So I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not just saw it, but made an event of it and saw it at my local IMAX theater.
Let me be clear right now. I did not hate the movie. There were some very enjoyable bits in it. But was I disappointed? Hell, yes.
Before I get into the whys and wherefores, let me clarify what my hopes and expectations were for the movie.
And that was what was missing from this new According to Hoyle movie. Not only were there no surprises, but it quickly became predictable. Yes, it's still better than The Phantom Menace but, for me, only as a nostalgia piece.
The movie starts with a droid that has a secret map hidden inside it that must not fall into the hands of the Empire (now called The First Order). Deja vu anyone? But I was okay with that. I respected it as an homage. A tip of the head, if you will, to the original movie. Sadly, the head tipping never stopped. The Empire, oops, sorry, the First Order is hot on the tail of the young rebel pilot who has possession of the droid. A battle ensues and the pilot is captured by Darth, er, oops, I mean Kylo Ren, but not before our brave pilot sends the droid off to wander the sand dunes of the planet, so it won't be captured. The droid conveniently finds it ways into the company of Rey, a young woman who makes her living scavenging the wreckage of old, crashed space ships. But of course, the empire, sorry, the First Order is close behind and she and the droid steal a spaceship that just happens to be . . . Wait for it . . . The Millennium Falcon. Along the way, she's picked up a storm trooper who has deserted.
Do you see all the parallels? The Droid with secret plans falls into the hero's hands but escapes the Dark Forces aboard a "piece of junk" (Luke/Rae's words). The characters are different . . . and yet they're not.
The original Star Wars is loaded with archetypes. The same archetypes are present in The Force Awakens. They just have different names.
The hero = Luke = Rey
The villain = Darth Vadar/Luke & Leia's father = Kylo Ren/Leia & Han's son
The mentor role is split between Han Solo, whose death is reminiscent of Obi Wan Kenobi's and Luke who trained Kylo Ren before he turned to the dark side, mirroring Obi Wan's role in Darth Vader's life. At the movie's end, he's poised to take Yoda's place training Ren (who no one in the audience doubts will turn out to be his daughter. There will be no gasp of surprise when this is revealed in the next movie.)
And of course, there's the threat of annihilation provided in the original movie by the Death Star. In The Force Awakens that threat comes compliments of (dum, dum, dum) a bigger, badder Death Star. Because really . . . no originality is permitted in the franchise.
There are other small things that annoyed me. C3PO's appearance for instance which is totally gratuitous because he simply has no reason for being in the movie. An even bigger annoyance is that his voice is wrong. Not a lot. Just enough to nag at you. I know it was the same actor doing the voice, so maybe the problem was in the added effects, but IMHO, if you're going to include a character for pure nostalgic value, at least get him right.
And this may just be me, but did it seem as though Harrison Ford phoned in his performance? Don't get me wrong. He's proven he can act, and he got paid a shitload of money to reprise his role as Han, but he didn't seem to put any effort into this movie. Well, maybe a little in his death scene, but even that wasn't up to the standard I expect from him. I guess some actors improve with age. Others rest on their laurels.
The movie continues to homage its ass off with lines like "There's good in him. I know it." How many people have said this line now? Luke said it in The Return of the Jedi, and I think Obi Wan said it, and didn't Padme utter the same line in one of the prequels? Only now it comes out of Leia's mouth. One more thing that would have been a nice homage if there'd been more originality to the rest of the story.
All of this, I might be able to forgive. I can see the value of the movie as a nostalgia piece. I wouldn't call it episode VII (more like a remake of episode IV). But I can't forgive the plot holes. Every Jedi requires a teacher. Well, every Jedi but Rey. Five minutes after her first inkling that she can tap into the force, she's using the old "These are not the droids you're looking for" mind trick. And how does a desert rat become so proficient with a light saber (which is really just fighting with an illuminated sword) that she can hold her own against someone who has trained extensively with one?
So you may be surprised to know that I see some redeeming values in the movie. Specifically, the performances of Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn, the storm trooper defector. They're both brilliant and give the movie its heart. Daisy Ridley especially blew me away but part of the reason is purely personal because Daisy Ridley could be my favorite niece's doppelganger. Right down to the faint freckles on her nose. It was really deja vu-ish watching Daisy on the screen while my niece sat on my right. I have no doubt it predisposed me to like Daisy/Ren, but I think I'd have liked her anyway because she was just that good.
The other thing I liked was that The Force Awakens did have moments of the humor that's so big a part of the original franchise. It doesn't take itself too seriously--though I wish it had taken itself seriously enough to be more original.
What did y'all think of the movie?