Sunday, December 20, 2015

Star Wars Episode 7 - Review and Spoilers

Before I dive into this, I'm compelled to give readers a second warning. Spoilers inbound. I've been making an honest attempt to decipher a way to write this review without dropping spoilers, but for the elements I want to critique this is impossible.

I got to the theater early, I wanted to make sure I got good seats. While my wife and I were waiting, we heard the movie end. Folks came out, and they were hard to read - almost expressionless. I wasn't sure if this was a hint of a really good movie, or a really bad movie. To be honest, I braced myself for the worst. After sitting through twenty-five minutes of awful previews for movies you couldn't pay me to see, the iconic text roll of Star Wars dropped. It was instant nostalgia.

 Final warning. I can't guarantee protecting readers from spoilers after this paragraph, though I'll do what I can to omit the most precious of details. However, I can't critique a movie without talking about what goes on in it. I'll be reviewing the contents of the film from a libertarian perspective, while critiquing decisions made by Lucasfilm, Disney, and J.J Abrams from the position of being a Star Wars fan, someone familiar with the works of the involved parties, and a sensible human being.

I'll spare the major details that illustrate this point, but if you've seen "Star Wars: A New Hope", you've seen this movie. It's so blatant it borders insulting, and potentially spoils the rest of the trilogy. Considering that J.J Abrams has an implied disdain for George Lucas, he really didn't mind taking Lucas' concepts and changing the proper nouns, whilst daring to call this his work.

The First Order has essentially picked up where the Galactic Empire left off, but they have more to prove. Their methods make the Galactic Empire look innocent by comparison. Justifiably so, as an authoritarian regime behaves much more desperately and barbaric when they feel compelled to show strength. We learn that the soldiers of the First Order are not lured into a recruiting office, they are selected and plucked from their families during their infancy. The First Order also thinks little of torching an entire village even to just inch closer to their goals. The Nazi overtones are blatant throughout the film, which wasn't a problem for the original trilogy - George Lucas at least allowed the Galactic Empire to stand on it's own merits, and not Hitler's. However, there have been enough police states in the real world since the fall of Nazi Germany that drawing influence from somewhere more modern would have been welcome. One doesn't need to think too hard to understand why this wasn't an option for a Western-based studio.

The movie is just another war movie, when all is said and done. Despite the "good guys" being called the Resistance, they don't have the charm and allure of the struggling Rebel Alliance in the original trilogy. They aren't so much a resistance as they are an opposition state, being wholly backed and funded by the New Republic. Like the Prequel trilogy, it feels like I'm watching the blue team fight the red team.

Okay, I'll say this one more time. Spoiler, though an obvious one.

Rey, portrayed by Daisey Ridley, is the next Jedi. It's obvious that the character is meant to be the new hero from the earliest stages of the film. I have a gripe with this, one that Political Correctness would attribute to sexism regardless of my justification. I really don't care that she's female. The actress did a wonderful job at portraying the character, but the writers behind the character did an awful job at developing her.

There's a concept in writing that is known as "Mary Sue", in which a character is portrayed as extraordinary without any shortcomings. It's speculated that the writer may be inserting an idealized version of himself/herself in the story. It isn't unfair to assume that we're dealing with this in The Force Awakens.

Rey excels at everything she does in the film, she has no detriments. Rey's a million things. She's street smart, she's a brilliant mechanic, a wonderful pilot, accurate with a blaster, she's fearless, she can evade an onslaught of First Order soldiers and Tie Fighters, and-- gasp! Blinks her eyes and becomes a master of wielding the force. Never mind that it took Anakin Skywalker, who as confessed by both Jedi and Sith alike as the most force sensitive Jedi that ever was or would be, fifteen or so years to master the force - or Luke's entire trilogy to master the force, both of whom had teachers, guides, and moral tests. Not Rey, she just blinks and is able to Jedi-Mind-Trick a Storm Trooper otherwise known as Daniel Craig into doing her bidding. But, as viewers, we're just supposed to accept this as okay and smile. I'm sure there are a few who did.

One can pass this off as ridiculous and childish character development, but we're dealing with a director who knows better - one who had a great deal of input on the script at that. If J.J Abrams is nothing else, he's a brilliant character developer. If you have Netflix, go watch Lost, arguably the work that gave him the credentials he has today. Even if you just watch the first few episodes, it's abundantly clear that we're dealing with a director that places high value on character development.

Because of this, it's very fair to point to propaganda being the driving force behind the character of Rey. Rey is a commercial for feminists and the Pentagon, in light of very recent developments to changes in the rank and file of their own Storm Troopers. The coinciding times of Pentagon announcements and the Star Wars release is blatant.

It's obvious I have a lot of criticisms, but I still enjoyed the movie. I got to confess, I likely wouldn't give the movie a second thought if it weren't Star Wars. While I can't say it's a libertarian movie, it has themes and tropes that libertarians will appreciate. The theme of "Sins of the Father" is strong in this film, in which the new generation must repent for the sins of the last. All of the actors did well, which was a welcome change from the last round of Star Wars films. I'll likely need a second viewing to be a better judge.

I'm glad I'm not the only person pointing out the flaw of Rey's character development, as a casual google search reveals. I'm hoping Darth Mickey takes the criticism to heart and corrects it in the next releases of the trilogy, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Once the movie ended, I understood the reactions from the viewers that came before me. I'd like to think we're all on the same page.

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