By Arun Gupta (January 5, 2016)
This sums up my feelings about Star Wars: a fun ride, well-executed, and utterly unoriginal.
(You know the drill about spoilers if you are one of the last humans interested in seeing The Force Awakens and not actually having gone to see it yet.)
The blame is on Disney because it controls the purse strings, and not so much JJ Abrams. As I was watching the movie, I keep saying, “Really?” As in, really, you start the narrative with imperial forces looking for a droid with secret plans wandering a desert planet until it attaches itself to a youthful loner of mysterious lineage and reluctant heroism? Then you escape the planet in the Millennium Falcon, described as a garbage heap, before being tractor-beamed and boarded by hostile forces.
Creativity here is limited to mashing up different Star Wars movies and switching the order of scenes. So the Cantina scene comes after the escape, but includes a wise 1,000-year-old creature who is all knowing and helps lead Rey to the Force. Then the story picks up with the original with the destruction of a crucial Republic planet, the difference being the scale of annihilation and an even bigger and badder weapon, a “Starkiller” rather than a “Deathstar.” We get a tour through the primary planets of the first trilogy: a desert world, a forest world, and an ice world, and the whole oedipal relation between good and evil.
I’ve only scratched the surface, but you get the point. Like I said, I did enjoy it despite the lack of originality, but it seems the greatest threat to Hollywood is innovation, at least when it comes to franchises like Star Wars. There have been many good science fiction movies over the last few decades, but the last flick that captured the novelty of Star Wars, meaning it combined innovative filmmaking, a richly realized alternative universe, good chemistry between the principal leads, and a storyline that moved swiftly and built to a satisfying crescendo was The Matrix.
While I did find the multi-culti trio a positive update, and Rey’s badassness and her rejection of a male rescuer to be especially satisfying, it feels like an idealized Hillary Clinton narrative, intentional or not. In other words, the narrative structure of endless war and evil is unchallenged; what changes is the gender and races in charge of the neo-imperial resistance, which represents the benevolent conquest of liberal democracy.