I broke down and went to see the new Star Wars today.
You know how you once fell in love with someone, and they were gorgeous and sexy and everything they did made your heart beat faster? And for a few years you had a wonderful relationship and you thought it would last forever? You maybe even defined yourself by that relationship. But then they betrayed you. It doesn’t matter how, what matters is that they hurt you so badly it was like having your heart ripped out. You tried to forgive them, but every time you saw their familiar face, or heard their voice, that pain and loss and anger came back. You refined yourself and got on with your life, maybe had kids. Maybe your kids even began to suspect (“how do you know Y-wings are slower than X-wings? What do you mean they require more maintenance? “), but you don’t talk about it. You just try to keep them from similar bad relationships.
And then one day your old flame comes back. They swear that they’ve changed. They’ve gotten into a new, maybe healthier relationship. They’re seeing a life coach. They want to try being friends again. No pressure, maybe just go to the movies together. You want to trust them; they still look good, and you can see all the things you fell in love with the first time. But you just can’t get past the hurt. You put them off. Finally you acquiesce. And it’s fine. They seem good, like their old self. You share a lot of in-jokes, you remember the same things. There is a lot of history there. Maybe the conversation focuses too much on the shared touchpoints, but what else do you have? You’re both a little scared to introduce anything new, because for so long that’s all been bad.
In some ways they are more charming than you remember. Funny, even. They aren’t the most complex or insightful conversationalist, but let’s face it, you never liked them for their brain. You were into them for the thrill, the adventure, their conviction that a person could fight for something bigger than themselves and be a hero.
But even though you enjoyed the date, you realize there’s no way they will ever repair the damage. Things will never be the same between you. Sure, that relationship made you who you are, changed your life. But now, the best you can hope for is to be acquaintances, get back on speaking terms. Maybe see each other once a year. At Christmas. At the movies.
Spoilers from this point on.
I liked it. It’s the movie ROTJ should have been. Rank-ordering the movies, I put it on par with ROTJ, or maybe a little better. (If we include all media, I still think KOTOR is a bit better). It was fun. It was funny. It came perilously close to being a JJ Reboot (but thankfully someone kept him from doing that). It had too much fan service, and some problems. I think it will do the job of passing the torch to the new generation (even if the new generation literally tried to hand the torch back to the old timers at the end of the movie).
And it’s still not good enough to make up for 3.5 awful movies.
I’m trying to view it as a franchise like the Bond films (and Daniel Craig was great in this one). Bond went through a bad phase, but I don’t know that they had 3-4 bed-shitters in a row. I don’t know if you recover from that, even if the next couple movies are fan-fucking-tastic. Even with all the media tie-ins. (Disney, where’s my adult-size Poe jacket?)
They did a lot right in this movie, but you know, it could have been better. There were a couple problems so glaring my 10yo noticed them, and the two biggest problems had really simple fixes.
Problem 1: What’s the First Order? What’s the Resistance? How are they different from the Empire and Rebellion? What’s at stake?
Little kids and most American voters might not care as long as they know which jerseys to root for, but all my family and friends were like “what the hell?” This could have been fixed with one scene, near the start. Similar to the Imperial council scene at the beginning of A New Hope. Have Hux and Kylo Ren talking to the other FO officers and explain what the political situation is. Seriously, one short scene. io9 does it in a paragraph:
When the Rebels won at Endor, they established the New Republic and the Empire continued without a leader. Eventually, after the Battle of Jakku, the Empire gave up and signed a peace treaty, all but ending its reign. The unhappy people from the Empire then began to form what would become the First Order. But it wasn’t until Ben Solo betrayed Luke Skywalker that Leia Organa began to see them as a threat. She formed the Resistance but the New Republic would only back them in secret, presumably not to scare everyone else in the New Republic. And that was all well and good until, as we saw in the movie, the Republic was likely wiped out by Starkiller Base. Without a governing body, who knows what could happen for both the First Order and the Resistance?
Problem 2: Coincidences. The Star Wars movies have always had a level of plot coincidence that makes Dickens look plausible.
Fine, but be aware that that grates on modern audiences. Fix it by one REALLY OBVIOUS line. When Han tells Finn “That’s not the way the Force works” have him see Rey climbing the wall over Finn’s shoulder, chin gesture to her, and say “THAT’s the way the Force works.” Then everyone understands that it’s the Force that’s behind all these coincidences, and show that Han gets it.