Use the Force, they said. But I can't force myself to like The Force Awakens
Disclaimer: Spoilers here, spoilers there. Spoilers everywhere! Watch the film first and then come here to find closure.
Right off the bat, I want to declare that I am not one of those Star Wars fans who have the Millennium Falcon tattooed on their left testicle (they should get a Jabba tattoo there anyway, he is a ballsack). I might put up a Darth Maul poster in my bedroom or dress up as Obi-Wan Kenobi for Halloween but that is as far as I would go. I love the Star Wars saga just as I love my LOTR lore or the Bourne escapades but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t call bullshit on The Battle of the Five Armies or The Bourne Legacy. So when I came out of the Force Awakens show, I wanted to punch off the fanboy glasses that almost every human on this planet has seemingly seen the movie with.
The setting misleads the audience into believing that this episode would finally be able to shake off the shit storm that the old story arc got into with the well-meaning yet disastrous prequels. It’s been almost 30 years since the second Death Star was destroyed by the good folks at the Jedi Inc. But evil is a clingy little mofo and from the ruins of the Empire (read: the bad guys) has risen The First Order – a naziesque force – that is hell bent on finishing off the last of the Jedi and the Republic (read:
the good the democratically elected guys). Luke, the father figure amongst the Jedi, has disappeared. The Resistance (a special force backed by the Republic, and headed by Leia) wants to find him to train more Jedi, while the First Order wants to bump him off so that he can’t. I won’t lie; the premise sounded pretty fresh. But half an hour into the movie, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I had seen all of it before. This is when one of my Falcon-tattoo-on-the-left-testicle friends (Jabba is better, why doesn't he get it?) pointed out to me that the movie is identical to Episode IV: The New Hope in its plot structure. Droids carrying important information. Desert landscapes that somehow seem to be the best place for abandoning young Jedis. Spherical planet sized cannons that somehow always fall seconds short of finishing off their target. And many more. This film, I realised, is not a sequel but a badly disguised rehash. For my friend this was a good thing, because according to him the series was going back to its fabled roots; for a normal moviegoer, the farce was strong.
Desert. Droid. Dejavu.
But unfortunately, the nightmare didn’t end at the unabashed copying of one’s own canon but continued with fantastic leaps of logic and loopholes driving the rickety starship forward. Case in point – The Republic’s base, spanning over 5 planets, is disposed of like it was yesterday’s leftovers by The First Order’s planet sized cannon called the Death Sta..err..Starkiller. Five planets evaporated in a couple of shots with no mention of it before or after. Easy-peasy. The resistance might be having some of the brightest resources in the galaxy but when it comes to gathering intelligence about what their enemies are up to, they drew a fatal blank. Also just after said annihilation, the Resistance magically appears to have extensive knowledge of the intricacies of the Starkiller base. A classic case of ‘Hey who had these files? Should have acted upon this knowledge earlier no? Ok… water under the bridge now. Let’s return the favour and blow some shit up’.
George Lucas might have committed many faux pas during his time at the helm, but lack of visual inventiveness was never one of them. He packed in lived-in universes and dazzling visuals in all the editions he directed. The Force awakens, in comparison, felt like a downgrade; and that’s a surprise considering the amount of moolah pumped into this cash cow. The explosions felt cheap and stockish (I could predict the precise position of the silhouettes of the X-wing fighters as they escaped the exploding Starkiller and the direction in which the debris would fall when the Order bombed the bar at Takodana. Maybe I'm force-sensitive?). The bar at Takodana was indicated to be one of the busiest in the galaxy but there was no one hanging around the premises when our central characters were running in and out of the place. Even the obligatory Resistance celebrations after the destruction of Starkiller base felt more like a small barbecue get-together (with an X-wing fighter as a prop) rather than Oh-my-god-we-lucked-out-like-crazy bash. JJ Abrams has extensive experience in the TV world. And it shows in the movie feeling more like a high-budget TV pilot than the full-fledged visual extravaganza that a Star Wars movie is supposed to be.
The bar at Takodana: full inside, empty outside
But good TV usually makes up in character development what it lacks in visual flair. No such luck here. Inconsistent character graphs and clichéd confrontational scenarios FTW! For example, Poe Dameron, the resistance’s ace pilot, is a sarcasm-spewing badass in one scene and a righteous Boy Scout figure in the rest. The conversion of Finn from a brainwashed Stormtrooper to a deserter/traitor puts some serious question marks on the brainwashing techniques employed by The First Order. It was an open secret that the Stormtroopers couldn’t shoot an elephant from point blank, but turning a new leaf at the first sight of some serious action in an ambush, is just plain lazy storytelling. Double Urrgh for the shot where the fallen soldier leaves a trail of blood on Finn’s helmet before falling on the battlefield. It might as well have been my puke.
"We're home." Not for long.
All of the above pales in comparison to the travesty that is Kylo Ren aka young Snape. At the start, I felt like this is the kind of bad guy who could deliver this merchandising exercise masquerading as a film; but then it panned out that he is just a village idiot whose ignorance of battle tactics is only matched by his childish tantrums and pedestrian saber-play. I mean, come on! Finn, who admits to being just a lowly sanitation worker in The First Order with absolutely zero lightsaber experience, is able to go toe-to-toe with a dark side Force practitioner. When you combine this with the fact that Kylo was single-handedly responsible for wiping out the entire budding Jedi order, things just don’t seem to add up. In that one sense, the movie is mad consistent – things just don’t add up across the board.
For all the flak heaped upon the prequels, they were brave and (in hindsight) universe-expanding misfires from a director who gave birth to the entire canon in the first place. The latest iteration comes across as a version that is happiest being the fastest to the billion dollar mark. Then again, why make a good movie when the crowd’s coming in for half-baked nostalgia and some water cooler conversations:
“Man, did you watch The Force Awakens yet...”
I say no. I watched A New Hope, again.
Disclaimer: The views and rage expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Avijit Pathak
Photo Source: http://www.starwars.com/the-force-awakens/gallery