends meet. She is an orphan who knows little to nothing about her parents, and dreams of more than the dead-end life she has in this desert wasteland. Luckily, on a planet of millions or billions, Not R2 finds Rey/Luke/Anakin and they make friends. Then weirdly enough Good Stormtrooper also meets up with both of them. They run around and try to escape the New Imperiorder who are shooting lots of shots at them, and just as they almost get to their ship, it blows up. Dammit.
What’s that? Oh it’s the MOTHERGRABBING MILLENNIUM FALCON just chilling over there. Let’s take it!
So Reynakin and Good Stormtrooper steal the Falcon, only she can’t really fly it. They bounce off the surface of Not Tatooine a bunch of times, and now the New Order of the Empires are on their tail. In a deleted scene, the glove compartment of the Falcon had an AMAZING starship manual, because in a manner of seconds Reywalker has learned to not only fly the ship, but cut corners and fit into spaces reminiscent of Lando and that weird looking co-pilot on the Death Star. Just amazing flying.
-Droid meets up on Desert Planet (Not Tatooine) with orphan who knows little/nothing about parents
-Orphan has strange background, unknown origins, and longs for more
-Amazingly droid, Good Stormtrooper, and NotLuke all meet and become friends
-Orphan has amazing piloting skills, perhaps due to some unseen power, and pretty much oopsies his her way past highly-trained badguy forces to escape. Sort of.
The rest is (mostly) a blur. Not Vader meets up with some disembodied guy via hologram who is huge and doesn’t have a nose. This guy is apparently Not Vader’s master, and we are assuming he is strong in the force and stuff. Also, Not Vader argues with the other guy in charge who we can call Not Tarkin. But I digress. Apparently Luke is missing, and trained Not Vader and others to be a Jedi, but Not Vader went crazeball and killed everyone and now is a conflicted guy with Skywalker blood who is on the dark side. Oh and one of the Skywalkers (Leia) senses good in him.
So instead of cleaning up his mess Luki-Wan apparently went into exile while the galaxy apparently erased all the Return of the Jedi victories (which was apparently just a tiny battle or something, we don’t know). Well, Luke went into exile, but apparently there is a map somewhere spread out over the universe that if all put together, gives out his pager number or something. Oh- and the New Order of the Imperial Empire also is constructing some sort of Super Weapon, which will be referred to as the Not Death Star. Cause lets be honest, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me THREE TIMES shame on the writers.
So this is the Not Death Star, because it gets its power from the sun or something. Yes it is shown destroying an entire planet (Not Alderaan) and is targeting the Resistance/Rebellion/Whatever with a countdown before they fire.
But wait- in a crazy plot twist there is apparently SOME SORT OF TINY WEAKNESS IN THE NOT DEATH STAR THAT CAN BLOW THE WHOLE THING UP!!!!! NO WAYZ!!!
Apparently that weakness is Han and Chewie sneaking in with Reywalker and GoodTrooper and putting a few things of C-4 in there.
-Not Vader meets with some Commander/Not Emperor via hologram
-Not Tarkin and Not Vader squabble
-Luki-Wan has gone into exile, but left Jedi Breadcrumbs
-Empirical Order Guys have some sort of Super Weapon that killed one planet and now is focused on the Rebel Base
-Amazingly through some error by a forgetful architect, the Super Not Death Star Weapon thing has a hatch that if you kick it the right way blows the whole thing up.
So Not Vader and Good Stormtrooper meet up on the Not Death Star and fight with Lightsabers in the snow. Good Stormtrooper, with no force abilities (we assume) or at least no training goes at it with Ben Solo-Skywalker, filled with midichlorians, and holds his own. He even manages to wound Not Vader. But eventually NV wins out and gives GS a big lightsaber scratch on the back, making him fall in the snow and needing a band-aid.
Then NotLuke-Rey comes into the scene and she and NotVader have a force-off with Luke’s old saber, which called out to Rey on some other planet. Weirdly enough, the guy trained in the force a bunch and who 5 minutes ago stopped a blaster bolt in mid-air loses the force-off, and battles with Rey. This is the climactic showdown.
Long story long, Rey (with no training whatsoever but her super strong hidden force abilities that she also discovered 5 minutes ago) outduels Not Vader and wins the battle. Then R2 wakes up from his slumber and connects with Not R2 and they compare notes and come up with Luke’s pager number. Then Not Luke goes to see Luke and we all finally see Bearded Obi-Luke in what is an admittedly pretty badass scene to wrap the movie.
