WARNING! STAR WARS: EPISODE VII SPOILERS IN THIS POST! SCROLL FASTER, REFRESH YOUR PAGE OR STAB YOURSELF IN THE EYES WITH WHATEVER YOU CAN GRAB IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ THIS!
Let me just start this post by stating the obvious: yes, I’ve been a huge ‘Star Wars Expanded Universe’ fan from the time I was old enough to read, and yes, it’s entirely possible that I am therefore unable to have a fair and unbiased opinion of the new movie.
But you know what? I don’t think there’s a human being alive on this planet capable of pronouncing him- or herself fit to impartially judge a Star Wars movie. It’s pretty much the most loaded and polarizing topic in all of pop culture, and from what I gather, it has been since 1977.
So I’m just going to go right out and say this, as I feel I have as much right to as anyone else: the movie is fucking garbage. It’s awful, worse than the first two prequels even.
The prequels, clunky and uneven though they were, still managed to maintain a sense of what makes Star Wars Star Wars: a kind of otherworldly whimsy and dreamlike mood coupled with copious amounts of intriguing eye candy. George Lucas, ever one to follow his merch-selling instincts, was always sure to saturate his films with cool-looking starships, aliens and planets, which had the (possibly inadvertent) effect of making the Star Wars universe seem like a rich and textured place.
In comparison, ‘The Force Awakens’ resembles nothing so much as a slipshod two-hour pilot special for a mediocre TV series that borrows heavily from Star Wars, which—let’s face it—is what J.J. Abrams would probably have been making if we weren’t living in a pop culture so thoroughly dominated by the almighty power of the franchise.
Take the costumes, for instance. They all look either painfully commonplace, with villains who look like they just stepped out of a Harry Potter-themed GAP commercial, or weirdly plastic and rubbery, like Abrams, in the seemingly religious levels of practical effect fervour that he reached during production, forgot to make sure that all that in-camera stuff he was so proud to spend Disney’s money on actually, you know, looked good on camera. You can’t just dummy up some costumes and shoot on a soundstage without using green-screen and pat yourself on the back, saying “yup, our work here is done, go practical effects!” Just because you don’t go overboard on modern technology, doesn’t mean you have to reduce yourself to some sort of atavistic B-movie methodology. People who hate CGI don’t want films to look like cheap pieces of shit; in fact, they want the exact opposite.
Look at the rebel pilot costumes in the original trilogy, or hell, even the Jedi robes in the prequel trilogy, and then compare them to the bush-league rubber hose bullshit strapped to Oscar Isaac or the Urban Outfitters reject he gives to John Boyega. It really looks like something you’d be forced to ignore and forgive on a TV show with a week-to-week budget, but come on. This is the most anticipated big-budget special effects orgy since the last time they kicked off a Star Wars trilogy; put some motherfucking effort into it. Compare the ridiculous balls of squid tentacles that chase the heroes through Han and Chewie’s ship to the grandeur of the Space Slug or the silent horror of the Sarlacc or even the sheer circus-like spectacle of Episode II’s arena beasts and that crazy lizard-thing Obi-Wan rides in ‘Revenge Of The Sith’, and tell me the half-assed blurry horseshit in Episode VII comes even halfway to their level.
You might say it’s unfair to compare the art direction in a 2015 movie to a 1980 movie, or even a 2005 movie, seeing as how the way films look and feel changes so much and so fast with emerging trends and technology, that minimal and digital have somehow reduced the available scope and palette of today’s films. But that’s really no excuse. For all their faults as movies, ‘Interstellar’, ‘The Martian’, The Hobbit trilogy, ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Jupiter Ascending’ showed us that it’s perfectly possible for 2010s sci-fi and fantasy to look both modern and hip, as well as carefully thought-out and textured. Abrams seemingly will not put more than three separate colours onto a frame of film for any reason ever, and it’s starting to look less like a stylistic choice and more of a hack’s crutch.
His set pieces feel equally hackneyed, little more than a series of fan service call-backs, like all we really wanted was the Original Trilogy remade and repackaged. There’s barely an original idea in the whole movie, from the lost beeping droid with the valuable cargo on the desert planet to the silly little wise alien talking about the Force to the massive planet-destroying station with the crucial weakness. Even the prequels had novel concepts, distinct from the original movies: The Jedi Council, the podraces, the clone army, the Galactic Senate and two or three dark Jedi that didn’t have fucking masks on.
What original material there is feels strangely depthless, like the characters zip on and off planets and into and out of space stations as if propelled by whims, with no time to fully explain or justify anyone’s motivation except in the simplest terms possible. Nothing seems of any import, and everything is seemingly a piece of cake. In particular, the Resistance triumph against a planet-sized station seems pathetically easy, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that some fairly crucial things ended up on the cutting room floor, as if in a haze of last-minute edits, the essential playful asides and world-building showcases were dropped in favour of the bare essentials. Even so, the movie clocks in at a full 135 minutes, so maybe the problem is just that ‘The Force Awakens’ is a piece of shit.
Again, you could easily blame these shortcomings on today’s film industry, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Gone is the time of the grandiose epic, replaced by self-aware wisecracking and winking in-jokes, all meant to tell the audience “yeah, we know it’s ridiculous, but bear with us, we’re gonna show you something really cool now.” This always seems ironic to me, since movies that take themselves seriously have just as much box-office draw and far more lasting appeal than the smarmy hipster-pandering bullshit currently in vogue with Hollywood studios. It could just be me; I seem to have a hard time getting into movies and shows that aren’t made with full, straight-faced earnestness, and even those often fail to convince me that they’re anything but attempts to fake said integrity, usually to make money off my seemingly anachronistic tendency of wanting movies to be good as well as look good.
