The Farce A-weakens

I finally got around to seeing the latest episode of the Star Wars saga, Episode VII, The Force Awakens. Frankly, I  left feeling disappointed and underwhelmed.

To start with, the plot. Let me explain:

Kid from backwater desert world meets cute little droid containing secret plans, teams up with older man, and together they go looking for adventure, pursued by bad guy wearing a black mask (who betrayed his master and murdered the Jedi), who is obsessed with capturing said plans. Kid becomes aware of the Force, and inherits a lightsabre. Meanwhile, bad guys have completed a super-weapon capable of destroying a planet, and demonstrate it in action doing exactly that. Good guys attack said super-weapon with X-Wings, damage its weak point – some thermal wossname – and blow it to smithereens. The End.

Sound familiar? It should – it’s a straight ripoff of Episode IV!

The thing that bothered me most was Rey’s sudden mastery at all things: She was able to pick up the knack of flying the Millennium Falcon in just a few moments. To put this into perspective, Lando Calrissian, who had owned the Falcon before Han Solo, required a support crew during the attack on the second Death Star in Episode 6. Yes, Anakin Skywalker had superhuman reflexes and was the only human to podrace – but let us not forget that he *built* his podracer (along with C3PO), so one can safely assume that he was familiar with the mechanics of flying one – and even he made some massive screw-ups in Episode I that almost cost him the race.

But Rey’s expertise didn’t just end with flying; oh no…she was also able to master using a lightsabre in a matter of minutes, a task that took Luke Skywalker three whole movies – and the loss of his hand. But Rey not only fought like a dervish, but just the mention of the Force suddenly and mysteriously gave her the upper hand in the final climactic battle. I have read some accounts that there was a hidden feminist message here; that excellence takes diligence, discipline, duty and devotion – but only if you are a guy. If you are a girl, all you have to do is show up and be awesome. At the time, I was skeptical of this claim – I don’t like conspiracy theories – but now I’m not so sure…

And so to the actors:

  • To her credit, Daisy Ridley was excellent as Rey, but the victim of poor scripting and directing.
  • The black dude, however, was seriously unconvincing as the cowardly lion… er… stormtrooper, and it didn’t help that his nostrils reminded me of the wheel arches of a ’78 Trans Am.
  • The Bad Guy General/Admiral looked like a kid trying on Daddy’s Uniform, and his “Hitler moment” (you’ll know it when you see it) is eye-rollingly pathetic.
  • Han Solo stole the show, but the chain of coincidences that the screenwriters used to bring him into it was too bizarre to be believable.
  • Leia did not look like Leia; Carrie Fisher has not aged well at all: her voice was an octave lower than it needed to be, and she reminded me more of Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway than General Leia Organa Solo.
  • Kylo Ren was unconvincing. when he took off the mask, his voice went up an octave, and I almost laughed out loud at that ridiculous hair (was I the only one who thought he was Severus Snape’s younger brother?).

The Plot simply does not makes sense, and raises more questions than it answers. At the very beginning, we are told that Luke Skywalker has vanished. Why would he need to do that? Why would he hide from his own sister? And having done all that, why the heck would he then leave behind a map? And why are Jedi masters always running away? Both Yoda and Obi-Wan did it in earlier episodes, now Luke is doing it as well. It is beginning to look like some kind of Jedi tradition…

Why would his protege who turned to the Dark Side revere Darth Vader, when Luke – and therefore, presumably, the protege – must have known for a fact that he turned back to the Good side before he died. If Luke was supposed to bring balance to the force, why is the Dark Side still so tempting and terrifying? And if he was familiar with both sides of the force, why would his protege’s defection cause him to run away?

Why did Kylo Ren need to change his name – and if so, why not Darth Something? The need for a name change never really made sense. And while we’re on the subject of names, what fool came up with a stupid name like “Supreme Leader Snoke”? Sounds like a teddy-bear or an Ewok princeling than the most evil creature in the universe. And when did X-Wings acquire Hyperspace capability? I always thought that they were supposed to be “short-range snub fighters”.

The Force Awakens

Yes, the special effects were awesome, Yes, the scenery was stunning. Yes, the space/air battles were heart-stopping. Yes, the aliens were convincing – particularly those tentacled man-eating horrors that get loose aboard Han’s ship. And yes, there were a good few “AHA!” moments. But for sheer nonsensicality, this one ranks down there with Attack of the Clones. After seeing that one in the theater, I said “that was the best film that I have ever seen”, to which my wife sagely replied “No it wasn’t”. And she was right; my mind had been so thoroughly blown by the last thirty minutes that I had forgotten the glacial pace of the first half of the movie. And this one made me want to see Episode 2 again, cos it was better.

Finally, like “The Phantom Menace”, “The Force Awakens” is an exceptionally poor title. Here are some of my suggestions.

  • The Force Hits Snooze
  • Luke Skywalker Runs Away for No Adequately Explored Reason
  • Oh No Another Bad Guy in a Black Mask
  • Disney Does It Again
  • J. J Abrams Has Fallen Over and Can’t Get Up.

Coming up in mid -2017: Star Wars VIII: The Quest For More Dollars.

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