Yoav Baram – Revenge of the Remake of Star Wars
I should start by mentioning that based on past experience; I came to this film with absolutely zero expectations. That being said- deep down inside -and I’m sure as any other original trilogy fan- I also really wanted to like it, in fact the first 15 minutes were quite enjoyable, and then everything started to look familiar…maybe a little too familiar.
In what seems to be an attempt to take as little risk as possible, Abrams and Disney have created nothing more than what seems to be a remake to the first 1977 classic, uninspired, swamped with cliché’s, old slapstick jokes and recycled scenes and texts with little to no innovation in between. The tons of nostalgic references do not work in favor of the film, they only contribute more to that forced feeling that the makers were over-trying to get the old fans to ‘feel at home’.
It was the epic story of the classic trilogy that made us fall in love with Star Wars, but that story cannot save the movie 30 years later. First there is very little attempt to explain what happened in the 30+ years between the Return of the Jedi and The Force awakens, we have no idea what happened to the Empire, or to the Republic for that matter, why is there no new generation of Jedi’s as one would expect following the Republic’s victory at Return of the Jedi? Why are the Sith now called the ‘First order’? the balance of power seems to match exactly that of 1977 A new hope, and all we know is that Luke Skywalker has gone missing somewhere in between, and that everyone are trying to find him using a secret map that was all too familiarly stored on a droid, who made that map? Why would such a map even exist when Luke obviously doesn’t want to be found? No one knows or bothers to ask. In addition to the ‘droid carrying a secret map’ plot line and the familiar balance of power, the story is trying VERY hard to mimic that of the classic films, the bad guys (once again) built a super weapon with a conveniently familiar weak spot, as if completely oblivious to the not-so-long ago destruction of the first and second death stars, only this time, it’s “10 times bigger than the death star”, as if size was ever the issue in destroying such super weapons before. This lack of ingenuity and complete recycling of the plot is nothing more than tedious and expected, effectively making the experienced viewer know how things will unfold within the first 20 minutes or so into the movie. Even the parts where the viewers are supposed to be ‘shocked’ could be seen coming from at least 12 parsecs away, much like the many nostalgic references that are poorly placed throughout the film. Add to the mix one desert planet, a young hero with mysterious family links who lives on said planet and discovers the Force, a troubled bad guy –with not so mysterious family links, a cameo of many of the classic films characters, a Cantina scene, a space pursuit with the Falcon, and many more familiar characteristics and you got yourself a remake (or a reboot for that matter).
Unlike the 1999 trilogy, the acting here was quite decent by both of the main ‘good guys’ rolls portrayed by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, which I was relieved to find. However, the ‘bad guys’ category did not fare as well, the Darth Vader equivalent henchman played by the odd choice of Adam Driver (who is most familiar for his role in ‘Girls’) is not only ridiculous but also have extremely obscured motives, we don’t really know why he turned to the dark side, especially with the revelation of his family ties, and that he was trained by no other than Skywalker himself (if it sounds familiar somehow that’s because it’s the story of every other Star Wars film). But its emperor’s Palpatine equivalent which is really bad, portrayed by Andy Circus, the exaggerated CGI just make it looks like it came straight out of a Harry Potter movie rather than a Star wars one. Speaking of CGI Abrams actually did some of the alien charterers the old fashioned way using nothing more than mechanical aids and makeup which is a welcome decision and does give the film a much nicer look.
The action scenes and space battles were also quite beautiful as expected from a film of this magnitude, but again offer nothing new and by no means transcend those made almost 4 decades ago, which never fail to amaze me to this day.
It is a real pity that Disney and Abrams took the safe way out, in what I’m guessing was an attempt to avoid the 1999 trilogy fiasco, they simply ended up copying the script of 1977 A new hope, and applying it to a ‘new’ film when in fact there is absolutely nothing new here. They had a truly great opportunity to make a good movie, open a new page and come up with a fresh story line. They could have developed the all ‘Storm trooper point of view’ as seen by Boyega’s character a bit more, make it a bit darker perhaps (certainly less kitschy) and create a more original screenplay rather than grinding on the old chewed up formula of ‘secret map carried by a droid -> predictable villains in possession of a super weapon -> exploiting of said weapon ridiculous weak spot and good guys eventual victory’. I can actually picture Disney’s executives sitting in a big meeting room surrounded by life-size storm trooper replicas on either side, and telling Abrams: “Listen, we want the exact storyline of the 1977 film, just change the names, and have it back on our desk by Monday”.
The decision to take little to no chances with The force awakens story line is so noticeable that it ends up hurting the film a lot more than saving it. It will be interesting to see how the remaining sequels will look like since it will be much harder to mimic The empire strikes back without being accused of a making an exact vision-less remake/reboot. I hope the next film will force Disney to get out of the comfort zone and not to rely so heavily on a generic and recycled story line, but then again, when it comes to making new Star Wars films, it’s hard to be surprised anymore, for better or worse…
Yoav Baram – Revenge of the Remake of Star Wars