Eat Your Warmed Over Sugar Porridge That Came In The Fancy Box: Musings on Star Wars 7

Kurt killjoys the Star Wars euphoria of the masses. And, yea *SPOILERS* are ahead.

The movie-magic for me, was not in any way ‘awakened’ by this ‘new’ story in the most popular corner of fandom. I believe the title, The Force Awakens is meant to indicate a return to (original trilogy) form to a certain type of Star Wars geek. I am older, and if not particularly wiser, my tastes have, over time, simply evolved out of this universe. One which boils down the massive diversity of species and life of and massive galactic empire where everyone of any importance is directly related to everyone else of importance a single bloodline dynasty rife with convenient coincidences. In the vast reaches of space, millions of worlds (sadly, each one consisting of only a single climate) with trillions of sentient folks struggling about their lives, the Skywalker brood (and ancestors) are the only damn thing that enacts change. The ‘Balancing Of The Force’ is a convenient reason, but ask yourself, doesn’t it feel a bit small when everyone of importance is related to everyone else of importance in this galaxy far, far, away?

The endless merchandising, from bedsheets and lunch boxes to laptops and cellphones, and fumbled prequel trilogy, which at the turn of the century put perhaps too much emphasis on technology patents and too little on delivering fun. I am old enough to have seen all the original films in the theatre and this 2015 chapter is looking a lot like a glossy, lazy re-do of Star Wars (or for younglings, Episode IV: A New Hope.) I cannot think of a smaller, more timid way to ‘win back the four quadrants of movie-goer’ after the prequels. This is not visual myth-making, this is a 10 year corporate business plan, and the only way in which the new film is at odds with Lucas’ originals, which were in the sprit of classic movie serials and the samurai films of Kurosawa, but also, very much an original vision with surprising twists and turns along the way.

In the fuzzy 21st century fashion of reboots, remakes, and re-envisioning, we get J.J. Abrams, a fan-first, filmmaker-second who does renovated homage with a high sheen on it, rather than pushing out new ideas, concepts. The story line is so utterly familiar, the beats so well known that the ‘surprises’ it attempts fall flat, not to mention obligatory. This all seems so familiar: A droid carrying plans hooks up with a spunky orphan (now a girl instead of a boy) on a desert planet, to be whisked away on the Millennium Falcon, a stop-over in a kooky smuggler bar, Hitler inspired baddies blowing up planets (here 5 instead of one), the marshaling of a rag-tag rebel army on a planet targeted for destruction by (bigger) Death Star. Apparently the force is the all powerful force that surrounds us, and keeps the powers that be doing the same goddamn thing, with only the slightest cosmetic changes and updated special effects. A lightsaber with electric cross-guards, a new decree-by-hologram Emperor, A conflicted black-caped wearing villain, Domhnall Gleeson poorly imitating Peter Cushing, a lady-Yoda, Tunisian sunsets, and the death of a mentor as witnessed by wide-eyed young things. The destruction of Coruscant, or whatever anonymous city planet here also feels like the lazy destruction of Spock’s home-world in the Star Trek reboots (also courtesy by Mr. Abrams, how favours ‘cool and fast’ over ‘smart and considered’ every time).

I paid to see the most expensive fan film that money can buy. Slavery to ‘the rules’ is no way to make a movie, no matter how good the characters are. In this chapter’s defence, Poe, Rey, Ren, BB8 and Fin are all wonderful new faces and their short three-letter handles, memorable and instantly iconic; they go a long way to making the universe a little more inclusive of race and gender. No matter how sharp the one liners, nor how beautiful the cinematography, this is fan service on the $250 million dollar scale, to be lapped up by an undemanding audience. Who ever made the They Live mashup of the poster for this film was a genius.

My take-away The Force Awakens, Han Solo and Princess Leia are pretty good at saving the universe by the seat of their pants, but holy crap, WORST. PARENTS. EVER. Some people just shouldn’t have children. And *Major Spoiler Alert* The death of a certain roguish smuggler is botched to the point of it being more of a rote plot necessity than an emotional beat. Later in the film, Carrie Fisher’s Leia seems to barely react to the news. And that is how I feel about this new film, it is less about imagination than obligation at this point for me. Sad as that may come off. Maybe that is why I enjoyed Pixar’s Inside Out so much, as it attempts to honestly tackle this feeling. After 40 years, you cannot ‘go home’ by stepping on the set of the Falcon, because home is an idea, not a place, and one that nostalgia cannot sustain, but has to be pushed forward by pressing ideas. Fan culture has tarnished the adventure blockbuster as surely as the Dark Side makes bludgeons the galaxy to submission. Ridley Scott’s R-rated Prometheus, with its corporate mission full of schemers and fuck-ups is looking better and better in hindsight of safe Marvel-Disney pandering for box-office. As the new VW Beetle and resurgence of 70s fashions in the 1990s were to Baby Boomers, the lack of critical appraisal and nostalgic glee in the response to The Force Awakens is to Gen-X’s a little too desperate to relive their childhood in the cinema. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

For the sake of going forward in a constructive manner, I hope our creative empire stops giving us what we think we want, and instead gives us what we are unaware we need. And to re-ignite the flicker of hope that I personally have of getting great Star Wars films in the cinema again, it will take an artist with ideas a sense of risk and adventure, not just a snappy sense of polish.

