Monday, December 28, 2015

The Force Awakens

This post has some mild spoilers and catches on one of my primary complaints with the film: that it's a rehash of the first Star Wars, only not quite as good.  The spoiler fight for this movie has been so successful in part because about five minutes in, even obtuse movie watchers like me have the whole movie pretty well figured out.  Announcing that people shouldn't relate spoilers for Force Awakens would be like Warner Brothers announcing that spoilers should not be divulged for a Road Runner cartoon.
A TIE fighter-Millennium Falcon battle on a sand planet?!?  Mind: blown. 
There were some story and sci-fi quirks that I got hung up on as well (which is saying something considering the Star Wars reputation for ignoring both), but my big hang up was with the bad guys themselves.  Through the first two movies it was enough to know Empire: Bad, Rebels: Good.  Even by Jedi though this was starting to wear thin and into the newer Lucas trilogy one gets the impression that this whole galactic imbroglio is just some Skywalker intra/inter clan warfare writ large and Awakens does the franchise no favors by failing to resolve the whole good versus evil issue.

It would be rather easy to craft a narrative around a society's never ending struggle to balance freedom (rebels) and security (empire).  However this narrative falls apart since the Empire doesn't seem to have a desire to rule over anyone: they're all about blowing up planets and building more crap with which to blow up planets.  If they wanted to rule over the galaxy it would be simple enough to use .00001% of the budget from one of their many Deathstar fiascos to buy off every politician in every governing body in the Galaxy (the Saudis have been doing it here for decades so that's proof positive that it works).

Barring that, the only thing that seems to hold up is the Japanese anime view of the darkside consisting of evildoers whose only goal is to accelerate entropy or to embody entropy itself.  The only problem with this (and you may have noticed this), anime is not very popular with general audiences because this tact is stupid.  Bad guys who want to destroy the planet/galaxy/universe in order to "end suffering" or "eliminate the plague that is life" are not bad guys anyone outside of Japan can find any relation to.  

This anime character wonders why his dreams can never come true.  Methinks that it might have something to do with, you know, trying to destroy the whole planet that everyone is living on.  Maybe he should start small, with a lego village or something.

Even for the worst of the 20th century's tyrants they had a goal that they were trying to achieve.  It's only when the bad guy has a goal that there can be an "anti-goal", some motivation that drives the good guys and helps you sympathize with them.  There was one point in Awakens when I thought that the whole Republic/Rebel/New Order bit was going to come into focus: the rebels, abandoned by those that they fought so hard to free, are left to try and mop up the remnants of a technologically superior Empire with a mix of old war era equipment, older personnel, and reformed clones.  This would have been intriguing and would have given the audience something (anything) to relate to.  No dice though, that window closed in a matter of seconds and my brief look into a movie that could have been was gone.

Three sandmiches: two for production values and one for one last race around the old track.

Extra Credit...

  • Black people came to the showing I was at and made a point to cheer on Black Jedi Dude.  It's a shame because this character had the most complex possibilities but was pressed into a two dimensional form; good enough for some I suppose...
  • Some back and forth between friends about how Star Wars became a series of films even though it's plain to see that it was never meant to be.  I thought this contrasted interestingly with Star Trek which could make a movie about the main characters (or even different characters in the same universe) playing poker all day and it would raise nary an eyebrow; at least if it was done properly (it certainly wouldn't be the worst Star Trek film).
  • Hollywood has sadly gotten rather adept at crafting films like this that have no good or evil.  Liberalism would dictate that the bad guys are the freedom loving guys while the good guys are puritanical tyrants that want to force the galaxy to pay for midnight basketball on planet Brotha 9.  Well that doesn't work, even for sympathizers, and the opposite would mean introspection of the horror of one's ideals to make an epic empty movie about nothing.  In the end this may have less to do with the Star Wars universe than the idiots tasked with creating the films. 
  • There was a couple in the theater that stayed until the end of the credits.  I was hanging around out of site by the door waiting for Mrs. Sandmich when I heard the guy say "they nailed it".  I wanted to ask him, "Nailed what?  The intro text?".  Maybe this movie wasn't made for me.  It did remind a bit of the Harry Potter films where if you aren't enjoying it in the first few minutes then you're watching the wrong movie.

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