WARNING: Major Force Awakens Spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, bookmark this for later.
I saw the first Star Wars shortly before I turned 3. I grew up playing with Star Wars action figures and toys. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker when I was a kid. It’s pretty safe to say, I’m a Star Wars fan. I’m one of those people that isn’t happy with the prequels. So, I was both excited and nervous for the Force Awakens to arrive in theaters. I finally saw the film yesterday and I’m not going to lie, I left the theater feeling very disappointed and sad (and just a little mad).
Granted, there are some things to love about the latest Star Wars, but I was hoping for better and expecting worse. There were some truly magical moments in the film and I found myself laughing out loud many times. I enjoyed the adventure and the tenor of the film. But, this isn’t about what I loved, it’s about what is really bothering me about the film.
First, the beginning was weak. The old man in the desert that’s ruthlessly killed by Kylo Ren, the rampage of the new storm troopers, this new pilot with BB-8; all this front matter that was necessary to set up the story felt cliche, flimsy and flat. Granted, all of the Star Wars films start this way, and we recover to enjoy them, so this wasn’t terrible. I just started the movie feeling guarded against the Star Wars curse. I was hyper-aware of the rough beginning. But, I must say, once Poe and Finn start flying around in an TIE Fighter and then when Finn meets Rey, there is some magic happening. I started to feel really good about the film.
Enter Han and Chewie and now I’m feeling fabulous. Sure, there was some cheese, but it was the classic Star Wars cheese and it tasted wonderful. I laughed and enjoyed seeing Han and Chewie back, all the while completely confused about the “First Order.” Where did this organization come from? Why do they have this cartoonish bad guy and Gollum for a supreme leader? Where do they get their money. How are they in power? Oh well, I have Han and Chewie to enjoy.
It’s no secret to those that know me, Han Solo is my favorite Star Wars character. In my opinion, the original trilogy was great because of Han Solo and his best friend Chewie. So, Han’s classic lines and wit were saving this movie, too. I’m okay with that.
The fact that the bad guys were cliche and built an even bigger Death Star (Starkiller) was somewhat excusable and laughable. But, Han carried the movie. Yes, this threat is really stupid, and well-worn territory. Can’t we have a different threat beside a giant, planet-destroying, technological terror? Hasn’t this been done before? And the Nazi-ness of the First Order was overplayed. I mean, the storm troopers are enough of an allusion, we don’t need a Hitler speech.
The First Order destroyed multiple inhabited worlds in a single system (or were they magically seeing, from the ground, the destruction of planets in other systems)? Everybody gasps and then it’s business as usual. Did I see that wrong? Did they destroy Corsuscant? This is a big deal! But, Leia and the others just go on without so much as a shudder. What? We’re moving too fast here. This is weighty stuff that we’re just glossing over. But, then we have a touching scene with Han and Leia that seemed appropriately awkward. Okay, billions are dead, but Han and Leia are working out their stuff, I can deal.
What? A planet that can suck in a star? Okay, this is fantasy, this isn’t science fiction. I tried to make it through the cliche, cartoon-ish plotline. And I could, because of Han. But, really? We’re going down, behind enemy lines to disable the shields so that a squadron of X-Wings can take out a space station that can be confused for a planet(oid). I think I’ve seen this movie. But, Rey and Finn and Han and Chewie have some great action and truly enjoyable lines.
So, disabling the shields turns out to be easy, just ask the shiny-head storm trooper to use any secure terminal to turn off the shields. REALLY?
Let’s just plant detonators anywhere and hope they do the job. REALLY?
Oh, we don’t have to look for Rey, she’s just magically RIGHT THERE! This station is the size of a planet and they just happen to be a few feet from each other? These bad guys keep their prisoners in the same place as their giant, critical, mechanical, science-y “oscillator?” There isn’t, you know, a detention area on the other side of the planet, or least a few hundred miles away? But, Han says, “Oh, you’re cold?” to Chewie and I laugh my way through the nonsense and continue to suspend my disbelief.
Then, the cartoonish, whiny Kylo Ren is walking across the bridge and Han yells out “Ben!” (I’m assuming he named his son after Kenobi’s nick-name, otherwise the writers have some serious name fixations.) Han goes walking out on a bridge after the most feared bad dude in the galaxy. Yes, it’s his son, but a little caution is prudent here. I knew at that moment, there were was only one way off the bridge and I wasn’t going to like it. Sure, some other kind of cheesy moment could have happened. Some miracle could have been pulled off. Luke Skywalker could have magically appeared. But, truly, the only way a writer can get Han off that bridge is: dead.
And they did it. They killed Han Solo. The one character that made the movies enjoyable. The one character that wasn’t plastic and cartoon. The one character that made Star Wars what it was is now dead.
But, no time to mourn, let’s jump right into the action. And this is the big mistake. This movie didn’t give me time to mourn the loss of Han. The manner of his death was trivial and flimsy. This is Han Solo! He is legend-incarnate. He is a general. He is a hero of the galaxy. He is the reason that there even is a New Republic. Rey idolizes him. Finn respects him and he is Chewie’s life-long best friend. Hell, he’s my hero. The pacing of the movie should have changed at this moment to give the characters and the audience time to remember Han; to memorialize him; to mourn him. But, no, we jumped into action. Action I barely paid attention to because I was holding back tears.
They make no attempt to go get his body? They make no attempt to rescue him? REALLY? Chewie was with Leia when they threatened Lando to go back for Luke. This is the band of people that went back to Tattooine to get Han out of cold storage. This is the band of people that pulled Darth Vader’s dead body out before the Death Star exploded so that they could give him a proper funeral. This is the band of people that carried around a destroyed 3PO in the hopes of putting him back together. But, this time, Chewie just takes off in the Falcon alone. What the FUCK! No. No. No. No. No. This is out of character. This is not right. This is not Star Wars.
This is something else. This is sadness and disappointment.
Sure, maybe I went into the movie more critical than I ought. Maybe I’m too old to enjoy Star Wars anymore. But, the fact remains, I left the theater unhappy.
I might see it again, trying desperately to love the movie. But, I’ve lost hope.