the Little Red Reviewer

A Not-review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Posted on: January 10, 2016

 

Everyone is talking about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so I guess I will too. When the next Star Wars movie comes out, I can come back and read this post to see what I thought of the first one. Funny how blog posts can act almost as  . . .  diary entries.

 

Warning: This post includes epic amounts of rambling and digressions.  A few movie spoilers as well, but mostly rambling.

 

No way around it, your experience with the new Star Wars is directly connected to your past with Star Wars. Kids who have never seen a Star Wars movie will experience this new one completely differently than people who grew up watching episodes IV, V and VI as kids.

 

My past with Star Wars:

I grew up watching Star Wars. In the mid 80’s I was old enough to put a movie in the VHS player and hit play, but I wasn’t old enough to have the comprehension to understand a long story. We had episodes IV and VI on VHS, and I liked watching them. I didn’t understand the storyline at all, but I liked how I felt when I watched them, the music really stuck with me. I wondered why Luke went from wearing white and tan to wearing black. Han Solo was my first crush.  I wanted my wedding dress to look like Princess Leia’s long white dress during the medals ceremony at the end. I wouldn’t realize it for 15 years, but I was taking my first steps towards a love affair with the Campbellian Hero’s Journey.   Much later, when I finally saw episode V, things really started making sense.

 

Star Wars, like The Princess Bride, offers fans a sort of cultural secret handshake. If I say “are there rocks ahead?” and you respond with “if there are, we’ll all be dead”, I immediately know we are of the same tribe. Star Wars references (and Spaceballs references) serve the same purpose.

Any body got a peanut?

Any body got a peanut?

You know that thing about smell?  that you won’t remember names or faces or locations from your early childhood, but you’ll remember the smell of your Mom’s shampoo, or the grass outside, or what your dog smelled like? John William’s original Star Wars score is like a childhood smell to me. It takes me back, it takes me somewhere. I don’t even need any visuals, that music takes me on a transportive journey.   That scene in Interstellar where he’s falling through the blackhole and ends up in his daughter’s closet, and it takes him a few seconds to figure out what’s going on and it’s super trippy? That’s how I feel when I listen to John William’s original score.   Williams is a genius of Wagnerian proportions, he took a hero’s journey and translated it into the language of music.

interstellar falling

i feel like knocking some books off shelves.

What about the prequels, you ask? They were ok.  They were very pretty, but honestly the writing and acting were just meh. They only memorable thing was Padme’s kick ass wardrobe. Ewan MacGregor was pretty good.   When people ask me my opinion about the prequels, I like to respond with “huh? there’s only three Star Wars movies” . Very similar to the response I give when people ask me what I think of the new Herbert/Anderson Dune books. I like to respond with “What are you talking about? the most recent Dune book is Chapterhouse”.  If screwing with people is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. But I digress.

 

And now, we have Episode VII.  I’m not a huge fan of JJ Abrams.  I know he turns a lot of people on, but he “JJ’s” everything.  I didn’t much care for his Trek movies either.  I have a bit of an obsession with Star Trek II and III, and the best I could say about Into Darkness is that the villain was cool and confident. Sure, it was a fun action-y Sci Fi movie, but it didn’t feel anything like Star Trek to me. I dunno, JJ Abrams is like kale. Everywhere I  look, it’s kale salad and kale smoothies and kale ice cream and kale hummus and “don’t you just loooove kale? I can’t get enough of it!”. I get that kale is popular, I get it. I just don’t like kale unless it’s covered in bacon. Lots of bacon.

There is so much Nope happening here i can't even

There is so much Nope happening here i can’t even

 

I saw The Force Awakens because of my Dad. One evening, he sent me a text message along the lines of “Just saw Star Wars. I cried at the end”.   Now I had to see the movie, and as soon as possible, so we could talk about it.  I figured there was only one Star Wars  thing that could make my Dad cry.  I wrote down my guess, and put it in the kitchen junk drawer, so I could pull it out later and see if I was right.

 

So hubby and I go to the movie.  I’d been avoiding reviews, so other than knowing there was a character named Finn and that there was a round droid, I knew nothing about the movie. Not knowing much about the movie was a smart move.

 

It was a very JJ movie.  Lots of action, neat special effects, some nice nods to the originals.  Other than the obvious storyline nod, there were subtle and well done connections using color, clothing, and cinematography. From an artistic point of view, I appreciated those. But when it came to the movie itself, I felt no emotional investment towards the characters. Zero.  If the new characters died at the end of the movie, I wouldn’t have cared.  There was no hook to get me invested. The movie felt like a stand alone, like it wasn’t connected to anything, like it’s creator wanted to stand apart instead of be part of something larger. There was no Hero’s Journey here. Not in the music, not in the plot, not in what the characters went through. It felt flat. It felt like fan-fic. It’s sad that the best thing I can say about The Force Awakens is that the Pilot guy was really hot. Oscar Isaac is super handsome as Poe, but if that’s the best I can say, that’s sad. (Wow, that sounds so similar to what I said about Into Darkness. Funny that.)

chewie we're home

When Han said “Chewie, We’re Home”, I had a moment of feeling like I was home too. But it wasn’t home.  It was a paper mache room, with cheaply painted walls and light switches that didn’t work. I wasn’t home, I was in a doll’s house full of forgettable paper dolls.

