Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cataline Recommends with Reservations; Star Wars the Force Awakens

Before examining Episode (*sigh* (fine)) VII.  A quick review of the last three is in order.

I'll let Mister Plinkett do that.

Star Wars III

Star Wars II

Star Wars I

Still with me?  You're AWESOME!

The Good:

It's competent.

Abrams brought his A game.  Admittedly after the last four movies my expectations were so catastrophically low, Abrams didn't have to hop very high to get over the bar.

It featured internally consistent story plotting.  Just like Lucas couldn't manage to do.  As well as engaging characters, which was completely beyond Lucas.  The man had lost every once of his story telling ability by the time he mauled his own creation.  He couldn't even figure out how to do something basic like make a protagonist.  If Obi-Wan had been the protagonist of Star Wars I-III it could have been a good enough story.  We know that Anakin goes rotten so keep that in the background and make the story about Obiwan, we really didn't know anything about him.  And we never found out anything either.  It was a story about nothing, Lucas couldn't make up his mind what he wanted it to be about.

On to this one.

Finn as a human Storm Trooper is actually quite an improvement over faceless clones.  It makes the Storm Troopers real again.  Clones versus Robots was terrible for dramatic tension.  Uh-oh Fred-1138 just caught the golden BB.  Fuck it! Never mind meet Fred-1139.  There are now stakes to be won and lost.

The actors were used as actors instead of props.  They did more than just walk slowly and talk or conversely, sit and talk.  Actual sets helped drive performances, which were stronger in every possible way.

Another example of this competence thing so alien to the last three Star Wars films.  They went light on the light sabers. A sword fight is supposed to be the climax of a movie that features them.  If you have properly done your job you have built up the character's motivations and conflicts so that it creates a natural peak to the story.

Good examples, The Mark of Zorro. The Adventures of Robin Hood.   Empire and Return of the Jedi.

Bad examples, the prequals.   All of them.

The plotting echoed the first Star Wars movie but came across more as tribute than ripoff.

Kylo Ren was an intriguing villain.  He was actually quite vulnerable in a way that Darth Vader never was. quite a bit more out of control.  Its very different for Star Wars, where the villains have always been cardboard cutouts in the past.

The relationship between Ren and Rey is engaging.  I am looking forward to seeing how it develops.  Kylo Ren was clearly Rey's teacher in this episode.  Rey was stronger with the Force after each encounter of hers with Ren. 

In answer to several criticisms.  Ren was injured both physically and emotionally at the time of his duel with Rey.  Having just murdered his own father and being shot by his childhood Teddy Bear.

Kylo Ren's Ranking on the Socio-Sexual hierarchy:  Sigma/Omega.  Truthfully there is always a fine line to tread there.  At the end of the movie he was leaning strongly towards Sigma.

Poe Dameron.  Oscar Isaac brought the goods.  Very strong performance. Very believable as a Stick Jock's Stick Jock.  More so than we have ever seen in any of the other Star Wars movies.  You didn't have to have everyone telling you he is the best of the best.  You just know it.

Ranking on the Socio-Sexual hierarchy: Alpha.  No question.  Has the total alpha vibe.  He hasn't met Rey yet but when he does.  Look out.

Lastly. No lens flairs.  The man can learn.


Here we begin to tread on shifting sands.

Finn:  John Boyega did good work.  I suppose I don't need to keep saying that all time but it is such a rare thing when discussing Star Wars.

The problem with Finn is on the creative side.  It is impossible for me to buy Finn as a character.  There is just too much hand waivem.  He was raised since he was stolen from his cradle to be a mindlessly, fanatical killing automaton...and a garbageman.  Finn apparently didn't score too highly on the ASVAB.  But some how he managed to get a transfer to combat arms and on his first mission has a breakdown and deserts. "Because it's the right thing to do"

How the hell would he know what the right thing to do is?  The man is a Janissary.   It's the only moral code he has ever known in his life.   I'm just not buying it.

Also the first time he meets Rey, he gets beaten up by a girl.

Ranking on the Socio-Sexual hierarchy: Delta.  No he is not a Gamma, that's supposed to be ranking not a pejorative.  Although, granted a Delta with serious Oneitis.  By the end of the movie he has been given a "friend-hug," received a chaste peck on the forehead and called a "dear friend."  In the real world he would be completely friendzoned.

World War II imagery still overshadows everything.  Interesting question; why stick with that?  It doesn't resonate with Millennials.

The First Order.  Clearly the SS...I think.  Imagery is suggestive of that.  It seems to have a more cult like orientation than the Empire had.    They obviously have major resources at their disposal.  But they didn't appear to be as all powerful as the Empire.  They weren't able to defeat the Republic Fleet until their secret weapon was online.

