Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Infatuation with The Force Awakens is fadeing slightly

I still feel it's an overall successful movie, since sharing my last TFA post elsewhere I've heard from many people testifying they know people who's become fans of Star Wars because of TFA and so for that reason alone I consider it a success.

Everything I've expressed loving about the film on this Blog and on my Tumblr and elsewhere online I absolutely still love about the film.  And I'm confident the Sequels will be better because they have better directors.

But as I've thought about the film more, the things that kinda always bugged me are getting harder to just write off.  And these aren't nitpicks like the PT criticisms, I don't care that the movie's Pseudo Science doesn't make sense, or that how they bumped into Han was really convenient, or that the monsters Han was smuggling seem like something from an old B-Movie and/or a Hentai.  All that stuff is what I want Star Wars to be.

I've been defending it against the accusation that it copied ANH too much because Star Wars has always been about echoing what came before, both within it's own saga and it's genre ancestors.  But The Phantom Menace also followed a lot of the same beats as ANH and ROTJ while still being unmistakably distinct, the PT haters whine about those movies being too different.  Now the complaints are the opposite.  And even though my own writing is derivative in nature, I'd still rather be criticized how the Prequels were then be criticized how TFA has been.

But I would ultimately say to those critics "you wanna see what a shameless unimaginatively boring nostalgia fueled rehash really looks like, so watch Superman Returns".

But that's just me playing devil's advocate with the films other critics, not what really bugs me.   What bugs me is how in-spite how much this tried to copy the prior films (and it copied the PT more then people realize) it also broke from certain consistent patterns even the PT kept, that to me are forgivable in the long run I guess but still rather jarring.

Thing is, it only took 2-3 weeks of rethinking the film for this to happen.  With Jurassic World It's been over half a year and I still don't feel bothered by anything.  Of course with both these films I haven't gotten to a second viewing yet.

1. The Dog Fight.

TFA I feel has indisputably the most underwhelming battle of all the films.  Ya know that part of each film that is why the saga has "wars" in the title.  I'm someone who has always controversially held that the PT battle scenes top the OT's, but the OT battles are definitely good entertaining scenes.

I know people hate how TPM has soooo much stuff going on at once.  But in this genre I'd rather be overwhelmed then underwhelmed.  And I never had a problem with TPM's ending because each of the 4 different battles has protagonists we'd been following AND never failed to keep the focus largely on said protagonists.

But with this Dog fight, I failed to feel really emotionally connected.  And I think why is largely derivative of issue two.

2. How Poe is handled.

I like the Poe character and I like his actor, I laughed at all his funny lines in the early film.  But the fact that he was killed off in the original draft really shows.  It's good they brought him back because without him we'd have no character we're invested in in the Dog Fight at all.

After the decision not to kill him off was made they began selling him to us as one of the this trilogy's new Big Three, even though he was featured in the marketing far less then Rey and Finn.  The problem with that is how much of the film he was absent from.

The previous films have always had one of big three isolated from the rest of the protagonists for a good chunk of the film, sometimes even in a way that effectively sidelines them like Leia in Episode IV and Obi-Wan in Episode I during the Tatooine portion.  But they were not gone entirely, the films still cut to them occasionally so the audience never just wrote them off.

And while Poe is our emotional investment in the Dog fight, the film didn't adequately take advantage of that.  In the battles of Yavin, Naboo and Corusant, the interaction between Skywalker and R2 is a vital part of how the audience follows the battle.  This film didn't feature nearly enough equivalent interaction between Poe and BB-8.

So really I don't feel like Poe was one of the big three of this film, I feel like the number 3 lead of this film was Han.  Hopefully Poe will be handled better in future films.

3. I have mixed feelings about the Senate scene being cut.

Among the known deleted scenes is a Senate scene.  I don't doubt it's being cut has a lot to do with the fear of how Prequel haters will react "didn't they learn from Episode I, whaaaagghhh".

I've always found the Senate scene bashing hilarious because I feel "how can you find that boring but not the Death Star Staff meeting in ANH?"  The Prequel Senate Scenes at least feature some of the protagonists we'd been following, in TPM it revolves around the Queen making a difficult decision, one we see she did not take lightly.

The scene in ANH has one of Star Wars most iconic quotes "I find your lack of Faith... Disturbing".  Well the Episode I Senate scene has one of my personal favorite quotes "Enter the bureaucrat, the true rulers of the Republic".

People also claim Terrance Stamp was wasted in the role of the Chancellor.  But I'm someone who loves the little things an actor can do.  And last time I watched the film I noticed Valorom's reaction after Amidala calls for the vote of no confidence, he sits down and kind of looks relieved, like he's actually happy to have the burden of this responsibility removed.  So no I don't feel Stamp's talents were wasted.

But back to TFA.  That MarySue article talks abut how it could have helped clarify the politics of the film.  Which has me laugh, now that a SW film's Senate scene has been cut people realize how important they are.  TMS is usually on the Prequel bashing band wagon.

But at the same time, this Senate scene would have been less connected to the story then any others.  Because while ANH's equivalent didn't have a Protagonist it did have our Antagonists.  This scene would have introduced characters only to kill them all off later.

This kind of leads me to issue four.

4. No one in the Leia/Padme role.

We spend a lot of time debating who among our new protagonist are the Luke and Han roles.  But it's blindingly obvious there is no Leia.

This films puts a woman on the traditional Hero's Journey and that's great, I love Rey.  But while giving women roles traditionally played by men is considered empowering, actually having a Man play the traditionally feminine role would be considered demeaning.

Finn is who we get instead of a Leia.  Being ship teased with both of the other two.  But as far as his status in the Galaxy goes he's the opposite.  His is a story the SW films have never told before and that is great, I enjoyed his story.

But the importance of having a Politically important young idealist, to help connect the politics of the story to our main cast, was always vital to my enjoyment of either previous Trilogy.  Now I personally like Padme way more then Leia, but the importance of Leia I would never undermine.

So whether that role was played by a Man or a Woman (why not have Rey's love interest be a another Woman?).  Or someone Non Binary or Gender Fluid or Transgender.  Or a member of alien species that reproduces Asexually.  That role I feel was needed.  So I still kind of hope one of the new characters in the next movie can fill that role.

5. The Score kind of disappointed.

Form listening to BrosWatchPLLtoo I know I'm not the only one kind of disappointed by the score.  It's by no means bad.  But by John Williams standards it was kind of underwhelming.  Maybe Abrams is difficult for a composer to work with given how the music in his Trek films was totally generic.  So I'm excited for the prospect of Williams working with the director of Jurassic World, which had a perfect balance between bringing back the Nostalgic Music and doing new things, it's score was vital to why I loved that movie.

It's ironic because the part of me that was worried going in reassured myself that at least it'll have Williams on the Score.

6. The Ending

Yes I know it's praised a lot, it's all eerie and mysterious.  But I really wanted the film to follow the pattern of ANH and TPM by ending with a very ceremonial celebration (as opposed to the more spontaneous celebration of ROTJ).  Instead this rather bizarre ending doesn't sit right with me.

I guess they feared they couldn't NOT show Luke after they made looking for Luke the entire plot.  Well the search for Luke should have been like the Taxation dispute in TPM, a framing device but not the real story, and an issue not actually resolved when the film ended.  If Luke is in the Yoda role now then that also fits waiting till the second film to see him.

So all in all it's still a great Space Opera.  But that it's not George Lucas at the reigns any more really shows.

Update:  I've read this article from CofeeWithKenobi, and the more I think about it, the more the issues brought up there do bother me, sans the mind trick complaint.

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