Help us Rian Johnson, you’re our only hope.

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Sean Kelly

**Quietly gets off of Kurt’s lawn**

Matt Brown

The important thing to remember before Monday night’s show, Kurt, is that we all like you just fine as a fellow and everything we say about your “opinion” is not personal.

Matt Gamble

Ahh, another lecture from Kurt on how his privilege is more important than anything. Long live the Kurtriarchy!

Andrew James

“I am older, and if not particularly wiser, my tastes have, over time, simply evolved out of this universe.”

This. I think exactly this Kurt. You’re simply just not that into Star Wars anymore. Which is totally fine and you’ve dropped hints to reflect that feeling for years now. You’re usually not interested in talking about it; not keen on looking back at it; and you certainly haven’t been very excited with the Episode VII buzz thus far.

And again, I think this is totally fine. This movie simply was not and would not be made for you. This movie is for huge Star Wars fans (fan service as you call it, or if you want to be a dick, pandering) and it’s an easy way to pass the torch to a new group of fans (or Disney slaves if you wanna be a dick about it).

Andrew James


As for the Han and Leia are bad parents remark, I’m surprised you don’t find that an interesting move in the story telling. I certainly didn’t see it coming and I like the idea of emphasizing a dysfunctional family. Because of course they are.

Having seen it multiple times now, this movie is so much NOT about another Death Star and a droid with plans on a desert planet. This is all about characters and how they find themselves in this galaxy and how they interact with one another. And it’s bloody fantastic. Particularly Daisey Ridley and Adam Driver.

Kurt Halfyard

It is an interesting choice, but like many JJ concepts, poor in its dramatic execution. Ditto Fin/Phasma interactions, they are so short and so cut to the bone for the sake of speed. I would have liked to see a wee bit more of Fin’s journey towards deciding to rescue Poe. It is endemic in 2015 that movies don’t ‘breathe’ anymore even though they still end up being 20 minutes too long from over-convoluted junk. Take the ‘cantina’ sequence in SW7, did they really have to ‘blow the place up’ after they visit? Does there have to be an action sequence ever 12 minutes like clockwork?

La Menthe

I agree 100% with this review. It is not as if I expect anything else, as blockbusters in general are so expensive and have so much at stake that anticipating them to be daring and original is a hopeless thought. You would have bigger luck expecting substance from McDonald’s meals as you would in blockbusters; they are more products than they are works of art. Even in the more self-ruling blockbusters, like Mad Max: Fury Road, the director cannot enter the project without the mindset of ideas that comply with the “Hollywood formula”, and can only insert his creative mind after getting passed it (usually, only people who already approve of this formula are those that get to make these movies).

That was what The Force Awakens was. It wasn’t bad, but how in the world is that even a postive criticism? I have stopped rating and considering films based on how well they are made, but instead on whether I got something out of them, or if I just wasted 2 hours of my life. Film as a medium is art, and art is supposed to reflect and provoke the viewer, and try to be new or innovative at the very least; I want to leave the theater knowing that I did not just see the same movie wrapped up in a different shell. That the new Star Wars movie “was not bad” is not a positive mark at all: with the kind of budget it has, they already have enough money to make everything technically good, as they can hire people who are capable at almost all aspects of the film. In this regard, an OK Star Wars movie (or a blockbuster) should be the minimum criteria, not the the merit to start off fra 4/6.

People seem to forget that the OT was great because it actually was new and original in many aspects, and did partake in defining the modern blockbusters. That is what separates The Force Awakens from those films: it is a shadow of its foundations.

As Humboldt so nicely said it:

“Individual human nature can never succeed in producing salutary influences. Whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very being but remains alien to his true nature. He does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness. And if a man acts in a mechanical way, reacting to external demands or instruction, rather than in ways determined by his own interests and energies and power, we may admire what he does, but we despise what he is.”

For Humboldt man “is born to inquire and create, and when a man or a child chooses to inquire or create out of his own free choice then he becomes in his own terms an artist rather than a tool of production or a well trained parrot.” This is the essence of his concept of human nature, and is very relevant in the topic we are discussing.

As a natural result, Star Wars, the biggest movie trademark in the world, will be at the opposite spectrum in terms of creativity. It contributes zero in producing new ideas in filmmaking and is instead a parrot.