In the vein of Roisin’s rather rant-y review (#Raliteration) on TMNT I’ll be doing one of my own and I’ll be tackling one of the big boys: Star Wars. This review will be largely from my perspective as a Star Wars fan, less so than a film fan. On one of these counts it’s overwhelmingly meh. On the other it is nothing short of an atrocity. When both are put together I see it for what it truly is: a cash cow being mercilessly drained of all of its life force (excuse the pun) without any integrity, let alone any respect. My main issue, and the focus of this review will be the myriad of ways JJ Abrams (Director) and Disney has self-plagiarised, shamelessly copied the more successful (and more loved) original trilogy and in the laziest way possible. Force Awakens is a “fresh” lick of paint, greedily applied to an old formula with the aim of encouraging us to part with our money and I for one see it as hugely disrespectful to us, the fans.
The desire for Force Awakens to rip off the original trilogy runs so deeply through its very identity that it can even be seen in casting. The thought process being this: “People liked Han, Luke, Leia and Chewy in the 70’s… Fuck it. Bring them back, people will pay to see them now.” (yes they even bought a 70-year old Peter Mayhew back as chewy, that’s how dedicated they are to replicating the formula) It broke my heart to see a bloated Harrison Ford and his old man hands fumble his way through scenes. I was thinking that there was something wrong with Carrie Fisher’s speech for the entirety of her screen-time, I guess she must have been fighting against gravity and old age to keep her dentures inside her face.
That’s not the only thing they copied in terms of casting. “Hammil and Fisher were unknowns before A New Hope. Let’s do that again as well.” This time it’s John Boyega as Finn and Daisy Ridley as Rey. Boyega is one of the better “new but not really new” aspects of this film, he has genuine presence and good delivery. However the writers have made his job harder for him. His comic timing is ever so slightly off, this wouldn’t be a problem if the dialogue wasn’t littered with half arsed, pseudo-comic lines that go down about as well as an X-wing in a Dagobah bog. The funniest gag in the entire film comes from BB-8 (Stupid-but-marketable ball droid) and his lighter. That’s the best gag. But the best joke is the casting of Daisy Ridley. She’s clearly a graduate of the ‘Keira Knightley School of Wooden Acting’. She majored in ‘Inability to Convey Emotion’, minored in ‘Lack-Lustre Delivery’, failed her free module in ‘Attempting to look like she belongs in a Sci-Fi Film’ and was a member of the ‘Overly British Actresses Society.’ She took me out of the moment, made me inherently aware that I was sitting in a cinema, sitting thinking: “This is the person I’m being asked to get behind, to support? She’s going to be our hero? Presumably for the next two miserable films. No thanks. I would genuinely rather have JarJar.” Bitch about casting done. Now every other way the film offended me by ripping itself off.
“Guys, remember the death star? That was cool right? Let’s just do that again. But bigger, wayyy bigger. Oooh ooh and can we make it kill like five planets instead of just one?” This one really hurt me. Because it’s because of this oh-so-fucking-lazy decision that means the film is structured in an almost identical way to BOTH A New Hope and Return of the Jedi with a few minor changes. We’re quickly introduced to a plucky little droid that has to transport some highly important plans to help fight against the empire. Oh sorry. Did I say “plans” and “empire”? Because I meant “map to find a beardy Luke Skywalker” and “The First Order”. Speaking of the empire, that receives the same magic lick of paint as everything else. No matter what anybody says, The First Order who built the Starkiller Base, headed by Supreme Leader Snoke and his apprentice Kylo Ren, totally isn’t THE EXACT SAME as the Empire who built the Death Star, headed by Supreme chancellor Palpatine and his apprentice Darth Vader. No no, it’s different because, er, because er. Well because this time the apprentice is the SON of another major character (two in fact, don’t wanna copy that formula too closely now do we?) and actually this time he struggles with resisting the Light side, not the Dark side. How could that possibly appear to be the same thing?
There were several times in the movie where I knew EXACTLY what shot was coming next because of how shamelessly JJ was self-plagiarising. The worst and most blatant would be Poe Dameron’s run into the trenches of the Starkiller. That one killed the star in my heart. Oh wait no, I was wrong. The worst was when Rey was standing at a spiral staircase and the framing and a certain music cue made me feel sick because I knew what was coming. I remember thinking she’s gonna walk down there, with all her bad acting in tow and have a vision, just like Luke did in Dagobah. Sure enough she did, and sure enough I vomited all over the cinema floor. Oh wait no that still wasn’t the worst.
The worst, bar none (ok maybe I’ll find one even worse if I can bring myself to watch this again), was the lazy attempt to recreate the iconic Mos Eisley Cantina in Maz Kanata’s “watering hole.” It’s even like they named her after a poor attempt at an anagram of Mos Eisley Cantina. And naturally if you’re going to rip off the cantina you’ve got to rip-off the band, that’s what the people wanna see right? So give the people a band. But make them play slightly shitter and less memorable music. “Oh and we’ll do a load of really cool and whacky and zany and crazy and awesome aliens in the cantina, I mean watering hole. We could even do a really fat alien lazing about with an exotic lady just to his side. That’s not too like Jabba is it?”
When the Force Awakens isn’t ripping itself off shot-for-shot it’s throwing in a stream of half-baked Star Wars references in an effort to gain credibility, to say “look at me! I’m a legitimate Star Wars film! Really, I am! Honest!” Like Finn triggering the Hologame table. (Remember when chewy played on that? Yeah I do. I sure love Star Wars.) Or Rey retrieving Luke’s Lightsabre from Ice with the force (Remember when Luke did that with that very same lightsabre on Hoth? Yeah I do. I sure love Star Wars.) Or when Han reveals his son’s real name to be Ben. (Remmeber when Ewan McGregor was Sir Alec Guinness and when we used to call “Obi Wan Kenobi” “Old Ben Kenobi”? Yeah I do. I sure love Star Wars.)
You’d be mistaken for thinking that I don’t actually like Star Wars. But it’s because of my love for the original trilogy in particular that Force Awakens offends me so much. I’ve only seen this movie once, and yet, I’ve seen it a thousand times. It’s so lazy, so gutless and ultimately so greedy to do what Disney have done to this franchise. Re-purposed, re-packaged, re-sold, re-profited. I’m choking on my own rage here. I understand how hard it must be to take on such a beloved franchise, but Force Awakens seems to just shirk the challenge in favour of making money. Rather than bravely bring any genuine original thought or innovation to the franchise it is so apparently (at least to me) a shameless way to keep pulling on the teats of the most successful and profitable franchise in terms of merchandise. I see Force Awakens as the result of Dr Victor JJ Frankenstein having gone grave robbing. Pulling off the limbs and organs of great men and women of the past, and sowing them all together (or more crudely supergluing them together) and stuffing this monstrosity into a shiny and new, but ultimately ugly, dress. I hope everyone else can see this film for the horrible, offensive and disrespectful monster that it is.
Peace out Bitches.
Post Script to the peace out – Tolkien recognised that his books would unavoidably be made into films. He famously refused Disney the right to EVER adapt them into movies. I see Force Awakens as Tolkien’s vindication. Thank the gods of elves, dwarves and men that this shit will never happen to my other favourite film trilogy.
Review By Joe Jordan