Star Wars: the Force Awakens is the laziest movie I have seen yet. And I’ve seen the shot-for-shot “Alien” ripoff, Leviathan. So damned lazy.
Warning: SPOILERS ahead. Spoiler game so strong that I’ll even be spoiling episodes 8 and 9.
The Story – Does this sound familiar?
Hero grows up on a desert world with little friends or family. They’ve become a great pilot by the time a droid is thrust into their possession. This droid is carrying something. The good team wants it. The bad team doesn’t want them to have it. Hero’s home gets destroyed by the bad team and accompanies said droid on the mission. Soon they meet up with Old Mentor Guy. Old Mentor Guy was once with the good team, but someone close to him went to the Dark Side and they feel personally responsible. Hero manages to bring the droid to the good team, and it’s a good thing too because the bad team made a planet that kills other planets and they need what’s in the droid to save the day. The planet that kills other planets has a weakness: lower the shields manually and shoot this spot here. Old Mentor Guy goes with Hero to the planet that kills other planets, but as soon as he steps foot on there the Dark Lord of the Sith feels his presence. For Hero to escape, Old Mentor Guy must sacrifice himself. They blow up the planet that kills other planets just in time. Hero then travels to a remote world no one has ever heard of to find a Jedi Master that lives in seclusion like a hermit.
It’s the exact plot of Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope. If you don’t believe me, ask director JJ Abrams:
The story of history repeating itself was – I believe – an obvious and intentional thing, and the structure of meeting a character who comes from a nowhere desert and discovers that she has a power within her, where the bad guys have a weapon that is destructive but that ends up being destroyed – those simple tenets are by far the least important aspects of this movie, and they provide bones that were well-proven long before they were used in Star Wars. – JJ Abrams
His explanation makes sense: the plot isn’t the point of the movie, it’s the characters. Focus on the essentials and strip away all else that doesn’t matter. The problem is that the characters lack any semblance of depth and are mere pandering.
The Hermione Problem
The Harry Potter movies differed from the books in a few ways, but none so obvious as Hermione. This is a great (and short) read about the issue. The TL;DR version is that Harry is supposed to be the Action, Hermione the Brains, and Ron the Heart. That’s how the books do it. The movies just make Hermione a superhero who drags Harry and Ron toward victory at every turn. Without Hermione, Harry and Ron would die grisly deaths 10 minutes into every movie through sheer incompetence.
In Episode 7, Rey can do everything. By the time we see her, she’s already an excellent pilot and can handle herself in a fight. Believable since she had to scrap for herself on Jakku since she was small. But it gets ridiculous 0-to-lightspeed quick.
Soon she’s repairing the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon. OK, so she’s a salvager who can barely get enough to eat and has had no formal schooling on this planet but somehow has her PhD in Hyperdrive Repair. Han Solo and Chewbacca often struggle with repairs to the Falcon even though they used it for decades. Now we also have the problem that she lives in abject poverty while possessing a highly desirable combination of skills that a tiny percentage of people in the entire universe have. Right. I get that she’s waiting for her family to show up, but why not do some mechanic work and get yourself one of those cool Sand Igloo places?
Eventually she’ll have this whole “Force” thing figured out within 5 minutes. And be pretty good with a lightsaber to boot. Never mind that everyone else in the Star Wars Universe had to train since they were children. Yoda even says about Luke (then roughly the same age Rey is): “He’s too old to begin the training”. His 20 year old ass is a washed up Old Maid. But Rey figures out how to use the Force, and 10 minutes later defeats a Sith Lord who has been training since near-birth from the greatest Jedi to ever live. Even after months of practice, Luke had to really concentrate just to pull his lightsaber to him in the ice cave with the Wampa.
Supergirl Rey also makes friends quickly. She’s regal, respectful, attractive, and seems pretty well socialized for someone spending all their time alone in the desert. Rey is also brave. Every positive quality out there, she has.
Luke was not only a whiny bitch, he was also a dreamer who couldn’t put in the daily work. Overconfident. Prone to anger.
Leia was a workaholic who had problems developing personal relationships.
Han and Chewy were outlaws. Not like Robin Hood style outlaws, either. In all episodes, they were experienced killers, human traffickers, and scammed everyone they met. They worked for crime lords like Jabba the Hutt.
The original cast of characters were actual people with good sides and bad. Rey is a mix of Teddy Roosevelt, Bruce Lee, Maverick, Thomas Edison, and Gisele. Because why the fuck not?
Rey also understands the Wookie language despite likely never encountering one on Jakku. This one I’ll forgive because it’s obvious:
Rey is the daughter of Leia and Han
The reason she knows Wookie is because she grew up with Chewy being around.
So why’d Han and Leia dump her on Jakku? For the same reason Luke and Leia were split up. The last Jedi in the universe are too valuable to lose both of them at once. Once Kylo went bad, they dumped Rey on a little shit-hole of a planet and left.
