The last, and only, good Star Wars film came out in 1977. Before George Lucas got cute, that film was simply called “Star Wars.”
It generated deserved excitement at the theater. It was audacious, it was original, and yet it had the familiar feel of an MGM swashbuckler like Captain Blood. It didn’t have a young and irrepressible Errol Flynn, but it had an erudite Alec Guinness and memorable characters. Like Blood, Star Wars started with the whip crack of a propulsive theme and title sequence which set off the adventure on an ebullient note that it rarely lost.
Many Christians discussed the theological, Zoroastrian errors of the Force, but I think that’s taking it too seriously. Most people just saw in the original film a vivid and noble adventure yarn. Heroism, good and evil, and dying for friends.
So what about the just-released and highly touted Star Wars: the Force Awakens? Well, Joe Sobran attended Bill Clinton’s 1993 inaugural speech and noted how the incoming president strained for grand effects he didn’t know how to achieve. So does Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The first half is derivative of the plot points and feel of the 1977 film, but without that flick’s boldness, creativity, and emotional power. It’s like they didn’t have the imagination to come up with anything so they settled on weakly reflecting the first film, as a piece of wax paper reflects the sun.
Everyone remembers the forlorn “Force Theme” during the Binary Sunset and Kenobi death scenes in the 1977 original. These were great little scenes that packed a wallop. Force Awakens tries – oh how it tries – to bring in that classic theme at various points to lend gravitas. It’s been a few hours since the movie ended and I honestly can’t remember what those scenes were.
The film goes downhill as it moves along. The semi-enjoyable nostalgia exercise of the first part of the film gives way to overlong action sequences in the second half. The action scenes in the original Star Wars were all watchable. They didn’t go on endlessly and the plot moved along. Force Awakens was more like the overrated series of Marvel action movies with their interminable CGI sequences. How many more movies do we need where a protagonist runs along and the ground blows up or collapses behind them? You’d think movie producers would realize that watching non-stop “harrowing” sequences becomes like watching a film loop or an assembly line. No matter how interesting it is, the repetition eventually renders it dull. (During the movie I was distracted by a 7 year old who kept standing up next to us– what is with adults talking and unattended kids at the theaters now? Given that I was checking my watch a lot that final hour, it would’ve been more enjoyable if that kid and I had gone out to the lobby to shoot the breeze.)
Force Awakens also features that most tiresome and ever-present cliche in modern films: the warrior chick. You can close your eyes and visualize feminist groups sitting at a large conference table with Disney executives and stressing the proper attitudes. It can’t be long until the franchise introduces its first homosexual. One wonders if in a decade the hero will be a cross-dresser.
All this would be even more annoying if the female protagonist was fleshed out. She was actually quite dull and underwritten, perhaps because she was so “empowered.”
As it turns out, the film’s most memorable character was a little red droid. Yes, a glorified machine stole the show. Or at least it would’ve if there was a show worth stealing.