Look over there! It’s a wild spoiler! I wouldn’t get much closer unless you’re prepared to deal with it.
I was pretty sure what I would be getting when I walked into the theater today. I suspected Disney would take the safest route possible and do a complete rehash of the original 1977 film. I did not know to what degree I was right.
A beepy boopy droid carrying secret information winds up stranded on a desert planet where a working class individual finds them. There’s a cantina. People get captured and interrogated. A man in a black mask with a red light saber does mean things to some alien folk. A planet-sized cannon is built and used to destroy a planet or two. Somehow a rebellion that seems composed of about six fighters and one order of calamari destroys the whole thing. There’s a conversation about being a disappointing dad/son on an eery catwalk. Someone learns how to use the force well enough in one day to beat someone who’s been training with it for years. A shadowy cloaked figure is pulling the strings. Does any of this ring a bell?
I believe that entertainment is less about giving people what they want than it is about giving people what they don’t know they want. Disney and Abrams have ignored this to create what is basically the most expensive, and most profitable, derivative fan film ever made. It makes no progress of any kind except for the admirably diverse casting choices. I really can’t stand how they threw away the expanded universe for something like this. While the film is technically well made in most respects, it lacks the creativity that made Star Wars so memorable in the first place.
Here’s where I will lose some people. I think the prequels are better. Are they better on a technical front? No. The main romance plot line and the characters involved are a drag, but what the prequels do have is an abundance of interesting art design, music, and incredible action sequences that blow everything in The Force Awakens out of the water.
The prequels had actual alien-looking environments, this film does not. the prequels had complex acrobatic light saber duels with tons of fun gimmicks (Darth Maul’s dual saber, Grievous’ four sabers, Yoda’s mad hops), this film has one lame saber fight with only one tiny gimmick (the crossguard saber). The prequels had varied and fascinating creature designs, this film does not.
On that note: no, Mr. Abrams, removing a creature’s nose, putting its mouth on the bottom of its face, and moving its eyes apart does not an interesting creature make. I must have seen four or five different alien species in this movie that fit that description. I’m also unimpressed with the beholders on Han’s ship; a ball of tentacles with lots of eyes is how a kid with a sheet of monster part stickers designs creatures.
On the way back from the movie my wife and I, instead of talking about how much fun the movie was, talked about the hundreds of ways it could have been more innovative or creative. A true sequel is supposed to ramp up all the elements involved, and that doesn’t just mean making a bigger death star. Snoke may turn out to be a giant, which I would definitely approve of, because that means a giant light saber. It seems what they’ve actually created is just another emperor when instead they could’ve made a more monstrous giant hermit crab-like entity living in a derelict empire ship floating through space (something literally taking up residence in the empire’s shell, rather than the bland reformed empire that is the first order).
Or better yet, they could have taken a cue from the expanded universe they threw out and picked a real new enemy. If the first trilogy was the dark side vs. the light side, then the obvious continuation would be the EU species the yuuzhan vong who hail from outside the known world of Star Wars and are completely immune to and disconnected from the force. What would terrify both jedi and sith more than that? They even have their own unique gimmick in the way they bio-engineer all their technology and weaponry. The novels featuring them even take place roughly the same amount of time after the original films as The Force Awakens.
Instead, they repeated themselves because they knew people would eat it up. A new movie is supposed to open your eyes, not keep you from blinking.
I am disappointed. Now it is time to put all my eggs in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them basket.