Let's discuss Avengers: Infinity War -- a movie BOUND to make you feel so good!

January 4, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Unleashed: Revelations: Revengeance: Revolutions

Okay, time for a controversial opinion (as if my confliction over The Force Awakens wasn’t bad enough):  I think the Millennium Falcon is kind of dumb-looking.

It’s all right, I guess.  But for a ship of its supposed caliber and speed, it’s kind of clunky-looking; shape-wise, it looks like a plate with some shoehorns glued to it.  No style, no grace -- which is kind of the point, given its owners, but it’s still not what I’d call ideal.  Now, the X-Wing?  Fine.  A-Wing?  Cool.  Y-Wing?  That’ll do.  I know those aren’t in the same class, but then I remember that the Star Destroyer exists and looks cool (inasmuch as an imperial death machine deserves respect), so it’s just like, “Yo, what happened, Han?”  On the other hand, the canon has also produced “beauties” like the B-Wing, so their aerospace engineering is probably a little spotty.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that, like I’ve said before, the past is not sacrosanct.  We don’t have to blindly accept that everything from the good old days was perfect and exemplary, because otherwise we end up in situations where “the things from the past are always better than things from the present”.  By the same token, we shouldn’t blindly reject everything because it’s from the past.  Lessons can still be learned from it, and elements (if not whole productions) are still appreciable.  It’s all about balance, and giving credit where credit’s due.  Like and dislike with reason and respect.

I just thought I’d throw that out there, in case anyone reading this decided to hunt me down and pin my lifeless body to a towering spire as a warning to their enemies.  So let’s move on…amidst all of the spoilers.

All right.  I’ve got one last story to tell, but I’m going to save it for later -- preferably near the end.  Well, it’s not so much a story as it is a random observation, but you get the idea.  It’s kind of important, even if there’s no ironclad lesson to take away from it.  So look forward to that; prep your diaphragms in advance.

In case it wasn’t clear (or if you didn’t click that link before the jump, and thus intent on hurting my feelings), I’ll go ahead and say it for posterity’s sake: no, I don’t think The Force Awakens is a bad movie, and there are good things about it.  It could’ve just coasted on the name and the nostalgia, but it didn’t, and that’s worth celebrating.  With that said, I can’t help but feel…disappointed.  I haven’t been sated by the movie.  I got some good tastes of it, sure, but the proverbial meal didn’t fill me up.  It should have, and I can see why it filled up others, but I’m still hungry for more.  And I don’t want to wait two or three years for seconds.  I don’t see why I should have to, either.

So is it just because of my anti-nostalgia crusade?  Am I just that biased against anything that tries to mine the past?  Maybe.  Probably, even, so I can cement my heel turn and become THE ENEMY OF MANKIND.  But on the other hand, there are still a lot of holes that make the meal splatter against the floor.

Not to generalize, but if I had to guess, I’d say I know what people are praising in TFA.  The characters, obviously; the humor’s up there too, along with the action and the visuals (I’m not so hung-up on CG vs. practical effects, but no matter which one is used, TFA is still plenty competent).  If you’re someone with a deeper appreciation of storytelling -- i.e. a nerd like me -- then you probably found some thematic heft that appeals to you (heft that didn’t end up getting broken).  That’s cool.

But it’s the stuff that doesn’t get mentioned so often that leaves me wanting.  TFA is a simple, straightforward story, but it might be too simplistic.  This may be an example of J.J. Abram’s signature style -- for good or ill -- at work here.  The emotion of the scene is always on full blast, but the logic can stall at any moment.  Or, alternatively, Abrams and his crew can bring out the fun in its characters and plot, but it’s easy for his films to get tripped up on the details.  Some small, some large, but plenty noticeable when they’re absent…or less than ideal.

So let me start with a question: why is BB-8 in this movie?

