By: Mr. VanQuathem
This “Life-Day” season, nerds, nostalgia-seekers and cynical Disney shareholders (that’s me) alike are united by a singular event: the premier of a new Star Wars film. Wrested from the mitts of merchandise-happy hack George Lucas, the franchise now has the proper creative stewardship in a merchandise-happy media conglomerate.
Now at the helm in place of the elderly nerd Lucas is middle-aged nerd J.J. Abrams. Where Lucas created the Star Wars films for himself, Abrams has created a Star Wars for everyone… except those looking for fresh storytelling. Abrams deftly combines the decrepitness of the old cast with the “Hey, now we’re diverse!” marketing gimmick of the new. Those who found a 52-year old Harrison Ford too spry while performing stunts such as “running embarrassingly” in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger, then this is the movie for you. And for you nerds that can’t stop masturbating to Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher’s appearance here will provide much needed relief to your battered genitals, unless you have an overweight, husky-voiced mannequin fetish. And as for Mark Hamill? Well, he’s in it for less than 30 seconds, so I’ll just praise his business acumen. If all he got was 50 bucks and access to the craft services table, he came out on top.
The inclusion of the aforementioned cast members allows Star Wars to follow the inauspicious path of the Dumb & Dumber franchise- make a classic movie; follow up with a worthless, slap-in-the-face prequel story, sans-original cast; try to make up for it with a decades-late sequel featuring elderly versions of iconic characters that serve only to tarnish their original iteration and/or satisfy the ego of their portrayers. As previously stated, Hamill barely appears, so he gets a pass. Fisher provides little for the story or for audience satisfaction, other than proof-positive of the ravages of time and unfettered access to illicit drugs. Ford has much more to do, but his line-readings are wooden (and seemingly off of cue cards) and the tiredness is palpable. A large chunk of his scenes consist of cliches and his inclusion leads to a regrettable plot point that I’ll touch on later.
Which brings us to the plot. Apparently it takes three screenwriters to rehash the first (sometimes the fourth) Star Wars. Where a movie like Creed succeeds with hitting familiar territory, Star Wars fails completely. Creed is about boxing, and he either wins or loses, but the familiarity is not detrimental. Despite Star Wars having nigh-limitless possibilities for story, they chose to keep the same story beats and character arcs as the original. Shouldn’t the bad guys have learned not to build a huge planet-destroying space station? They’re 0 for fucking 3 on that one.
The new characters are pretty much retreads of old ones as well. For the heroes, there’s Girl-Luke, Lando Jr. (Everybody’s related in this galaxy and there are like four black guys total. It wouldn’t be much of a reveal to say he’s the son of the X-Wing pilot whose sole line is “She’s gonna blow!” Although, it ranks up there with “They came from behind!” as one of the best lines in the series.) and Poe Dameron, the likely stand-in for Han Solo in the future movies. Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, is a fair addition to the series, but he’s too affable and lacks the sarcasm needed to fill the shoes of Han Solo. More importantly, what the fuck is up with his name? Did the writer who came up with that have a stroke while watching Con Air? I found it distracting and couldn’t think of anything else when he was on screen. Girl-Luke follows roughly the same path as, you guessed it, Luke Skywalker. She spends a lot of time doing boring shit on a desert planet exactly the same as the one Luke grew up on, but has a different jumble of letters for a name-Jakku. Seriously, the names in this movie were probably derived from shaking out a box of Alpha-bits and making random combinations. She becomes a Jedi by the end, because duh. Lando Jr. largely drives the plot through coincidentally meeting each main character. He quits being a Stormtrooper after seeing one of his friends die and becomes a good guy. In typical Star Wars fashion, he’s accepted as a good guy mere seconds after working for the other side.
The aforementioned other side includes an evil general who makes the exact same mistake as all of his predecessors, an inexplicably silver Stormtrooper that does precisely nothing, and Kylo Ren, who carries on the grand tradition of heavy-breathing villains with dick-shaped helmets. Ren answers the unasked question of “what would Darth Vader be like as a fan of Dashboard Confessional?” He’s the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia and turned to the dark side, presumably over stuff you just wouldn’t understand, dad. Which brings us to one of the main flaws of the movie, the confrontation between Han and Ren.
Harrison Ford famously lobbied (and lost) for Han to die in the first series. Most people probably could’ve guessed that Han would die in the new movie, as it was probably how they lured Ford back. Objectively, there’s nothing wrong with killing off the character. But it feels so contractually forced, you can practically see Ford clutching large sacks of cash while his character falls into the abyss. They didn’t need to wait 30+ years to have Han Solo die like a bitch at the hands of Emo Darth Vader. That’s no way for Han Solo to go out. A parachute not opening, that’s a way to die. Getting caught in the gears of a sand crawler, having your nuts bit off by an Ewok… Hopefully they’ll find a less-pussy way to kill off Luke Skywalker, although “being in hiding” for 2 hours and 15 minutes of a 2 hour and 16 minute movie doesn’t leave much room for optimism.
And don’t forget, one of the main bad guys was this pussy, aka, a Weasley brother…