Sunday, January 10, 2016

The 7 Things I most disliked about the new Star Wars movie!


OK, I’m done with my political rants and back to writing about sci fi and film.
Of course by now everyone’s seen Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens (at least any serious nerd will have), and most reviews were positive.  Before I continue, let me get this out of the way: I actually really enjoyed the latest installment of George Lucas’ epic from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away.  In fact, I’ve already seen it twice in the theaters – once with my co workers and once with my nephews (who are all under 10 years old) – and will probably see it again before its theatrical release is over.
There have already been many good reviews and articles listing what to like about the new movie, so I don't think you need to read another one (a few things to like: Daisy Ridley as Rey, Harrison Ford's return as Han Solo, the banter between Po and Finn, the realistic feeling sets, the lack of CGI, the music, etc.). I thought I’d go a different route;   in showing my appreciation for the film, I’m actually going to list 7 things I didn’t like or that they (J.J. Abrams and company), didn't do well in The Force Awakens.
Why? Because I, like millions of fans, have been waiting a long time to see another Star Wars movie, and there were things I was hoping to see that I didn’t.   Don’t worry Star Wars fans; Disney has made over a billion dollars from the film already, so I don’t think my little blog entry will hurt!
SPOILERS AHEAD!  If you haven’t seen the The Force Awakens yet (and that means you're probably on another planet or just plain don’t like science fiction or action films), then I suggest you stop reading here!
  1. BB-8 is “Cousin Oliver” – but I wanted to see more R2D2 and C3PO!   OK, I know, I know, everyone loves BB-8 because he’s the new “cute” droid, so how could I possibly not like the cute little guy?
    Well, I didn’t dislike him, exactly.  It’s just to me he felt a bit like Cousin Oliver in the Brady Bunch – those old enough to remember the Brady Bunch will recall that when the little kids (Bobby and Cindy) started growing up, the producers felt they needed to add a cute new small kid into the show to keep their audience happy, and voila, here was little cousin “Oliver”!
    The same thing happened in Harry Potter, as Harry and Ron and Hermione were growing up, cute little Colin Creevy showed up (same with Ender’s Game, where Bean became the next Ender).
    But C3PO and R2D2 weren’t children who were “growing up”, so there was no reason that they couldn’t be used in the same way as they had been.  George Lucas’s original idea of having not one robot (as an accessory to the heroes), but rather two “droids” who made up an interstellar "odd couple" was brilliant: it played well and added quite a bit of humor to the original trilogy.  In the prequels, this humor was mostly missing and I think it’s because the droids were an after-thought (Jar Jar Binks was the new cousin Oliver in the Phantom Menace, which kind of backfired). 
    If you watch Star Wars (err I mean Episode 4, A New Hope), the first 10 minutes are about R2D2 and C3PO bickering with each other about what to do – from Princess Leia giving the plans to R2, and C3PO’s insistence that R2 had no “secret mission”.
    Lucas once said that he viewed the droids as being the only characters who would be in all three Star Wars trilogies – in fact, he went so far as to say that in some ways, the films were from the two droids’ point of view.   In the prequels, this bickering and humor between the two was sort of missing.  OK so JJ Abrams did it better than in the prequels, but it still doesn’t change that BB-8 is basically cousin Oliver. I missed that interaction between C3PO and R2D2, which was given short shrift. "That little droid is going to cause me a lot of trouble" says Luke. "Oh," answers Threepio, "he excels at that!"


  2. The repetitive plot.  OK so the resistance (weren’t they supposed to be in charge now? If so, why are they called the “resistance”?) hid something in a droid.  And the Empire (err, I mean the Nazi-like First Order) has built a super weapon, and kidnapped the main female character.  The men (and wookie) have to go in to rescue her and to help out the rebels(err, resistance), get this, shut off the power of the shield so that the rebels (err, I mean the resistance), can destroy this new Death Star (err, I mean Starkiller base).   While the Death Star had the ability to destroy an entire planet, the Starkiller base can, get this, destroy several planets at once!  (in my best/worst jar jar binks voice: How rude!).

