Friday, September 4, 2015

Force Awakens skepticism

No Spoilers, just a premonition of a disturbance in the Force.

Count me as someone who has been skeptical of Abrams's Star Wars movie since he was announced as the director. This is because I don't think Abrams is very good at delivering movies with an emotional punch, with a heartbeat. His films are technical, visually brilliant, exciting to watch but all artifice, hollow. They lack pathos, character depth, any sense that the events depicted are tapped into a deeper human or spiritual existence. While fans are excited about the way The Force Awakens looks, I'm worried that we're all going to wake up the morning after and think, "Yeah, but what was that even about!?"

I hate to rain on the parade of good will that is being drummed up for this movie right now, but here is one little piece of evidence that supports my fears:      

Here is what Anthony Daniels (C3PO) said: "The screenplay was very good as far as C-3PO was concerned, but I had no idea what was going on in the rest of it. Still don’t. When JJ told me the story of the new one, my eyes sort of glazed over.”
The reaction of someone upon hearing the plot of the next JJ Abrams movie is that their eyes glazed over. Sound familiar, Star Trek fans? I have argued many times that the mortal flaw of the last three or four Star Trek movies, in fact most studio tentpole films, is an overly complicated plot that is almost always twisted into knots to justify/explain the villain's existence and actions (see Guardians of the Galaxy). Sounds like the new Star Wars film is following this modern trend.
If you are Daniels, you remember a simpler time. When the villains in epic movies were evil without the need for much explanation, and the heroes had to complete a task that was difficult but also simple to understand.
Maybe The Force Awakens can have a ridiculous, complicated plot and still pack an emotional punch. I hope so. But Abrams's track record is not good on that count. A Star Wars movie, even more than other blockbuster epics, has to tap into that deeper universe of meaning I mentioned above. The fact that the original three heroes--Han, Luke, Leia--are reprising their roles for the first time in 30 years makes this even more of an imperative. It would be heartbreaking for fans to watch these characters play holograms of their former selves. Some disagree, but I felt like Nimoy's Spock was wasted by the first Abrams Trek movie. It didn't bother me that much because I've got six other movies with him, plus a very fitting send off in the Next Generation two-parter. But Han, Luke and Leia as played by the original actors only have three films. It will be hard to watch them spend the next three films, half of their narrative life, spouting soulless exposition that does nothing but set up the next action sequence.   

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