Star Wars: The Force Awakens - A Review


Posted on : 1/18/2016 10:47:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

So I finally made it to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  My initial take: at least it wasn't another Phantom Menace.  I enjoyed the movie.  It was entertaining.  But it just didn't have the pop of the original movies of the 70s and 80s.

Most of my major criticisms can be covered by reading this thread over at John Scalzi's "Whatever" blog.  Probably the most significant item is that I saw this movie already.  In 1977.  It was called Star Wars: A New Hope.  The plot points for the new movie were pretty much the same as the first movie.

There were a couple of additional elements that were of mild concern.

One was the new main character, Rey.  Rey was sold into slavery** at a young age.  She worked collecting scrap for a salvage yard.

And yet without any obvious reason, she is a master mechanic, a skilled interstellar navigator/pilot, and outstanding at fighting with a light saber.  For reasons unknown, she can also outfight multiple male opponents that out weigh her by a large margin.

The character Rey wanders dangerously close to Mary Sue territory.

As a contrast, Anakin was shown to repair speeders for several scenes before he was asked to drive one.  It wasn't exactly a big jump for him to fly a speeder well.

Also as a contrast, consider how firmly Han Solo slapped down Luke when he suggested that he could fly a spaceship without any training or experience.  And consider how much time that Luke put in learning to use a light saber in A New Hope despite never having a chance to actually use it until The Empire Strikes Back.

It just flat bad character development.

A secondary element was the hard political message contained within the story.

Early on, Finn (a failed/renegade storm trooper) determines that Rey was in trouble and attempts to save her.  So he grabs her hand.

Not her arm, not a "come on let's go", he grabs her hand.  Several times in a row.  It suggested to me a clear message that he was the man, he would do the saving, and she should just follow along.  She responds exactly as a person should when a stranger grabs your hand by pulling back and essentially saying "who are you and what makes you think you can take me anywhere".  Her reaction is perfectly appropriate.  Putting her in that position was just off-putting; poor plot development.

Then there was the heavy emasculating of Finn.  He is inept at almost everything he does.  He is a storm trooper that worked in.....wait for it....sanitation!  That makes absolutely no sense.  Support forces do sanitation.  Storm troopers are first class fighters.

The gender set up smacked of Helen Reddy and Homer Simpson; on steroids.  It seemed a little heavy handed.

Then there is Darth Emo....I mean Kylo Ren.  Every other Force capable person we have seen has had a sense of self control.  Yet Kylo Ren explodes in destructive rampages on two occasions.  What he needs a couple of sessions with his nose in the corner and an admonition to put on his big boy pants.

The movie was otherwise quite enjoyable.  The cinematography was excellent.  The use of 3D effects was stellar.  It would have been nice if we could have had a new story and less focus on blowing things up.

**A modest update.  Rey was not sold into slavery.  She was abandoned in some way.  The place where we find her in the movie is akin to a company owned mining town.  While a person living in a company town is usually free to leave, the attachment to other people or to the town itself may be strong enough to prevent a person from making the more beneficial/rewarding choice to leave.

My initial impression was "sold into slavery" when in reality she was purposefully left behind.  Perhaps she was left in good circumstances, but various incidents have moved her down the economic ladder.  That part of her story will hopefully be cleared up with future episodes.

My misreading of her free/slave status does not undermine my other observations about her character development within the movie.