Someday, I will ruefully look back on this post and realize that this is the day I became "The Other".
This was a serviceable summer blockbuster and was a decent, if uneven J.J.Abrams flick. I say uneven in part because while the first hour or so was sublimely paced and and at times as tight as a Swiss watch, the last seven and a half hours seemed to drag a bit.
To be fair, this was a vastly better film than any of the prequels and I suspect that this alone accounts for some of the gushing over this movie. The film has some wonderful moments and introduced a genuinely interesting character,
Finn, who takes a terrifying leap when he abandons the only life he has ever known over a matter of conscience, and becomes a marked man in a world he is completely unfamiliar with. This fascinating character is all the more interesting because he is understandably fearful of the organization he is fleeing. His goal is not revenge so much as to hide, yet at every point he has a chance to escape Finn finds himself faced with some ethical dilemma that involves abandoning an innocent or escaping scott free...he always chooses the former. This eminently sympathetic individuals purpose in the film is to play inept sidekick to a Mary Sue.
Mary Sue starts out as a really neat character. A scavenger who has spent her life taking apart crashed star destroyers she is a brilliant mechanic and unknowingly strong in the force, which she believes to be a myth...until she's told that all the old legends are true, after which she is doing advanced Jedi mind tricks that have been established to require decades of training...or at least a week on Dagobah. I have no problem with the female lead bing super competent, but popping out god-like powers left and right with zero explanation is annoying. Most of her accomplishments could have been explained with a line or two (how she knew how to fly...and had not left her hell hole existence) but some were just laziness. For instance, the creators wanted her to free herself rather than be rescued. Fair enough. The solution they chose...(she develops mind control powers on the fly) was intensely unsatisfying. This was all the more annoying since a perfectly workable solution was hard wired into her origin story: THIS WOMAN HAD SPENT THE BULK OF HER LIFE TAKING APART STAR DESTROYERS it would have been an easy peasy line or two to reference that she knows about a maintenance panel accessing the door wiring in Imperial brigs that she can disassemble with a hairpin. But no...she gets mind control powers above and beyond her pouty eyes and lithe figure....
On top of all that the pacing fell apart towards the end as the film began to amble badly. They probably should have wrapped it up after the obligatory 'splody and if they REALLY wanted to throw Mark Hammil's character into it, it would have been better to have his wordless cameo in a stinger. Remember, the best film in the franchise (Empire) had several threads unresolved at the end since a sequel was a sure thing
Also: Han dies stupidly, though it did effectively convey the notion that Darth Emo is an irredeemable sort to those who were unmoved by his massacre of nameless women and children. after all he shived a celebrity.
There are numerous refrigerator moments in the film, like why on earth is the Republic military called "The Resistance" when it is the First Order that are the insurgents. Also...How did a group of dead enders build a space station the size of....Neptune(?) What IS the actual political situation here?
There is much to like in the early part of the film but it still fell short.
All in all, it was better than the prequels (but so was Battle Beyond the Stars) and in the same league as Return of the Jedi...which I confess I did not care for, and frankly despite some awesome early moments and glorious effects, this film ultimately ended up disappointing due to the draggy inchoate ending and what came off as the writer's laziness towards the end.
I said it.
Now flame away.
UPDATE:Ubu Roi has a particularly good disquisition on the film including a focus on a speciffic characterization problem that I strongly suggest you read in full. I also note that I'm not the only person that the name "Darth Emo" occurred to...which probably means something.
I read a spoiler about the film and have one comment:
Unless we actually see Han's dead body, I won't believe it. Someone shot him and then he fell off a cliff, right? So it's assumed he's dead, but we can't be sure.
Stabbed through the chest with a light-saber, thrown off a cliff, had the whole room he was in blown up, then the planet imploded. Burned, fell over, then sank into the swamp. I just finished John C. Wright's piece on this, and he has some pretty good insights as well.
