Disney: We want to make a new Star Wars movie. Who’s the most generic director working today that won’t offend anyone with a unique style?
Lucasfilm: J.J. Abrams.
Disney: OK, hire him.
Lucasfilm: Done. Here he is.
Disney: We want you to direct a new Star Wars movie. But you can’t do anything too crazy like the prequels. They have to be exactly like the original trilogy, you know, the movies that people liked.
Abrams: Sure, no problem.
Disney: What ideas do you have for Episode VII?
Abrams: The main character should be a kid who is a genius pilot living on a backwater desert planet.
Disney: So, Luke Skywalker on Tatooine?
Abrams: No, Rey Noname living on Jakku.
Disney: And who will train Rey in the Force? Luke?
Abrams: No, we won’t waste the audience’s time with training sequences. Rey will become a Force master in about five minutes.
Disney: Okay, sounds great. What else have you got?
Abrams: How about a struggle between the First Order and the Resistance for control of the galaxy?
Disney: So, the Empire versus the Rebellion?
Abrams: No, no, this time it’s totally different. You see, the Galactic Republic exists again, and the Resistance backs them. Although why the Resistance would be called the Resistance when they are upholding the current regime is anyone’s guess. And the First Order are super-powerful bad guys who have Storm Troopers and Sith Lords and everything.
Disney: You’ve got to bring back the old characters. People won’t see if it there aren’t any familiar faces.
Abrams: Oh, I ‘ve got that all figured out. We’ve got Han Solo and Chewbacca ready to go. Han looks so decrepit he’s got one foot in the grave. Chewie looks good though. Not a gray hair on him. He hasn’t aged a day.
Disney: How do you bring Han and Chewie in?
Abrams: Rey will fix the Millennium Falcon which was stolen from Han years ago. She’ll expertly fly it into space on her first attempt. While in space, she will be immediately picked up by Han’s freighter, which just happens to be right there at that exact time. Convenient, huh?
Disney: People like convenient storytelling.
Abrams: I know.
Disney: Who else do you have?
Abrams: I’ve also got Princess Leia, who’s a general now. She won’t be able to emote much, because her face is permanently frozen from Botox, but she’ll be in the movie, so people should be happy about that.
Disney: We need a big battle at the end. Something really climactic.
Abrams: I’m way ahead of you. The First Order will have something really cool called Starkiller Base. It’s bigger than the Death Star, and it can blow up multiple planets at the same time.
Disney: A third Death Star? Don’t you think that’s already been done too many times?
Abrams: It’s not the same thing. It’s Starkiller Base, not a Death Star.
Lucasfilm: Excuse me, but this sounds awfully like a remake of the original Star Wars to me.
Abrams: Remakes are my specialty. Didn’t you see Star Trek Into Darkness? Everyone loved that.
Lucasfilm: Did they?
Disney: Shut up, Lucasfilm.
Lucasfilm: Hey, you guys can’t do anything without me. I get the final say in all–
Disney: Go shove your midichlorians up your ass and leave the decisions to us.
Disney: All right, it sounds like we’ve got a winner here. You want to bang some hookers?
Abrams: Only after we snort this mountain of cocaine!
Disney and Abrams: Hells yeah boi!
Yeah, so that was probably how the original meeting went down. Disney, wanting to play if safe, commissioned a remake of the original Star Wars, but called it a sequel. They hired nostalgia king J.J. Abrams to direct it. And why not? It’s not like people want new material these days. All they want is the same stupid, nostalgia-inspired bullshit they grew up with.
The biggest problem with Star Wars VII:
The Apology The Remake is that it doesn’t take any risks. The characters are the same ones we first saw 30 years ago, only this time Luke has been gender swapped, and Han is a black storm trooper. Also, the adventures are exactly the same. Desert planet? Check. Weird alien bar? Check. Suicide mission against a superior enemy force? Check. Ground-based light saber battle intercut with the suicide mission? Check. Older mentor character killed by ultimate villain? Check and check. It’s like they took Star Wars’ greatest hits and crammed them all into one movie.
