Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Review


It has almost been two months since the seventh episode of Star Wars saga was released, and almost a month since I have seen it. With that said, I believe this gives me every right in this world, Internet, and universe to discuss the film in whatever manner I may choose without any regard for spoilers.

Haha! Throwing caution to the wind never felt so good! ]:)

First thoughts?

Well, there is a lot of same old same old, been there done that. It seems like recycling. Names might be different, places might be different, main characters might be different but it is the same film as Episode IV, except worse because we have seen it all before, and most of the changes that were actually made, feel so contrived and without any solid explanation that it just ruins any kind of sense of immersion.

So what is good about the film?

Finn. This is where it stops for me really.

He is one character that is completely new. That is good thing, he is not there to fill any other pair of shoes than his own. Like all the others. He starts as a Stormtrooper whose training and brainwashing that went for years somehow failed. Not a 100% success rate like clones, I wonder if it was the budget cuts in military spending that forced the Empire, pardon me, the First Order to try this new method of obtaining children and training them as professional soldiers. We've seen something like that in the Soldier, where Kurt Russel plays Todd 3465, a failure shocktrooper that finds himself on an abandoned junkyard planet where he finally is able to reconnect with his humanity. But where Todd's training seems to have been effective and he can only shake it off as time passes and he is actually accepted into society Finn is a simple coward from the very beginning. Why the brainwashing failed with him, we never find out, probably never will, it is just a thing we are expected to swallow and move onward in order not to let story fall apart.

His relationship with Rey is one of a chick and a hen. For Finn Rey is the first person in a whole wide galaxy far far away that ever gave him a look and actually saw him as he was, useless. And thus he imprints on her like a small fawn imprints on its mother and follows her forever and ever. Well, he first tries to run away from everything, but the nature overwhelms him, and he needs his mommy Rey.

Rey on the other hand is just too much. She's a Mary Sue. A boring character who can do everything on her own, without everyone else, and has no flaws. She is perfect in every single way and thus most boring character of them all. Kylo Ren is pathetic, Finn is a coward, and Rey? No flaw at all. But don't make a mistake, her sad orphan story is nothing, just a filler, a background, she has no purpose, there is no character development awaiting her. She already has it all, and just needs to hone her abilities more, when she as an amateur beat the hell out of a Sith training for years. Her problem is that she does everything better than people who actually trained and specialised in that thing. She can beat Kylo Ren in a Force duel, she can fix ships better than any mechanic, master the Force on her own like no one ever before, pilot better than old veterans and ace pilots even though she never left that desert planet of hers.

And she is not the Superman of her story. While Superman is superior to all his internal conflict comes from the fact that he is actually holding back because he does not want to abuse his power. It is this internal struggle that makes Superman great. He has the power, and the ability to crush anybody, but he still chooses not to because of his strong moral compass. In comparison Rey has no struggle of her own to resolve. She's supposedly on a quest to find her family, to train as a jedi but all that is meaningless. It is like completing a useless side quest because you have no plot line to follow.

She is just a character on the rails forced into the story, she is empty character, a blank slate.

That brings us to Kylo Ren. While the first two of the trio are part of the Resistance, Kylo suffers from bad parenting and decides to become a Sith. That is interesting because the other two characters are orphans. The first time he took off his silly mask I burst out laughing, and I was not alone. While he has a sad sap-story he is a pathetic villain. There are people who will make excuses, that this is not fair, he is still young, learning and such things. Whatever, he is a man grown throwing a hissy fit like a toddler. He disgusts me. He doesn't inspire either fear or respect, he lacks presence. When you saw Vader, Tyranus, or even Darth Maul there was always either fear, respect or a mix of both involved. From the very beginning you knew they were force to be reckoned with and not to be taken lightly. When you see Kylo Ren you wish to slap him and send him to corner until he calms down. Pathetic.

Now that we are done with the three main characters, lets go through some details. For example learned skills. Swordsmanship is something you have to learn, practise, train. It is not something that you just happen to "get" the first second you find yourself holding a sword. And this particular detail annoyed me to no end. And they didn't do it with lightsabers alone, same goes for shooting, driving spaceships, and using Force. We'll get to that one.

In the film they try to telegraph to viewers that Rey knows how to wield a lightsaber because we see her cracking skulls with a quarterstaff. They try the same thing with Finn when we see a stormtrooper using some sort of an electric mace or baton. Just because that one stormtrooper knows how to use it, does not mean Finn does. And most importantly, just because you know how to use a particular weapon does not mean you know how to use another one, especially lightsabers considering they are rare as real food on a junk planet. It takes time to master a weapon, years of training. This goes doubly so for lightsabers because of their special nature. Unlike all the other weapons Finn and Rey might have encountered there was never anything like it. That is because lightsabers don't have any weight. How are you supposed to master a weapon that you don't even know how to swing properly?

Same thing goes for driving a bloody spaceship we all know was modified so hard that nobody could do it but him. But don't let that get in a way of the story...

There are just so many discrepancies that we as the viewers are simply expected to swallow and move on, we just there to enjoy the ride, to hell with details. Who cares if all the bolts are screwed all the way, who cares if we crash and burn? Ignorance is bliss, and the film is betting on the viewer to engage in nostalgia from so long ago and just let things slide for old time's sake.

Special effects might have gotten better over the years, but the storytelling got a lot lot worse.

You want an example? Think of Captain Phasma. How much convincing did it take for her to betray the First Order even if we are told that she is crème de la crème? Too easy. How about Rey actually rescuing herself from the clutches of the First Empire? How? Well, she just thought of this great idea to tell the guard to release her and he did it. Because she can use Jedi tricks that otherwise take years to master.

I mused during the film that Force Awakens is an ode to Nature in a Nature vs Nurture debate. Just think of it, all the characters that spend years training, and mastering something are beaten by a complete amateur who is just natural talent. Kylo Ren vs Rey is best example. Or Han Solo vs Rey. Or Finn and Kylo Ren's failed attempt at indoctrination and being raised properly. It seems that Nurture by itself is useless, all the glory belongs to Nature alone according to Episode VII. Maybe that is the Force Awakening...

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