NUMBER ELEVEN: WARS (Possibly of the Star Variety)

So because this is an epic fantasy that just so happens to be in space and can thus ignore all of its valuable tools the moviemakers have to retread plot threads from the original trilogy (wow, I’m so edgy and incisive), important information is stored inside of a droid and sent to traverse a desert planet to escape the clutches of white-clad military force.  And sure, far be it from me to suggest that the movie should start with trade negotiations or awkward romantics.  But there’s a tingle in my brain that makes me feel like there was a missed opportunity.

Ever since I first saw him, I wondered how BB-8 would show his practicality.  Granted it’s not as if R2-D2 had the most practical design, either, but decades after that droid’s construction, it’s almost as if the canon has tried to technologically regress.  BB-8 is smaller than R2, he’s got no arms, and he needs someone to translate for him; if Finn can’t understand what he’s saying, then we can assume that others can’t understand him either, which could hamper a lot of circumstances.  Setting that aside, how is a robot that uses a ball as its sole means of propulsion practical? 

We see BB-8 roll across a desert planet, and throughout the movie he’s either filthy, or gets progressively dirtier.  So what happens when the terrain he rolls across gets stuck in his body and jams up or wears down his shell, or his instruments?  Even if they don’t, wouldn’t his regularly-dirtying body force his owners to constantly wash him?  At least R2 could hide his dirtiness, because he mostly rolled around on treads, or wheels, or whatever.  Except for that one time.

But what’s more important is the role.  BB-8 is tasked with carrying the map -- or part of it, at least -- to the Resistance, after receiving it from an old desert-dweller.  All right, so I have to ask: why did they need to put the information inside a droid?  I get that Poe needed to grab the data from a guy who probably didn’t have a machine to his name, but after that, I’m stymied.  Was there really no way for Poe to transmit that data back to the Resistance?  The data more or less got stored on a flash drive, right?  So he couldn’t use his X-Wing to send that info where it needed to go?  He and his droid have to physically cart the mail back to base?

It’s true that the First Order starts breathing down his neck and blows up his ship.  But then BB-8 gets into the Millennium Falcon alongside Finn and Rey -- and despite its age, surely that has some means of communication, right?  Even if the flash drive isn’t Falcon-compatible, the droid can still make a holographic projection, and Finn could call out the coordinates to the Resistance once BB-8 opens a channel, right?  So I guess the overarching question here is this: why is it that a universal civilization that’s nailed interstellar travel and light-speed movement doesn’t have the capacity to talk with one another unless they’re within earshot?  Wouldn’t that be the first thing on the docket when crafting these ships, especially in case something goes wrong?  Wouldn’t that be something to aspire towards in the thirty years since the destruction of the second Death Star?  This movie came out in 2015, so why is it acting like it’s still 1977?    

I know it’s not that big of a deal (because even for me, that was a pretty pissy nitpick), but it kind of plays to one of my personal issues.  The movie needed to have BB-8 roll around with macguffin.png to serve the plot, but it didn’t have to be this way; the crew could have geared the movie to start in a different way, with a tweaked journey, so they didn’t have to play the me-too game.  More to the point, they missed a golden opportunity here.  They could’ve taken advantage of the setting to resolve one issue, and then have time to move onto more important (and better) issues and events. 

Except they didn’t.  And this isn’t just a “they relied too much on nostalgia!” complaint.  With this new sequel trilogy, it’s their mission to build up the world and show the world what this fictional universe has to offer -- especially since you can’t get any more canon than the seventh official movie.  But TFA skimps on that.  It’s pretty much a given that we’ll see more of this world eventually, but as it stands, there are some key world-building elements that are MIA.  And every missing element presents a missed opportunity in the story -- to say nothing of crucial details.

I have to parrot a lot of the sentiments I’ve seen elsewhere: what is the First Order (besides Nazi stand-ins)?  They’re supposed to be the remnants of the Empire, but what are their principles?  What’s their primary mission?  Why do they have to be so ruthless that they’ll slaughter an entire village of innocents?  Sure, Supreme Leader Snoke is playing puppeteer so he can wipe Luke and the other Jedi off the map (presumably), but what’s the Order’s stake in the matter?  What do they stand to gain?  Is their ruthlessness in line with their ideals?  I mean, all of the Stormtroopers we see onscreen are bipedal humanoids -- so if they really are space Nazis, then does that mean they’re advocating the supremacy of humanoids over Wookies, Ewoks, and Quermians like Yarael Poof?