Hollywood can’t figure out why audiences like films, and how to incorporate that in sequels/reboots. Hollywood thinks they need an exact remake of what came before in order to please people. But that’s just lazy. I don’t want to see the same fucking movie again. To me, that’s a greater sin than making a shitty original story.
Jurassic World actually did a better job of crafting a new story with subtle nods to the original film. There were only hints of the original in the background. Sure, it was still just dinosaurs eating people, but it’s not like Star Wars isn’t repetitious. It’s nothing more than fencing and dog fights.
Rey becomes a Force master in five minutes. She masters the Jedi Mind Trick and Force Pull even though she had no knowledge they existed. The entire “force awakening” part — you know, the thing the movie was named after — was handled clumsily. All of a sudden she goes from no Force to Force master with nothing in between. There was no inkling of her having nascent powers, and there were no strange feelings like the Jedis get when something is wrong. There was no subtlety at all. It’s just — BAM! — she has powers, and Kylo Ren says that the Force has awakened in her or some bullshit.
She masters light saber dueling against a well-trained villain. She can fly and fix the Millennium Falcon better than Han Solo. She is a kind-hearted person. She has a British accent. I hesitate to use the term Mary Sue here, but I think it fits pretty well. She can do everything, and has no character flaws whatsoever. Once again, that is incredibly lazy.
There were a couple of things I thought were good about this movie. Abrams brought back the lived-in feel of the universe, trying to use as many real sets and practical special effects as possible. Apart from an incomprehensible and nauseating CGI spin around the Millennium Falcon, the CGI is was generally unobtrusive. I also liked how they didn’t blow their wads and bring Luke back right away. They made the new characters the focus and generally kept the old ones (with the exception of Han) in the background. Finally, there were some humor beats that were actually funny.
Harrison Ford seemed ready to retire. He was still a lovable rogue, but there was this dead look in his eyes like he was just there because he was expected to be. His scenes with Carrie Fisher were cringe-worthy, but more due to her cheesy lines and plastic face than anything Ford was doing wrong.
The standout performance was Adam Driver as villain Kylo Ren. He had the right amounts of juvenile angst and foreboding evil to make him a threatening villain. In the scene with Han, I could actually settle in and enjoy the performance, and for that instant I forgot I was watching people act. They pulled a coup grabbing him, and I hope he sticks around for several more films.
Weirdly, my parents said they didn’t like Driver. They said his acting wasn’t good because, “He’s ugly, and he doesn’t look like he would be Harrison Ford’s son.” That’s the strangest review of anyone’s acting I’ve ever heard, but I decided not to debate it.
I’m not sure why they felt they had to go so goddamn big with everything. Star Wars was always “big,” so they should have shrunken the scale. Removing Starkiller Base would have been a good start. It didn’t need an X-wing battle at all, it was completely pointless. Focusing more on a single climax (the fight with Kylo Ren), instead of multiple, would have been better. Sadly, I’m fairly certain that all the subsequent movies in the franchise will stick with this formula.
Despite all that, I can still see the merits of this movie. It was exciting in parts, and it was well-made on a technical level. The Millennium Falcon chase on Jakku was thrilling, and the light saber battle at the end was intense. It was cool seeing old characters again, kind of like seeing old friends. There is still fun to be had in this film. And that’s what it’s all about, right? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t wishing I could swing around a light saber by the end of the movie. They recaptured the magic of the original films, but magic alone does not a movie good.
Overall, Star Wars VII: The Remake was exactly what I expected it to be. It was a big, glossy Hollywood remake of a movie we don’t need to be remade. If anything, it’s a paint-by-numbers movie, going from one series-recycled scene to the next. It never takes any risks, and it reeks of a movie made by committee.
We have six more years of Star Wars sequels ahead of us, and I couldn’t be less excited. I suppose it’s better than six years of Hobbit films, but it still feels exhausting. Although, I suppose I’d rather watch sci-fi space battles than another goddamn superhero movie.