The Resistance.   What the hell are they?  The Rebels won, that usually makes them the new government.  Are they regular troops of the Republic? Apparently not given reference's to a Republic's Fleet.  Are they being sent by the Republic  to make trouble for the First Order in it's own backyard?  This just wasn't made very clear at all.

Their costuming is reminiscent of Communist insurgents.


Rey.  Daisy Ridley again  fine job.  Nuff said.   Rey is the Princess-who-Rescues-Herself.  Doesn't need a man in her life and never will.  Rey is pure feminist wish fulfillment.  No explanation at all is given for her hyper-competence in everything. And the bad part is the production team clearly felt none was needed.  It is purest Grrrrrrl Power.  She is already being hailed as a Feminist Icon because she isn't real.  She is a Standard Korra-Pixie-Ninja.  She gets really mad at Finn for holding her hand and trying to save her when they are being shot at.  She can do that herself thank you very much.

This is going to create problems with plotting down the road.    Unless they are going to ramrod the Rey-Finn love story in the name of an SJW-friendly romance. She already has Wonder Woman's problem.  She is too powerful for any man in her life to be attractive to her. None of them are strong enough to be able to push her buttons in her in the real world.

 Sole exception...her mortal enemy Kylo Ren.  This could make things very interesting indeed but there is no way in hell they are going to do that.

Nope it's either going to be a forced romance with Finn, celibacy as a Jedi Knight or they will go with something really SJW friendly and make her a lesbian.  (*Yeah everybody laughed when I said the same thing about Xena.*)

Captain Phasma.  This year's Bobba Fett award for being a Chekov's Gun that completely fails to fire goes to Captain Phasma.  She got a strong build up in the pre-release press.  Then just stood around looking like a badass, in repurposed Cylon armor.  Finally she heroically rolled over and dropped the base's shields when she was threatened with an idle threat. Character exited by being thrown (off camera) into a garbage chute.


SJW themes and imagery predominate.  The First Order is a made to order image of that standard Lefty Boogeyman. Far Right Extremists.

 The Resistance are reminiscent of Central American Communist Insurgents.  Or at least a liberal arts major's image of them.  I was half expecting to see a Che poster on the wall.

The protagonist is a girl who is so strong with the Force that she is already more powerful than most of the Jedi Knights we've seen in the past.

And she beats up her soon to be politically correct boyfriend as soon as they meet.  I expect that her heart will melt due to that most hateful of Hollywood's lies,  'a sincere confession of true love' by Finn.

In a film that is directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, all of this was to be completely expected.


If you are a Star Wars fan I'm afraid the answer is; yes.  Its the one that you have been waiting for for thirty five years.  It's actually as good if not better than Empire.

If you aren't a Star Wars fan already.... Don't bother. If you have taken the Red Pill, the imagery will leave the whole thing too annoying to watch.


Drew said...

My assumption about the "Resistance" is that it may signify that the Republic is so weak that it has no military, similar to the United Nations or the Articles of Confederation.

The girl did get the upper hand on Kylo Ren toward the end, but leading up until that point it was obvious that he was trying to avoid killing her. Also as you pointed out, he wasn't in peak condition.

Cataline Sergius said...

True he had explicit orders to bring her in.

Ingot9455 said...

Since you posted a link to it recently it calls upon me to respond.

One thing that came through to me clearly in the actions of Captain Phasma and her relationship with Finn is that she was not a badass. She was the person in charge of kidnapping orphans and torturing them with sci-fi brainwave machines to turn them into Stormtroopers.

She is specifically someone who tortures children, and therefore it made sense to me that she was craven and weak.

And that she had a personal relationship with Finn, as someone she repeatedly tried to 'break', eventually forcing into scutwork as hopeless. When she tells Kylo that that stormtrooper has never had a problem before, she's saying it to save her ass, not Finn's.

At least that was my read on the interplay of the acting. I totally get that the trailers and buildup would give the wrong idea.

PhantomZodak said...

good review, but i disagree with a lot of it. i think JJ tried too hard to distance himself from the prequels & ended up just redoing A New Hope but with a girl & a black guy this time. it had so many problems that i prefer the prequels even more now, as they come acorss as more adult.

Cataline Sergius said...


If you compare this with Star Trek: The...Star Trek...this is pretty much exactly how Abrams does reboots. And a reboot is exactly what this is. The resemblance to A New Hope was deliberate, as this was in fact a soft remake.

Abrams works primarily in visual themes and effectively so, no matter how silly they might seem from a literal perspective (i.e. Old Spock being able to see hot desert planet Vulcan being destroyed from his ice moon?).

It obviously has problems, most of them blatantly political however...there is no Jar-Jar so I can live with that.