Saturday, December 19, 2015
The Esteemed Critic Reviews Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Perhaps you've heard of a little indie flick called "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The Critic is not sure; he knows his audience is composed of intellectuals and aficionados of art-house cinema. Regardless, the demands of my position require me on occasion to examine popular culture, despite my distaste for anything as populist as Star Wars.
The Force Awakens is Disney's attempt to jumpstart the franchise after purchasing it from George Lucas for five billion dollars (I'm not joking, they really paid that much). Although the prequel trilogy made bank, Star Wars suffered in both the popular and critical mind. You can't undo something like Jar Jar Binks, nor can you reverse the pussification (yes, I just coined that word) of an iconic villain like Darth Vader. Thankfully, Episode 7 is a good movie. Unlike any of the prequels, it is competently written, acted, and filmed, though it is not without its problems.
Foremost, this film is basically a remake of Star Wars: A New Hope. We have an everyman protagonist (Daisy Ridley's Rey, our Luke analogue) marooned on a desert planet, who meets up with a scoundrel with a heart of gold (John Boyega's Finn, sort of a Han Solo-type) who's on the run from the First Order, the successors of the Empire. Together, they steal the Millennium Falcon, which leads to an encounter with Han Solo (playing the mentor role similar to the original's Obi-Wan), who takes the duo under his wing. The final act sees our heroes uniting with the Resistance (the Rebel Alliance) to destroy a new superweapon while battling the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who is something of a cross between Darth Vader and the prequels' sulking Anakin Skywalker. The Force Awakens also moves very fast, with very little time for reflection or character dialogue. If you've seen Mad Max: Fury Road, you'll recognize a similarity in pacing. Essentially, Episode 7 is A New Hope for the ADD generation. However, all the newcomers, especially Boyega and Driver, do very well and inspire more emotion from the audience than any character from the prequels (other than Jar Jar, of course). Rey, though likable, is somewhat of a Mary Sue type. Unlike Luke, who doesn't fully develop until Return of the Jedi, Rey goes from a naive scavenger to a bad ass pilot to a force-user capable of defeating Kylo Ren, who is built up as something of a dark-side savant. Spoiler: he's the grandson of Darth Vader.
Despite its faults, The Force Awakens is the Star Wars movie Star Wars fans expected and desired. It does play it safe, but that doesn't mean it isn't a vastly-entertaining flick.