In Defense of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A common trap, I think, for internet editorialists and critics of all stripes is to get stuck on just complaining about things that the critic hates. This creative death trap, as I explained earlier, causes critics to become rather boring to watch. I could only watch Doug Walker do his schtick for a while before it lost the novelty of watching a grown man scream like a baboon about old films that nobody else has seen in a decade. Doug seems to have noticed this, too - so his format recently changed to covering newer films. But the damage is done, and all of his videos are creeping with the staleness of the format. I don't care if he's moaning about Neverending Story sequels or The Lorax, I'm just kind of burned out on watching the guy shouting like a baby and making stupid jokes. Once I had this boredom - epiphany, I noticed how little I was starting to give a shit about other internet critics. Angry Joe had already alienated me by being really fucking annoying, but even critics I'd liked in the past, like Spoony and the Rap Critic, kind of started to wear on me.

I'm of the opinion that to be an effective critic, one has to be balanced in their critique. I understand that this makes me somewhat of a hypocrite considering that every hitherto posted update to this site has either been a scathing review or a bizarre attempt at satire that kind of went off the rails after a while. But, hey, we all start somewhere.

So I decided to talk about a movie that I'm mostly neutral towards. In truth (I love that phrase, it makes me sound so literate and old-fashioned), I'm neutral to the Star Wars series in general. I mean, sure, there are like two or three good movies out of seven, which is pretty alright compared to other six - movie sagas. Not great, but good. Empire Strikes Back is universally considered pretty memorable, which probably has something to do with the fact that George Lucas didn't have a lot to do with directing it. Same goes for The Force Awakens; It's pretty clear that George Lucas wasn't really at the helm, if only because of the unmistakable musk of J.J. Abrahms' directoral style. I think my praise of the film can be summed up as "a better 'A New Hope' than 'A New Hope,'" which isn't exactly glowing praise but isn't a scathing hatchet-job either. Sure, it's got some painful fanservice moments (when I watched the trailer and heard Harrison Ford utter the line "Chewie, we're home," I had to supress a bout of projectile vomit induced by Sappy Screenplay Overload), and the plot is a little too close to 'A New Hope' to be considered an entirely original movie, but I have to say I did enjoy it. I wasn't really squirming in my seat from agony, but I wasn't squirming in excitement either. I was squirming in apathy and indifference to a film that took no risks, and as a result neither sucked nor was really awesome.

Author's Note: I had just remembered, at exactly this point when writing this article, that there's a spin-off movie called Rogue One. I guess the movie was so important to the Star Wars canon that I never went to see it, and also forgot about it the minute all the Star Wars fanpeople shut up and also forgot about it.

Let's chop up this review into a some parts, because I like doing that and it makes sure that I focus on a single topic instead of flying off the rails and going on a tangent about the socioeconomic implications of the increasing demographic of queer people in the first world, and why the internet played a role in raising awareness on sexual issues and social justice. What was I on about again?

Part One: Things I liked

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most disappointing thing since Plinkett reviews. However, I did not share in the disappointment. Apparently, I'm just immune to the effects of marketing and consumerism on human psychology, and thus wasn't filled with lethal levels of hype that would inevitably bring me crashing down, no matter how good the fucking film even was. If Citizen Kane had that kind of media hype, then it would have made box office millions, everyone would have hated it, and Orson Welles would have killed himself before he got to establish the loveable, grumpy persona that Maurice LaMarche would be paid to imitate decades later. Truly a grim future that would be.

It seems, as a result, I was able to enjoy the movie for what it was. My indifference towards Star Wars removed the baggage that the film carried by being yet another sequel to Star Wars. Furthermore, I apparently am in the minority of internet users who don't think that having a white woman and a black man in a movie together is evidence of a Cultural Marxist overthrow of good, christian values in the media, like sharing, love of jesus, and Liebensraum.

Now that I'm done stalling for two paragraphs, let's dive in.

Thing I Liked #1: Rey and Finn

I really actually like that whoever ghostwrote this movie decided to take a few risks with the protagonists. Finn in particular stood out to me - he's a perfect fish-out-of-water character, cast out from the First Order and sucked into the deeper conflict of the move: the search for fanservice Luke Skywalker. It kind of tickles my writing bone when a work goes to lengths to treat the expendable villain dudes as people with personalities and histories - you know, like the complicated people that everybody is? The scene at the jedi temple where Finn throws down with the stormtroopers, and one of them recognizes Finn and shouts "Traitor!" is probably one of my favorite scenes in the move, but everyone else seems to love that scene for the dank meme. It's a little detail in the film that didn't need to be there, but wasn't harmful to have. It's a humanizing moment for the stormtroopers who get shot to death for the rest of the movie. It's not the most nuanced storytelling, but I'll take what I can get. As for Finn himself, the film really sells the character. He's a regular guy, born into extreme circumstance, and it feels like it, thanks to both the competent screenwriting and the little quirks that John Boyega put in.

Rey is a good character too, and while I feel the film missed out on telling us more about her (though probably to leave blanks for the sequels to fill in), she still manages to interest me. I like lonesome, wanderer-type characters. I can relate to the lifestyle, and characters like that have a lot to think about. I like that the movie shows us how she lives on Jakku, what she does to get by, in more detail than a little expository line that tells us that she Works On Her Uncle's Farm (she doesn't - I was drawing a comparison to A New Hope).

