Sunday, January 3, 2016

Star Wars VII - a short critical review.

I actually really dislike it when 'blog writers mix the focus of thier weblogs, so I promise this foray into movies is not the start of a new trend or any such thing.  But, I realize that most of my readers will have an interest in this movie and I feel it might be helpful to throw a little cold water on all the Ra-Ra, go Team! "reviews" that seem to me to be little more than extended advertisements.  Here goes:

So to begin with, I did like the movie and would happily watch it again.  I thought most of the new characters were great additions to the story and especially liked Rey, however the movie has some rather annoying flaws, that were pretty big detractors from immersion and enjoyment.  Full disclosure - I have a BA in Film from the School of Communications at Penn State.  Also I liked most of the Star wars movies.  I saw the first one during it's second run at the local theater in 1977.  I was eight years old, and was a bit disappointing that so little of the movie involved fights in space, but the ending kinda maid up for it.  I liked Battlestar Galactica a whole lot better when it finally came out though. (Sept. 17, 1978, IIRC)  So anyway, I've watched them all, and the only one I don't particularly enjoy is Episode VI, Return of the Jedi.  Aside from some of the Yoda scenes and the hover bike race on the moon of Endor, that movie is mostly trash.  The script was very poorly executed and the whole business with the killer teddy bears defeating trained soldiers with falling logs is too ridiculous to tolerate in even a movie aimed at 12 year olds.

And Star Wars was always aimed at 12 year olds, by the way.  One of the reasons I find the general dislike of Jar Jar Binks so ironic is that 35 year old men are complaining about a character that is meant to be comic relief for kids.  Binks doesn't bother me half so much as killer teddy bears.  Folks seem to forget that when they first saw Star Wars and fell in love with it, they were kids too.  Unlike all the previous movies, Disney Star wars is not aimed at the 12 year old demographic.  It is decidedly not kid friendly.   I'm not saying that's good or bad, just noticeably different, and understandable, as the fan base ages.

Let's talk plot:

A hero losses their parents at a tender age and grows up in a hardscrabble life on a desert planet.  The Hero's life is turned upside down when outsiders come to the planet and involve the hero in a galactic war.  The hero makes a desperate run from the planet on a beat up old space ship called the Milenium Falcon, pursued by the forces of a dictatorial regime, under the command of a dark, mysterious evil warrior in black armor who embodies the power of the Dark Side of the Force.  The hero befriends the ships somewhat dubious owners, Han Solo and Chewbacca, travels to distant worlds, meets the resistance leader Princess Leia, and soon becomes involved in a desperate fight to destroy a gigantic world destroying space weapon the size of a planet.  In the final moments, the hero confronts the evil warrior of the Dark Side, and is instrumental, along with Han, Chewy, and Leia, in bringing about the destruction of the awsome planet wrecking weapon, and in the temporary defeat of the evil warrior of Dark Side of the Force.

There you have it.  Now, what movie is the above plot describing?

Let me say it more plainly, the overarching plot of Star wars VII is identical to the overarching plot of Star Wars III A New Hope.  IDENTICAL

Star Wars VII is a remake.

Sure, there are plot differences, nuances and twists as to how things unfold, but on the whole, I've seen this movie before. and so have you.  It is especially annoying that there is yet another giant killer planet to destroy, since that plot device was already recycled once in Return of the Jedi.  Please stop giving us more Death Stars!!!!

Now, aside from the plot rehash, there are basic elements to the story that had me scratching my head throughout the movie.

One thing you can say about Lucas Star Wars was that the setting always made sense.  That's partly why it resonated so well.  There was a socio-political organization in the background that was believable.

At the end of Return of the Jedi, the emperor was defeated and the republic restored, yet we are now to believe that somehow, some portion of the empire (one of the regional governors?) managed to hold on to their dictatorial control without the emperors support, gain enough economic and social stability and financing to defy the new republic, and continue the fight for 20 years.

Somebody's got a lot of explaining to do, cause as it stands, it's hard to see how that could possibly have happened in anything more complicated than a comic book world.  Equally silly and confusing are the names they choose.  "The First Order".  Um, the first order of what?  Where's the rest of that sentence.  There's also a confusion of names.  Sometimes the new republic is also called "the resistance".  Go figure.

I'm sorry but none of that makes sense.

Then there is the great new evil, the replacement for the old emperor, the super terrifying bad guy, and his name is - wait for it - SNOOK.  Sorry for the snark but I mean, come on man.  I'm pretty sure one of my daughters stuffed unicorns is also named Snook.

<shrug> Aside from all that it was a pretty fun movie.