Saturday, 16 April 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

So here it is, the new trilogy, the new Star Wars for a new generation whilst trying to appease the original generations (including the prequel generation that time forgot). The first Star Wars sequel set after the classic trilogy, made a mere 32 years later, and set 30 years after the events in RotJ. In comparison this movie comes along 10 years after the final prequel movie, RofS, was made in 2005, and is set...God knows how many years after the events in RotS, gotta be at least 50 years plus. From TPM to this movie, its obviously even more years...oy vey! Now initially I wasn't gonna review this movie because some (classic) movies are so big there is nothing more to add (hence why I have never reviewed the original trilogy or films like 'Alien', what more can I add or say? We all know they are nigh on perfect). But after a few requests and the fact I cannot contain my frustration any more, here we go.

OK so the plot is generally unclear on some aspects so far, as we all know many parts will fall into place when we get the next movie and so forth. So lets focus on some of the aspects that we do know right here right now, some things that, for me, just didn't really make sense or just seemed rushed. I say rushed because I genuinely do not feel like this movie was given time to lay out its characters and history, far too eager to get into big action set pieces, anyway. Lets start with Finn, new kid on the Star Wars block. Now this guy is an Imperial Stormtrooper, he was stolen as a child and raised to be a baddie essentially, he knows little else, but he presumably does know his fellow troopers. I mean think about it, this guy has grown-up and trained with all these blokes, he must know them well, probably has friends, and pretty much only knows the Imperial way. Yet this does not stop him completely abandoning his unit and fellow troopers, freeing a rebel captive and running off in a stolen TIE fighter! OK, he clearly gets a very stark first hand reminder of what the Empire does to innocents, but surely he must have come across things like this before? he's an Imperial Stormtrooper! OK it might be his first foray into a ground mission...but again surely he must know what the Empire gets up to, at least somewhat, its not like they try to cover that much up.

The fact that Finn even trusts a rebel captive is really quite a stretch frankly, considering his upbringing, his training, his possible brainwashing or conditioning to the Empire, I would find it nigh on impossible to think that a Stormtrooper would so easily be swayed (without the use of the force). To top that, he even merrily joins in on blasting his fellow troopers to kingdom come from within the TIE fighter! and this is literately minutes after deciding to run off as a traitor! How in the hell can one person make such a rash decision against his own so quickly! so easily!! not a single thought for any possible friends or work colleagues or trainers or anyone?! I felt this entire premise was not played out well at all, completely rushed and not looked into on a deeper level. Sure there might not have been time, but then don't use this angle if you can't do it justice. This continues throughout the film and is barely delved into, I believe Finn is called a traitor by a trooper at one point but clearly Finn hasn't ever let this issue cross his mind once.

Its almost as unbelievable as the TIE crash on Jakku, how did Finn and Poe survive this exactly? and how did Poe scramble off without a trace before Finn could find him in the scorched wreckage?? Beats the livin' shit outta me, don't question it. After crash landing on Jakku that led me to another very obvious question, why exactly is Jakku covered in crashed ships?? OK so obviously there was a major space conflict above the planet at some point, but would there really be that many wrecked ships strewn around the terrain? Yeah maybe the odd one sure but what they show just felt kinda ridiculous, overkill. 

Moving on the story follows the other new kid on the Star Wars block, Rey, the plucky youngster living on this desert planet with dreams of something bigger (psst! deja vu much?). Now whilst these two new main characters were perfectly fine, I still haven't really warmed up to either of them, probably because both are just serviceable and nothing more. Finn is a likeable guy that is well portrayed in a likeable, amusing way by John Boyega that's for sure. I certainly preferred his character over Daisy Ridley's Rey because he was more approachable, more regular. You could relate to him more as he was obviously the link into this unbelievable universe for us, the audience. Rey on the other hand I just found annoying, I'm not sure why but she just annoyed me. Her drab appearance, the way she always grits her teeth as if she were a lunatic, the fact she was so skinny, and yes the way she was good at everything bugged me, she just felt unbelievable. But what about Luke in the original films you say? Well those films were made a long time ago now, times were and are different now, films weren't inspected to such a high degree back then (no internet) as they are today, and...I've grown-up! I look at things differently now. Had the original films come out now I'd probably be saying the same shit about Luke in all honesty because the argument is similar.

