SPOILER WARNING!!! Don’t read if you haven’t watched the film yet!
During the long run up period towards the release of the much trumpeted about Episode VII – now firmly in hands of DISNEY masterminds – I could not help feeling strangely apathetic about this new release, probably fuelled by misgiving about the deep impact the handover of this franchise might (or must) have. And yet, despite this foreboding I so wanted to be enthralled, beguiled and seduced towards any side of the Force by this new film. This expectation I guess has been a common denominator in all those viewers who count themselves contemporaries of the original releases of Episodes IV to VI, who collectively felt let down by Lucas’s later prequels who were now promised a continuation of the story all in the style, spirit and manner of Lucas’s first films.
At 20 minutes into the film we felt the first unmistakable signs of boredom and bemusement in view of the idiotic, simple-minded plot which seemed to be reassembled from reboots and leftovers of elements of the original three Episodes. Twenty minutes further into The Force Awakens, what awakened in us were mounting anger and disbelief in view of the lack of fresh ideas, inspiration and real storyline of this Sequel, which turned out to be a re-bake of old, stale toast.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens sets out to continue the story after the Emperor’s defeat and destruction of his reign. But wait, all we see is a repeating cycle of plots just with a new generation of hopefuls, like watching a cycle of rebirth gone terribly wrong, where plot elements of Episode IV to VI are being recycled without summing up to a new and appealing storyline. All basic conflicts and plot elements of mainly Episode IV and some of V and VI have been rewarmed and cheaply adapted to the story of the next generation. We will go into detail later on to prove this point!
This lazy, uninspired approach to the story of a new Generation, goes hand in hand with the introduction of new characters, some of which are obviously meant to replace those who could not reappear for having been destroyed at the end of Episode VI and that’s about all that is new in Episode VII, new not necessarily meaning fresh. A child with a mildly active fantasy might have come up with more original and plausible characters than did the “creative team” of Disney! The copycat character of the new film’s storyline requires replacements for the Emperor, Yoda and Darth Vader who all were unique and mostly convincing film characters throughout the original episodes. Unfortunately and maybe to the greatest of all disappointments of The Force Awakens, their successors turn out to be major flops, one-dimensional cartoon characters often without plausible background and development. To top this failure, some of these new characters are mostly irrelevant to the limping and dysfunctional storyline. We will later analyse those characters and their shadow existence.
Play it again Sam!
Let’s have a look into the “storyline” of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its “surprising” parallels or plain striking copy aspects to the original Episodes IV, V and VI!
Premise and frame to the entire film is the supposed search of Princess Leia for her brother Luke Skywalker who disappeared many years ago and is needed badly in the fight of the Resistance against the First Order
, the films “re-branding” of the Empire, which was destroyed together with its leaders at the end of Episode VI of the original trilogy. Leia sends a trusted pilot (Poe Dameron – I swear I understood “Poo Cameron” the whole time) to Planet Jakku to pick up a disk with bits of secret information about Luke’s whereabouts provided by an “old ally” of her’s on that planet. Are you already starting to experience déjà vu? Well, so did I!