Being Force attuned/sensitive is a two-way street: sure you can detect other people by feel (Kylo Ren/Darth Vader feel the presence of Han Solo/Obi-wan when they land on the planet), but they can also feel you back (Luke and Vader sensing each other in Return of the Jedi flying to the Endor moon). Yoda’s choice to hide on Dagobah was no accident. The cave scene in Empire Strikes Back where Luke fights Darth Vader in his mind is confusing to some, but it’s explained in the books a little better. The cave is strong with the dark side of the force as a Sith died there, and Yoda is using that as kind of a Force shield to avoid detection.
Since Leia is Force attuned, having her and Luke and Rey in the same place would be a giant Force Beacon to Kylo Ren. Gotta split them all up.
One more reason. As noted by Yoda in the prequels, Sith travel in pairs. Student and Master. Kylo Ren isn’t alone and the good team doesn’t know exactly what they’re dealing with.
The movie goes out of it’s way to make Rey’s parentage even more obvious. The awkward Leia/Rey embrace and Kylo Ren remarking “You think of Han like the father you never had” were just too much for me. I remember there being a few more references, but I’ve only seen the movie once and don’t plan on seeing it again. I’ve watched Episode 4 literally 100+ times. I know how this story goes.
The plot is set on rails towards a “Luke, I am your father” moment
2 BILLION DOLLARS is why they will simply repeat Empire. “Overwhelmingly positive reviews” is why they will repeat Empire. This means that Kylo Ren will give that speech to Rey in the next episode that they are brother and sister. And the movie is going to end on a down note. Try to look surprised.
Don’t think that’ll happen? Try and imagine someone pitching something different than merely copying the originals:
Writer: “I have some ideas that will take the franchise into the next generation and beyond.”
Producer: “Will it make the guaranteed 2 BILLION DOLLARS that merely reproducing Empire will?”
Writer: “I think it has the potentia-”
Producer: “GET THE FUCK OUT. We paid 5 billion dollars to George Lucas for Star Wars and if we miss a payment he’ll make us fund a sequel to Howard the Duck. Humanity depends on us not to screw this up.”
All the signs of an Empire repeat are there, and here’s a simple proof:
- Rey has unknown parentage
- Her parents [generally] need to have Force sensitivity for her to inherit them. Luke and Leia are the only candidates.
- Where’d Rey learn Wookie? Probably from the guy with a Wookie around him at all times.
- “You think of Han like the father you never had.”
The director has stated the writer’s decision to copy the plot from the original. Nothing but critical and financial love from all sides. The bottom line: not copying Empire is all risk and no reward.
It wasn’t accident that Han and Chewy were nearby Jakku
Here’s a fan theory about R2D2 and Chewy that is highly entertaining. I love it and believe in it no matter what any of the creators of Star Wars say. It adds a lot of depth to both characters and the story in general.
Obi-wan Kenobi wasn’t just hanging around Tatooine because it was the closest thing to retiring in Arizona he’d get. Jedi are kind of like the nuclear weapons of the Star Wars universe. Their mere existence can usher in unprecedented peace: a Soviet male born in 1923 had an 80% chance not to make it through WW2 whereas now a male dying to war causes are 1 in 20,000 deaths. But just like nuclear weapons, it can all go wrong real fast. Kenobi and Solo were both there to protect their fledgling Force attuned… and possibly execute them should things go wrong. Anakin (ONE Jedi!) ended up resulting in the deaths of millions and the enslavement of the galaxy. And just like nuclear weapons, sometimes they are purely a liability that you wish never existed.
The most interesting thing I thought about the movie had nothing to do with anyone involved with the movie. Some dumb fan theory added more layers to the story than the people who got rich making it.
Star Wars: now with more millennials!
Alright, so that’s enough time talking about the Teddy Roosevelt/Bruce Lee/Maverick/Thomas Edison/Gisele superheroine that will inevitably save the galaxy. Pandering to the female crowd: complete.
Finn and Kylo Ren are fantastic mirrors of millennial beliefs.
Finn gets his first job. Like most millennials, he freaks out when he has actual responsibility. He proceeds to run the furthest and fastest that he can and blame the establishment the whole way. He possesses a huge ego for someone who hasn’t done anything in life, believing that the First Order would chase across the galaxy for a sanitation worker who has panic attacks. He’s not fleeing because he sees injustice, he’s fleeing responsibility. He turns down his chance to fight for the good team until his ride is destroyed and his penis tells him he needs to help Rey.
Han kept Luke around because Luke “was pretty good in a fight”. Just like it’s not always clear why certain characters fall in love with losers, it’s not clear why Han keeps the compulsive liar and cowardly Finn around. Finn even leads them into certain doom by lying that he knew how to lower the shields, jeopardizing the lives of millions. But unlike real life millennials, Finn has plot armor that protects him from harm.