  3. The Death of Han Solo.  They killed off one of the most beloved characters in all of movie-dom! While I didn’t dislike how it was done (the father-son thing is very much in action here and has mythological themes), the actual death was very quick and there wasn’t much back-story between Han Solo and Kylo.  One review I read, which I agree with, is that there was a moment of shock, and then the filmgoers (and characters) moved on from there, kinda forgetting about it.  I guess I, like many others, felt that it should have packed more emotional wallop – like the death of another beloved figure on a bridge in The Fellowship of the Ring.   When Gandalf fell off that bridge, his (apparent) death had the emotional impact of a ton of bricks right there in the gut. Fly you fools! It was hard to recover from, not just for the audience, but particularly for the Hobbits!   Give them a moment, for pity's sake! Not to mention, the Elves ... "What are they singing?" ... "A lament for Gandalf" ... "What are they saying?" ... "I haven't the heart to tell you".

  4. The aftermath of the Death of Han Solo.   When they return at the end having accomplished their mission, you would think that Princess  (err, I mean, General) Leia would hug Chewie, who was the person that knew Han Solo second best after Leia herself!    But instead, she hugs Rey instead and Chewie just walks by.  Really?? This actually felt like they cut some scene that was supposed to be there, or they deliberately had her hug Rey, as a clue that Rey may indeed be related to Leia after all.  But still, come on, Chewie was Han Solo’s life-long companion, and Leia was his ex, you think they would be the ones to miss him the most? This isn't a case of wookie discrimination (i hope - hug the nearest human!), since Chewie hugged her first in the earlier scene.   I thought this star wars was supposed to be more about the characters and less about special effects?  Fail.

  5. Kylo Ren taking Rey prisoner.  Just as Princess Leia was taken prisoner in Star Wars (err, I mean Episode I, A New Hope, again) by Darth Vader, at some point Kylo Ren decides to take Rey as his prisoner rather than getting the droid BB-8 who had the “plans he was looking for” (or at least the map), because she had seen the starmap once.  Really??  It’s one thing for Kylo to suck out of Po’s head that he put the map to Skywalker (more on this macguffin below) into the droid BB-8, it's entirely another for Kylo to pull out the details of a starmap from Rey’s head when she saw it only for a brief few seconds!  OK, so I realize it was a plot device to get her and Kylo alone so he could, inadvertently, Total Recall the Force out of her, but still … even Recall had a better premise than this!

  6. The map to Luke Skywalker and all that jazz.   OK, I understand that this was the main macguffin in the movie (a "macguffin" is a “plot-enabling device” that pushes a film’s characters forward towards some arbitrary goal), but I’m not sure it made a lot of sense.   Luke was supposed to go searching for the first Jedi temple, but it looks like here he knew exactly where it was, and left a map to it with Artoo, before he  disappeared.  He’s been living on that little island for what, 10 or 20 years? Really? What happened to his spaceship? Did he send it back with Artoo after he found the temple? Anyways, suffice it to say while I appreciate the macguffin to move the plot forward and to bring back Luke Skywalker in the second film (not to mention that the starmap projection looked cool), I wish there had been more of Luke in the first film, and perhaps a better explanation for what he’s really been doing out there?  It was only, you know, the point of the plot of the whole film!

  7. How quickly Rey’s Force skills develop. OK perhaps they will explain this further in the sequels, but even Luke Skywalker (remember him, the guy who took down Darth Vader and the Emperor), needed training from old Ben Kenobi before he could do anything. Anakin, the chosen one, needed training too.   Rey not only is able to look into Ren’s mind (OK I could buy that) but suddenly does a Jedi Mind Trick on Daniel Craig’s Stormtrooper?   Luke Skywalker’s light sabre calls to her like some kind of Force psychometry, and then she is able to best Kylo Ren, out of nowhere?  Again, I liked Daisy Ridley’s performance as Rey quite a bit, but this all seemed a lot to swallow.  Even for a galaxy far, far away!

And there you have it – 7 things I didn’t like about the Force Awakens.    It’s funny that I’m writing this because as I said, I actually like the movie.  Quite a bit, especially comparing it to the Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi, both of which I saw again recently.

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