Saturday, January 16, 2016

Star Wars: The Farce Awakens

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!!

Being a blog writer as I am trying so hard to be, I try to stick to political issues or philosophic issues dealing with politics. Every once in a while things are just too screwed up to deal with and it becomes appropriate to take a break and deal with things that are a little bit less serious. It’s not necessarily in my bent of nature to do a movie review because I most generally hold a bit of disdain for the pop culture that comes with the territory. I tend to hold more to bigger social issues in my writings than Hollywood is capable of generating on even their best day. So I guess that what I’m saying is as a fan and author of science fiction, Star Wars is big enough for me to consider a social issue. So, what the hell, I guess it’s time for my first written movie review. Don’t worry, it won’t happen often.

Some time ago I saw this meme in circulation that if JJ Abrams screwed up Star Wars he would be forever known as Jar Jar Abrams. Henceforth, in all of my writings concerning him, he shall be thusly named. Jar Jar Abrams it is.

I’m going to take this in three parts: plot, actors, and special effects. The plot problems are endless so I’ll spend a lot on them, but there is no way to cover them all. I can knock out the actors in a paragraph or two.

First, the plot, the most important part of any well told story, is weak to the point of making less sense than Obamacare. In The Lord of the Rings Frodo needed to destroy the one ring so as to defeat evil in Middle Earth. It’s a big plot. In Star Wars: Episode IV the plot was to rescue the beautiful princess, defeat Darth Vader, blow up the Death Star and deliver a major blow to the evil empire. Huge plot.

On one side we have all of that. In the case of the Farce Awakens, from Jar Jar Abrams, we have … drum roll … wait for it … where did Luke go? Yes. That’s it. Sure, you’ve got some new characters, descendents of the old ones, but for actual plot, where did Luke go? Everything else in the movie is ridiculously tied into that. Where’s Luke Skywalker? The First Order, an obvious spinoff of the Empire, even to the degree that they fly the same kinds of ships and wear the same uniforms, wants to know where Luke is. The good guys want to know where Luke is. Both are trying to keep the other from finding him. There is no more plot to it than that. There isn’t even anything mentioned as to why all of a sudden it is so important to find him. He doesn’t even need to be rescued! He’s just living peacefully on a mountain top somewhere in the galaxy, stacking stones to make steps and buildings, contemplating the existence of his navel and the asininity of liberal political philosophy or something. It doesn’t even tell you why he’s hiding. He just is. He’s not even in the movie until the last thirty seconds.

But somehow, for some reason, he left a map. The map ended up in the hands of an X-wing pilot who put it in a droid. When is the last time a critical plot element ended up in some innocent droid while the person carrying it was in danger of capture? Hmmm... Let me think. Has that ever been used before? How original and how clever! Why nobody would ever think of that! Apparently Gungans, like Jar Jar Abrams, can regurgitate plots!

Speaking of regurgitated plots, the new version of the Death Star, now called the “Star Killer Base” isn’t even a main part of the story! The deal with it is it’s a weapon so big and powerful that it had to be built into an entire and supposedly navigable planet. It is so big it has its own atmosphere! People walk around on the outside of it! However there is something else going on here that needs commented on. If the old axiom that size does matter is true, this weapon is certainly evidence that Jar Jar Abrams’s is bigger than George Lucas’s. Apparently Jar Jar Abrams felt some compulsive need to express this because otherwise the size of it adds absolutely nothing to the plot. It just makes it completely unbelievable. Maybe the next one will be built into a star itself and the one after that would be the entire core of the galaxy. Unbelievable.

Now as both a science fiction author and fan I’m familiar with a thing called the suspension of disbelief. That a starship can go faster than light, when Einstein says it can’t, is suspension of disbelief. When Kirk beams up or down, that is a suspension of disbelief. The Death Star was unbelievable enough in its size and power to give the proper “Wow!” factor to make a good movie. Yet with some minor adjustments to one’s perspective on reality the viewer could kind of believe that technically, with a couple of really big maybes, it could become possible at some point in the future.

The Star Killer Base and its behavior is so completely beyond that, any person with any education or understanding of physics and the layout of the planets and stars, or anybody with any sense at all, would never believe it. Nobody who has ever gone outside and looked at the sky with two brain cells to click together would believe it. Not even in a science fiction movie.

