Nuggets of Wisdom

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Force Awakens Was…Pretty Good

I just returned from watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’ve been looking forward to watching this film ever since it was released nearly a week ago. I’ve been on the edge of my seat waiting in anticipation, even more so with how I’ve been doing my best to avoid spoilers.

It wasn’t easy. So many of my favorite reviewers provided their reactions to this film the very day it was released, and I had to avoid the temptation of reading or watching them to avoid any potential spoilers. With the Nostalgia Critic releasing his review of the movie this week, I decided to go ahead and watch the movie.

So, was it good? Yes. Absolutely, yes.

But was it great? Eh!

Did it live up to the hype? Again, eh!

[Mild Spoilers]

Don’t get me wrong. This was by no means a bad movie. At all! Not once while watching this did I ever regret my ticket purchase. The action was amazing, the effects were superb (and a step up from the lackluster CGI of the prequels), and the new characters were entertaining—despite some people moaning on the internet that one of them is too much of a “Mary Sue.”

When the movie ended, you better believe that I joined everyone else in the theater giving it a round of applause, and I’m most certainly looking forward to watching the next two movies when they eventually come out.

So, even with all of that said, why am I reluctant to call this a great movie? To be honest, it felt too much like the original movie. In fact, it’s almost exactly like A New Hope.

What do I mean by that? Stop me if you heard this before:

You have a group of rebels fighting against a military force. There’s a spy working with the rebellion who has secret plans, but he ends up getting captured by soldiers dressed in white armor and led by the main bad guy in black armor. Fortunately, before he’s captured, the spy sneaks the plans away in a droid and sends it off to a desert planet. There, it runs across a young, wide-eyed teenager who loves to stare off into the sunset and dream of a life outside of her dreary desert existence.

Sound familiar? Does that sound too much like A New Hope? Yes. It does. It most certainly does.

I’m not even kidding! The movie even starts off with an opening shot of a giant galactic battleship! It’s not firing on a smaller ship trying to get away, but it is looming menacingly over a desert planet where the main protagonist lives.

And that’s not all. The rest of the movie contains so many other obvious allusions to A New Hope that you can create a mental checklist.

A space battle with the Millennium Falcon? Check.

Han Solo being confronted by someone he conned out of a deal? Check.

The main protagonists meeting in a shady-looking cantina filled with savage-looking aliens? Check.

A giant Death Star that ends up destroying a planet? Not even one planet, but four, count them, four, all for good measure! Check. Check. Check. Check.

The climax of the movie involving blowing up the Death Star. Check.

A wise old mentor character being killed off by the main villain while the main protagonist watches in agony. Oh, most certainly, check!

That part probably had to be the most painful part for me. No spoilers, but yes, you do have one of the older characters meeting up with the new villain. On a narrow bridge. Over a deep chasm. What comes next is so obvious  that you would have to be legally blind not to see it coming. In fact, five minutes before the scene even happened, I already knew it was coming. I had to restrain myself from jumping out of my chair and screaming to the movie screen, “Oh, come on!”

Yes, the movie plays off this scene as a “suspenseful” moment. It tries to have you believe that maybe—just maybe—the old good guy will convince the new bad guy to “come to the light side.” But no. There is no suspension of disbelief here. You know the new villain of the movie is going to kill him off. In fact, all the time I was watching this, I kept whispering to myself “Kill him, kill him, just kill him, I know you’re going to!”

And yes, the movie tries to play off this scene as “shocking” and “emotional”, but no, it was neither. It wasn’t “shocking” because I could see it coming a mile away. Heck, make that one hundred miles away! And it wasn’t “emotional” because there was no emotional connection created to make me care. This scene tried to make me feel bad that one of the original characters was killed off. All I felt was frustrated.

And don’t get me wrong: I’m not accusing this movie of ripping off A New Hope. I’m just saying that J.J. Abrams was obviously so desperate to recreate the “magic” of the original movie that he accidently recreated the original.

And that’s what the movie felt like. It didn’t feel like I was watching a new Star Wars film. It felt like I was watching the first one re-hashed. Don’t get me wrong: it was an enjoyable re-hashing, but a shameless re-hashing nonetheless.

But don’t take that as me telling you not to watch this movie. By all means, go down to your local theater and demand that the ticket seller “take your money!” It was a fun film. It was a good film. It simply wasn’t a “great” film—certainly not what the hype was building up for.

Oh well. Maybe the next two movies will see some improvement. Though judging by this one, we may end up getting a re-telling of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi respectively.

And when the Nostalgia Critic released his review of it, I'm sure he's either going to admit these flaws or perform plenty of mental gymnastics around them. (I haven't seen his vlog of it yet!)