Sunday 27 December 2015

The Farce Awakens

"Getting too old for this shit..."

Just been to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. No spoilers here, but I have to comment on it, as it really wasn't what I was expecting at all. The popcorn guy said to me, "I've seen it three times already. You'll love it." I assume he was referring to the movie, and as I'd heard nothing but positive things in the media about it, I was looking forward to a good day's entertainment.
OMG, how wrong could I be? I know it makes me a heretic, but watching this movie was a distinctly underwhelming experience. I mean, to start with, it felt cheap. CHEAP? Yes, really. The other Star Wars movies always felt lavish, and Lucas, for all his faults, made them look great, with sweeping panorama shots of landscapes, ships arriving, etc, before every major scene or new location. The Force Awakens, on the other hand, looked and felt like it was made for TV. I know previous movies have been criticised for having too much CGI, but this one needed a whole lot more, because it looked crap. Some of it could have been filmed in the field behind my house. Come to think of it, almost every location looked like Earth. Which obviously it was, but you're meant to at least think you're in a galaxy far, far away, and not just over New Zealand (that was Lord Of The Rings). And what the hell happened to the acting?!
I know Star Wars was never famous for its acting skills, but they weren't as bad as this. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher have all been dug up again for this re-run, and they look tired and jaded. I saw Harrison Ford a few years ago in Cowboys And Aliens, and he put in an excellent performance as an ageing rancher, but in this movie he looks like he's had all the fire sucked out of him. With its original actors and constant references to past glories, I felt this movie was trying to be too reverential to the originals, to the point that it just got in the way of the plot. The other actors are all unknowns, and to be honest, I still don't know them. The lead woman looks like a Hunger Games rip-off, sans the charisma, the black guy has the most interesting back story, and comes close to getting the best dialogue, but really, there's not enough time spent on these characters, they don't shine enough and I had no sympathy for them whatsoever. No wonder the cute orange droid gets so much attention. I know Hayden Christensen was pretty awful in the prequels, but after what I saw today, he's been elevated to Oscar-winning status. Seriously.
And the plot? Well, if you've seen the other movies, you'll find no surprises here, and that's all I'll say about it. The bad guy, Kylo Ren, is a cut-price Darth Vader, who, I kid you not, will be discounted further halfway through the film. The Death Star? Well, like I said, no spoilers, but you will get the sense that you've seen this movie before. Almost everything in it is a copy or a reference to past stuff. So I'm left wondering what all the hype was about. George Lucas got a lot of stick for his handling of the prequels - he's a bad script writer and a terrible director - so when I heard he'd been taken off this movie, and his directing chair given to J.J. Abrams, I had high hopes. But all I can say now is: Come back George, all is forgiven. Your artistic eye and your childish sense of wonder are sorely needed. I know I saw some X-Wings and Tie Fighters, along with a smidgen of lightsaber fighting, but I don't get the feeling I just watched a Star Wars movie. There was a whole bunch of stuff missing, and the most important missing piece was this: Atmosphere.

Suddenly I'm feeling nostalgic for The Phantom Menace. I think I need a brain scan.