Star Wars: The Force Awakens (movie review)


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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (movie review)
by Edward Hudgins

December 22, 2015 -- If you liked the original Star Wars trilogy, as I did, grab your popcorn! You’ll no doubt enjoy the sequel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But be prepared to discover political confusion in the Star Wars universe. (No spoilers ahead.)

Star Wars heroes and humor

The Force Awakens recycles plot elements, scenarios, reveals, bar scenes, Death Stars, and surviving characters from the original trilogy created by George Lucas. Thus you’ll have a feeling of familiarity that might have you asking, why couldn’t director J.J. Abrams come up with something original?

Fortunately, he includes most of the spirit and humor from the originals in the sequel, and it’s great to see Han Solo and Chewbacca in action again. The two new good guys, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), aren’t initially fighting for high ideals. They just want to survive. Rey is a poor scavenger on a desert planet who longs for her lost family. Finn is a storm trooper who, in his first battle, decides he doesn’t want to kill innocent women and children, so he defects. But these two rise to the occasion when faced with the conflicts of a wider world. Abrams’ characters here channel some of Lucas’s use of the insights of Joseph Campbell, who explained the archetypes of heroes in myth. Rey and Finn are doubly archetypical, reflecting the epic heroes of myth and the heroes of the original trilogy at the same time.

Political confusion in a galaxy far, far away

You don’t go to a Star Wars movie for political commentary, but politics has been central to the franchise. Unfortunately, Abrams offers confused politics and misses a chance to offer something really interesting and thought-provoking.

Of course, in the prequels, Lucas wasn’t as exactly clear, either, as he traced the fall of the Galactic Republic and the rise of the repressive Galactic Empire. Secessionists wanted to break away from the Republic. But why? Their ranks included a Trade Federation, Banking Clan, Commerce Guild, and Corporate Alliance. Were they free marketeers trying to avoid Republic regulations—good guys!—or corrupt cronies—boo, hiss—who wanted to use political power to suppress competitors?

What does stand out in the prequels is that the Republic falls due to the abdication of power by the Galactic Senate and concentration of power in the hands of a Chancellor—secretly an evil Sith Lord—in order to fight foreign wars or internal enemies, real or manufactured. Lucas makes parallels both to the fall of the Roman republic and the rise of Hitler in Germany.

Wasn’t the republic restored?

The original trilogy had clear political lines just as it had clear good guys and bad guys. The Empire was evil, ruled over by the Emperor with the aid of Darth Vader. Han Solo was a smuggler, striking a blow for free trade! The Empire is overthrown by plucky rebels who favor a republic.

In Abram’s sequel, it seems like the victory of the Rebellion over the Empire at the end of Return of the Jedi never happened. It is 30 years after Luke Skywalker, Leia, Han, and the gang presumably restored the Republic. In the film’s opening crawl we’re told “Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed. With the support of the REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa leads a brave RESISTANCE.” We then see First Order storm troopers, led by a Darth Vader wannabe named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), attacking the Resistance. We later learn that the First Order wants to destroy the Republic because it supports the Resistance. What’s the relationship between the Republic and the Resistance? What’s the First Order’s real beef with the Republic? Who knows?

Two archetypes of revolution

Overthrowing tyrants can provide good plot fare for movies, but in the real world what comes after the revolution is even more interesting. Here we have two archetypes... (Continue reading here.)

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Why write a movie review for those going to see the movie? Why write one for those not? This movie? No, I didn't read your review, Ed, and I won't until I see it. The reason we have movie reviews is to help decide whether to go see it or not. Everybody's decided. I haven't seen a movie in a theater since War of the Worlds ten years ago.

If you had headed your review "WARNING!" that might have been different.

I saw the original Star Wars in 1977 on its opening day. Then four more times in the next month and would have gone all summer except for an existential intervention. It's the only time I remember ever going to a theater for a film more than once.

