The Force Awakens is a Remake, not a Sequel

I realize I’m inviting all manner of attacks with this post, but I have to get it out of my system. I enjoyed the film. Seriously. I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy a fireworks display. Oooh…aaahh. As one guy on twitter said, it had its bleep-blops and its pew-pews, what more do you want?

Some have said they enjoyed the “connections” with the first trilogy. But my biggest problem was that there weren’t just connections, there was clear plot recycling. Does the story have anything new of substance? Consider (I’ll add to this list as I think of more):

  • Rey = Luke (protagonist who doesn’t know who he/she is)
  • Kylo Ren = Darth Vader (former prodigy now turned to the dark side; wears a mask; some are convinced he can be “turned” back to the good side)
  • Snoke = Sidious (mysterious ruler who only appears as a hologram)
  • BB8 = R2D2 (hide plans in the droid that need to get to the good guys)
  • Luke = Yoda (need to track down the Jedi master, who is in hiding, for training)
  • First Order = Galactic Empire
  • Starkiller Base = Death Star (this is now recycled twice; as Han said, “So, it’s bigger.”)
  • Oscillator = Exhaust port
  • Han & Chewie provide comic relief = Han & Chewie provide comic relief
  • C3PO is annoying = C3PO is annoying

Seriously, how many times can the make the same movie?

A few other pet-peeves:

The first “reveal” of Kylo Ren is utterly anti-climactic. If they had waited until the last scene with Han and we see THEN that he is your average, everyday bloke, THEN it would have carried some weight.

Kylo can stop light with the force, use the force to coerce information from someone’s mind, yet he almost gets beat in a lightsaber battle with a STORMTROOPER—one who picks up a lightsaber for the first time! He also gets bested by a kid who learns she can use the force 5 minutes ago. Is he a master of the Force or not. Consistency please.

May the force be with you; again and again.

Tolkien v. Jackson

It seems that Jeffery Overstreet didn’t care much for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

Tolkien was better than this. The Hobbit never stooped to mere smack-down storytelling. Bilbo was heroic precisely because he saw typical warlike behaviors as madness.

“Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check,” says Gandalf to Galadriel. “But that is not what I’ve found. I’ve found that it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”

Jackson seems unconvinced. He’s too fond of muscular power, drawn to show characters dueling instead of developing. He’ll seize any mention of strife in the story and exaggerate it into absurdity.

As fun as it is to watch, this is not Tolkien’s The Hobbit. That enchanting story of a peaceable traveler who knew the virtue of restraint is now lost to the vision of filmmakers who have none.

But what is more interesting to me is not what Overstreet says in his review, but what he says in a reply to a comment on his review:

When I interviewed Jackson about The Return of the King, he was very frank about saying that, in short, “audiences want heroes” who win by fighting… and he wants to give us that so (he said) we can believe that we can save the world. He expressed grave reservations about weaknesses of the character of Frodo, and rejected outright Tolkien’s desire to show that “Frodo failed” and that human history is a “long decline” that can only be redeemed by Providence. That’s a fundamental difference between Jackson and Tolkien as storytellers, and it affects all kinds of decisions in Jackson’s films…

Indeed.  The non-Christian cannot see strength in weakness, cannot imagine that forgiving one’s enemies is true triumph – because we first were forgiven.  I think of people cheering for William Wallace in Braveheart who violently seeks revenge on his enemies in the name of Justice.  This is not how Christ conquers.

How to Pre-Judge a Film

One of my great passions in life is film. “Film” is an artistic form that combines many other forms and so lends itself to a multiplicity of layers of meaning and communication. Film is perhaps the most dominate art form (in terms of popularity) in our culture today. And because it is such a great good, it can (and has) been twisted for great evil.

Often times people will say to me that “such and such a film was really good.” My response is: “what is a ‘good’ film”? Most people cannot answer that question, yet still insist that some film is “good”. They are what Plato called “Lovers of Sights and Sounds”.

In future posts I hope to explore the nature of film and move toward answer that fundamental question: “what is a ‘good’ film”? In the meantime I’ve put together a short list of clues to help you avoid ‘bad’ films by “pre-judging” them. If you’ve ever thought, “I wish the producers of the ‘Paranormal Activity’ series would point their camera’s at a good film,” these little clues will help you identify secret messages from filmmakers who are trying to tell you: “This Movie Stinks!”

If any of the following appears in the ‘description’ of the film or on a poster, avoid it:

“A dance-filled romp”
“A remake of the beloved classic…”
“An MTV Movie Awards Winner”
“Based on the best-selling teen-novel…”
“From the producers of ‘You Got Served’”
“Fun for the whole family”
Anything “Part 2, 3, etc.”
Anything in the “Musical” and/or “Romanic Comedy” Genre
Anything starring:

Cameron Diaz
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Jean Claude Van Dame
Jessica Simpson
John Wayne
Justin Timberlake
Chuck Norris
Paris Hilton
Steven Seagal
Vin Diesel

From the Writer & Director, “M. Night Shyamalan” (at one point in his career Shyamalan was a great story-teller, the next Alfred Hitchcock; now, I’m convinced he could not make a good film even if he got someone else to write and direct it!)

Following these simple warnings will help you avoid cinematic maleficence.