Q: When does homage become reheated leftovers?
A: When that homage is Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The movie opens with the iconic scroll and it is still a thrill to watch that text lay the foundation for what one is to expect. And then they pan down to a planet, and a Destroyer slides into frame and blots out the entire planet and I realized: this is going to be like that time Gus Van Sant made that frame-by-frame remake of Psycho – but with the JJ touch.
In this movie we have:
Someone disparaging the Millenium Falcon.
Someone living on a desert planet in whom The Force is strong.
A cantina-esque scene.
A droid with a message that is intended for only one person.
A senior gent that looks like Obi-Wan Kenobi.
A Big Bad (Adam Driver as Kylo Ren) in a creepy mask.
Han and Chewbacca shooting at a bunch of Stormtroopers.
A run on a Death Star-like ship that is led by a squadron of Resistance pilots.
And a scene we are not allowed to talk about.
All of this stuff hews so close to the original movie, or elements of the original trilogy, that it would have been totally fair to call Star Wars: The Force Awakens a remake of Star Wars: A New Hope.
The updates—such as they may be—are not as narrative defining as when Mr. Abrams made the first new Star Trek movie.
It feels like this update is concerned more with addressing concerns of diversity in cinema – the new Luke is a girl named Rey (Daisy Ridley), we finally see a Stormtrooper without his helmet and he is played by John Boyega, and there is also a female Stormtrooper Captain (Gwendoline Christie) all “shiny and chrome” but really what is that supposed to teach us – that women can follow evil orders without question? Okay.
Which is not to say that the movie is bad – just…SSDD (look it up).
Ms. Ridley and Mr. Boyega are welcome additions to the cast. They deliver committed performances and it will be interesting to see how their characters develop, especially since a rogue Stormtrooper is always in danger of relapsing into his programming.
Harrison Ford may be 73 years old in Earth years but he sure seems up for the challenge of playing Han Solo with the same rakish disregard that made the character the most beloved all those years ago.
And BB-8 that new orange and white droid is a total delight. Actually, the robotic characters in this movie do a better job of conveying character and emotion than some of the human players.
The big scene did not land for me at all. All of the beats felt wrong. You’ll know what you mean when you see it, and maybe you will disagree with me. But give it time, and you’ll come around.
On the other hand I was quite into the duel between Rey and Ren. I also like what they’ve done with the sound design for that scary red lightsaber.
Final Analysis: This is a movie for the fans. It may have been intended as a way to get a new generation interested in the franchise but there really isn’t much in there that we haven’t already seen a few times before. So the younger lot are probably going to spend a majority of the run time staring at their own screens. Does this film open up the possibility of the narrative going anywhere other than the most predictable of places? Rian Johnson is set to direct Episode VIII so maybe there is some hope. But I wouldn’t bet too much money on this franchise doing anything too crazy.
My Advice: Ah whom am I kidding, if you’re a fan, you’re going to see it.