Thing I Liked #2: Kylo Ren

Kylo Ren is a really good villain. Like, really really good. The sweaty nerds on the Star Wars forums are going off about how Kylo Ren sucks because he's not a ULTRA BADASS JEDI-KILLER SUPERHITLER, which is sad because it just reminds me how much better than them I am for having the Right Opinions about a cash-in sequel. In seriousness, this complaint falls flat for me because almost all hitherto existing Star Wars villains are pretty much ultra badass jedi-killer superhitlers. Darth Vader. The Emperor. General Greivous. Some other character I forgot about. All of them fit the bill quite well. Now, regardless of your opinions on their effectiveness as villains, I'd rather have a change of pace. In truth, I'm pretty weary of ULTRA BADASS type characters in general. It's trying too hard. It adds a layer of artificiality to films when the movie just keeps throwing things at you and saying "Am I awesome yet?? Am I!? Bruce Willis! Explosions! One liners! YEAH!" I don't know about you, but I can only take that kind of posturing for so long before I'm tempted to take my TV and toss it into the Black Sea. I don't really care about General Greivous and his helicopter arms and skull head. I don't care about some guy walking away from an explosion without looking back. A movie can only sell an "awesome moment" when there's an accompanying sense of accomplishment. It's not the fact that the hero saved his wife and 2.5 kids from Hans Viloceraptor, the killer shark, while outrunning a nuclear explosion; it's when the hero beats the odds and surprises the viewer. Thats why the first Die Hard works so well; Bruce Willis' character was just a regular guy put into extraordinary circumstances, who didn't go out guns-blazing like Rambo or some shit, but only turned to gunplay when there was no other option available. The movie never goes "John McClane is AWESOME!" and has him running barefoot through shattered glass while Cthulu's mouth-tentacles give chase and a loan-shark is sniping at him from the Empire State Building for reasons that aren't fully explained to the audience. We know why John McClane is fighting Hans Gruber. He's doing it to survive, and win back his wife also I guess. Hans Gruber himself also isn't some faceless antagonist robot - he's a guy. He has motivations, desires, dreams, thoughts. He's well-read, posturing, egotistical, but not heartless. He feels like a real person, and it contributes to the gravitas of his conflict with John McClane.

That's why I like Kylo Ren. He's not got helicopter arms or some shit, but he feels like a real person. Someone with real thoughts and feelings. He's not a COLD, CALCULATING BADASS RARGH, but someone with feelings and flaws. He's got explosive anger issues, he idolizes the evildoers of the past and seeks to emulate them in reckless and pretentious ways. It's even implied in one scene that he might be having doubts about the direction that his life has gone, his status as a fascist leader, and the fact that he's just got done murdering billions of people to death. But he's also not a whimp and a pushover, either. The movie establishes him as a powerful threat without making him a fucking cartoon character. I guess my standards of screenwriting are just so fucking high.

Thing I Liked #3: The Screenplay, Pacing, Dialog, and Other Forms Of Basic Storytelling.

This movie kind of made me give a shit about the characters and what happens to them, which is an embarrassing rarity in modern movies. By the end of the movie, I was wanting Kylo to get what was coming to him during the climactic fight on the collapsing Death Star #3: Electric Boogaloo. I became sort of invested in the conflict halfway through when Kylo kidnaps Rey (because of course he did). The dialog was witty and genuine, Han Solo's conversation with Rey in particular almost making up for the fact that his presence in the movie was cringeworthy fanservice. I'm not sure what more there is to say on the matter; it's just a satisfying movie to watch. It doesn't linger too long on one plot thread, it doesn't drag out dialog with gallons of exposition - what more is there to say? It's a competently made movie.

Part Two: Things I Didn't Care For

Okay, the prospect of doing more complaining is already boring me. I've done enough complaining, both genuine and fake, for a lifetime or two of working in a daycare full of the whiniest kids on the god damn planet. Let's rip off this band-aid already.

*RIP* Yeouch!

Thing #1: A Weapon To Surpass Metal Gear (It's Another Death Star)

Okay, so the First Order's first order of business was to build another Death Star. The bad news about this new Death Star is that I've already forgotten what it's called. I think it's called "Starfucker." Ah! That means Trent Reznor's the guy who ghostwrote the script! I'm onto your case, Hollywood.

Thing #2: Fanservice

Huh. Looks like I already let this one slip. I thought I organized this article to avoid exactly this situation. Oh well. It's worth reiterating anyway. Han Solo and Chewbacca's presence in the movie, while not wholly unwarranted, is nonetheless kind of cheesy. The fact that R2D2 gets fanfare when he appears on screen made me groan - internally, that is. Groaning at a movie out loud is bad etiquitte, and if I can internalize years of crushing mental illness, I can surpress a groan.

Thing #3: It's A New Hope

There's simply no beating around the bush. It's a blow-for-blow redo of A New Hope. Would it really have killed Trent Reznor to try something new?

In Conclusion

Wow, you actually read all of that? I must say, I'm flattered. Do excuse the state of this conclusion, I wasn't expecting readers.

Force Awakens didn't make me cry or laugh or cheer or feel much at all - but that's more of a personal issue for me. It did make me sympathize, it did make me smirk, it did make me kind of root for the heroes, because the movie allowed me to care about them. While it did go through the motions to please fans - which is a creatively shameful thing to do that stifles honest and meaningful storytelling - I still felt like J.J. Abrahms and Trent Reznor really wanted to make a Star Wars film. Not "Another Installment In The Star Wars Franchise," but an honest sendup to a film series which, by my understanding, has some sort of cultural significance. It's not high art or even a great film, but it's not garbage, either.

The truth is, I gave a shit about it, and that's good enough for me.

And no, I'm not letting the Trent Reznor joke go.

Go back