Posted by: Mauser at Tue Dec 29 12:58:35 2015 (5Ktpu)
My review isn't quite as harsh, but I certainly did feel that the first two-thirds or so of the movie was amazing, and then last segment was thrown together to add some meat beyond "the lead characters meet, escape danger, and travel to meet the brave resistance." This is one way in which the original was superior, it had the pacing to do all that, all the stuff on the death star, and then get in the final space fight, without it seeming rushed. This one didn't manage that. I was also kind of upset by the battle planning session that might as well have been: "Oh look, another superweapon. This could be serious, but hey, we all know how this works. We send in the heroes to do daring things, then a couple squadrons of X-Wings to finish it off, and everyone is home in time for beer. Any questions? No? Ok, lets go."
Regarding "We can't be sure":
Besides the obvious bits mentioned above, that he took an obvious fatal wound, died convincingly enough for his force wielding son to be sure he was dead, and then was thrown into the abyss on a planet that blew up shortly thereafter, we also had the cut to Leia sensing his death.
Posted by: David at Tue Dec 29 16:40:58 2015 (+TPAa)
Beyond all that, we have the meta: Ford has been trying to get Han killed off since the first movie. It was in the script for Star Wars for a while, and then was in the script for Empire until Lucas talked him into returning for the final movie.
Posted by: Ben at Tue Dec 29 17:56:39 2015 (S4UJw)
I kept thinking "Darth Snape." But although the physical resemblance is uncanny, Snape at his most emo was a lot more formidable person.
For all you people griping about
Kylo Ren--and I'm thinking especially of Ubu Roi's review here--the New Jedi Order did basically the same thing: Han and Leia had three kids: a mixed-sex pair of fraternal twins, and a second son named Anakin, who died in the opening of the NJO series. Along with Chewie, btw. Later, the older son became a Sith Lord and actually for a while was Emperor, although he used a different title, because it wasn't technically an empire.
Well, I say basically, but that's a bit of a stretch. But eventually one of Han and Leia's kids became evil, IIRC before that they had also semi-split up (but after Chewie died, she left politics and became Han's copilot), and again IIRC at the end of the NJO, their daughter killed her brother. I saw Han's death coming just before he walked out onto the bridge, but it didn't feel overly cheap to me; instead it reminded me, for example, of the Wheel of Time books, where early on, Rand lets himself get skewered for a reason I no longer remember. In this case, I think they were aiming for...I'm not quite sure how to explain it, but a destiny thing, a reverse of Luke's returning Anakin to the Light side, but didn't do a very good job of it. I objected more to the execution than the concept. That aside I agree with what seems to be a popular sentiment that the last third or so fell apart a bit.
Posted by: RickC at Tue Dec 29 23:15:23 2015 (FvJAK)
RickC - One of my problems with the expanded universe, and one of the main reasons I gave up on it early on, is because Jedi turned to the Dark Side if they had a bad day. I know a lot of the stories were constantly retconned and overwritten, but I think Luke went evil 3 or 5 times before he was 60 in the expanded universe.
Posted by: Ben at Tue Dec 29 23:24:23 2015 (DRaH+)
Ben--that's not unreasonable. I just wanted to point out, though, that some things that shocked people, well, it's not as if they were made up from whole cloth, and there are EU parallels.
I apparently missed most of the crappy EU books.
Posted by: RickC at Wed Dec 30 00:00:52 2015 (FvJAK)
I liked the film quite a lot, but I do not see how it's better than prequels. I never had a visceral reaction to Jar-Jar. So he's handed the
Galaxy to Palpatine by calling for
vote on emergency powers. What's the big deal? Marco Rubio did the same, as did John McCain. Acting of Adam Driver was better than Hayden Christinsen's, perhaps, but the difference was marginal. It's in the same vein, IMHO.
I have one surefire prediction though (no need for spoiler, right?): considering how PC this movie is, you may bet on someone turning up transgendered in Episode IX. They already have
a token Black and a feminist bait. Next step, obviously
for Darth Emo to come out as a woman and turn to Light Side in the process. Remember, you heard it here first.