A female youngster called Rey
lives alone on that same godforsaken planet Jakku ( I thought I had recognised Tatooine) and survives by scavenging functional parts of discarded spaceships, which litter planet Jakku like dog droppings the streets of our major cities. She has lost her family but clings on to her hope to be reunited with them which why she does not want to part from her home planet no matter what (an attitude which later will strongly contradict her actions and is one of the many reasons the film does not work in our opinion). She sells the fruits of her scavenging to Unkar Plutt (Simon Pegg) , a used parts merchant who despite physical differences very much reminded me of Watto from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in his greedy and ruthless character exploiting child and youth labour. More déjà vu …
Parallel to Rey’s daily hardships we are being introduced to the new foundation of the Dark Side of the Force: The First Order (in replacement of The Empire), which basically appears to be a perfect reboot of the latter. Same military organisation, commanders ( a female one called Captain Phasma is the only change as a sign of the “feminist” agenda of “new” Hollywood), uniforms, storm troopers, tie fighters, star destroyers, even the vehicle Darth Vader‘s replacement named Kylo Ren
is using, looks the same as Darth Vader’s. This “mysterious” Kylo Ren struck us the very first second as such a pitiful wannabe copy of Darth Vader that we laughed out loud in the theatre! But we will get to him in detail later on. He also arrives on planet Jakku almost at the same time as Leia’s envoy and the latter confides the disk with secret information about Luke’s hiding place to a little droid (déjà vu, strike three!), this one called BB-8. I guess nobody was really surprised about the total cuteness factor of this little thing knowing well that the franchise is now officially owned by Disney and the new makers will make sure to stretch their universe of characters in a way that beguiles from the most tender toddler to the oldest crone in the family. BB-8 darts off dutifully while a wide search of the agents of the First Order for him gets underway. Captain Phasma and Kylo Ren lead the attack on the village where Lor San Tekka (Leia’s old “ally”) and Poe Dameron are meeting and Phasma orders the killing of all village prisoners by hand of her storm troopers, order which is not followed by one storm trooper named FN-2187 and hey presto, we are being introduced to the third new main character. His name is soon being changed to Finn by Poe Dameron when the deserting storm trooper assists him in escaping from the Star Destroyer where he was brought to after his capture for interrogation. Finn basically states that he never had much of a desire to be storm trooper and voilá he becomes part of the Resistance and helps Poe to escape in a stolen tie fighter. Poe crash lands the tie wing and believing that he had perished in that crash (the tie fighter is conveniently swallowed up whole by quicksands) Finn crosses Jakku‘s inclement desert in order to find civilization, which he finally does on the marketplace of the same village darling Rey spends her tough scavenger days selling her scramblings. Amazing chance and coincidence make Finn bump precisely into Rey and little BB-8 who had also happened to happen upon Rey of all people on the planet. In this new Galaxy even droids appear to feel the seeds of the Force!! The unlikely trio is discovered by storm troopers and the First Order and a highly explosive persecution sequence ensues culminating in Rey stumbling upon a piece of space junk conveniently parked in junk dealer Unkar Plutt’s back yard. Oh look what we got here: The Millenium Falcon!!!! If you haven’t believed so far in Divine Providence you will from this second forth …
But the series of nonsensical, gratuitous coincidences doesn’t stop there, rest assured. Rey who apparently spent her whole short life dissembling and scavenging old space ships, KNOWS how to pilot the Falcon, which of course has survived about 25 years of being parked in a sandy desert village without suffering any damage or dysfunction in its circuits and electronic apparel. If you haven’t smashed your head against the seat in the row in front of you be then, wait, there are more reasons to do so … On their disparate flight from the pursuit by the First Order our trio is being intercepted by a mighty ship and fearing that they fell into the First Order’s hands they rejoice encountering a duo instead, which materialises from the Falcon‘s airlocks by art of totally unbelievable magic: look it’s old Han Solo (who genuinely looks like having lived a hazardous smuggler’s life for 5 decades) and fluffball Chewbacca. Both had felt utterly bored despite being permanently pursued by evil creatures and mad smugglers as we will see later in some eye-candy scenes strewn in to lift the generalized boredom. What do you do while being on a smuggling enterprise evading persecution and feeling bored? You run a random search for your Millenium Falcon and wonder upon wonders, it was just flying by, so why not visiting its new crew and meet the new potentials?!
Without wanting to retell the whole poor story making it thus even less endearing to the viewer, let’s just summarise the main further developments for the sake of proving our point that this film completely and utterly lacks a concise and original storyline: Old smuggler duo Han and Chewie know of a secret hiding place where to go to avoid the First Order, which their new allies Rey and Finn would appreciate likewise. We were relieved noticing at the end of the film that furtive Luke Skywalker hadn’t chosen the same secret hiding place by chance …
The new allied party on board of the Millenium Falcon agree to go for that shelter which brings them to planet Takodana to seek help from Maz Kanata
, a new “highlight” in motion capture based virtual characters, played by box office booster Lupita Nyong’o, who basically replaces the void left by beloved Yoda and filling it with … nothing. We are not referring to her performance which might be ok, but the character itself is as useand needless for a good story as a pair of forgotten wooden sandals in times of high tech sportswear. Maz Kanata has two reasons to be and just two: bringing Lupita into the team and onto the cast roll and the opportunity to replay the famous cantina scene from the old movies, offering thus once more frolicking aliens and multiverse musicians to the eyes of the audience. This reason to be for Maz culminates in her remembering having acquired somewhere (probably ebay) and some when and for no plausible reason an old … hold your breath … LIGHTSABRE, Luke’s old light sabre that is of course given that Luke now gives a F*** about the Rebellion, life, the Universe and Everything.
