Why I Didn't Like Star Wars The Force Awakens.

Dear JJ Abrams. When you babysit somebody's child, you understand that your number one responsibility is their safety. Your job is not to impose your parenting ideas, your job is not to enhance that child's life or teach them anything. Perhaps as a guideline you'll try to imitate the general morality of the parents as a rough yardstick - copy what they did. So....

Congratulations. You did that with Star Wars. But that's all you did.

This movie made me respect what David S Goyer and Zack Snyder did with Man of Steel. At least that took actual courage. What JJ Abrams did was make a movie so safe I couldn't really applaud it.

This movie played things so safely but with such seriousness that it made for a jarring experience at the best of times. And yet it started with something so specific and small-scale and UN-epic as "oh, there's this dude. he's missing. and apparently it's really important we find him because the audience knows his name". Which is actually massively alienating : it's been THIRTY years since as Star Wars film and all you can do is tell me nobody in the universe is more important than Son Of Space Jesus?

And/but that’s before all the plagiarism from the prior movies is factored in on top. Conflicted villain? Shadowy superior? Super Death Star? Cantina scene? Droids? Millennium Falcon? X-Wings? How about having something new to show for a thirty year gap? The movie further nosedived for me once Han Solo showed up, cracking wise after a fairly brutal opening, dealing with caricatured adversaries and a CG menagerie. The lack of originality is a real problem for me in getting me excited. And the attempts at humour didn’t work for me. The vagueness (who are the resistance? what are they fighting for? who is the republic? who is motivated specifically why what?) is a problem. De-masking your bad guy this early is a problem. Making your heroine an electronic genius AND a force user is a self-starring fan-fic written by a boy pretending to be a girl. The back-referencing is irritating. The idea of there being both a republic and a first order AND a resistance shows about the same vagueness as Lucas did when he made “Queen Amidala”s an elected position. And yes, I was fucking betting that they’d mirror the Ben death once Han went across the bridge to Kylo Ren. Why? Because that would be copying, and that’s what this movie was all about. Copy the best, add very little new, fly this thing safely, hope for the applause for the thing you've created.

Why do I care? What am I passionate about? Kylo Ren is a pathetic bitch whose too-early-reveal-of-patheticness undid any early cool factor. Lord Snow or Snoke or Snope or Smoke... I don't give a shit about this character, I could barely get a handle on his name let alone care about his Bad-CG appearance. Corporal / Colonel / Constable Hux sounded like a whiny Tarkin, completely unclassy with a stupid name to boot. And Captain Phasma was typical action-figure bait with no relevance to the plot : it's like General Grievous but more shiny with close to half a dozen less lightsabers and no hacking cough.

Weirdly, I actually didn't hate this film. But clearly I have little good to say about it.

As for the final battle? I found the final battle was simply confused, like they were wondering if anybody wanted to see X-Wings, decided to throw some in just in case it made a difference, and left it at that, thus robbing the movie of pacing at the expense of… what… fan service? Random noise in the form of pew-pew laser blasts from that one guy we saw earlier? But remember : you go to all the stupidity of creating a copied death star whose only redeeming feature is that it's exponentially bigger than the last one and make its destruction barely even tangential to the story of our heroes?!? What the fuck is the point of that? But hey, watching two kids swish lightsabers around was dramatic because... oh I don't know, plus to me it was interesting only insofar as near as I can tell Rey did nothing but wield it in anger the whole time.. so huzzah for the dark side in our heroine I guess.

As for the very end? Yeah…. Thanks Disney.  Mark Hamill sure did earn that second-in-the-credits position. And I don't even know how (or who) drew the two-pieces map to find him, and went to all the trouble to hide it or why. Was this Luke's idea? On what basis? What for? Oh... wait. I forgot

I don't f**king care, because the movie gave me no reason to care.

At the end of the day this movie's goals (which I'll summarise as : spawn more movies, and sell merchandise) didn’t coincide with my own, and it's not my kind of movie, because I can't figure out how it could ever have been my kind of movie. For one thing, it was too busy setting up the next movie(s) to give me a proper THIS movie.

This movie was .... a mess in many ways. In spite of all I've written didn't hate it, but I struggle to talk about what I like. It felt like a bad fanfic where somebody draws a list of everything that was cool in one or two movies and shoves them, or linear/geometric enhancements into a new one, whether it be as references, callbacks, or outright duplication, and garnishes the rest with stuff made up to connect the dots on any flimsy pretext. It's not good enough... except based on global box office receipts it's clearly good enough. So I'm wrong on every factor that counts.

But I just hope that I personally can now stop giving a fuck about future star wars movies. I gave this one a chance.... I tried to give it as open a mind as I could. Or rather, I tried to, but given I had three f**king months of the trailers, the teasers and the damn merchandise shoved in my face, demanding that I have an opinion on the awesomeness of a movie I haven't seen yet... I didn't. Sorry.

I give it 6.5/10 which is flat-average. Nothing more.

One final comment, by way of analogy : If I were to pay a lot of money for the rights to create and release new paintings under the ‘Picasso’ brand, how would that be received? Would it be fair to say that I had no right to do this, even if I was brandishing a contract and a receipt for payment that confirmed I had every right? To me, that’s what’s happening here – somebody has paid money for the right to a name, and in doing so what they’ve done can be evaluated one of several ways, which is : to continue the analogy is it (a) a shitty painting, (b) a shitty Picasso, or (c) something that's a Picasso only because they paid money for the right to call it a Picasso, or (d) two thirds of a Picasso with a remainer comprised mainly of a plea to 'Stay tuned for More Future Picassos!!!!!!!' ending.... and is it really valid to like whatever is created on the basis of "it's just nice to see a new Picasso" or "it' might not be an original Picasso, but it's better than some of the worse ones"

To me, the answer is : it's a shitty Picasso by the standards of Picasso. But yes, congratulations, it's better than his worst.

And that's where I'm at.

 

ps : sorry for the rant. I'll try to edit for brevity and clarity later. Maybe. Quite frankly : I'm sick of thinking about Star Wars - have been for about ten years.