Look at the plot aspects alone. The thing gets the energy to destroy planets in a solar system by sucking all of the energy out of the system’s star. Right. Setting aside that there is no way for a planet of any size to draw in and hold that much energy, there is the fact that you’ve already destroyed the star! Why do you need to destroy the planets? You’ve already made it so life could never exist there. You’ve already killed every living thing in the system. Why blow things up after that unless you just want to add some special effects? (More on this later.)

Going beyond that, there is the scene where Han, Leia and their allies are standing on a planet, in the bright sunlight, watching the Star Killer Base destroy other planets. It’s lunacy! Why is there sunlight if the thing sucked it all up to fire its weapon? Additionally, someone needs to explain to Jar Jar Abrams that planets are really, really, really far apart. Think about it. At nighttime there are at most four or five other planets visible to the naked eye and those look like little tiny stars even when at the closest point of their orbit. Jar Jar Abrams makes them all as big as the moon and visible in the daytime sky. He made the same mistake in Star Trek in the scene where Spock watches Vulcan get sucked into a similarity. You can’t see planets from other planets like that with the naked eye.

Now we move on to the thing that really bothers me. See if this sounds familiar. Someone, name Han and Chewie, accompanied by the leading female and male characters, need to take out the shield that protects the base. Where have I heard that before? X-wing fighters need to fly in and destroy a specific component of the base in order to blow it up. Am I having flashbacks? The only thing missing is the Ewoks. And annoying as that may be the thing that needs blown up is called the, “oscillator.” Really? Really? You have at your disposal millions of technical writers and electronics engineers who would crawl naked through broken glass for the chance to contribute to the script of the next and long awaited Star Wars movie and you settle on oscillator!? To make it even worse the guy suggesting this brilliantly conceived plan was a sanitation worker who doubled as a storm trooper! Really? Really?

So, here they are. They get the shields down around the oscillator!!! LOL!!!, it’s been under attack for ten minutes and there are absolutely no storm troopers called there to defend it. Nobody except for the Son of Han and Leia, turned to the Dark Side of the Force and doing a feeble imitation of Grandpa Vader. That’s it. Nobody here but us chickens.

Then in a plot fail of epic magnitude, Han Solo, the consummate survivor, the guy who has put himself in endless danger and always lived to tell about it, gets killed by his own son by simply walking up to him and saying that he has gone astray and “Mom and I love you and how about coming back to the light side of the force?” Then his son killed him with his light saber. I’m not going to comment too much on the death of Han Solo; maybe it was necessary for the next movies, maybe it was a good business decision, maybe Harrison Ford didn’t want to play the character anymore, but never in my life would I have imagined Han Solo to die so stupidly! It added nothing to the plot of this movie for him to die the way he did. From the standpoint of this movie, for no apparent reason or gain, Han Solo is dead just as pointlessly as if he got drunk and fell down a flight of stairs. No heroic sacrifice to save a planet, cause or damsel in distress. He died as a loving, fatherly, yet complete idiot.

Never in any movie that I have ever seen has such a potential plot opportunity been so thoroughly wasted. A scene where tie fighters chase the Millennium Falcon and get a lucky shot in at the last second, where Han distracted the bad guys long enough to allow the good guys to escape and complete their mission, would have been the proper way for Han Solo to die. I cried in this part of the movie, not because Solo died as much as it was so pointlessly done.

Next we have the actors and acting. Daisy Ridley, Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew make the movie worth watching, if it is worth watching at all. Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew were both consistent with their characters and expectations. Daisy Ridley is not only absolutely great to look at but her performance is superlative. Lupita Nyong'o did the voice for Maz Kanata and was completely believable and likeable. I look forward to seeing her again. Carrie Fisher was okay for what she did. There is nobody else who could play Leia so I had to accept the fact that she’s gotten a bit aged. That’s okay in and of itself, but she used to have a very dynamic range in her voice and acting. It is one of the things that made her interesting to watch. In this performance she seems to have lost that ability. Her voice is so rough it’s hard to listen to and it goes neither up nor down at any point. It’s completely flat in range. John Boyega may have been the wrong guy for the job. He seems more like a comedic actor in Star Wars than the next Luke Skywalker.