Which is because they most often are exactly that, and Episode VII is no exception. From the moment it was rushed into production along with four other films pretty much the moment George Lucas’s pen had left the paper, Disney has made little attempt to disguise its greed-fuelled cash grab of a takeover. They just couldn’t wait one more day to start milking for every fucking penny on the planet, and the rushed production time has resulted in a wafer-thin shit sandwich of a film. Even Episodes I & II, i.e. objectively the worst Star Wars movies made before this one, were three to four years in the making, while the stinking heap of refuse I watched last night went through pretty much every production stage in the space of around 18 months. If that seems rushed to you, that’s because it is.
Certainly more time could have been spent on the casting. Being in a Star Wars movie has never been easy (just ask Jake Lloyd), but there seriously wasn’t one actor in this whole film that gave the impression they were earning their salary. The sole exception would have to be John Boyega, whose distinctly modern quip delivery (“Droid, please!”) would have been grating under normal circumstances, but surrounded as he was by flat-voiced twenty-somethings right out of Harry Potter, was ultimately a welcome relief. Attempts are made to boost Rey and Kylo Ren’s “confrontations” by injecting sound effects and music into them, but all the movie magic in the world couldn’t tease a recognizable emotion out of Daisy Ridley, and it’s hard to decide which is more laughable, the forced tension between her and Adam Driver, or the idea that he and fellow paltry schoolboy Domhnall Gleeson are commanders of an interstellar military force. Party elders Fisher, Ford and Daniels are frankly embarrassing in their stiffness and self-caricature, and should really have just stayed at home. I’m serious: there is no overt purpose to them being there, and I honestly feel that everyone would have been better off with only all-new cast members. I’d say I was interested in seeing if Mark Hamill will do a better job of seeming relevant to the next movie (assuming he, you know, says anything in it), but that’s assuming I ever want to watch a new Star Wars movie again, which is an assumption I simply can’t make at this point.
It’s also interesting to see how many Expanded Universe ideas and concepts pop up in Episode VII, from the turncoat Stormtrooper who fights with a lightsaber to the solar system-destroying habitable mega-structure to the scavenger society on the junkyard planet, and of course the really big one: that Han and Leia’s son goes to train under Luke, only to turn evil and send Luke into a guilt-ridden self-imposed exile. While I’m certainly willing to chalk all that up to the law of averages rather than theft of intellectual property, ‘The Expanded Universe’ being so big that there’s basically nothing they haven’t tried, I do think it’s tragic that to most people, all that stuff just lay there, ignored and unexplored, and then this ham-fisted travesty of a film shows up and everyone reacts like they’ve just cracked cold fusion. ‘The Expanded Universe’ did all of this decades ago, and since you clearly love Star Wars so much that you had to go see this film, I’m going to assume that the only reason you like this film basically amounts to the fact that you can’t read a fucking book.
It’s equally vexing to me that something as rich and detailed and complex and intelligent as the Star Wars ‘Expanded Universe’ was gutted in order to make a film that’s this fucking awful. I can forgive the 2009 Star Trek movie because although it sort of flies in the face of everything Star Trek, it’s still a tight and enjoyable watch in its own vapid way. This, on the other hand, is like killing the last woolly mammoth to make a wastebasket out of one of its feet. ‘The Expanded Universe’ wasn’t perfect, but it was a living, breathing entity, created and maintained by people who grew up loving Star Wars and wrote their books not because of the money (most of which went to Lucas), but because they loved Star Wars. And now, all that is gone because Disney wanted to make a toy commercial. And it’s not even really a good toy commercial, because where are all the new toys? X-Wings and TIE Fighters? Stormtroopers? We’ve been playing with those for decades. Even the prequels had new ships and robots. Fucking get it together, Disney.
But all of that doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t. Episode VII is inexcusably awful as both a Star Wars movie and a sci-fi/adventure film. It’s flat, brainless, uninspired and unimaginative. I’ve seen video game cut-scenes that are better written and better looking than this shit-ridden assbelch of a movie, and the fact that it’s considered good by anyone anywhere has me questioning both my sanity and the intelligence of the human race as a whole, not to mention the deep, foreboding sense of doom I have about the fate of the movie industry, seeing as how ‘The Force Awakens’ probably broke a new box office record in the time it took me to write this.
Chances are that you wouldn’t be reading this if you hadn’t already paid money to see this film, so the least I can do is implore you to think long and hard about what you really thought about that movie, and realize that it’s garbage and that the only reason you like it is because it has the words Star Wars in the title. Even the prequels got good reviews when they came out. Shit, Leonard Maltin gave ‘The Phantom Menace’ five stars, and Empire magazine announced that ‘Attack Of The Clones’ was the best Star Wars movie ever.
But when the smoke fades and the excitement dies down, you’ll see the truth, just as I have: The Force Awakens is a terrible, terrible film any which way you look at it. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
Sindri Eldon posted this on his Facebook around the time ‘The Force Awakens’ reached the height of hype. We thought it was too good to remain exclusive to his FB friends, so we asked him if we could publish it on our website. It took us a while, but here it is in all its glory.