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The new Star Wars movie is exactly what I deduced it would be from the trailers and the fact that it was directed by J. J. Abrams, a filmmaker so vulgar and artless that he makes Jerry Bruckheimer seem like Ingmar Bergman. The Force Awakens is not an homage but a ripoff. It is not a reboot but simply a remake of Star Wars with a bit of The Empire Strikes Back thrown in.
I saw it coming: Abrams, after all, badly bungled the reboot of the Star Trek movies. And instead of coming up with a new plot for the second one, he did a totally botched remake of The Wrath of Khan. The absurdity, of course, is that there are whole universes of Star Trek and Star Wars fan fiction out there that he could have ripped off. So mere lack of imagination and originality did not force him to remake existing movies.
My plot summary borrows from, corrects, and augments a rather droll meme floating around the web. Yes, it contains spoilers. The movie begins on the desert planet of
Tatooine Jakku, where an orphaned boy girl named Luke Rey scratches out a living on the margins of society. Also in the desert of Tatooine Jakku lives an old robed and bearded hermit who possesses arcane knowledge of the Force named Obi Wan Kenobi Lor San Tekka, played by prominent English Swedish actor Alec Guinness Max von Sydow. Kenobi Tekka is later killed by his apprentice Darth Vader Kylo Ren, who has gone over to the Dark Side.
A cute beeping, burbling droid named
R2-D2 BB-8 on Tatooine Jakku is entrusted with secret information essential to the Rebellion Resistance against the Empire First Order, a totalitarian state led by Emperor Supreme Leader Palpatine Snoke, who is an initiate of the Dark Side of the Force. Pursuing the droid is Palpatine’s Snoke’s right hand, Darth Vader Kylo Ren, his apprentice in exploring the secrets of the Dark Side. Luke Rey finds the droid and is drawn into the Rebellion Resistance when the Empire First Order destroys his her home hometown in search of R2-D2 BB-8. Luke Rey and R2-D2 BB-8 narrowly escape Tatooine Jakku on the Millennium Falcon with the help of its captain Han Solo and first mate Chewbacca. Darth Vader Kylo Ren pursues them. Luke’s Rey’s helper Han Solo Finn is a bit of a rogue and coward, but he eventually comes around and joins the fight against the Empire First Order. Luke Rey and companions learn that the Empire First Order has created a super-weapon, the Death Star Star-Killer Base, a space station the size of a moon planet that can blow up an entire planet solar system. Luke Rey also learns that he she has the ability to tap into the Force. This ability runs in families, and Luke Rey has inherited it from his her father Darth Vader Luke Skywalker. On a jungle planet, Luke Rey encounters a long-lived little green yellow rubber creature who imparts wisdom. Also on the jungle planet, Luke Rey descends into a cave cellar and has a vision of his her father and the Dark Force initiate Darth Vader Kylo Ren.
Ren isn’t Rey’s father, though, he’s her cousin. His mom is princess Leia, and his dad is Han Solo.
Darth Vader Kylo Ren meets his son father Luke Skywalker Han Solo on a gangway over an abyss in the Cloud City Star-Killer Base. But Ren doesn’t chop off his father’s hand, because that would be derivative, and J. J. Abrams is an artist with integrity. Instead, Ren kills his father.
Rebellion Resistance discovers a weakness in the Death Star Star-Killer Base: the thermal exhaust port thermal something or other. The Rebellion Resistance attacks with its X-wing fighters, led by crack pilot Luke Skywalker Poe Dameron, who hits the target, causing the whole Death Star Star-Killer Base to explode. Luckily, Darth Vader Kylo Ren gets clear of the exploding Death Star Star-Killer Base, so we can expect him to return for at least two more wretched movies, perhaps followed by another wretched trilogy about his childhood.
At the end of the movie,
Luke Rey goes off to a remote planet to learn the ways of the Force from the last living Jedi master, Yoda Luke Skywalker.
I knew going in that The Force Awakens would be derivative. The trailers also made it clear that it would be visually striking in places. But I was genuinely surprised by the pedestrian dialogue, flatline drama, and total lack of magic. Even as pure spectacle it is far inferior to the earlier films.