If my snarky writing style/recap sounds a little bitter, its because it is. There’s a difference between an homage and a cut/paste. There’s a difference between suspending reality due to a fantasy world and being insulted. There were many, many cool scenes, and as I said earlier, I dig most of the new characters, mainly Rey. Kylo-Ben feels a little Anakin-y to me, in the sense that I feel the same bitchy whiny Hayden Christensen-esque style being channeled. And is the SW universe that small that we all basically have 3-4 plot points to work from? Maybe people named Skywalker shouldn’t breed. Or teach. Or do anything.
As I said at the beginning, the next two movies could change a lot of this, a lot of my feelings towards the movie. The most popular sentiment I’ve heard is “Goes a long way to erasing the embarrassment of the prequels”. Let’s explore that for a moment. No, I am not about to start a full-throated defense of the prequels, so save it.
Whereas The Force Awakens is guilty in my eyes of massive unoriginality, you can’t say the same for those prequels. The acting sucked. The dialogue sucked. Hell, most of the plot sucked. But they WERE ORIGINAL. The introduction of characters like Mace Windu and Count Dooku, Darth Maul, etc, was constant. Seeing more of the origin story of how the Empire came to be, and the transformation of Anakin to Vader was solid. The final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan was a visual accomplishment. One of the biggest problems with the prequels was TOO MUCH originality. Too much story and backstory (no one cares about the Trade Federation or whatever). This movie did the exact opposite. They were so afraid of the reaction the prequels got that they ran waaaaay over to the other side and played it completely and utterly safe. Except for one thing.
Did you think I forgot?
Let’s finish this.
This is where I’m going to go completely off the reservation, and I get it. This part is completely personal preference, and I’m sure I’m in the minority. I knew it was coming. I knew it was the only way Harrison Ford agreed to do the movie. I knew it was coming…..
But seeing Han Solo impaled by a lightsaber was the single most traumatic movie experience of my life.
He wasn’t just killed. He was killed up close and personal, and you saw the look in his eyes as his life drained away. You saw his body fall a thousand feet into the mist. Then the planet blew up. They pretty much killed him off like they did Chef on South Park. I get the reasons. Save it. Kylo-Ben had to complete his dark journey, we needed to truly hate the character, blah blah. I get it. But not Solo.
There were no other deaths in the SW movie history that compared. Obi-Wan and Yoda basically disappeared. Actually, they disappeared, no basically about it. Qui-Gon didn’t disappear, but we barely knew him and he became a force ghost anyway. Same with Vader, except we knew him, and he was mostly a dick when he was alive. Han Solo doesn’t get to be a force ghost. He’s just brutally dead. And Chewie is all alone now. Well, I’m sure he and Rey will be the new partners, I get it.
Han Solo was to many, the most identifiable character in the entire saga. He didn’t have the force, he was just a dude who was snarky and cool and had a good heart deep down. He got the hot chick too. He was like us. Imperfect, morally flawed, but in the end tried to do the right thing. And from now on, whenever I go back and watch the original 3, I know that they guy who said “YOU’RE ALL CLEAR KID!!!!” would eventually get saber-stabbed. I teared up when he died. It wasn’t just Solo who was killed either, I think a part of me saw Indy Jones dying as well. Harrison Ford is such a phenomenal actor, and the look on his face scarred me. I’ve gone my entire life seeing him as the hero, always coming out on top. Hell, he even got shot in the head in Regarding Henry and ended up ok. Not this time.
My point is, they didn’t NEED to kill off Han. This isn’t Game of Thrones, this is the sacred Star Wars universe. They could’ve driven the plot exactly the same in a different way. They showed Anakin killing off the little kid Jedis, they could’ve done something similar with Kylo-Ben.
But yes, father/son conflict. I get it. Sue me if I think some things should be left sacred. I honestly think Abrams and Co wanted to flex their muscles a bit, and let everyone know that the old ways are gone and all should rejoice. They didn’t kill Han Solo. That’s just what we saw.
They killed George Lucas. Right in front of our eyes.
So yeah, 3/10. As I said, the next two movies can go a long way to repairing my mindset, but there’s a lot of work to do.
RIP Han. Now excuse me, while I duck the virtual tomatoes being lobbed my way.
May the force be with me.
If you wish to continue the discussion, which I hope you do, go to the KHTK facebook page to kill me softly.