Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens": Initial (Bad) Impressions

So I just saw The Force Awakens, the new Star Wars film. It was, in my opinion, not very good. That being said, there was a massive cock up at the cinema where I saw it, causing me to miss the first couple of minutes, and the immense frustration at that may have coloured my experience, but at this stage I can firmly say that I did not find much to enjoy in this film. Here's why:

1. It's a massive rehash of previous Star Wars films
Ever seen Star Wars, now known as A New Hope? Then you've seen The Force Awakens. Good guys have secret information inside droid, bad guys want droid, bad guys have huge superweapon that they use to blow up a/some planet(s) no one cares about, good guys blow up huge superweapon, old guy dies. Also Kylo Ren is just Darth Vader as a son rather than a father, so you can throw some rehashing of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in there as well.

And yeah, they did the whole "blowing up the superweapon" thing in both Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, and it was pretty unoriginal then; it doesn't somehow make it less unoriginal here.

2. The CGI is crap
There are some practical effects in the film, which is nice. As such, what's with the CGI? There are two characters in particular, some little orange lady with big glasses who reminds me of Edna Mode from The Incredibles called "Maz Kanata", and the Palpatine substitute, Supreme Leader Snoke (who I'm fairly sure is referred to interchangeably as "Snoke" and "Stoke" in the film), who are completely obviously computer generated in contrast to the aliens done with practical effects. The "Maz Kanata" character is bad enough because she comes out of nowhere yet apparently knows everything about everything (if so, why have we never seen her before?) but having an important antagonist like Snoke merely as some crappy and incredibly fake-looking CGI creation is beyond the pale.

3. It doesn't look like a Star Wars film
It looks like a J.J. Abrams film. Yeah, I get that in some respects that's a really stupid thing to say because he directed it, but it does. The "visual grammar" of Abrams' style, as seen in his rebooted Star Trek films, is very evident: shots of space ships flying through tunnels are extremely reminiscent in terms of composition, as well as the delayed reaction humour and some of the framing of the actors. I'm not a film expert so it's a little difficult to describe, but to me, even though they weren't all directed by the same people, there's something relatively consistent about the original Star Wars films which isn't present here, and yet was present to a greater extent in the prequels (even though I don't think the prequels are very good).

This is what comes to mind at this stage. Number One is the most glaring because the film's plot is so devastatingly unoriginal in many respects. I'm going to reiterate that my poor experience at the cinema almost certainly coloured my viewing situation, and I'm prepared to rewatch and reassess the film, but at the same time in this age of appalling mass consumerism and hype trains people need to stand up and say "No, I disagree."

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