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I've been trying - quite unsuccessfully - not to think too much about The Force Awakens. It's not for me; so what? It shouldn't matter if other people love it; it shouldn't prevent me from continuing to love the original six movies....but seeing how it's breaking records all over the place, talk about the movie is everywhere and I just can't escape it. And I couldn't help trying to further articulate what exactly bugs me so much about it. But then I promise I'll back off and just pretend it doesn't exist. Hah.

Spoilers, obviously.

Obviously my most visceral dislike of the film comes from how bleak they make the lives of the original trio - Luke is an exile, even more alone than Obi-Wan, Han and Leia aren't together, Leia apparently has no Jedi training, and Han gets killed by their stupid emo Dark Side son. Blah. I can't help wanting to ask people who are big fans of the new characters how they'd feel if I told them Rey and Finn (or whatever couple ends up being romantic) will go on to have a son who turns to the Dark Side, restarts yet another Empire/First Order clone, and kills his father or mother. Kinda like a punch to the gut, right? I just...I don't want that.

However, there are other reasons for my dislike, perhaps somewhat more rational. Star Wars is of course cyclical, with numerous recurring themes and motifs. But it's not about outright copying the same plot strands over and over without much variation. I feel like The Force Awakens, for all its shiny, slick new stuff on the surface, is an uninspired retread of the original Star Wars, with a few elements from The Empire Strikes Back thrown in. Let me put it this way: it was like they played Star Wars MadLibs.

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships A Resistance spaceship, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against are about to obtain a map that won't really matter until the end of the movie but trust us it's important in their war against the evil Galactic Empire First Order.

During the battle, Rebel spies a Resistance pilot managed to steal secret plans to the is meeting an old man whose identity we're going to be inexplicably coy about, and by the way there's also this Empire's First Order's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR STARKILLER, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet a Death Star wannabe that is supposed to be scarier but since we're busy focusing on the map with Luke this whole planet-destroying thing kind of becomes a weird underdeveloped sub-plot.

Pursued by the Empire's First Order's sinister agents, Princess Leia Poe Dameron races home to a Tatooine rip-off aboard her his starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy looking for the map that won't get a pay-off until the very end of this movie and then it's still just an elongated tease....

(Side note - even though Poe essentially plays the Princess Leia role in this film, I never found myself even remotely invested in his character as I feel invested in Leia's from the start. I'm surprised at the huge fan following that has sprung up around him - is it because the actor is well-known/charismatic? Because in the actual movie, he spends a good amount of the screen time absent/presumably dead while Han takes over the role of third trio member, and when he's present, well, he's just a cocky pilot, a kind of Han Solo-lite with little apparent room for character growth. He's already with the Resistance, so there's no moral switch he could undergo like Finn or Han. Getting tortured is apparently no big deal for him. Sure, Leia might have resisted giving information under torture, but at least she trembled a bit at the prospect of the mind probe, and we get to see true pathos for her character when her planet is destroyed. Why are we supposed to sympathize with Pilot McCockypants, other than him being the Good Guy? I don't know, I just couldn't bring myself to care when he supposedly died, and was completely unexcited when he predictably showed up not-dead later.)

Then there's the Empire bits: the evil masked leader of the Empire First Order turns out to be the hero's father son, the Force sensitive orphan Luke Rey develops his her abilities and then confronts the villain in a lightsaber duel.

But shoving it all into one film rather than having the patience to stretch it out across two means that everything is woefully rushed and implausible. And don't get me wrong; I love the idea of a woman filling a similar role to Luke, but why did they have to make her suddenly capable of flawless mind tricks and lightsaber duels (not the same as fighting with a staff, no matter no skilled she is with that) within minutes of realizing she's Force sensitive! They wrote themselves into a corner, wanting a lightsaber duel but not having anyone who could reasonably go up against Kylo Ren. They banished the Jedi Master for the entire movie and had only an untrained pre-Jedi, yet still wanted a lightsaber duel to parallel all the other movies.