It is THIS last coincidence, as absurd and unbelievable as it proves and as it is presented without any serious attempt to make it believable, which is the last straw needed to make the barrel overflow! If the viewer who knew the old films does not cry out loud “BOLLOCKS” in this very instance, I have no hope for them to ever see this film in a realistic and justly critical way. Maz Kanata‘s cantina is destroyed by the approaching troops of the First Order under command of Kylo Ren after having completed their sole function of referencing the old cantina scene and giving Maz the chance to remember that old and forgotten lightsabre. We will see the capture of Rey and Finn, their sudden use of the FORCE by real art of magic as it would seem, for they have never been trained in the arts of the Jedi and from all previous films we knew about the tedious process of becoming a Jedi, even an apprentice one. But this new breed represents UPGRADES it would seem, Finn and Rey will use that lightsabre expertly in consecutive duels with the powerful Kylo Ren, trained in the dark side of the Force, who otherwise behaves like a pimple-ridden pubertal teenager nagging and bragging, before dispatching what turns out to be his daddy Han Solo into the most senseless and absurd, uncried for death ever in film history. Before his death for no other reason than probably wanting to get rid of ageing Harrison Ford, Han and Leia meet again after aeons, looking at each other in detached manner, unconvincingly reminiscing about their past lives (not) together which probably were together enough to procreate little Kylo Ren, but not together enough to care about and teaching him being people and a caring human being. In the end they are just two busy people, she in her role as permanent leader of the Resistance, he as the old smuggler brat who could not afford living with his Princess Bride. The tramp who had to keep darting through the Galaxy with old pal Chewie earning a living with fishy smuggler deals. No time there for a gifted child (or maybe two), so why not give them away like in the olden days when Patme and Anakin Skywalker had no chance to care or use for their children. Parallel upon parallel of The Force Awakens‘s ecclectic film plot are to be found in Episode IV to VI, the original trilogy. But while the latter managed to create authentic plot lines which provided true character development and plausible chains of events out of initial chance and circumstance, the new Episode VII is one single sloppy conglomerate of copied and pasted parallels to events, characters and main conflicts from the original film franchise without possessing any of the story crafting characteristics that would keep a story together and viewers interested in more than just gadgets and gimmicks. Talking about which, there is one further itch we have when watching the technology being paraded in Episode VII: it is all the SAME as in the old films despite stretching over a time of 25 years (in the films) in a Galaxy which is made of high-tech automatons, ships, stations etc etc. So did the service to nostalgia of the mature viewers prevent the film makers from considering that there must have been SOME SORT of technological progress and change within one entire generation or was is just another mistake of their lazy copycat film concept? Anyway ….
Without revealing the end of this first part of a probably endless row of sequels, we would like to have a closer look now at the film’s main characters, old and new:
When the Saints Go Marching In
So let us look at the main players, shall we?
