J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

First, a confession: I am a fan of the original trilogy. More of a fan that even I expected, but that’ll probably become evident soon enough. I enjoy the world, the characters, the myth that underlines it all and binds it together. I will scoff at some of the story devices, at oversimplified psychology, and so on, but parts IV, V and VI of Star Wars have a special place in my heart.

With that in mind I can jump to a short and almost-spoiler-free review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens :).

StarWars_tfa

Pros: the deference to the original trilogy.

Cons: the deference to the original trilogy.

And that’s it, in essence.

  • I admire the amount of work that’s been put into that movie. It looks real – the planets, the robots, the alien races we get a glimpse of… All is dirty, used, old, scratched, sometimes malfunctioning – as in the first movies, where the world was tangible and not CGI-ed within an inch of its life. The visuals are really stunning, especially in 3D. The galaxy has expanded, that’s true too – but why on Earth do we need to visit another desert planet, another snowy expanse, another Naboo-type planet, another (spoiler) Death Star??? Are there no other places, really? But I’m at pros now.
  • BB-8. Some people turned their noses up at Ewoks as an open grab for kids’ money. Well, BB-8 is a metal Ewok. Child-like, small, cute, goes round and round, BB-8 is full of sweet puppy doggedness. And can even point thumbs-up! I’d like to have one now, please. But seriously, he’s cute. And I want one.
  • Han Solo and Chewbacca. These guys know how to roll. If Harrison Ford played Anakin Skywalker, the parts II and III would have been so much better! He can deliver even the most wooden, repetitive lines in such a way that you believe him, that you can actually be moved by what he says. Chewbacca – well, his lines and the robot talk was the best dialogue that movie had.
  • The new characters are believable and likeable, even if derivative. I wouldn’t mind that unoriginality at all if not for the story deficiencies, but more on that later.
  • The music’s very good, as usual – Williams delivers, creating original tracks, mixing them with the ones we know and love, and achieving a difficult equilibrium between old and new.
  • After watching The Force Awakens I started to appreciate the parts II and III more. I really did. They were full of bad acting (except for Ewan McGregor and Yoda), flat dialogue, terrible romantic scenes, and CGI-ed so much that my eyes hurt sometimes, but they had a story to tell.

The cons, well. The list would have been much longer, had I not promised that I’m going to avoid spoilers :P.

  • The story. It’s so unoriginal I wanted the movie to end sooner. It’s so unoriginal I got bored halfway through the film. Derivative, repetitive – the adjective “religious” is a very apt one. This story was made from the knee level – the creators kneeled before the original trilogy and devoutly repeated it bit by bit.
  • Even the surprises were not surprising. Okay, I expected some of the secrets because I more or less followed the story from the extended universe, I read what purportedly were Lucas’s original screenplays for the parts VII-IX, and so on. But even a person who did not have that knowledge would not have been too much surprised – the “secrets” are revealed almost instantly, with rather obvious hints or even said flat-out on screen. The grandfather line was so lame I cringed. The big sacrifice… was foretold half an hour earlier. Maybe I needed two beers or something, but my hardened heart didn’t miss a beat, and I didn’t shed a tear.
  • The villains. Why on Earth the Big Bad looks like (spoiler) Gollum? And where did they find young Severus Snape? I get it, Bill Weasley wanted company, but come on… Enough is enough. The Nazi speech was terrible. The only thing missing was the mustache. Even the finger waggling was there. Gaah!
  • The awakening. I promised no spoilers, so let me just say there was a moment when I waited for the main character to say in Keanu Reeves voice: “I know kung fu”.
  • The dialogues. An improvement from parts I-III, surely, but not on par with the dialogue from parts IV-VI – maybe except for Chewbacca, Han Solo and robots’ lines.
  • After watching The Force Awakens I started to appreciate the parts II and III more. I really did. They were full of bad acting (except for Ewan McGregor and Yoda), flat dialogue, terrible romantic scenes, and CGI-ed so much that my eyes hurt sometimes, but they had a story to tell. Actually, I need to see part III once more, but I think I might have liked it more than this.

I liked what Abrams did with the Star Trek franchise – he was mindful, but not overly obeisant. He built something new on the foundation of old, respecting the sentiments of the audience but at the same time creating a new, engaging story (especially the first movie). I’m all for tributes – I just prefer them more intelligent, questioning the boundaries, heading in new directions, not religiously devoted to keeping to the old, known – even if loved – themes and narratives. I enjoyed the movie, don’t get me wrong. The Force is still with the Star Wars. It’s just that this time there’s less of it. There’s a saying in Polish that imitation is the highest praise – and that’s what Abrams’s movie is.

Score: 6,5/10

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7 thoughts on “J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

  1. BB-8 – 750 Polish zloty and it’s yours 😉

    Heh, I wanted to wait with the spoilers and detailed discussion till January, and write book’s review then… I gave it 9/10 immediately after screening and it’s a very emotional score, but I stand by it – arguably it’s a score given for the whole experience, not coldly analysed cinematic brilliance.

    A few comments – we know why it’s such a clone of New Hope. They wanted to establish their cred, to apologise for episodes I-III, to go back to the roots. And we got a story very enjoyable, seriously not long enough for me to get bored, and I appreciated all the little nods to the audience – I was entertained from the beginning till the end, with no time to stop and think about the flaws. It’s not original, but it’s what was best in the original trilogy, and it’s enough for me if episode VIII graduates and establishes the new trilogy’s individuality.

    As to Hogwarts duo of villains… Bill Weasley was, for me, annoyingly too young for his part, but I didn’t mind young Snape, he did his part – and it wasn’t the part of simple Darth Vader analogue, so at least it’s different than original trilogy ;). The name of villain organisation is really bad though… couldn’t they go for something along the lines of… “New Empire”? And Supreme Leader… not convincing, but I’ll give him a chance and hold definite judgement till episode VIII.

    Our main difference – I don’t mind the simplicity of the plot. I don’t deny it, but it serves it purpose well.

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    • Heh, I know I can buy BB-8 – some would say that was his purpose, after all 🙂
      I know what you mean by “the whole experience” – I just didn’t buy it 😉 I’m all for cold analysis, especially if I can’t be drawn deep into the story – as it happened here. As for nods to the audience – there were so many of them that I was close to nodding myself. It seemed like an extremely professional piece of fan fiction 🙂 It’s a very well made movie – I just wished it were more original.

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  2. I agree with everything you wrote, except for the final rating;) I think it all boils down to expectations. I wanted a nostalgia-fueled Force ride and this is exactly what I got. Still, there were parts where the story was too derivative, even for me. Nabgure Qrngu Fgne? Really?

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    • Oh well, I guess I could be persuaded to 7/10 😉 There’s just one last thing I wanted to add, a little brain exercise 🙂 Think of the reactions to this film if George Lucas had been its director. We wouldn’t have heard the end of it! Repetitive, unoriginal, blatant rip-off, a grab for money…
      Christmas greetings! 😀

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  3. if G Lucas would have made this one I would be pleasantly surprised. He had his chance with I-III episodes and they just sucked..
    III episode could have been one to rule them all, instead we got crippled bs.
    I had a good feelings ’bout this new one. And it delivered, nevermind plot shortcomings.
    I most def expect more from VIII episode though.
    Enjoy your holidays Guys!

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