Daisey Ridley was pretty good as Rey, even though I am very tired of “strong woman” leads in action movies. Feminism teaches values that lead young women to be less happy and self-actualized than more traditional women.
John Boyega was a bad choice for Finn. It is not just that I dislike black actors in leading man roles, which give the false impression that blacks are just as capable as whites in positions of authority. It is not just that pairing black males with white females on screen encourages white girls to make bad romantic choices, exposing themselves to dramatically increased risks of rape, battery, murder, STDs, drug abuse, and single motherhood. It is not just that African midi-chorlian counts are two standard deviations lower than whites.
No, I just don’t like this fellow’s face. He’s very African looking: prognathous jaw, big lips and teeth, flat nose with huge nostrils, etc. He sweats a lot, his mouth is always gaping open, and the camera practically dives into his nostrils. Finn is also a liar and a bit of a coward (the Han Solo character of the remake). It is little wonder that after all his efforts to impress and save Rey, he finally ends up in the friend zone. Let’s hope he stays there.
Adam Driver plays Kylo Ren, the ludicrous Darth Vader knockoff, complete with black helmet. Ren has zero gravitas. He is as spindly as Barack Obama and tries just as hard. He has tantrums like a teenager. He is supposed to be emotionally conflicted. Or so the script says. But it does not come to life on the screen. His best scene is the final duel in the forest with Rey. But I thought that one needed long training to wield a light saber, and Rey has had none.
Another reason I thought this movie would be bad was the choice to dine out on nostalgia by bringing back cast members from the first three films. Harrison Ford as Han Solo wheezes though the action sequences and delivers his lines with no conviction. Carrie Fisher’s performance as Leia is as stiff as her botoxed face. Her vocal chords seem partly paralyzed as well. She should be warm and maternal, but she’s so reptilian I expected a forked tongue to flick out between her little croaks of dialogue. There is zero chemistry between Ford and Fisher. Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker came off best, perhaps in virtue of the fact that he had no lines. Chewbacca, Admiral Ackbar, and the droids are looking good though. They haven’t aged a bit.
The low point of the movie was General Hux (played by the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Domhnall Gleeson) giving a Hitleresque speech to a Nuremberg-style rally, to which the Stormtroopers responded with a Roman salute. This stuff makes George Lucas seem subtle. (Lucas, of course, paid homage to Triumph of the Will in the finale of the first Star Wars movie, and of course Stormtroopers remind us of Stormtroopers, and the Grand Moff reminds me, at least, of the Grand Mufti.)
The best part of The Force Awakens is John Williams’ music, but I listened closely, and what is great is not new, and what is new is not that great.
Many racially-conscious whites have boycotted The Force Awakens because of its politically-correct elements (a feminist heroine, a black hero). But in truth, these are no worse than most movies today, and they certainly do not approach The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo levels of evil. This movie is not so much evil as it is cynical, greedy, and incompetent. I found it completely emotionally uninvolving.
I have never been a big Star Wars fan, but I collected all the soundtracks, and for some reason The Empire Strikes Back has always been a “comfort” film that I pull out about once a year, usually on a miserable rainy day. A few years ago, I received a Blu-ray player for Christmas, and I watched all six Lucas films. I had not seen Star Wars (I do not call it A New Hope) since childhood, and despite the juvenile elements, there is real magic there. Lucas taps into primal Indo-European pagan themes: a Force that lies beyond the duality of Light and Dark, initiatic orders of warrior ascetics who attain superpowers by tapping into the Force, the cremation of the dead, and so forth.
Comparing The Force Awakens to the original has given me a new appreciation of Lucas as a director. Lucas may have been terrible at casting, but he knew how to pace scenes and get dramatically compelling performances from so-so actors, something Abrams fails at repeatedly.
I think the key difference is sincerity. Lucas takes Star Wars seriously, whereas Abrams poisons it with Jewish cultural ironism, creating a “product” that rings hollow and plays like a farce. There are times when this movie is two clicks from Spaceballs. The Schwartz is definitely with him.
The prequels, moreover, had highly intricate and fascinating plots and created visually dazzling worlds. If anything, The Force Awakens will make us appreciate the prequels more. Even The Phantom Menace now looks better by comparison. In fact, I was hoping all along it was Jar Jar’s snout hiding under Kylo Ren’s mask.