The force awakens

Star Wars Laser Sword – projected on Star Wars laser sword projected on chimney in Sihlcity, Zürich

One of the perks of working for Google is that I regularly get geeky team activities – for instance a private showing of the new Star Wars movie. So this week, I was in Sihlcity, ushered into the cinema by people dressed as various Star Wars characters. In general the cinema did a big deal of the new movies, with animated laser saber projections on the chimney stack of the mall (it used to be a factory).

I never watched any of the three prequels, but I saw enough bits and pieces, left and right, not to mention parodies and critiques, which gave me real incentive to do so. This post talks about the The Force Awakens and its plot, so if you want to go see it without any spoilers you should probably stop reading now.

Plot Spoilers!

Star Wars – The Force Awakens – Poster

The movie was directed by J.J. Abrams, and it shows, from the start you get the sense of vastness which was present in the Star Trek prequel. The spaceships of the original trilogy are ruins in the desert.

The movie starts with a set of new characters, Kylo Ren, a rebellion pilot, Rey, a scavenger and Finn a clone trooper who deserts the evil army for moral reasons. The antagonist is a Darth Vader wannabe within some post-empire military organisation. There is also a new droid which is pretty cute.

As the story unfolds with a lot of running around and explosions, I slowly reached the conclusion that I knew the story. The young orphan on a sand planet which has the power of the Force, the unwilling helper, the quest for some data thing inside a robot, the evil forces building a planet sized death ray. Does this sound familiar?

As such this would not have been a problem, the new Luke is a girl (Daisy Ridley) and kicks ass, she is basically both Luke and Han Solo, and whines way less than the original. Finn, the clone trooper is an interesting character, which would open up some interesting questions and narrative opportunities. Basically, the plot could have gone Battlestar Galactica, why not.

Instead the heroes stumble on the millennium Falcon, steal it, get boarded by Han Solo and Chewbacca who indirectly bring them to Leia. To the credit of the actors, I actually cared about that old couple’s relationship, which was splintered by their son, which turned to the dark side and became Darth Wannabe. So Han Solo has to go into the death ray thing to save his son from the dark side. Does that sound familiar?

The force awakens is not a bad movie, and I’m sure that compared to the three Lucas made prequels, it is nearly a masterpiece. On its own it is a very flawed movie, that tries to jam into one movie the plot of A new hope and The empire strikes back (inverted), with both a reboot of the original characters and the characters themselves played by the original actors, and most of the iconic props (spaceships, robots). This makes a lot of sense for merchandising and fan service reasons, but these are not the ingredients for a good movie.

Another thing that struck me with this movie is the non humans, which are still limited to their minority roles: shady characters and brave soldiers which will die anonymously for the rebellion. Where the original trilogy introduced many interesting aliens characters, the new movie only has one, the owner of the shady bar. Chewbacca is at the side of Han Solo of course, and Admiral Ackbar makes a token appearance, but that’s it. So we get a strong female protagonist, a black person as secondary character, but the universe did not become richer.

So all in all, a good action movie, certainly better than the prequels, but nothing ground-breaking either.

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