Also, how did the First Order manage to build not only a third Death Star, but a Death Star that’s the size of a planet?  Somebody should’ve noticed that, right?  Sure, space is a big place, but it’s not as if planets are undetectable; Galileo spotted Neptune in 1613 with a fraction of the technology we have today, and now you’re telling me no one saw a gigantic war machine being built?  The only explanation is that the Order converted an uninhabited planet into a colossal gun, but that raises its own share of questions.  How did they get the resources for it if they’re the fractured remains of a group from decades ago? 

How did they test its capabilities without alerting anyone of their presence, given that it fires a giant fuck-off laser that blows up several planets at once?  How did they get away with a single test run when it’s powered by absorbing suns?  What happens if something goes wrong and they run out of suns within a feasible range of the base?  Why did you not incinerate the Republic’s home planet in one go if you had access to a doomsday weapon?  Or…did you incinerate the Republic’s home planet?

Speaking of the Republic, what’s their deal?  General Hux implies that there’s more to them than just being the good guys, but was he actually telling the truth or spewing rhetoric to get his boys fired up?  How much control do they exert over the universe?  How do they enforce order and the law?  Do they enforce order and the law?  How popular are they?  How well-liked are they?  How well-armed are they?  I guess the implication is “not very”, if their attack on Starkiller Base leaves half of their fleet -- or squadron, most likely -- in shambles.  So who’s the underdog here?  Or are they both of equal strength?  If that’s the case, then how did either of them amass support?

The Republic must have law and official procedures on its side, right?  So that would mean by default it’s in the right -- unless maybe it’s made some rulings and decrees that haven’t gone over well with the public?  In which case, were those rulings and laws damning enough to drive people in droves right into Snoke’s arms?  Is the First Order actually a bunch of separatists who couldn’t tolerate the Republic’s breach of personal freedoms and fled to the comfort of the past, as well as some hypothetical, easy-to-romanticize wild frontier of liberty (at the expense of others, but bred from a delusional sense of independence and belonging)?

…Who are these people?

NUMBER TWELVE: The Infinitely Expanding Universe (and its Lack of Expansion)

I’ve heard people say that the lack of world-building information was a safeguard against talking too much about politics and junk, AKA one of the elements that sank the prequel trilogy.  But it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation; it’s possible to weave those details in with moderation, and with visual and/or verbal storytelling to make this conflict feel as massive as it should.  Plus, I’ve heard that the original three movies also skimped on the world-building, and pared down the Empire and the Rebels to Bad Guys and Good Guys.

Okay, sooooooooooooo…again, do we have to redo everything that we did back in 1977?  Are we not allowed to have a smidge more complexity in our movies, especially in the face of uncertain times?  Also, saying that the old movies did it A) still doesn’t pardon the new movie, and B) threatens to retroactively worsen the old movies.  And as a corollary, you can’t say “it needs to be simple for the kids” because this is a violent-ass movie featuring stabbing, bodies flying everywhere, and a village being lined up for slaughter within the first five minutes.  Audiences aren’t the fragile princes and princesses that some people take them for. 

Credit where credit’s due: no one can fault this movie for not having enough alien races.  And as obsessive as I am may seem am, I don’t need every detail in the universe laid out before me in one go.  I don’t need to know what this species is, or what its culture is, or the biology of looking like some kind of insectoid hellion.  It’s an alien.  It looks different from me.  I got it.  But I do need explanation for other matters, however brief it may be; those matters include details that enhance our understanding of the story.  Backgrounds, motivations, objectives, and the like don’t have to be simplified to “we’re the bad guys”. 

