May 16, 2016
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015): a failed review
A whole year ago, the world was treated to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first live-action Star Wars movie in over a decade. I sat down to write my review of that film way back then and… nothing. Blank. Couldn’t write it.
Earlier this year, I tried again. Still no luck. A few months ago, my co-Boother Thomas Stockel lamented that he was reluctantly planning to recap the film before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story came out this year and I, guilty and frustrated over my procrastination, volunteered to take the bullet. But alas, again, I failed.
I tried a recap, but re-watching the film only filled me with anger and hate, feelings Master Yoda warned me off of many moons ago in the 1990s, when I was but a youngling. It was a strange feeling; I remember the first time I watched the movie, I was disappointed, but I didn’t feel it was terrible or anything, just a letdown. The film still had things to commend about it: excellent special effects… other stuff… excellent effects… etc… but while I had frustrations with the film and could think of numerous plot holes and other annoyances, overall I found it to be little worse than average, a passable movie that (I thought) would make fair background noise if there was nothing else to watch and I needed a distraction. A serviceable way to pass the time. I never imagined that the film would grow to irritate me more and more over the following year to the point where I can now barely stand to watch it even for a recap.
But yet, it did. What was there to say? What could I criticize or point out that a million voices across the world wide web haven’t already cried out about in nerd-rage? Or if not rage, at least nerd-whine? Beyond that, recapping the movie could not be done in good conscience without going over point by point every time the film paid homage/ripped off one of its predecessors, creating pale imitations that only reminded me I could be watching something better.
And yes, I confess: I say this as a fan of the old Legends/Expanded Universe series of novels and comics and whatnot, flawed though they may be, and I did indeed find it difficult to sit through this film without thinking about how much better it could have been if they had taken cues from that continuity, engaged in better world-building, and introduced a number of memorable characters like Thrawn or Mara Jade or anyone but Darth Caedus (of the all the ideas this film chose to take from the books…). But even given that, and putting it aside, judging the movie on its own merits, I found rewatching it to be tedious.
So, I tried instead to make a list of five or so points of everything that annoyed me the most about this movie—again, not exactly something that hasn’t been done before—including everything from the fact that the opening crawl hits the reset button on the story so that Han, Luke, Leia, and the rest are more or less back where they started, just older, with another new rebellion and Luke again the last of the Jedi after his new Jedi Order was destroyed (because we wouldn’t have wanted to see that story, now would we?); or the fact that many of the planets are uninspired and unexplored and one is an outright copy of Tatooine; that the film introduces a bunch of new alien races that could have come from any other generic sci-fi movie while most of the classic ones are relegated to the background, if present at all; or the fact that there’s not a single memorable moment in the musical score save the ones we’ve already heard from the previous movies; to the myriad issues I have with Kylo Ren and the First Order as villains, and so on.
But again, I felt defeated. My review, my critique, felt too much like a chore, and it shouldn’t feel that way. Even if I am writing an angry review, I should feel some sense of catharsis at letting off steam and venting my frustrations, not a sense of growing irritation and a desire to get it over and done with mixed with a sense of plain old “ugh”. Writing this review, or attempting to write it at least, was depressing me. And I kept putting it off and avoiding it. And avoiding it. Until here we are and Rogue One has finally come out, and it’s still not done.
The Force Awakens is a shallow experience, forgettable if not for being a beat-for-beat copy of two much better films, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back respectively. Dialogue, comedy, and effects serve to disguise a thin, hole-ridden plot and lazy writing that wants to deliver a lot of empty “nostalgia” without earning any of its moments.
That would be my summary, but I don’t think it’s worth it. This article is not a proper recap or review, it’s a white flag. I surrender. You beat me, JJ Abrams: you bored me to death. This article is as empty, pointless, and repetitive as the movie I sat through, and much like the film, there are other ones out there that can do the job better than either of us did. I know other people enjoyed it and fair play to them, but if you want to know how I feel about the film, this dreck of an article is basically my piece of crap post-modern art, a work of minimalism that sums up my feelings about the film. If you’re as disappointed in this article as I was in the film, then my feelings have been transmitted.
I apologize for wasting anyone’s time, but I felt the need to get this off my chest. I cautiously look forward to Rogue One and hope it’s better, and I feel a faint sense of foreboding when I think of 2017 and seeing Episode VIII.