- REY (Daisy Ridley):
Solitary young, female inhabitant of the all important planet Jakku. This spaceship spare parts scavenging amazon has no memory nor news of her family which she lost in her very young age, but somehow her hair-raising cleverness has allowed her to live an independent existence clinging on to her home for dear life all in the hope of a reunion with her lost and unbeknownst to her family. Rey is what a teacher of our time and galaxy would call a secret overachiever in all departments for once she is challenged to great action, she proves to know everything, to have abilities way above normal. At much difference to what I suspect her close relative Luke Skywalker, who despite being the son of the strongest and most gifted Jedis of all times had to learn arduously and for a long time in order to acquire Jedi knowledge and skills, this heroine manages advanced Jedi combat skills in a blink of an eye whilst the most complex Jedi mind tricks come to her like the child to Virgin Mary … unbeknownst and unbesmirched. The film sends her on a great adventure but for several reasons the viewer does not really get it why she would embark in that journey, for against the appearance of her decisions and actions she keeps insisting that all she wants is staying close to home. This makes her encounter with all other main players totally random and takes all purpose and reason it. She gets into virtually every brawl and battle in this film, all by mere coincidence or the chance of being just there, unwillingly and not understanding and yet she does all the things she does by art of magic without FEELING the Force, without feeling anything it would seem. She goes along that troubled journey with the business-like attitude one could achieve dialing the mood organ in P.K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. While Luke Skywalker felt the desperate urge to leave that gawdaful planet Tatooine to do great deeds and to find adventure, which made him ready for his subsequent journey to become a Jedi, Rey has no aspirations, just wants her family back and a safe life on Jakku, but the first moment strange events enter her life she responds like having been prepared for them mentally and physically all of her life. This does not only make her character less profound and plausible, it also lessens what ever journey of a hero she might still have ahead of her. Why bother if she swallowed the wisdom and skills of a Jedi with her yet to be announced mother’s milk?! Which brings us to the next new protagonist, one of whom many viewers suspected might turn out Rey’s sibling in a strangely duplicate whim of destiny when compared to two young characters in Episode IV, V and VI. Another déjà vu hurray!!
- KYLO REN (Adam Driver):
Imagine the child of a talented Princess whose mind is all but set on leading the Resistance and an unreliable smuggler rowdy who prefers hanging out with his furry ape smuggler pal over regal and other duties! Envision this child’s path when confronted with mediocrity, lack of care or abandon or worse: standing in the shadow of its parents ? Its eyes turn towards the one clear hero, the one darkly shimmering figure that appeared strong, dedicated and all powerful and yet unreachably distant to him: granddad Darth Vader! There you got the very “plausible” character of Kylo Ren, the highly talented yet permanently disgruntled youth, styled in the ways of the great 80s blow dries under a mask which is but a ridiculous, function-free copy of the life-saving mask of his disfigured late grandfather. The mask Kylo Ren wears would appear almost emblematic for the entire The Force Awakens Episode: a simulacrum, a copied form without function, a presentation without why, without reason to be other then the attempt to bring a complete new generation under the spells of the Star Wars Franchise (which this film undoubtedly will achieve given the alarmingly high level of acceptance of any film that is hailed as a blockbuster amongst those youngsters) , while renewing the vows of allegiance of those relatives who embraced the first three Lucas films in their youth. The film makers did not bother giving us any endearing details about the path that led to Kylo’s crossover to the dark side of the Force. He is thrown at us as the temperamental, self-engrossed yet insecure, insolent youngster turned baddie with an attitude and a hairdo … (and a ridiculous mask). His temper tantrums are aimed at amusing the young audience wiuth full success, but mature viewers can’t but wonder how one can be the vessel of all that dark power all the while still fighting with pubertal temper fits and insecurity. But there you have him, our bad guy one of those second in command, only to be topped by Gollum who survived the fires of Mount Doom to return larger than life and with a bit less hair … And as usual for those suffering of schizophrenia, he even adopted a new name as well: Supreme Leader
SmaughSnoke who probably owes his very existence to the fact of Andy Serkis being available and eager to get on the cast list. We will spare us the proper introduction of the Supreme Leader given his sparse appearances in the film. Like all viewers we will just await more sense-making details about his origin, role and real abode to be revealed in hopefully some of the sequels to the sequel …
- FINN aka FN-2187 (John Boyega):
The Force Awakens in copying major plot elements and character alignments of Lucas’s first three films, needed a third young main character to complete the trio once formed by siblings Leia and Luke and their father Anakin aka Darth Vader. Hence we got FN-2187, a nameless storm trooper of the First Order, nameless like all storm troopers, which makes for an even more vertical ascend. Resistance fighter pilot Poe Dameron re-baptises him Finn after he saves him from being a captive of the First Order. We confess that of the three young hopefuls that are freshly introduced in Episode VII Finn appears the one of even less legitimate reasons to do what he does. His only motor seems to be the strongest wish to get away from the First Order. But is that enough for explaining his character development? We do not think so! Obviously and we are sure about this, Disney will reveal the “secret reasons” for his acts in a much later Episode to keep us on wondering and poised to the edge of our cinema seats, but unfortunately we never got there in the first place. Due to the flat storyline, the characters lost intrigue to us before we could really start wondering what about them. But back to Finn: just like Rey who he meets on Jakku and soon considers his friend and ally, Finn sets out doing things he never did, never was prepared for or learned by anyone, just like So-So. He operates the flak battery of the tie fighter he and Poe steal from the First Order, he fights with Luke’s lightsabre like all and any storm troopers were first send to lightsabre fight at the Jedi Academy for the Gifted. When being asked to join the Resistance, he shows even less spirit or motivation than Rey, again expressing his sole desire to stay away from the First Order. How can such young “hero aspirants” be taken serious if they achieve doing great deeds without wanting to, without aiming to, without fighting hard to do so? The whole journey of the hero becomes a crawl in their back yards which mysteriously catapults them into hero status.