Also, I know this veers into “asking Star Wars to stop being Star Wars” territory, but am I the only one who felt like the environments were a little dry?  Outside of Starkiller Base breaking apart, the new planets don’t exactly offer a lot in the way of…well, let’s go with presence.  Chalk this up to me playing Xenoblade Chronicles X, but once you look past the aliens in these scenes -- assuming there are any -- the settings don’t have much in the way of visual splendor.  Primarily, there’s a desert planet, and a forest planet, and Starkiller Base becomes a snowy planet.  And what is there to do with them?  What is there to see?

Yeah, the desert planet has scrapped Empire vehicles and lots of sand to traverse, but…what else?  I mean, The Empire Strikes Back had a desperate situation where Luke got dragged away by a yeti into an ice cave, and had to slash his way out.  Then he had to brave the cold, and slip into a tauntaun for warmth and hope for the best.  It’s not a sequence that eats up the whole movie, but it’s still a sequence -- something that establishes the harshness and authority a planet could have.  Even if Jakku is borderline inhospitable, Finn still traverses it in due time (mostly through scene changes) with little more than some extreme thirst and a coating of sweat. 

True, this sense of longing and wanting isn’t one I had immediately in the theater -- and as a guy who’s historically struggled with writing settings, not capitalizing on one isn’t the death knell I make it out to be.   But as the days and weeks pass, I’m going to keep thinking about the movie.  And I’m worried that the more I think about it, the lower my opinion will go.  And you can thank my hyper-obsessive brain for that.

NUMBER THIRTEEN: Don’t Think About the Movie Any More than You Have To

The movie clocks in at two hours and sixteen minutes, but to its credit, you’d never be able to guess just by watching it.  TFA moves fast.  It moved fast for my first viewing, and moved just as fast -- if not faster -- the second time around.  The blistering pace lets Finn, Rey, and the rest go from one point to another (and one planet to another) without a second thought.  It’s not what I’d call an exhausting movie, because there are periods of downtime so audiences can catch their breath.  But there’s a downside to the high-speed operations: the movie really has to strain to keep things going so quickly.

The sheer number of coincidences is astounding.  Finn, Rey, and BB-8 just so happen to hijack a fully-functional Millennium Falcon, then just so happen to run into Han and Chewie within minutes of their escape, who just so happen to have their freighter boarded by two rival bands of space thugs, and just so happen to be dispatched by the Doom monsters Han just so happens to be transporting.   And Han just so happens to know that alien woman Maz Kanata has the info and refuge they need, and she just so happens to have Luke’s lightsaber locked away in a treasure chest (and purposely dodges the question of where she got it from), which just so happens to call out to Rey, who just so happens to be awakening to the power of the Force.

I mean…we’re all familiar with the scale of the universe, right?  So the probability of these characters meeting and these events transpiring has to be such an infinitesimally small number that I would have to fill the rest of this post with zeroes to accurately represent the odds.

It all comes down to whether you’re the sort to prioritize the emotion of the scene, or the logic behind it.  And in all fairness, the former is extremely important.  It’s what makes the audience feel, and feel excitement.  Plus, there isn’t a single movie out there that doesn’t have its foibles, flubs, and failures; there’s always going to be an issue that the creator was blind to, but nitpicking assholes the audience will pick out.  Fine.  But that should happen with repeat viewings, not within seconds of seeing the events unfold.  Emotion can help you overlook those problems, but they aren’t guaranteed to -- and when the emotion is missing from those scenes -- even if they’re just connective tissue for the overall story -- then it can create some problems.

I want to keep thinking about this movie long after it leaves the theaters -- and if the chance pops up, I want to use it as an example in other posts.  And while there are things I’ve taken away from it, there are other questions that don’t have a good answer -- things that expose the cracks in the movie’s armor.  I’m hesitant to do that thing I do, because that would imply this movie is an absolute failure (and it’s not).  But if TFA is going to stick to tradition, then I guess I will, too.  So let’s go ahead and do this, with points in no particular order…with the proper music, of course.

