About half a year ago, a much-anticipated new Star Wars movie came out. It was especially special for me as a Canadian because it was being released soon after we had overthrown our own Emperor Palpatine. I had the Victory Celebration music repeatedly playing for weeks in anticipation, hoping that The Force Awakens would be just as exciting as Justin Trudeau’s first few days in power. And it was, at first. I mean, it had a female lead in Rey! Because it’s 2015! The new trio was funny and relatable to our millennial generation! Han Solo and General Leia still look good after all these years! It was great to have Star Wars back! So I was quite satisfied then, but does it hold up? Now that the hype has finally simmered down, I can finally look at the movie from a clearer perspective.
Predictably enough, the backlash to the movie came soon after, most of it concerning recycled material from A New Hope. And to some extent, this is true. I mean, the first half of the movie was still good. You had the smart-aleck pilot Poe, who has an amusingly defiant attitude to authority figures and sorely needs more screen time in the next movie. You have the Stormtrooper defector Finn, who puts a human face to the white mask just as the Expanded Universe did to the Clone Troopers. You have Hunger Games-esque survivor Rey. And there’s Kylo Ren, who I thought was a disappointing villain at first, but months of memes have convinced me that actually, him being an uncool loser akin to Dark Helmet from Spaceballs was brilliant. Not only is he hilarious, but he serves as a shot at those edgy nerds who think imitating villains is cool (I’m sure a lot of the reason the MRA whiners hate Rey is because she owned their proxy character). Probably those more savvy with the EU would have seen these types before, but for the movie series, this new cast offers a fresh new perspective on the verse. Which makes it all the more disappointing that it just built up to yet another planet-killing superweapon. That had already become a joke in the EU decades ago.
The destruction of the Republic deserves special mention, because it’s by far the worst scene in the entire movie. The centre of government is annihilated, millions of people die, and the movie acts like it’s no big deal. I mean, such an act would set off mass hysteria. It would lead to draconian security measures that would make the US Patriot Act look democratic. But the cast merely mourns for seconds. “They’re dead, I guess.” Yes, I know, it’s fantasy, and such things require suspension of disbelief to swallow, but that’s the problem. It breaks suspension of disbelief that such a heinous, irreversible crime against humanity would be treated so cavalierly, and it reflects some serious skewed priorities when the movie just moves on to Kylo Ren’s daddy issues. So why did the movie include it if it’s merely a throwaway scene? Because A New Hope did it, I guess. But even Alderaan’s destruction was personal for Leia and had Obi-Wan’s famous “as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.” This is just a case of Abrams mindlessly imitating a scene without bothering to think about its significance. There’s the possibility that it’s a shot at the prequels, but…I sure hope not. That only makes it worse.
Oh well, it’s likely that the series will forget about it, so despite the bad taste that leaves in my mind, I’ll try to as well. The rest of the final act is nowhere near as bad, but it still has that same nostalgia pandering problem. It’s fun at first, but the familiarity makes it duller on subsequent viewings. It goes by so fast, that all the interesting characters, concepts, the world itself, don’t get the explanation or attention they deserve. It feels desperate, as if the movie wants to distance itself from the prequels as much as possible. And that’s a problem. I always hold that an ambitious failure is better than an unoriginal success. Sure, Episodes I and II sucked (though if you ask me, III was as much cheesy fun as the Original Trilogy), but the EU showed that you can still make a good story out of the ideas they introduced. As I mentioned earlier, authors have given the Clone Troopers humanity beyond anything in the movies. Heck, the Darth Plagueis novel even redeems midi-chlorians as part of the mystery of the Force by showing they have a mind of their own. But unfortunately, unoriginal successes sell. They placate conservative fans who lash out at anything different in fear of disappointment. Those who dwell on dreams and forget to live. And that mentality bodes badly for storytelling, since nothing inhibits creativity like being unable to think beyond what already exists. To willingly seal yourself in a box rather than think outside it.
I know I complained a lot about the movie, but like my country, I do so because I care and want it to succeed. Unlike Abrams Trek, which ended up being disappointing in hindsight, I actually am looking forward to what comes after The Force Awakens. I just hope the next movie slows down and lets us connect with the world better. It’s good to be able to get lost in the Star Wars verse all over again.