UPDATE: It occurred to me later that Luke Skywalker was split into two characters: Rey and Finn. Rey got all the good character traits while Finn got all the bad ones. This means that not only was the plot copied directly, but the characters were as well. Sad.
Emo Darth Vader here is probably the worst Sith in all of history. In his millennial fantasy world, everything in his life is his parent’s fault. Never mind the fact that he grew up rich and well-connected with a superpower and soon has a personal army at his disposal. His parents totally screwed him and he’ll make them pay.
[TODO: write and insert millennial rant]
Sith Lord vs Guy Who Has No Force Powers and Zero Lightsaber Experience Have Confusingly Long Duel
The fight between Finn and Kylo was just incredibly lazy. I’m not sure if they didn’t think it through or didn’t care.
Kylo has been training since he was a small child in both lightsaber combat and the Force. Finn trained with blasters and is on his first day of lightsaber combat. Kylo apparently forgot that he can Force Levitate Finn into the air, spin him around, and rape Finn with his own lightsaber from 50 yards away. But let’s assume Kylo’s Force powers are on cooldown because he just used them to knock out Rey. In what activities would a 20 year veteran lose to a complete novice?
Which of these Sith Lords would have trouble with Finn?
Darth Maul: took on two experienced Jedi at once, killing one
Count Dooku: defeated numerous Jedi, fought Yoda to a standstill
Emperor Palpatine: defeated Yoda
Darth Vader: purged Jedi throughout the galaxy
Answer: none. They’d butcher Finn where he stood.
Lack of background detail
A friend of mine’s child was excited for the movie for a simple reason: he wanted to see all the new droids that this world had to offer. A 7 year old picked up on the fact that the Star Wars universe has a crazy amount of detail. These aren’t just “Random Alien X”, that guy is a Sullustan or Mon-Calamari with an intricate backstory. Even though most people won’t know these backstories because they don’t read the books or other materials, the effort in the story comes through in other ways. One of the better examples to emphasize the lack of effort are the ships of Star Wars.
A-wings, B-wings, X-wings, oh my!
The ships of the Rebellion in Episodes 4-6 are various while the Empire had very similar ships. This was a conscious choice to show that the Rebellion was using whatever they could find vs a huge military complex of the Empire. This was never said explicitly, but it was obvious when you saw it on screen who the “have’s” and “have-not’s” were.
The Millennium Falcon is always referred to a piece of junk. That’s because it is. It’s a normal Corellian freighter with an upgraded hyperdrive. It’s not made for war. Yet there it is leading the attack on the Death Star, because the Rebellion doesn’t really have much better.
Other ships were forced into roles they weren’t suited for as well. A-wings are interceptors and not specialized in ship to ship combat, but forced into that role during the attack on the Death Star. Y-wings were slow and obsolete. X-wings were used primarily because they were cheap to produce and reliable. B-wings were small in number due their cost.
For the bad guys, TIE fighters had variation to them as well based on role. There were TIE Fighters, TIE Interceptors, TIE Advanced, and TIE Bombers.
In Episode 7, all the ships were just converted to TIE Fighters and X-wings. Oh, but let’s paint them black because everyone already owns several grey or red X-wing models or toys. Phew, being creative is hard work!
The scene with the Nazi imagery was just over-the-top. Worse over-the-top than that 80’s Sylvester Stallone arm wrestling movie. It was so forced that I thought they were going to come around with pamphlets and hold a short session after the movie to discuss Hitler and how He Was Bad.
Yes the originals had Nazi imagery too. The name “stormtrooper” comes from the German “Stoßtruppe”, which was the name given to shock troopers in World War I and World War II. But they weren’t condescending enough to duplicate Hitler speaking to a crowd.
Batman, Superman, Star Trek, Spider-man, Transformers, and now Star Wars have all been rebooted in shameless cash grabs
George Lucas got roasted for Episodes 1-3, but there’s reason to believe they are much smarter than you think (Jar-Jar Binks aside). The gist of that link is that the plot repetition wasn’t J.J. Abrams’ idea, but rather was used by George Lucas first. The reason why the prequels don’t feel like carbon copies of the originals is because the characters have sufficient humanity to them and the story differs even if the plot does not. The typical hero journey where the hero sucks, then has a training montage, succeeds and fails a little, and then wins the day is fine. It’s a tried and true formula used for thousands of years. But when your script is just a 40 year old copy of the original with “Death Star” replaced with “Starkiller Base”… fuck that’s lazy.
As for the new characters which are supposed to be the point off all of this
- Why should I root for a faultless goddess who excels at everything all the time?
- Why should I care about the compulsive lying coward with the over-inflated ego?
- Why should I fear the crybaby who can’t defeat a novice in a fight?
But what do I know? I didn’t make billions of dollars selling the exact same movie people have been buying for decades.