To call Star Wars a little derivative is a bit like calling Donald Trump a little irresponsible. It’s more than an understatement, it’s a redundancy. The original Star Wars concept was derived from every previous fairy-tale archetype known to man, and this new one is derived from the original. It’s a mirror image copy of the original, with bits of episodes five and six thrown in completion. Watching it, I thought two things:
First: Did it need to be? Did we need to begin with a young orphan in a desert? Did we need a cute little droid with secret plans hidden within him? Did the super-villain need to wear a mask? Did we need a cantina scene, complete with mock bar-band? Another planet-sized planet destroyer, with more holographic visitations from the Big Boss guy? More familial strife? More long dog-fights through stretches of impossibly lengthy duct work? Did we need to undo three films worth of Han Solo’s character development to bring him back exactly as we found him? Did we need to restore the status quo to this mythical world? Sure. Why not?
Second:. This is so fucking cool. Despite all the above, I loved every minute of it, the contrived plot, the cliched dialogue, the snarling villains, the blatant self-reference and the shameless melodrama. Especially the shameless melodrama. I loved it all. I didn’t think they could do it anymore; I thought space opera of this kind was extinct forever, banished in the wake of disco-dancing irony. Hallelujah! There’s no irony to be found here. And no disco songs! Abrhams and company aren’t joking around here: they mean it. They believe it. And it shows. Despite all the above, traits which I normally despise in a movie, it’s done here with such panache, gravitas and wide-eyed sincerity, I could not help but be swept along for the ride, my reservations left far-far behind.
Best of all: there is no trace of the prequels. No Jar-Jar Binks, no planet Naboo, no crude racial stereotypes. The rules of good (if simple) story-telling and tasteful aesthetics apply here – the villains are menacing, the heroes are charismatic, there is emotional investment in the story, and it actually looks good. We get a world here that looks like people actually live in it, not the blue-screen barf of the prequels. In fact, there’s not a trace of the garish, asymmetrical ugliness that defined the prequels. We can finally pretend they never existed. That is probably the best thing of all.
I probably could pick it apart and find all sorts of things to get annoyed with. Let’s be honest here, this is more of a video-game than a movie, written by committee, designed for merchandise, specifically constructed to appeal to our sentimental attachment to childhood memories. But I think it’s high time someone respected my sentimental attachment to my childhood memories. In this rotten world, where
ISIS exists but Motorhead no longer does, and where even
Doctor Who will let you down, I’ll take what I can get. I want my
adventure stories back, and finally I got one.