Levitt Reviews Star Wars- The Force Awakens (B-)

star wars

Let me start by saying, I’ve always thought that in the world of sci-fi, Star Wars was like Star Trek’s less intelligent but more popular athletic brother.  Sure it was popular… but, Its simple good v evil and action oriented plot-lines and one note characters never had the moral heft, the complex motivations, and the scientific foundations of the Trek Universe.  Maybe its unfair of me to compare the two franchises since it is a little like apples and oranges and Trek was first a TV Show and had time to build its characters and expand its worlds from planet to planet.  The films were a little more dumbed down and action oriented But, I guess when I watched Star Wars I always found myself wanting more storyline and richer characters. Now, With all the hoopla and insane amounts of money the new Star Wars, The Force Awakens, I keep nudging myself why don’t I like this movie more? Everyone else does!

Sure, its easy to say The Force Awakens is better than the prequels but they were clearly awful films.  Horrible screenplays, terrible acting, annoying characters.  With the more straightforward plot and the addition of several of the original cast members, this new film would truly have to be a stinker to not at least somewhat please some fans.

the action scenes in this film are workmanlike but very by the numbers…hatches opening and closing just in time to save someone, ships outrunning, or outgunning their foes. The characters  meet, they avoid explosions, fire some shots, run some more. Its like your standard action film without the entertaining trash-talk with hero and villain. Too many of the films plot-points seem to occur by happenstance and the character of Kylo Ren always seems to be one step behind the heroes when, with all his force stuff etc. It should be the other way around. The acting in the film is fine, not great. Its doubtful if we were going to see glimmerings of the likes of Alec Guinness in any of the new characters. He was the gold standard in star wars acting. the character of Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) probably comes off the best displaying  her heroism and goodness in a casual, unflashy way.  One of the films strengths is the way it seamlessly blends the old casts with the new casts without a long setup or a lot of unnecessary fanfare.  The older characters, especially Han (who is given the lionshare of screen time) are played with dignity and respect to their histories.

As I watched the film I wondered about its simple treatment of good versus evil.  The Evil Empire versus The Resistance.  I can never really determine why the evil empire is so evil. The only worlds we see in Star Wars are the evil empire, the resistance, and barren wastelands of planets where people barter in stolen goods and droids. Not really sure what there is to fight over. Were told that the empire is evil and they sure sneer enough to be evil but there are no scenes of subjugation, slavery, etc . The only person darth Vader o Kylo Ren is every seen being mean to was his immediate subordinates. Its not like Darth vader ever pulled a lolipop out of kids mouth or Kylo Ren hurled an old lady down a flight of stairs in anger. We just take for granted that the empire is evil because they all wear black and don’t smile very much.

Also in Star Wars The Force awakens, Kylo Ren is seduced by the dark side. Not sure why the people in these films are never seduced by the good side of the force. Do Jedis have to work for below minimum wage or something? Why is the dark force so freaking seductive anyway?… usually the most powerful people in the dark side are ugly and have sour dispositions. Its not like there is a really hot, scantilly clad, low-maintenance Dark Lord who wants you to unsheathe your sabre—  That would be at least some incentive to turn to the dark side.

Aside from the simplistic plot and thinly drawn characters, the new Star Wars Film had some areas of promise.  The rocky relationship of Han and Leia deserved a little more fleshing out than, “We had some good times didn’t we”.  If we had a few scenes of them interacting prior to the film’s central action, it might have provided a richer motivation for the real struggle of their fallen progeny.  The character of Poe seems a worthy addition to the franchise and to carry the Solo Torch in future films and if given more screen time in the future could probably serve as a good protagonist for future outings. The character of Maz Kanata (han’s friend) is probably the wisest and most interesting of the film’s non human characters. her presence adds a wise (yoda like) sage character which is a welcome addition to the films mostly newbie cast.

To me, the film works best when it embraces the nostalgia factor: catching up with Han, Leia, Chewie ( he growls both to connote anger and frustration. what a guy!) and the droids, take a joyride on the Millenium Falcon, and let us live vicariously through those who can successfully harness the powers of the force.  I only wish the new characters had a little more emotional depth/complexity and that the action left me more excited about the future.

 

 

 

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