Considering Star Wars: The Force Awakens [Or: Just Another Drop in The Bucket]

As I plainly state in the alternate title to this post, everyone and their [tenuously and amusingly connected other person] has been raving about the trailer that dropped about a week ago for the latest upcoming film in the Star Wars franchise. If, for some reason, you haven’t seen it, here it is:

Since April 16th we have had eight days for the internet to collectively lose their minds over it. Generally in the positive way one does such a thing. I don’t typically like to follow up one YouTube video with another, but this very clever mashup that went viral soon afterwards sums it up a little too well:

Long story short, people are excited. Not even just excited, but actually and honestly emotional about this upcoming film. My Facebook feed was awash with friends raising the hype to what looked like unsustainable levels, yet I can see it only building in fervour the closer we get to December 18th of this year. Don’t get me wrong, I am also looking forward to it, but I’m tempering my enthusiasm for a number of reasons.

The risk I very clearly run with writing this post is regurgitating the entirety of what Tim O’Neil said on twitter and then consolidated into a Storify post on his blog. To be fair, though, I did write 2,200 words on Fast Five and Asians in cinema last week, so I’m trying to take it a little easier this time around [especially since there’s an interview coming up next Friday for the site if all goes well]. That being said, I’m going to try to cite a maximum of three of his tweets in this post.

We start with this:

Which he later goes on to assert is not a bad thing. He cites nostalgia as being “the lifeblood of [Star Wars]”, and that there’s no way of beginning this new trilogy without acknowledging the feelings that we have towards the franchise as a culture. O’ Neil later goes on to underscore the kind of attention the film’s production has been receiving.

I’m an enormous fan of practical effects [Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy movies, anyone?], but as a writer and editor my primary concern is the narrative. What is The Force Awakens going to be about, is it going to be all sizzle and no steak, just [another idiom in which something does not measure up to expectations]?

This is the last tweet of his that I’m pulling, after which I’m going to elaborate and add a few more of my own thoughts:

Now it has been a while since I wrote about this, but I need to reaffirm the fact that while Star Trek was passable Star Trek Into Darkness is what I would refer to as “hot garbage”. It’s not even Alice Eve’s gratuitous T&A scene,  but more the fact that the plot made precious little sense. SPOILERS FOR A MOVIE THAT CAME OUT TWO YEARS AGO, but the finale involves them “curing” death, and when asked about this narrative decision completely avoiding the question. If you really wanted a thorough rundown of why this film makes almost no sense then Rob Bricken over at i09 has you covered.

None of this is to say that directors who have been responsible for bad movies cannot produce good work, since the opposite is certainly true. Brian Singer handled the first two X-Men films which were very well received, then gave us Superman Returns which people like to pretend never happened. Within that example we even have a director dealing with superhero properties just as Abrams has been put in charge of two space operas. One thing to take note of, however, is that the similarities between the two franchises in question are not encouraging.

What Into Darkness was primarily criticized for was heavily referencing 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, to the point where moviegoers were given a number of payoffs that had no build up. It was a case of creators knowing what people wanted and giving it to less than stellar results. I’m not putting Trekkies down, but people in general, not just Wookieepedia contributors, have been waiting for Force Awakens for literally a decade. Will the film merely meet expectations in terms of visuals and character moments [“Chewie, we’re home.”] or will it do more than that?

My last point, and one that I realize I should have centred this entire post around, is the screenplay itself. Yes, J. J. Abrams directed Into Darkness, but he was not in fact responsible for writing the story. In the case of Force Awakens however he shares that credit with Lawrence Kasdan.

Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplays for the original trilogy, which most would argue are at least pretty good. What has he done since, though? The three most recent films of his that I could find on Rotten Tomatoes have an average score of 36%. He wrote, directed, and produced every one of them [Mumford (1999), Dreamcatcher (2003), and Darling Companion (2012)]. Just something to consider. On that same note George Lucas had a great deal to do with the original trilogy and we all know how the prequels turned out.

At the end of the day this is a pretty choppily written warning not to get expectations too high, especially when considering the people behind the creation of this upcoming film. I’m not saying that it can’t or won’t be good, but I’d rather be cautious and surprised than hyped up and ultimately disappointed.

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One response to “Considering Star Wars: The Force Awakens [Or: Just Another Drop in The Bucket]

  1. Pingback: In The Force Awakens White Women get Representation, but Black Women get CGI | Culture War Reporters

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