As many out there, I had very mixed feelings towards The Force Awakens. As most who had the chance to see the original Star Wars trilogy as kids, I had very strong reactions.
I was delighted to enter that far away but familiar galaxy made of lightsabers, force believers and dumb stormtroopers, excited to meet again the old gang and the Millennium Falcon, entertained by battles and spaceship flights. At the same time I felt cheated by the copycat plot, outraged by the many inconsistencies within the movie and the Star Wars universe in general, annoyed by some cheesy humor attempts.
So I decided to watch again Episodes IV, V and VI to find some relief… hoping to silence some uncomfortable doubts I was starting to have. Like disturbances in the force
And it hit me: the old trilogy was as heavily flawed as the new film.
Plot holes, coincidences, nonsense, repetitions… you name it. All the problems I had with J. J. Abraham’s sequel were already present in the three original chapters.
The famous opening crawl explaining way too many things that could have ben easily exposed throughout the movie itself by a smarter screenwriter. Check.
Said crawl nonchalantly messing up things solved in the previous chapter and bringing back the situation to square one. Check
Recycling the whole destroying-the-death-star plot, only making it bigger. Check
Jedi and bad guy forgetting to use the lightsaber to get out of critical situations. Check.
Jedi and bad guy forgetting to use the force to get out of critical situations. Check.
Girl using the force without knowing anything about it and without training. Check.
Stormtroopers with no shooting training. Check
Bad jokes in dramatic scenes. Check
Major plot points depending on mere coincidence. Check
The only remaining Jedi choosing to hide and leave the rebels alone to fight the evil empire. Check
Characters acting in a way that has no apparent logical motivation other than to move the plot in the established direction. Check.
Characters acting in a way that is inconsistent with events shown in the previous scenes or movies. Check.
Yep. It was all there since the beginning.
I am giving you a minute to metabolise the fact.
But nearly forty years ago, when Lucas’ original trilogy premiered in cinemas, there were no internet, fans forum, IMDb reviews, “Everything wrong with” videos on Youtube to highlight and thoroughly discuss every direction misstep.
And we were young. I was nine when the saga was completed. Older moviegoers were figuratively young, wiser than the ones running away from the train approaching the camera in the Lumière film, but naif enough to be amazed by a big badass starship and forget about plot inconsistencies.
We were innocents, we hadn’t seen yet the C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate and all the other things you people wouldn’t believe.
But most importantly those films, however simple, targeted to a ten year old audience, full of plot holes so big they could swallow a Death Star, managed to give us something new and exciting. They galvanised our imagination.
Star Wars was a medieval quest set in space, with magic swords, white knights, mystic calls and Luke Skywalker as King Arthur. It was an interstellar western with space as the last frontier, Han Solo as the gunslinger and Chewbacca as his trusty sidekick. And we were the pioneers, exploring the cosmos with them. With the limited special effects of the time, Lucas wanted, and did, blow our mind with planets full of creatures and droids and technologies never seen before, languages and philosophies never heard before. He imagined a galaxy and populated it, giving it its own history, idioms, politics and a simple but effective mysticism. And that is no small thing.
Now I look at The Force Awakens with a different perspective. I am more tolerant. I won’t fixate on its flaws and obsess over its incongruities. I won’t hold the grudge to J.J. Abrahams. After all, hate leads to the dark side of the force. I can forgive almost everything to his movie.
Everything except the lack of imagination. Sadly, there is no sense of wonder in Star Wars‘ last chapter, no astonishing new place or civilization to discover, no intriguing new technology, no game changing new ideas. Outer space has never felt more predictable.
It’s a film about unfathomed deeps yet it feels so narrow sighted. A film with enormous budget yet it feels so limited.
More brand reinforcement than intergalactic quest.
Moviegoers are older and wiser, but still want to be stupefied. So, future Star Wars creators, surprise me, amaze me and I’ m yours. Try me. I am not eight anymore yet I am ready to forget my logical thinking, my cinema studies and directing skills, even my rational self. But you have to throw me a bone.
And find a way to end a film which doesn’t involve shooting through a damn Death Star for the forth time.