The movie fires along at a rapid pace and just as quick as we arrive on Jakku, we are leaving it at blistering speeds, strapped into the Falcon once again. I might add that the Falcon was picked up by Finn and Rey in a desperate escape attempt that was more humorous than thrilling really, but not in a particularly good way as this isn't supposed to be a comedy. Like Rey knew all about the Falcon and its history...yet clearly didn't know what it looked like? really? that doesn't add up. Yep so the Falcon was owned by some fat alien guy, who apparently left the ship completely unlocked so anyone could enter it, oh and it fired up straight away despite having been sitting there for God knows how long and clearly being in a bad way. Even more incredible was the fact Rey could fly the thing so well and Finn could work the gun turrets, deus ex machina much? Yes it was good to see the old Falcon again no doubt about that, nostalgia target hit precisely, but what else have you got? 

By this point its clear to see how the plot is unfolding, you are indeed seeing a soft remake of 'A New Hope'. All the original beats were being hit step by step in almost the same ways...but with simple alternate twists. The main difference being, amazingly, it looks worse than the original, yes that's right, worse. The entire sequence where we meet up with Solo and Chewie on-board their big space freighter thing was terrible, absolutely terrible. For a start the whole thing looked like something from a videogame in-game sequence, the big CGI alien with multiple eyes looked woefully bad, and the space pirates that are after Solo were horrendous stereotypes. You had a group of Asian space pirates that looked like extras from 'Big Trouble in Little China', and the other group was led by some Scottish bloke who actually had a thick Scottish accent. Nothing wrong with a Scottish accent but my God it felt out of place here. Its also here we discover Harrison Ford really can't run anymore and it was kinda awkward to watch. This was the first cheapass looking sequence in the film, believe it or not there were more.

Things got even worse (in my opinion) as we reached the final part of the movie which was yet another Death Star attack because...soft remake. Remember before all this we did have the obligatory Star Wars cantina sequence which again looked worse than the original, somehow, and a Boba Fett clone in Captain Phasma who was utterly utterly pointless and a female because...that's the way it goes these days (since when did the Empire have female Stormtroopers?). Apparently the cantina did get completely obliterated though...I think? not sure but it seemed that way so...adios all those relatively interesting alien creatures. Oh Christ how could I forget about that stupid Stormtrooper scene where some random, faceless trooper challenges Finn with his big electric stick thing. What the literal fuck was that all about?! it was laughably bad, it honesty looked like something out of 'Spaceballs'. At this point I will also just mention that the Stormtroopers all look short and dumpy. God knows how that's happened, the design of the armour obviously but somehow they all look stumpy and tubby.

Anyway the finale, oh Jesus! what happened? Yeah OK the X-wing dogfights looked good, they couldn't fail to get that wrong! The fact it was all over a big Death Star-esque weapon again unfortunately took the punch out of the proceedings because...soft remake. What really got me, what really genuinely pissed me off was the fact that it all looked cheap! it actually all looked worse than the original films made back the fecking 80's! How is this possible?? please someone tell me how. The interior cockpit shots of the X-wing pilots, as they flew around in battle, were quite simply nowhere near as good or as realistic as in the original films. The dashboard and surroundings interior parts all looked plastic, their helmets looked cheap, tacky and they wobbled, and what's worse, the pilot actors were poor! They are clearly throwing themselves around in the cockpit when nothing else is moving! did they forget to shake and move the actual sets? Now I know the original X-wing pilots in the original films were kinda slapdash and jokey to a degree, but these new guys just gave off a fanboy, fanmade film vibe, or they were best mates with someone and that's how they got the gig. CGI exterior shots of all the ships looked good, very slick and fast, but pretty much everything else interior wise was poor, including the alien fighter pilot. 