--Who the hell was that random Stormtrooper lugging around a giant electro-tonfa?  I mean, yeah, he’s pretty cool, but why did he feel the need to fight Finn one-on-one in close-range combat while casting off the rest of his equipment?  Why didn’t he just shoot him, given that they were in the middle of a battle?  Is it because the crew wanted to have a cool melee fight, since Finn got his hands on a lightsaber?

--Why was it a random Stormtrooper that had that tonfa instead of Captain Phasma?  Wouldn’t it make more sense for her to go after Finn, as both the enemy elite and someone that has a beef with our hero?

--What was the deal with Maz Kanata?  I get that she was (at the very least) a client Han met in his travels and line of work, but why did she have a huge statue of herself and what might as well have been a castle?  Why is she painted as some sort of big boss when she barely exerts any perceivable authority?  (And yes, I know that everyone stops cold when she shouts Han’s name, but isn’t that more because the con-happy Han Solo has entered the building?)

--Where did Maz get Luke’s lightsaber?  Did he leave it with her before he left?  Was she one of his last disciples?  Was she a confidant?  If the story behind it was so long that Maz didn’t have time to explain why she didn’t have time to explain, then doesn’t she need to have more complexity to her character, role, and screen time to justify that story?  Or is it just because the writers hadn’t thought that far ahead yet?

--Why is Kylo Ren’s training incomplete?  Why put him in a position of authority if he’s unstable, untested, and unable to have full command of the powers he wields?  Did Snoke put him in that position to draw out his frustration, and accelerate his fall to the Dark Side?  What would Snoke have done if Ren killed Hux in a fit of rage, or slashed some vital instruments?

--Why is it that Ren can stop a laser shot that comes from behind him, but he can’t stop a laser shot that comes toward him, in spite of the Wookie yell that gives him a heads-up?

--As cool as the lightsaber fights in the movie are, I have to ask: why don’t these people ever punch or kick each other?  I know they’re at risk for losing limbs, but they lock swords on multiple occasions with no benefit, right?  Would it have been too much for a knee to the gut, especially since Rey eventually does kick Ren in the end?

--How does Starkiller Base hit anything with its hyper death ray?  Does the cannon swivel on an equatorial axis?  Does the whole planet move?  Is that safe for the Order forces stationed there?  Is the base able to compensate for the positioning, rotation, and orbit of targeted planets?  If it takes light 8.3 minutes to go from the sun to the Earth, then does that mean there’s also a brief grace period between the base’s attack and the actual planetary destruction?  So does that mean the movie has a secret cut in the action in the interest of time?

--Did the good guys give Han a funeral?  Qui-Gon Jinn got a funeral in The Phantom Menace, so surely a beloved character with even greater importance to the canon would get the sendoff he deserved, right?  Surely there’s enough time to show that off, isn’t there?  You’re not just going to cut to R2-D2 reactivating, right?

--Why did R2-D2 spring back to life?  Is it because Rey got close to him?  Why would it do that?  Are droids sensitive to the Force?  Did Luke program him that way?  Is Rey secretly a technopath like I not-so-secretly wanted?  Why would R2 become borderline inoperable for so long?

--Why is the map to Luke in pieces?  How did it break into pieces in the first place?  Did R2 crash while the Resistance tried to download the map?  Was the map purposefully broken up to mess with people?

--Are the people in the Star Wars universe incapable of keeping records?  It’s only been thirty years since the end of Return of the Jedi, so why do these people act as if everything that happened in it is the stuff of myths and legends?  Did they never bother to explain all of the events that transpired?  How is that possible, when virtually all of the key players are present?  How is that possible when one of the key players became a general, itself following her stint as a princess, an authority figure, and a potential Jedi in her own right?

--So does that mean that all of the events of the previous movies are the stuff of myths and legends?  What about people who are over the age of thirty?  What about family members of the men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty?  How do you start over or ignore all of that in the face of overwhelming evidence?  How is it that a movie that banks so heavily on the past can’t be bothered to accurately represent and build upon the past? 

--No, but seriously -- who the hell was that random Stormtrooper lugging around a giant electro-tonfa?

(Not gonna lie, I kind of want to be him.)