Could you do similar MadLibs between the original trilogy and the prequels? I don't think so. After all, what a lot of people complain about is how different the prequels were, how there was no Han Solo character, no straight-forward protagonists fighting the good fight against straight-forward villains, too much talking and politics, blah blah blah. Well, I like that. It forges new territory while still drawing parallels in a subtler, more creative way. Anakin is a dreamer on Tatooine, but unlike Luke he's young, separated from his mother, thus planting the seeds for his fall. Padmé is a political idealist, but unlike Leia she's working within the established government rather than against it, in a time of prosperity and complacency rather than in a rebellion against an evil regime. And so on.

I just feel like it's mostly already been done, and far better, by Episode IV and V. What few things I do enjoy about The Force Awakens - the idea of Rey and Finn if not every execution of their characterization - I wish they could have put in an entirely different movie, where their heroes' journeys aren't built upon the backs of Luke, Han and Leia's sufferings as well as the flagrant cannibalization of the original trilogy.

And all those (quite valid) complaints against toy companies not including Rey? It's sexist, of course, but also a symptom of a larger problem - the complete withholding of any and all plot/character details up until the release of the film. I understand the policy of not wanting to leak major spoilers, but when you can't even acknowledge that Rey is pretty much the protagonist of the film, it becomes ridiculous. I recall a similar withholding policy surrounding the hype of Abrams's Star Trek: Into Darkness. They swore up and down that the villain wasn't Khan, no sir, why would you ever think that, and then GASP! it turns out it was Khan, aren't you all so marvelously surprised? No, everyone could see it coming.

And we could all see Rey's role coming from miles away, as she was clearly cast for her resemblance to the Skywalkers, she starts out on a desert planet and has a mysterious parentage, and of course she's going to play a similar role to Luke and end up wielding a Jedi's weapon. So just make the toy Reys with lightsabers and stop trying to be clever about it. It's insulting, really, as if they think the viewers are clueless morons. This is of course a marketing issue more than any problems with the film itself, but I feel like it's part of the overall issue with trying to create this huge mystique, promising giant punch-in-the-gut spoilers on the level of "I am your father." If we're all expecting giant spoilers, they won't be punch-in-the-gut at all. Stop trying to recreate it; it'll never happen.

And now I'm off, to try very very hard not to think about this anymore. However, if I do let my anger get the better of me and turn to the Dark Side, it's all J.J. Abrams's fault. :P

Date: 2016-01-13 01:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krpalmer.livejournal.com
I've been trying to hold in my mind the thought that any amount of the considerable number of people who went to see the original Star Wars in 1977 (some numerous times) thought of it as just "a good time at the movies" with the "mythic overtones" and "saga" viewpoint coming later, and I can suppose there's a part of the audience of The Force Awakens (maybe even a significant slice) that can consider that movie just that, just as they had a good time at the previous Star Wars movies without demanding profundities... but I unfortunately understand all the other baggage attached to it that starts to weigh it down at the slightest consideration.

Anyway, I wouldn't say this is the only time I've seen this "it's as much what happened to those 'original' characters we're supposed to love as much as anything" expressed. Maybe I'm just distracting myself with more things (including trying to time a subtitle file of "Backstroke of the West," the infamous back-translation of Revenge of the Sith, to a video of the movie itself...)

Date: 2016-01-13 02:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] matril.livejournal.com
So I would say that The Force Awakens is a sequel in the most derivative sense of the word - it repeats what the original did, attempting to create more or less the same effect without much variation from the original formula. And I realize that for a lot of people, that's exactly what they want. I doubt anyone missed the fact that Abrams and Co. were copying the originals so heavily - for some it's a highly negative aspect, but for many it's yet another point in its favor.

It's ironic to me that they so often cite Empire as the best Star Wars movie when it so flagrantly broke all the rules of sequel-making, taking the story in a completely new direction and inventing new formulas all over again. People gush about how "dark" it is and seem to forget that a good chunk of the film consists of Luke interacting with a weird little green puppet while Han and Leia fix a broken ship and dance around their feelings. It works, but it certainly wasn't treading comfortable established formulas.

Anyway, I too have been trying to distract myself with the things I love about the original movies rather than fixating all too much on TFA. For me it mostly consists of listening to the soundtracks all day and writing lots of fan fiction. It helps some, though it's impossible to entirely forget my annoyance with the new movie.

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