- CAPTAIN PHASMA (Gwendoline Christie)
. When we read the first reviews and articles about The Force Awakens we learned that with Captain Phasma a ground-breaking addition to the cast had taken place: a female villain, much celebrated and hailed. As fond as we have been of Gwendoline from her hearty appearances in Game of Thrones, as unimpressed we have to confess ourselves as for her role and its scope in the new film, to the extent that Captain Phasma rather became Captain Phantasma to us. Where did people see those strong scenes of hers? Do we have to suffer a second viewing just to clarify this unexplainable lapse of mind to ourselves? What we know about her we do mainly through Internet Movie Database, since from our film viewing we just remember a leading storm trooper with a shinier armour hammering out some commands and inquiring with Finn about his actions and being subdued by the Resistance to render the shield of the Star Killer base ineffective. Hence we will have to wait to see what the future brings for her hoping that she might have survived the blow up of “Star Killer Base”.
- MAZ KANATA ( Lupita Nyong’o). This is the second motion-capture based virtual character in STAR WARS: The Force Awakens, brought to life by voice and mimicking of Hollywood’s new darling Nyong’o. Her real role in this sequel is to fill out the hole left by YODA and her abode is meant to be the stage for a cantina scene revival of the original Episode IV in lack of any new ideas and for nostalgia’s sake alone. Maz Kanata is verrrrrry old (she’s been with the Resistance since the beginning … wait, that’s another flick). But all those centuries she lived and held court in her “cantina-castle” appeared to have one single purpose despite being the meeting point of colourful galaxy scum and cheerful ethnic musicians: she was meant to hold Luke Skywalker’s lightsabre in a little box in her cantina’s basement (the sabre she acquired for no obvious reasons other than being a shiny thing which she had totally forgotten about in the meantime) . This allowed Rey , who by chance ended up with Han Solo and Chewbacca, to also end up by chance chez Maz Kanata’s cantina, to discover the lightsabre in a moment of sleepwalk trance into Maz’s basement. This is the final point where even the village idiot cries out in dismay, bemoaning the impossible series of impossible coincidences and chances which make for a lazy and sort of automated development of the story without our actors really being the agents of its development but rather animated objects in its series of chances and coincidental meetings. No wonder I internally rejoiced at the subsequent destruction of Maz’s hiding place, had it but fulfilled its single purpose. With regard to Nyong’o’s representation of Maz there is not much we can say for nobody knows how a creature of Maz’s kind is meant to act and behave. But in view of the little real importance of her character to the story development (Rey might also have stumbled upon the lightsabre whilst trying to open a tin of tuna in someone’s kitchen), Maz might have been played by a Punch and Judy handpuppet as well. Would have been less expensive and likewise unimportant other than having a hip name on the cast list.