NUMBER FOURTEEN: The Sarlacc Pit and the Question of Escape

There’s probably more stuff than that, but I think I covered most of the important ones (inasmuch as pissy nitpicking can be important) here and elsewhere.  And I’m not so concerned about those points as I make it out to be; I may have gone into CinemaSins mode, but even those guys readily admit that they enjoy the movies they rip into.  Also, they’re self-proclaimed assholes…which is probably how I should start identifying myself from here on.

In any case, it’s time to move on to one of the more salient points of this series of posts.  Like I said, I had some stories to tell.  And this is the last of them.  See, I happened to be on the lookout for reviews from a choice few, MovieBob well among them.  He was positive about TFA, but balanced and informative as well -- as expected.  I also happened to take a look at the comments section of his site, which revealed some interesting reactions.  Here’s a notable one:

“I started to tear up reading your review, more from relief it didn't suck than anything else. Then I read the last line and I couldn't hold them back anymore. Things have been so disappointing in a general sense the last few years, in media and elsewhere. I was beginning to lose all hope anything could be good anymore. I needed this to be good, no scratch that. Culturally WE in a larger sense needed this to be good. To have a little hope. :End rambling.”

I’m not going to pretend like I know what the person who wrote that comment is like -- besides being a dedicated Star Wars fan, maybe.  But it raises an interesting question.  The original trilogy is more than thirty years old (A New Hope is pushing forty), and its time in the cultural spotlight, at least in a direct sense, has long since passed.  Fans from all over were burned by the prequel trilogy, and the hatred against them is palpable -- though there’s a part of me that at least feels sympathetic towards George Lucas and the three movies.  High hopes were pinned on TFA, and for the most part, those hopes were met.  Probably exceeded, in many cases.  With all of that in mind, here’s the question I have.

Why do we need Star Wars to be good?  Why do we need this one thing to be good?

Its cultural impact can’t be stressed enough.  Its accessibility -- its simplicity, and its back-to-basics style -- have long since been noted.  Its potential is limitless, as an incalculable number of products in the Expanded Universe and merchandise have shown us.  (I may or may not be the owner of an animated Star Wars movie starring R2 and 3PO).  Star Wars is big, and powerful, and may as well overshadow fiction in a way that can never be reproduced.  But in this day and age, do we really need it?

We’re not wanting for fictional stories these days.  It can come from anywhere, in any form.  We’ve got books, TV shows, movies, comics, webcomics, web series, anime, manga, musicals, plays, and probably even more than that.  Stories are everywhere, and as easy to access as turning on a cell phone.  Were the entries in any given form of media influenced by Star Wars?  Sure, it’s possible.  But at the basest, Star Wars just offered a starting point.  Inspiration.  The spark, but only the spark; the creators went on to create their own works, mixing the principles of the past with the ingenuity of the present for the entertainment of the future.

Like I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of Kamen Rider.  But do I need it to be good, and be a presence in my life, always and forever?  Well, no.  I wouldn’t mind that, but it’s possible for me to see the kinks more and more.  The franchise ranges from fine to stunningly awful when it comes to handling female characters.  It’s more than possible for the fights to blend into a haze of punches if they don’t have the proper stakes or spectacle.  The franchise exists to shill merch, and blatantly so; it’s to the point where having good stories is just a happy coincidence.  And beyond that, individual installments have varying levels of quality.  Kamen Rider Drive is up there as one of my favorites; as of writing, its follow-up Kamen Rider Ghost is just not as good.  It’s not bad, but there are some problems it needs to start sorting out -- and soon.

But will it be heartbreaking if KR falls apart from Ghost onwards?  Yes and no.  It’d be a shame if the quality dropped, but KR is not the only toku series out there.  I could change lanes and become a Super Sentai fan at any given moment.  There’s also the Tomica Hero franchise, which basically reimagines the Power Rangers as rescue workers -- and is kinda-sorta amazing.  There’s Garo, Ultraman, and more.  And there always will be more, because there are an infinite number of stories that can be told.

