12/28/2015

Force Awakens review

I actually posted the following on my Facebook account a couple of days ago, and there's already been a spate of post-release reviews all saying pretty much the same thing. But, for what it's worth, here's my take on the new Star Wars movie. TL:DR; it could have been a lot worse, but it could have been a deal better, too.

On the new Star Wars movie - needless to say there may be spoilers, but I'll try hard to avoid them. And the tone of what I say may come across as a lot more negative than I actually felt watching the movie, but which needs to be said nonetheless:

I think it's safe to say, judging by what I've seen via Google (try googling "Force Awakens plot holes"), that I'm not the only one left a touch bemused - if not downright perplexed - by the new Star Wars movie. Once the credits rolled, Emma asked what I thought of it, and I said 'I'd give it 7/10. It was...okay.'

That surprised me a little, because I'd actually gone in with high hopes. I was genuinely looking forward to it. I've always been willing to cut Star Wars some slack because in the original trilogy at least, it told a pretty effective story with some genuine surprises. Even when I was a kid, seeing Star Wars for the first time, I already knew spaceships couldn't make noise in space, and that a parsec was a measure of distance, not time. But if you can get the story right, the audience, including me, will forgive a lot.

What _also_ helped were the endlessly positive reviews of The Force Awakens, particularly from reviewers like Mark Kermode, whom I don't always agree with, but whose reviews I always respect (if you don't know him, he's a BBC film reviewer with the haircut of a middle-aged rockabilly, and a highly-regarded podcast). He gave it an enormous thumbs-up, despite himself never having been that much of a fan of the previous movies.

I often find I don't really figure out what I think of a film until I've had a little time to absorb it and think about it. Now, a day later, I feel less like I've seen a Hollywood film than I have a dramatised spreadsheet in which points of drama are strung between points of fan-service.

I found it curiously lacking in excitement, for all the running around and explosions. In fact, for a major Hollywood movie, it's surprisingly lacking in any real dramatic tension. I had a hard time caring, to be honest, because the movie was aimed, judging by reports I've read of audience reactions in packed cinemas, at people who wanted to see familiar faces and familiar objects and places from the original films. These faces, objects and places (I'm trying to avoid spoilers) overwhelmed what otherwise might have been a decent story.

If you'd kept all the old faces out and concentrated on the new - on Finn, Rey and so forth - it might actually have been a better and more involving movie, because there would have been time for the story, such as it is, to develop. It would also have allowed for - and one can only hope for the Star Wars movies still to come - a more _original_ story.

That way, we might have had time to get to know and thereby empathise with those newer characters, instead of them being subsumed in the tide of referentiality that otherwise constitutes the plot. In fact, what you get is less a movie than a _cover version_ of a movie. Not quite a reboot, but more like what might have been a genuinely original story that's been strangled at birth and fed into the gaping, Jabba-like maw of a commercial franchise.

I could say more regarding the huge, massive plot holes that litter the whole thing, but instead of that I'll just point you to at a review that goes into far greater detail, but which I agree with.

It's far from the best movie of 2015; it's far from even being the best science fiction movie of the year. If it's akin to anything, it's a reunion gig by some 60s or 70s rock dinosaur where the audience sits and waits passively while they rumble through the new, not so good songs, before cheering hysterically the moment the band plays the opening chords to a familiar hit.

Again: I really wanted to like it more than I did. I went in with high, rather than low expectations. If I was 12, I'd probably have enjoyed the heck out of it. But when I was 12, I also thought Irwin Allen's The Lost World was the greatest thing ever, and just a couple of years before that I'd probably have thought cardboard boxes were a barrel of fun too.

But as an adult, I felt like I'd gone to a restaurant everyone raves about that turns out to serve a meal that's merely acceptable, if even that. In other words, I felt disappointed, and just a little bit let-down. I can only imagine what that other, better movie featuring the new actors and none of the old would have been like. 'Better than the prequels' just isn't enough.
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