--Brant

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Pretty confusing post there Brant, much more confusing than the politics of Star Wars. If you don't want to see the movie, don't. If you don't want to read my review--or any other--don't. If you don't want to post about why you don't want to see the movie or read the review, don't Or if you want to post about why you don't want to see or read or post, do. Whatever. Who cares?

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I expect they'll dole out more info on the political structure over the following installments. Too much too soon would have bogged down the story. Lee Child talks (somewhere) about how to make a meal taste really good: keep your diners hungry.

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Pretty confusing post there Brant, much more confusing than the politics of Star Wars. If you don't want to see the movie, don't. If you don't want to read my review--or any other--don't. If you don't want to post about why you don't want to see the movie or read the review, don't Or if you want to post about why you don't want to see or read or post, do. Whatever. Who cares?

I'm mostly warning people to read the review after they see the movie if they've already decided to see it.

I've made no comment about the content of your review for I've yet to read it. I usually like reviews first for all the stuff not worth seeing. This movie is simply an exception.

Thanks for mentioning "the politics of Star Wars." Now I know some of what's in the review. Just what I need to think about while watching it. But my bag; my fault; I should have not read any of this thread.

--Brant

I care (sniffle)

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The difference between you and me, Ed, is I have a fighting mindset. I'm the guy the bad guys have to go through to get at guys like you who do all those great productive, positive things that have made this country so rich, powerful and great. So sometimes I may seem to be a little unpleasant because psychologically I have a gun in my hands and a knife in my teeth thinking about sundry situations in which I might have to kill someone. For instance: home invaders. After I kill them do I drag them outside to save my carpet from them bleeding all over it before I call the cops? Answer: they stay where they lay. (The carpet is old and needs to be replaced anyway.) But I will shut the door to keep my cats inside.

The cure? Sex. Lots of sex. With lots of sex I begin to appear normal and don't frighten the civilians.

--Brant

thank God for the blue pill (I fly to Thailand every two months to get more at a substantial discount or when I need "immediate medical attention")

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Lee Child talks (somewhere) about how to make a meal taste really good: keep your diners hungry.

I enjoy a great revenge tale. )

"The basic narrative fuel is always the slow unveiling of the final answer. So don’t bake cakes. Make your family hungry instead."

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/08/a-simple-way-to-create-suspense

‘I am indifferent to food,’ he said. ‘I have to eat, obviously, but I work better when I am hungry.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2396190/Lee-Child-Ive-smoked-cannabis-nights-week-44-years-dealers-speed-dial.html

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We saw it last night. We were pretty sure that we had seen it before. Discussing it at work with another fan, the movie deviates from the post-Lucas story arc. Here in Austin, a few years ago, I attended a National November Writers Month (NaNoWriMo) with the now-late (sadly) Aaron Allston (Wikipedia here) and as a result of that, I read through several of his and others' Star Wars novels. Trying to avoid spoilage here, I just note that, like Atlas Shrugged or Pride and Prejudice, you have a core of fans who know the work inside and out. Beyond that, you have the masses who just want common enjoyment.



The problem of the second-hander plagues the current Star Trek movies, which also are under the artistic control of J. J. Abrams. While splitting off an alternate universe gave the story writers a lot of freedom, it also violated several fundamentals. The love relationship between Uhura and Spock is just one. One of the rules of the Star Trek universe (as controlled by Paramount) was that no new romantic relationships could be introduced between existing characters. In part, that was to deflect the many Spock-Kirk love stories that fans were writing.



With Star Wars, the relationship lived by Han Solo and Leia Organa after the Return of the Jedi had already been defined in professional fiction (not fan fic) under the license of Lucasfilms by Aaron Allston and several other writers. Just check your local bookstore or library. This is known. So what? In the worst case, it is Courtland Homes.



In The Fountainhead, picnicking with Gale and Dominique, Roark explains to Wynand that we inherit the wheel and invent the automobile. But in another scene, Keating confesses that he has not brought so much as a new doorknob to architecture. The gang that took over Courtland made their own changes, but none of those was an inventive improvement. So, too, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


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