This leads me to two famous cameos from the original movies, Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb, again...what happened here?? Take a look at RotJ and the prosthetic masks for these two characters, now look at this movie, notice the difference? that's this movie they actually look worse, worse!!! Plus Nunb is wearing the exact same outfit? really? Then you have the rebel base on D'Qar that apparently consisted of like...two X-wings and a couple hangars? I swear I still can't believe how pathetic it looked, literately a small group of rebels, a few fighters, a few droids and the Falcon. The rebel bases in the original films had so much depth, lots of ships docked up, loads of people and activity, sure they used all the tricks in the book to create this sense of depth but it fudging worked didn't it! The final aerial shot as the Falcon leaves shows the base to be an obvious small set that looked more like a Hobbit patch than a rebel base. Just as bad as the final aerial shot in the film with Luke and Rey, what the flip was that supposed to be?! Every Star Wars movie ends with a grand finale shot, accept for this with its weird helicopter aerial shot. Come on! are you telling me you can't do better than this in 2016? (rhetorical question).

I would say that the only thing in this movie that actually engaged me other than the odd bit of CGI loveliness (which was to be expected), was Kylo Ren. Now here was a villain who was actually interesting to watch because he was vulnerable and a loose cannon. He wasn't just some invincible badass who could slaughter people in the blink of an eye, well he could but he was also fragile, he could be affected, he could be toyed with and brought to the brink. Indeed we do actually see this, we see him loose control, get beaten, have tantrums, sulk, pout and generally act like a spoilt child when he doesn't get his way. Although the big twist or reveal is obvious from the start, and because of Harrison Ford stating over the years how much he wanted his famous character killed off, we all knew exactly what was gonna happen to Solo and I'm sure most knew about his relationship to Ren. Honesty I still think they should not have killed off Solo because of that one reason, the fact it was common knowledge within the fanbase (and beyond) that Ford always wanted Solo dead, it was no shock and far too obvious. They should of kept him around until the second movie and killed off someone else for a bigger surprise. I also think revealing Ren's true visage in this movie was a mistake because it completely took away his threat. I like how vulnerable he was, how vulnerable he became, but it also ruined him, his character, because he is now weak, almost a joke and seen as a brat. Maybe they should of at least kept his mask on and revealed his face later on? (His mask looked way too plastic and cheap too I think).

So yes I think its pretty clear to anyone that has read through my review here, that I was disappointed, immensely disappointed. At no point in this film did I feel engaged, surprised, shocked or emotional, everything was predictable from the start (or at least you had a bloody good idea). Like the prequels there are literately so many little things I could pick on that I didn't like, so many things I could go on and on about, but my review would be gigantic. Like I said I wasn't going to do this because, again like with the prequels, everyone has said what needed to be said so there was nothing more for me to add. But since this is still new and my opinion is clearly in the minority, I have done this, mainly to also get it off my chest. 

This film lacked any sort of punch, I felt nothing, they rushed through Solo's death and it had no impact. I never really cared about any of the new characters, Luke's cameo felt pointless and again emotionless, and the new droid BB-8 was merely a useless gimmick. But the real failure for me was at no point during the finale did I get a rousing sensation of emotion or excitement. In ANH and RotJ the finales make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, as the film builds and reaches it emotional and musical crescendo you can feel the adrenaline surging through your body. You wanna cry, you wanna punch the air with your fist in a roar of approval as the rebels are victorious, these final sequences give you goosebumps, they are sensational endings that exhaust you emotionally. I didn't get that with this new movie, not even close, not a smidgen, and the sad fact is they were clearly trying to reach for just that emotional impact, but they failed royally. What has really hurt me the most is the fact this didn't feel like a Star Wars film to me, it looked poor in places, almost like a TV movie at times with shitty CGI. I grew up with the originals, I saw RotJ in the cinema, and yes I still think Lucas should have been involved. After all Lucas is the creator, the grandfather of the franchise and one day the option will no longer be with us.