Adam Driver might be the worst job at casting ever in the history of all movies anywhere. He would be better suited for a remake of “Revenge of the Nerds” than as the evil grandson of Darth Vader. The performance was utterly horrible and unbelievable. I couldn’t even look at him after he took the mask off without asking myself, “Really Jar Jar Abrams? Is this all you’ve got? Is this the best you have for Star Wars? Really?” Maybe he’s a good actor. I’ve never seen him anyplace else that I can think of. But as the offspring of Han and Leia he makes me wonder if Han Solo thought to have a DNA test before committing to child support payments after their separation.

Now for the special effects. Contrary to my rather scathing review as above, the effects were so absolutely great that I almost have no words to describe them. The movie looks fantastic! This is the one point I’m certain that George Lucas would have liked when he was making the Star Wars movies. If there is any reason to see it at all, this would be it. If you can close down your mind far enough to just view the movie from the standpoint of special effects then it is the greatest movie ever.

As good as they are, I can’t help but to wonder if that’s what the movie is about. The lack of plot, the lack of great actors, with some exceptions, and truly stellar special effects which may raise the bar for the entire industry, all add up to something. This is the crux of why Jar Jar Abrams has been dishonorably dubbed with his new name in my mind as well as the minds of others. We are using our minds.

George Lucas made some mistakes. Jar Jar Binks and Ewoks kind of stand out as examples. However, there is a critical difference between George Lucas and Jar Jar Abrams. George Lucas had a good story to tell. His special effects, while totally revolutionary to the industry, were necessary to the telling of the story and accented the plot rather than dominating it. Jar Jar Abrams’ movies are almost like he first sat down and decided what special effects he wanted to do, and then he wrote whatever plot would carry him to the excuse of using those great special effects. The Star Killer Base, for example, adds nothing to the plot while adding everything to the effects. It has the “wow” factor for how it looks so as long as you don’t think about it you’re okay.

My bottom line on it is that if you can somehow manage to get yourself drunk enough to go see and hear the movie, without all of the tedious burden of thinking at any time during it, you’d really like it. If you can’t somehow check your mind at the door, don’t bother going in. You’ll be as disappointed as watching Bernie Sanders debate Hillary Clinton on basic economics.

2 comments:

  1. I am going to disagree with about 90% of what you wrote. Without carefully reviewing your diatribe while I write this I will bring up a couple of salient points. The plot. Yes, the whole movie was base on one side or the other finding Luke Skywalker. However, you are missing why. First Luke is the last Jedi Master and therefore is capable of teaching more Jedi's. Obviously this goes against the First Orders plan. That's why they want to find him and kill him. Secondly, he is hiding because he screwed up when he was training Kylo Ren. He turned to the dark side. Luke stopped teaching. He quite. That is believable.

    I agree with you regarding the actors all the way to Kylo Ren. He is good for the part. He is not very believable because that is what he was cast to be. He was struggling with the dark side and light side. He was still in a maybe. He acted like a child. Which brings me to another point. That was the only right way to kill off Han Solo. It was a turning point for the entire saga. It sealed Kylo Rens fate in the dark side. No other action would have done it. Han, in a way, passed a baton to Kylo, in a twisted way. But something to remember for all time.

    I agree, we do have to suspend reality for a little bit here and there and the plot is very similar. However, given the animosity felt toward the first three episodes, something had to be done. What? J J Abrams came up with the only solution I could see fit. He revitalized every ones enthusiasm for the original series the only way I can imagine. He paralleled it and at the same time added enough for a whole new series.

    In my opinion, the movie was brilliant. I saw it three times. The special effects were the best I remember of any film and finally the I think the box office can speak for itself. It was a success.

    Jeff

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  2. Aw now you've done it Jeff! My head is filled with scenes of Kylo Ren killing Han that would have fulfilled the plot points you mentioned, which I admittedly didn't consider, and yet still would have given purpose (other than setting up the second movie in the saga) to his death. And it could have been exciting and suspenseful.

    On the reality point, I can't bridge the gap. Physics just don't support it. :)

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