And now let’s have a look at our cast members revived from the original three Episodes:
- Luke Skywalker, last of the
Luke, the hero of our youth has become a conundrum for poor story crafting in this reboot of a remake! His sole purpose in Episode VII consists in his absence and the supposed leave of a secret note in two parts which shows his hidden whereabouts. To find that evidence, to protect it from being taken by the First Order, to decipher it by the Resistance, that’s the only “real” storyline mechanisms to weave a framework for The Force Awakens. But let us analyse this idea, this Deus ex Machina device of story crafting: Luke’s wandering off into hidden oblivion is being explained by his insuperable disappointment at the betrayal of his best Jedi disciple (Kylo Ren), who also happens to be his nephew and son of his best pal. The mere fact of the best and most promising pupil going over to the dark Force is also something that bears the smell of cheap copy as all fans of the original films will realise. But while Obi-Wan Kenobi did not despair nor disappear for nothing, Luke apparently had it, definitely and decided to vanish. Talk about a hero dismantling himself! But let’s play nicely along the lines: if you WERE Luke and truly and definitely wanted to get away from it all, would you plant a precise map of your hiding place in some wacky device or not trustworthy data medium? Why would you? It’s like the person who announced to everyone that they plan to commit suicide but leaving careful clues to ensure they are being found before having to do it. So he acts like a little drama queen in search for attention. Is that worthy of a great Jedi we ask?! Second, did not all bearers of that talent, all those who shared the Force, feel each other clearly and pointedly?! So why did Leia never use that auto pilot to guide her to her brother, if his presence was so vital for the resistance?! What could or would he do against the First Order if the first pupil of the latter was result of Luke’s teaching? Why does Leia’s “old ally” (Max von Sydow) send her the information regarding the missing link of Luke’s whereabouts precisely now after all those years? Questions upon questions and no sense-making answers at sight! To find Luke at the end of the film results in only one thing: visual awe about the filming location of secretive Irish island of Skellig Michael. This ending allows us to forebode that it will be Luke’s journey to become something of a grey eminence behind the scene like Yoda in the first three films, while the young potentials will do everything they do with the assurance of programmed robots. Well, we shall see!
- Han Solo and Chewbacca:
occupation: itinerant space smugglers with affinity to smelly cargo and fishy deals. Is there anything else to be said about them? Oh, Han Solo is killed by the hand of his own (and Princess Leia’s) son Kylo Ren, who in an especially acute fit of wretched boredom, youthful defiance and rejection of lukewarmly offered reassurance slices his father with his lightsabre while being on a high bridge to make the fall worthwhile. After this, nobody looks back, neither literally nor in commemorative acts to remember and honour Han Solo, once a chance member of the Resistance, dodgy but resourceful, now only to be bemoaned by a short Chewbacca meow. One really has to wonder whether the cooperation with Ford had been that dreadful that everybody wanted to have him out of the picture asap?
- Princess Leia:
Once a new hope together with her brother Luke and shining light of the Resistance after their long fight for victory over the evil Empire. Now, already in the opening crawler text of Episode VII we learn that none of their doings, fights and achievements had any importance whatsoever, for Leia and Han procreated a useless son who spoiled Uncle Luke’s Jedi training, followed granda Anakin’s example in killing off all other Jedi disciples and turning over to the Dark Side of the Force, and the whole evil cycle started all over as if none of the Jedi stuff had ever mattered and their achievements were all in vain. Not only did this steal the momentum and importance of these old players in the new film(s), it also invalidated everything we ever watched and loved about the Jedi, the Resistance and its activists in all previous films, both the original three and all prequel ones. So if those 9 hours of previous Galactic fight for balance, peace and survival were all nonsense schmonsense, why bother to watch yet another recurrence of that evil cycle? … And it is thus that Leia and her final appearance on the scene caused less stir in us and probably a majority of the mature parts of the audience than a provocative meal would cause in our bellies.
Our final verdict is as grim as the innate statement of Episode VII regarding the importance of being earnest Resistance fighters. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE as is watching these new episodes unless you want to cling on to your childhood nostalgia in a totally dismantled revival which tells you old geezers that all that Saga was nothing but a device to get into your pocket money and you might as well give up resistance and hand over the dosh to your children or grandchildren for them to fall into the same mouse trap, only that this time the cheese is tasting rancid and the trap is well known ….
FORCE FARCE be with you!