Thursday, December 17, 2015

Force Awakens review: adequacity

The film is worth seeing. See it quickly before everyone tells you the spoilers. The two main characters, Rey and Fin, are rather awesome. There was enough cheering in the theater, at the appropriate points, that I think fans and non fans will like it. Director JarJar Abrams did not, as I feared, ruin the franchise (as he did previously with Star Trek).

On the other hand, there's so much to hate. The plot is a rip-off of the original Star Wars movie, so much so that the decision to "go in and blow it up" is a soul-killing perfunctory scene. Rather than being on the edge of your seat, you really just don't care, because you know how that part ends.

While JarJar Abrams thankfully cut down down on the lens flare, there's still to much that ruins every scene he applies it to. Critics keep hammering him on how much this sucks, but JarJar will never give up his favorite movie making technique.

The universe is flat and boring. In the original trilogy, things happen for a purpose. Everything that transpires is according to Palpatine's design. And even while we find his plans confusing, we still get the sense that there are plans. In this movie, the bad guys seem to act haphazardly, with no real plan. Deus Ex Machina is out in force, with JarJar Abrams conjuring things out of thin air to serve his purpose, even though if you think them through, they make no sense.

Many settings were similarly flat. Both JarJar Abrams and George Lucas create places that looked fantastically beautiful from afar. But JarJar often leaves it at that, whereas Lucas then goes onto explore his creations. We saw a lot of Naboo, Coruscant, Tatooine, Endor, Lando's Cloud City, and so on; they weren't just still pictures painted on a screen. In Force Awakens, we just touch down in a place and then leave again, without fully exploring it.

In other words, the latest episode doesn't have the soul or depth of Lucas's original. Lucas had a huge story, and let us peek at it with each movie. JarJar Abrams is small minded -- he's only interested in this movie, and doesn't care about the larger story. If we couldn't see it on the screen, JarJar put little thought into it. The difference is palpable.

But the characters of Rey and Fin save the movie. The actors are fantastically cast, especially Daisy Ridley's (Rey) quirkyness. Their yearning to grow is the same as Luke's that drove the original film, which is the part I identified with most as a child. It's what made me a Star Wars fan. It's beautifully portrayed at the start of the movie where each of the character reaches a point where they first say "no", and from that moment on start growing according to their own design, and not the design of those around them. And, each character finds that their own decisions actually make a difference. JJ Abrams deserves a lot of credit for how well this turned out. I don't care much about this new Star Wars -- except I want to know what these two characters do next.

In short, despite all that I hate JarJar Abrams, the movie is still worth watching. As everyone else goes to see the movie, the spoilers will start leaking out. Any single spoiler isn't going to ruin the movie, but the more you hear, the less interesting the movie will become. You really need to go see it this week, before all that happens.


Dan said...

I can think of the one obvious spoiler, but honestly, even if someone had spoiled it for me, I don't think it would have ruined the movie. I'm not sure what other clear spoilers there were. Maybe I'm missing something obvious though.

Your point about not exploring the worlds in depth is spot on and something I didn't think about.

Felipe said...

Of course, the reason the locations aren't explored in depth is that this is partly setup work for the hundreds of Star Wars movies to come.