 

The original three Stars Wars movies made viewers feel something deep inside. It made us feel like we were something larger than ourselves, made us want to be better people, to stand a little taller, to be worthy of being part of something larger than ourselves.  The Force Awakens made me feel none of that.  That’s what frustrates me.  I won’t remember this movie in 10 years, I won’t be quoting it’s lines, I won’t be using dialog like a secret handshake.  Star Wars is no longer what defines a generation, it’s become what ensures the toy manufacturers make a profit.  Something inspirational has become a  common place commodity, something specially designed to make the most amount of profit from the most people.   I think that’s what saddens me the most.

 

oh, and my guess about what made my Dad cry? I was right. I  like that I know him so well that I could guess. After we saw the movie I texted him back that he accidentally spoiled it for me.

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13 Responses to "A Not-review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

I could have entire conversations made up of Princess Bride quotes, so I’m in your tribe. 😃

I agree with your review. Also, I didn’t avoid spoilers before I saw the movie, because I knew it would cling very closely to the originals. This kind of movie almost spoils itself, you know?

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We are SO of the same tribe!😀

I went in having no idea there would be so many similarities. At first I saw the similarities as a love letter of sorts, and then I was like “really? You couldn’t come up with anything original on your own?” and then the scene on a bridge, over a chasm, with a father and a son, and i was like “I know how this scene has to end”.😦

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Oh This! Now I want to go and watch 1, 2 and 3 – sorry but I simply refuse to call the later films 1, 2 and 3! And if that’s wrong then I don’t want to be right either. I have nothing against the later films but they just didn’t do it for me. The first Star Wars film was magic. Literally. And then came 2 and 3. Oh, deep joy. I loved that trilogy and sometimes when something is so good everything else is just going to pale into insignificance. I don’t think I totally understood Star Wars the first time I watched it – but I just felt like I was part of something – I can’t put it into words.
KALE. SMOOTHIES. Why? …. Oh dear, just no. When I hear the word smoothie I think I’m going to have something delicious and it’s going to be a treat. Not. Kale. Kale has a place and it’s definitely not in my smoothie!
Lynn😀

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” I don’t think I totally understood Star Wars the first time I watched it – but I just felt like I was part of something – I can’t put it into words.”

Yes, exactly!!

Americans are currently obsessed with kale. i’m waiting for it to show up in toothpaste.

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The movie did feel like fanfic to me in a lot of ways, but I didn’t mind that. I have some bones to pick with it, but overall, it was fun. However, I do not have the same emotional investment to Star Wars that some people do. To me, it’s just a movie (series). I’ve seen it, but I don’t have a lot tied up in it. The original three were much better than the prequels, but it’s not my religion.

However, JJ Abram’s star trek movies do not exist. They are not star trek. They are some sort of horrible parody that has no idea what star trek is about.

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“However, JJ Abram’s star trek movies do not exist. They are not star trek. They are some sort of horrible parody that has no idea what star trek is about.”

You just became my best friend!

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I do think that JJ rebooted Star Wars better than he did Star Trek (Even the first movie had its problems, while the second movie was pure shite)

So I am glad JJ is not doing the next Star Wars movie to *really* mess it up.

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he’s not doing Episode 8? #BestNewsEver

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Hmm, I have mixed feelings about the new movie, but it sounds like I enjoyed it more than you did. Han stole the movie for me (so much more personality than 99% of Hero’s Journey mentors!), and I also liked Rey’s pluck.

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Thanks for this, it needed to be said. Star wars blew my doors off. It blew a lot of people’s doors off. We really cared from the outset whether Luke got to be a Jedi, whether he’d ever confront Darth…I hear what you say about not remembering TFA in 10 years – and it is not just because rehash of the plot & scenes — that’s been covered and still didn’t explain my ennui about TFA. I couldn’t place it but your article hits home. Leia’s (now) a marshmallow, Rey is a Mary Sue who doesn’t even have to try – instant Jedi! Finn I found the most sympathetic of the new characters but where’s the danger? Where’s the mystery? Remember when you weren’t sure if Han was OK or a skivey schmuck? Everyone in TFA is like a Hallmark card. Except Chewie, and I think Ford did a pretty good job as an older and even more jaded Solo. They need to amp up the danger, add intrigue and uncertainty in the next installment.

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You echo my thoughts pretty closely on this movie. A huge disappointment. JJ is a competent filmmaker but in my view he did not achieve what Kershner and Marquand and Lucas did- there was no emotional heft, as you said. I hadn’t thought of it quite the way until I read your thoughts, but I totally agree. I’ve been pretty negative on this movie (did a discussion post this week because I wanted to talk about everything) but you’re right- some of the quotes from the older movies have been with me most of my life! I was so fixated on the story problems I hadn’t thought of that!

I liked Rey but yes, other than her I had very little investment in any of these characters. Even Han and Leia, not because they were older but because they didn’t SEEM like the characters I knew. Han went back to smuggling when things got tough (granted that’s simplifying things a bit) but I just don’t buy it. Leia had no fire here, and nothing to do storywise either. And the story decision to give Luke a minute of screen time at the end- boggles my mind. Was it an effective shot? Sure, but no Luke until Ep. 8? Seriously???

I think Rey was good, she’ll be fine but I still can’t believe they used so many familiar story beats from the original trilogy, rather than giving us a new story.

“JJ Abrams is like kale”. Love that!

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[…] little while ago, Andrea Johnson posted her “not a review” of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As I had recently seen the movie and I usually find much of agreeable interest in her reviews, I […]

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[…] to my virtual podium to engage in a friendly geek debate on Star Wars! Check out my response to Andrea Johnson’s take on The Force Awakens. Which side are YOU […]

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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