This is a review of the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. I’ve just seen it. If you haven’t and are still attempting to avoid spoilers, then move along.
With that disclaimer out of the way…
The new Star Wars movie is everything I hoped and feared it would be. With J.J. Abrams at the helm, The Force Awakens is a nostalgia-laden callback that recycles nearly every single Star Wars plot device and trope.
Which is too bad because there are many great things about the movie that get buried under this avalanche of unoriginality. The new characters are compelling. The old ones (Leia, Han, Chewie), are used in compelling and interesting ways. And the look and feel of the movie matches the original trilogy, leaving the cold, digital mode of the prequels in the dust.
The problem is that the essential plot takes every single plot point of old Star Wars movies and reuses them. Basically, our heroes have to blow up the Death Star. That’s right, the baddies, the so-called “First Order,” have built ANOTHER DEATH STAR! Except this one is really, really, really, really, really, really, really big.
Which leads someone in the Resistance (formerly known as “The Rebel Alliance”) to call this monstrosity: Starkiller Base. Seriously. I mean, didn’t at least some of the writers on this movie gag a little when they said that name out loud?
Also: Blowing up another Death Star? That’s an idea so tired that George Lucas used it twice already.
The way they do it is, well, pretty much the way they always do. Someone has to lower the shields! And so, Han Solo leads a group down onto the Starkiller planet thingy where they have to sneak into the station that powers the shields and plant explosive devices around it. Just like in The Return of the Jedi!
There is a confrontation between a father figure and son (a la Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi) that ends in a somewhat similar fashion. But the explosives go off, and sorta do the job.
But then a bunch of X-Wing fighters still have to finish the job. One even skims along a trench to get into position to blow the whole thing. I mean, COME ON!
The Starkiller Base is run by a general who doesn’t get along with Darth Vader, er, Kylo Ren. And the damn thing is even destroyed just a split second before it’s about to fire on the Rebel Base. I mean, the Resistance.
As a side note, there is now a Republic and there is the First Order, which is sorta the warmed up leftovers of the old Galactic Empire. And then there’s the Resistance, which is attacking the First Order and is supported by the Republic. But honestly, it’s all oddly confusing just how these groups relate to each other.
To rewind a bit, the plot kicks with another retread: There is an important piece of information tucked in a droid that’s marooned on a desert planet. Said droid just so happens to fall into the hands of a youngster, Rey, who just so happens to be super-duper in the ways of the Force (though she doesn’t know it yet).
Kylo Ren is the new Darth Vader. He was a Jedi who was being trained by Luke Skywalker, but turned to the darkside and helped destroy all the other Jedi. Luke went to be a hermit somewhere (just like Ben Kenobi!) and now everyone is looking for him. Because he is their only hope (just like Ben Kenobi!).
Along the way, the new female lead, Rey, is trapped on a big ship where she’s being tortured by Kylo Ren (just like Leia in Star Wars!). Fortunately, Han and Chewie sneak aboard to rescue her (etc., etc., etc.)
Sprinkled throughout all of this are endless references to pluck at the heartstrings of middle-aged suckers like me: Han makes a trash compactor joke; Finn, a stormtrooper who deserted and is now helping Rey, accidentally switches on that virtual chessboard thing on the Millennium Falcon; Rey has a dream sequence just like Luke did in Empire Strikes Back.
The problem with turning the nostalgia meter to full throttle is that it continually takes you out of the movie you’re actually watching and makes you think of movies you’ve already seen.
And again, this is too bad. Because the action and the performances and quality of dialogue are quite high. There are moments when people in the audience were crying thanks to the heartfelt scenes. Learning about all that happened to Leia and Han since we last saw them is genuinely heartbreaking.
Bottom line: This is essentially the movie that I feared we would get ever since it was announced that Abrams would direct. This is just the sort of overborrowing he has pulled in his most recent movies.
Super 8 was good, but also just a ripoff of E.T. and other 1980s-era Steven Spielberg. Star Trek Into Darkness was a remake of The Wrath of Khan with a twist. Both have the same problems as the new Star Wars movie: They recycle old ideas and hammer your nostalgia glands to death.
With 8,000 Star Wars movies currently in development, let’s hope that somewhere along the line, someone stumbles across a fresh plot. With an infinite number of books having been written and fan fiction, there has to be something we haven’t seen on the screen, right?
Of course, none of this will influence your decision to see this movie or not see it. You really have no choice.
In fact, I’m going to just hit the brakes and stop my ranting here. Because I’ve got tickets to go see it again and need to leave shortly.
See what I mean? Resistance is futile! Oh wait, sorry. That was Star Trek.