December 27, 2015

A New "Nope": So I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens...

Joshua LiebleinRebel Blogger

It may have been a rip-off of another film, and it may have come out years before I was born, but Star Wars looked and felt like a quantum leap forward in filmmaking at the time, and that’s what mattered.

And, for all his manifold sins, you have to admit that nothing George Lucas ever did was safe. Even at their most prequel-y, the prequels never felt like an attempt to appease an audience that (as all audiences do) had long since passed the point of assuming that they, and not Lucas or anyone actually involved with the films, knew best.  

So when I walked out of The Force Awakens feeling content, relieved that it didn’t suck, and mildly curious about where Episode 8 was going to go, it was a strange experience.

I’ve left previous Star Wars installments feeling angry, joyful, disappointed, and laughing at how awkward they were at times, but this time it just felt like a box had been checked off.

Don’t get me wrong: The Force Awakens it is a good film, and it is a good Star Wars film. There are lightsabers and X-wings and droids and Chewbacca and stormtroopers and giant spaceships and another giant spaceship/planet thing that can blow up other planets and BIG IMPORTANT DEATHS and weird-looking aliens and weirder family dynamics and tortured anguishy emotional wrangling over whether the Light Side or the Dark Side of the Force is better.

But it has the same problem as all the other remakes, retreads, reboots and rewrites we’ve had to endure since Hollywood started cannibalizing itself for fear that they would offend someone and consequently lose money:

It’s too safe. It’s far too clean.

Yes, there was a bunch of annoying and irrelevant political stuff weighing the prequels down. Yes, all six films had their share of hokey acting and silly dialogue. Yes, there were Ewoks and Jar Jar and Jake Lloyd and Darth Vader shouting NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

But, like it or not, those are the moments that made the fans react. Those are the moments that stuck with us just because they pushed our buttons. I can’t remember a single moment in The Force Awakens that stuck with me the way Hayden Christensen’s “Only because I’m so in love with you” speech did, or the ridiculous moment in Return of the Jedi where Leia realizes she French-kissed her brother before pretending she always knew the truth.

J.J. Abrams, Joss Whedon and the rest of the super-directors who produce these reliably lucrative reboots of classic properties have a formula, and when you have a formula, all the flaws and defects, all the excess emotion that comes with a film that is a labour of love which may or may not turn a profit, is removed almost surgically.

Maybe that’s why, as I write this column, I recall an incidental scene from The Force Awakens where R2-D2, who (we are told) has been sitting silent for years, suddenly comes back to life and projects a map of the stars for all to see before his spiritual successor -- a much smaller droid named BB-8 who is pretty much like R2 in all respects except he has a basketball for a body -- projects the missing map piece, completing the puzzle.

For you see, the creators of these films know that they will never surpass the originals because they are afraid to take the risks their predecessors did. Ironic, considering they used to go to the movie theatre to let their imaginations run free.

What was that that Master Yoda said was the path to the Dark Side? Oh yeah…


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commented 2015-12-29 04:24:09 -0500
Disney paid a lot of money for the star wars franchise, and they want their money back.

It turns out that the technology in the star wars universe is stagnant. That is why the naboo starfighter kicks so much ass, even though that thing is old technology.
commented 2015-12-28 23:32:25 -0500
Deborah Graupner: Yeah I should have figured out when they used Yoda that where there is a puppet there is a puppet master and our Kermit colored Jedi master was owned by the greenback. (Pretty sure he is the same voice as Grover btw).
commented 2015-12-28 18:37:53 -0500
Never mind The Empire Strikes Back and all it’s follow up’s. Let us have a ‘Canada Strikes Back’. We could put all our Marxist Socialist evil doers on some Prison Planet and be rid of the Rascals, then we could start to be normal human beings again. More fantasy
commented 2015-12-28 18:16:55 -0500
I haven’t seen this new one yet because I don’t really care about the expanded universe, which is basically any story that happens after Return of the Jedi. But this new character, Rey, seems really cool so now I’m more keen to see it for the sake of her adventures. That and all my friends have already seen it and are spoiling it for me left, right, and centre. (-_-) I think The Empire Strikes Back will always be my favorite though, and the original trilogy will always be held in higher esteem than any of the newer ones.

Those little Star Wars fans in the videos are so cute! I’m happy to see more little girls enjoying the movies just like I did as a kid.
commented 2015-12-28 16:10:34 -0500
Edward Jobin – they made it just for the money! I’ve only ever seen the first one, and that was enough for me.
commented 2015-12-28 13:25:03 -0500
I’ve always viewed the Star Wars movies as pure entertainment much like other movies. Park your brain for a couple of hours and simply enjoy the vista laid out before you!
commented 2015-12-28 12:44:09 -0500
I think I am one of the few who was a bit disappointed with the latest installment of Star Wars. It was OK and that is because it was a Star Wars film but I felt like it was a replay of the same stories we had seen right down to the I’m your daddy albeit this time a reversal from the Darth Vader character. Another problem I had was why after 30 years are we seeing the same old tie fighters and X-wings and Millennium Falcon plus decades with no improvements? Must have been funded by the Canadian government and they can’t agree on a predecessor. There was the same junk collection, sand worms, bar of misfits and an a R2-D2 who seems ready for the scrap yard . So sorry if I offended the masses but the only force I felt was the force of my eyelids wanting to close and write this off as a mediocre dream.
commented 2015-12-28 02:59:18 -0500
One of the best star wars observations I have ever heard, is that Kirshner is the best sequel director there is. I think that everything that came after episode 5 proves this point.