DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU
OK LET’S DO THIS
Everything wrong with
Avengers in Space Star Trek 3: The Search for Luke Star Wars: Remix Edition Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens was for me encapsulated by the presumably-of-legal-age man/boy sitting directly behind me in the theater that started sobbing uncontrollably when Han died and did not stop until well into the credit sequence. The movie was clearly made for that guy and all the other fans that, to my eternal confusion, excitedly cheered and laughed when C-3PO, undoubtedly the worst character of the entire original trilogy, appeared to make terrible jokes and generally be annoying and British. That we got a movie about Han Solo is astounding enough, that we got a movie that emotionally climaxes with the death of Han should cause us all to reflect deeply on why we keep pumping money into billion-dollar American movie franchises.
Nothing in the film makes sense. Why does a 70-something former General decide to start up smuggling again? In a reformed Republic that he helped build? What exactly does he have to gain by that? Isn’t the entire point of the “noble smuggler” profession of the original Star Wars that the Imperial Law is oppressive and draconian so it is those on the fringes of society that are just? Only there’s a New Republic… presumably. We never see it because instead there is a “Resistance” (because Hunger Games?) and a new Empire that’s not the Empire but somehow despite not ruling the galaxy has the funds and technology to build a weapon ten times larger than the Death Star. A weapon which eats stars. If you want to destroy a solar system (which, why would you, the entire point of the Death Star was to rule by absolute fear, not to actually go and systematically blow up, you know, the people you’re taxing and the resources you’re extracting) why build a giant laser cannon that blows up a bunch of planets when you already have the technology to EAT STARS. Just go park the damn thing in the solar system you want to destroy, eat their sun, give them the finger and drive away. Oh, that terrible black hole gun from the (fun but intellectually bankrupt) Star Trek reboot says hello.
How the hell did that bartender/soothsayer character get Anakin’s lightsaber? Why is she willing to give it up to the first rando that sneaks into her storeroom to fondle it? How is said Rando, who up until this point has never wielded a lightsaber able to beat a defeat a trained Jedi Warrior? Why does Adam Driver’s hair look like that? But most importantly, what I keep coming back to is, why are we, the audience, supposed to care about any of this? Remember when Abrams used the black hole gun to destroy Vulcan and no one cared? Or when he made a movie about Benedict CumberKhan and no one cared? This is the same movie. Han is irrelevant to Star Wars. He’s a side character. His role in the original trilogy is to keep everything centered and human, but he is not what the original trilogy is about. They could have killed him off 15 minutes in, or set the film after his death by natural causes and it would not have mattered at all because Han Solo, the character, does not matter to the Star Wars myth. Han Solo is not a mythic character. Star Wars is not about his journey. The prequels at least understood that.
Look, the prequels were generally terrible, I’m not going to say they weren’t. The Force Awakens, as a film, is vastly more competent. But that’s all. It completely misses the point of Star Wars. The prequels, for all their faults, did not. Six movies about the rise and fall of Darth Vader, everything else is window dressing. It’s a (mostly) coherent narrative – the hero’s journey. Anakin rises to power, falls from grace, and is redeemed by the true hero, his son. Who is in this film for about five seconds.
It’s entirely possible that the forthcoming sequels will make something out of the (thoroughly pointless and boring) proto-heroes that are being set up in this installment, but as of now what it constitutes is roughly two and a half hours of stupefyingly tired fan-service. In the same way that Revenge of the Sith had a clear narrative demand, to get us to the climactic fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan and complete the transformation of Anakin into Darth Vader, The Force Awakens needed to show the fruits of what the Rebellion fought for in 4-6 and establish Luke Skywalker’s heroic legacy. It did neither of those things.
But hey, Kylo Ren was actually an alright, interesting character! Too bad they felt the need to make him Han and Leia’s kid. Because it was utterly superfluous. It was just a thing to make nostalgic people feel things. Like that Vader mask, and Kylo calling Anakin grandfather. It’s all kinda cool, I guess, but it has no real weight. Luke having to deal with the fact that he totally Obi-Wan’ed this whole New Jedi Order thing – that has weight. I want to see a movie about that. Or about whatever happened when Kylo rebelled against him. Or about the galaxy spinning wildly out of control because the repeated collapse of governments completely destabilized galactic trade and politics and the Rebellion wasn’t well enough equipped to run a government once their holy mission to overthrow Imperial rule had succeeded and Luke Skywalker has to quickly rebuild the Jedi in order to prevent everything from going medieval. Or you know, literally anything but another goddamn year 201x movie about some skinny brooding bad guy with a superweapon that wants to blow shit up for no reason and a whole bunch of assholes we don’t care about flying around trying to stop him while we lead up to a boring third act where some side/main-ish character dies and we feel feelings and then the bad guy is stopped until the next movie. I know I pay money to see these movies and I’m part of the problem, I’m going to go think on that that while I wonder to myself why on earth Thomas Brodie-Sangster was only in this damn movie for about 18 frames.