By the same token, I don’t need Final Fantasy to be good.  I want it to be good, for sure (as a way to justify its existence and constant exposure).  But it’s possible for me to move on without waiting for a return to form.  The Tales series is remarkably consistent.  I’ve had more than my share of fun with the Baten Kaitos games.  Atlus not only came through with Persona 3 and 4, but also served up the fantastic Devil Survivor games -- and now Persona 5 is on the way.

What I’m getting at here is that we don’t have to pin all our hopes and expectations on one story.  Okay, sure, “that one story” in this case is one of the most influential pieces of fiction of all time.  But there’s more out there.  It’s a wide world, and that wide world carries with it the imprints of Star Wars.  If you need more Star Wars, you don’t have to sit around with your hands clasped in prayer.  You can find Star Wars with something as simple as a YouTube search.  You can find your hope whenever you want -- as long as you’re willing to look.

So if you ask me?  We don’t need Star Wars to be good.  It’d be nice, especially if we’re destined to get more.  But it spent the past decade on the bleachers, and we were all fine regardless.  It spent even more time on the bleachers in the time between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, and people lived on anyway.  They found new stories, and new adventures, and new heroes -- because that’s the goal of every story.  They aim to give audiences new things to latch onto, so that they can continue to find hope.  And at its worst, The Force Awakens doesn’t do that.  It doesn’t offer a new hope; it just offers A New Hope.  It substitutes the prospects of a bold new future for the things we’ve already seen.  As if that’s what matters.  As if we’ve hit our cultural peak, our zenith -- and all that’s left is to let the Big Crunch carry us backward.

But when The Force Awakens is at its best...

In a lot of ways, I find myself frustrated by this movie.  Disappointed, even.  But there’s more to it than just nostalgia-baiting.  The pieces are there for an incredible story, an adventure on its own terms without being shackled to the past, or audience expectations, or some unspoken rules about what a Star Wars movie should be.  The fact that one of the main characters is a Stormtrooper, a member of a military force we were largely led to believe was mindlessly ruthless and eternally expendable up to this point, is a testament to that.

Characters create opportunities.  Finn, Rey, Poe, Ren, and BB-8 all managed to create those possibilities -- that road to the future that could potentially make for the space adventures I’ve always wanted.  That we’ve always wanted.  It’s annoying to know that I’ll have to wait several years to see if that potential is fulfilled, but think of it this way: the fact that I actually care enough to want to see that potential -- and that I wrote so much, begging for ways to improve what’s been in theaters -- stands for something important.  That’s more than I can say about Jurassic World, as low a bar that might be.

I didn’t hate The Force Awakens when I saw it (either time), and I don’t hate it now.  I’m annoyed by some of the choices made, and I don’t agree with everything that played out.    But there is stuff to like.  There is quality.  There is potential.  There is hope.  So I want this new series to capitalize on what made it good, not just the assumption of what people think is good.  I don’t want more mimicry, and I don’t want more rushing to try and placate me.  I just want the next movie -- and the next, and the next, and the next -- to calm down, take a deep breath, and do its act.  Don’t be Kylo Ren, movie.  Be Finn.  Be flawed, but be willing to overcome those flaws.  Be true to your heart.  Be yourself.

So.  What else is there left to say?

Like I said, this isn’t a review.  Nothing I ever do is a review, nor will it be.  There’s too much to go over, and the points I make go beyond “should you buy in or not”.  If you’re here expecting some kind of score, don’t.  All I can do is make my case -- in an absurd number of words -- and try to find my own personal peace at heart.  Feel free to agree, or feel free to disagree.  Your choice.  I won’t fault you, no matter what side of the line you fall on.  And as such, I have to go with my heart of hearts.

In the end, with the good and the bad stacked up, I genuinely believe that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is…okay.  Which is why I’d put it somewhere around HERE on my SmartChart™:

What, you expected otherwise from a heel?  Please.  I’m a villain till the end.

And that’s okay.  And I hope you’re okay with it.  Because we’re all gonna be okay.  Because we’ve still got hope.

We always will.


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