Star Wars: The Force Awakens has numerous scenes where characters scale and dart about amid the wreckage of Star Destroyers from the original trilogy. This serves as a good analogy for the film. A group of scavengers are frolicking about in the hollowed-out husk of the Star Wars franchise.
The film opened the other night to rave reviews and rabid praise from the public. I can only presume that the release of Star Wars: Beating the Dead Horse coincided with an epidemic of a mind-altering virus because what I think I saw was a badly plotted, badly acted mess and was not, as everyone else seems to think, a pinnacle of popular genre cinema. Maybe they played the wrong reel at the cinema. Maybe I am under the thrall of a mind-altering virus myself. In any case, I feel like the lone sane man at this point.
The reverence with which they refer to anything from the old films is insufferable
Star Wars: Laughing All the Way to the Bank regurgitates the plot of the first film but now everything makes less sense. A droid (not-R2 D2) has information that both the Resistance (not-the Rebellion) and the First Order (not-the Empire) want and is the MacGuffin tying everything together as characters gather on the desert planet Jakku (not-Tatooine). In the original movie, the information is the Death Star plans. In the new film it is the location of missing Luke Skywalker and ties into nothing, making it a nonsensical plot device. The film builds to destroying the not-Death Star. Everyone seems incredibly invested in finding Luke but I would have thought the priority should be the new planet-killing super weapon. The baddies spend their time fretting over getting this star map but they are on the brink of wiping out the New Republic and finding one bloke doesn’t appear to have anything to do with this goal.
Everything is more or less a washed out version of an element from primarily New Hope, with the odd bit of Empire Strikes Back. There is a not-Trench Run, a not-Death Star, a not-Tatooine, a not-Hoth, a not-Yavin, a not-Vader, a not-Luke, a not-R2 D2. The cringing obsequiousness to the old material is reminiscent of the constant winking and nudging that brought down the Hobbit films. The reverence with which they refer to anything from the old films is insufferable. There’s no chance for this film to forge its own identity or get its own aura. When it’s not redoing a sequence from the originals, it is parading the old alumni out.
The CG characters are much livelier than the walking corpses on screen
For the record, the acting in this is dreadful. Really quite dreadful. Across the board. The old guys are phoning it in. The new ones come across like kindergartners plodding through cue cards. Perhaps Adam Driver as Kylo Ren (not-Vader) doesn’t do too bad. In contrast to the prequel trilogy, the CG characters are much livelier than the walking corpses on screen. Even if one of the main ones is the terribly named Supreme Leader Snoke (try harder on the names, won’t you?) who is there to provide the transparent ‘homages’ to the Emperor holograms from Empire Strikes Back. I think the very worst is Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, who is chewing scenery like gum.
Maybe I should try and find something nice to say about Star Wars: Reheating the Entrails… The use of actual locations, props, costumes, and puppets makes for a better-realised world than anything we saw in the prequels. It all looks fine. So if you want to see a film with a very good sense of environment, you could see this. Or a number of other films that came out this year, many of which actually have interesting plots or characters.
Please: spare me
A lot of the minutiae and detail of the film is not thought through. What is the distinction between the New Republic and the Resistance that goes unexplained? Are the storm troopers clones as General Hux said or are they abducted and subsequently indoctrinated youths as Finn said? If the not-Death Star has to suck up a sun to fire each time, won’t the weaponised-planet’s surface die? How does the not-Death Star propel itself between star systems? Why fire a giant laser if you can just suck up the sun of a given planetary system? Why does the plot of every JJ Abrams movie rely on coincidental encounters? (Don’t say ‘because of the Force’).
In all honesty, Star Wars: The Force Plasters Over Plot Holes feels like a bad fanfic. Our death star is ten times bigger! Our baddie is just as interesting as Vader! Look, original cast fan service! Please: spare me.
I’ll undoubtedly get flak for this, but I know what a bad Star Wars film looks like. I have seen the prequels. This is a bad Star Wars film. It’s not the worst the franchise has ever offered up but it’s certainly the least original and the most thoroughly inbred of the lot.
Verdict: Star Wars: The Cynical Studio Product is pretty crap. Give it twenty years when everyone has some distance and I will be vindicated.