Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015)
So after the biggest media hype in the history of movies, what do we have?
The first half hour is wonderful, with a mythic scope tinged by nostalgia, but new characters we can instantly accept. Abrams can be great at evoking wonder, and here he really feels like the guy who directed Super 8. I was surprised to see how much of a fan of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind he apparently is, though; the intro of Rey is almost a straight lift of the intro of Nausicaa. Daisy Ridley proves herself a star. John Boyega already proved himself a star in Atack the Block, and he’s not as good here, but I’ll take him anyway.
Anyway, the high point is the first flight of the Millennium Falcon, which is glorious, wide-screen moviemaking. And then they bring back Han and Chewie and everything goes to heck. How does that happen when grumpy old Han and hilariously laid-back Chewie are so enjoyable and welcome by themselves? I have no idea, but I think it might have something to do with “fan service.” Basically, the nostalgia stops adding a tinge of myth and starts becoming actively crippling. The narrative outsources all the really important narrative beats and reveals to later installments--though why they didn’t explain what the galactic situation was, who the First Order is, and why there’s still a Rebellion in the opening crawl, I’ll never know--and there seem to be dozens of plot holes, at least on a first watch. Why on earth do they have to blow up another Death St--sorry, Starkiller Base? Just because its name is an in-joke about Luke’s original last name doesn’t mean you can be this lazy and get away with it. Aside from that first flight, the only action scene with any bite is Rey's lightsaber duel with Kylo Ren, and even that requires a willful act of acceptance on the part of the audience so we don't wonder out loud why Ren can't cut her to cauterized shreds. (It does look great, though, at night in the snow and all.)
But what really saddens me about this movie is that I came out of it feeling, for the very first time, that the Star Wars galaxy was smaller than it was when the film began. Say what you will about the prequels, they always made you feel there was more out there to see, more stories to tell, more life forms and exotic planets and gorgeous vistas just waiting to be discovered, and that was not true here.
I miss George Lucas.
Rating: 7/10 Stars. *shrugs* Eh, it’s Star Wars.
(poster from IMDB.com)