Opinions. They’re curious things, in that we can’t truly empathize with the opinions of others which are diametrically opposite our own. This year’s Comic-Con season has produced 3 major movie reveals. I can watch the trailers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad and think they look bad and have no interest in the design/story choices, and that’s simply an opinion. Others, of course, have had a different reaction, and that’s just fine. The third movie “trailer” which came out of this year’s convention is for the new Star Wars flick. Really, this video clip is just a dramatic behind-the-scenes look, which my friend astutely equated to a “For your consideration” Oscar ad, but the Internet lost its darn mind over it and it’s part of the official marketing campaign, now.
What’s weird about this latest footage is that it, still, tells us nothing valuable about the movie. The entire thing focuses on two elements: nostalgia and the use of practical effects. That’d be fine enough on its own, but considering the fact that the first two trailers for this movie have done little more than the same type of nostalgic pandering, it’s disconcerting.
So, why am I not excited about The Force Awakens? Prepare for opinions…
1. I know little to nothing about it
Different folks want different things out of movies. Heck, we even want different things out of different movies. I didn’t expect the same experience out of Godzilla and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but I love them both. For me, yes, the Star Wars trilogy is fun and exciting and creative, but it’s also just a great story. By the time we’re at the finale of Return of the Jedi, everything is on the line and it’s a fantastic payoff – both for the main storyline of Luke’s journey and the surrounding elements of war.
This new movie, though, has told me nothing about its story. I’ve seen some soldiers that look like stormtroopers, the old (literally) cast is back, there’s a new Darth Vader figure, and that’s about it. As I mentioned above, all of this advertising so far has been based mostly on nostalgia, but that’s not very engaging when I haven’t been engaged in a new story, yet. Remove that overdose of nostalgia, and the marketing for this movie has been SO secretive and keen on not revealing pertinent information, and I’m left waiting for a reason to care.
Along with this, the marketing hasn’t just been “mysterious” it’s also just been poorly done. Adam Driver’s character was kept hidden, as if it was some big, cool twist… but then he was just randomly revealed in a magazine photo shoot. During the behind-the-scenes clip, there are shots of two masks of old characters who are apparently making a return, but that’s how they’re revealed.. by showing us masks. They’re inconsequential characters, so that’s something that should’ve just been saved for a fun surprise when we get to see the actual movie. If this was a special Comic-Con reveal for those die-hard fans, it makes more sense, but for this to be actual promo material… it’s just disappointing.
2. What if it ruins things?
This one, admittedly, is the issue I’m most concerned about, as a fan. I don’t love all things Star Wars… I’m not that kind of fan. I like the original movies, some of the video games are fun, but I don’t delve into non-movie canon and stories. I don’t think the prequels or the cartoons are very interesting. That’s the fan I am. It’s okay to be the other way, too, I think… even if it’s something I don’t get.
At the end of Return of the Jedi, though, our heroes win. The Emperor is a really bad guy, and he’s taken out. Darth Vader finds redemption. It’s a wonderful celebration! Now, flash forward to this new movie… and why are we returning to the story? If the Empire is still around in some way, as is hinted at by the trailers, does that mean our great victory at the end of Jedi is negated? Folks are so excited to see more of these characters they love, but if we’re seeing them again, doesn’t that mean that their world still isn’t great? Isn’t that kind of a bummer? Of course, I’m stuck with speculative concern because they haven’t revealed anything about the story, but it doesn’t exactly seem like these movies are set in a time of peace. Poor Luke Skywalker went through a lot in the original trilogy, but by the end of it all, he has a happy ending. What if these new movies take that away from him?
Following that line of seeing these characters again, is the capacity in which we’ll be seeing them. This is sure to be a “passing of the torch” scenario, in which the old actors show up in this movie to help segue in the new characters, but that’s also not a great idea for two reasons: firstly, how am I supposed to care about new characters when I still have my old favorites around, and secondly, how much can these old actors really do now? This second point is the most damaging if they do it wrong. Han Solo was a fun, gun-toting rogue. Luke Skywalker was a master Jedi. Leia Organa was a tough, sassy leader who looked like this:
Luke could be a wise old Obi-wan, Leia could be a strong political leader and mentor to a younger character, but Han’s too darn old to be doing what he was doing in the original trilogy. Harrison Ford is great, but the guy is over 70 years old, now. It’d be a little better to visit these characters if they’re addressed age-appropriately, but especially with how they’ve portrayed Han in the marketing thus far, I’m concerned that he might be forced into a character-role that simply doesn’t fit his age.
And, of course, we haven’t even seen Luke at all (who is, certainly, the main character of the original movies)… which makes me nervous that they might’ve done something really horrible with him in this new movie.
3. It’s not necessary
There are a few reasons to make a movie, but only one that creates things I’m interested in. One could produce a picture to make money, to push propaganda, for fame, or, as I prefer, because there’s a story to tell. So far, especially in light of this recent behind-the-scenes video, the only reason offered for The Force Awakens to exist is nostalgia. Maybe there’s a brilliant story in there that just hasn’t been revealed, but if that’s the case, shame on them for their poor marketing.
4. J.J. Abrams
Abrams doesn’t make movies I like, and the closest he came to something good (Super 8) was still not that good. I think it’s great that he’s making use of practical creatures and effects, because that’s always fun, but that doesn’t have anything to do with telling a good story. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes didn’t have real talking apes on-set (that I’m aware of), but its extensive use of computer effects didn’t really have much effect on the fact that it was just a great story told in a wonderful way. In the first trailer for The Force Awakens, we’re presented with an “exciting” shot of the Millennium Falcon bursting onto the screen with the sudden fanfare music blaring, but it’s a really dizzying shot. Below is a clip in which someone has stabilized the shot, and the two fixed versions are so much better for two reasons: they allow the viewer to better orient themselves with what’s going on and, more importantly, it looks like a shot that belongs in a Star Wars movie…
Yeah, that could be a really nitpicky thing to concern myself with, but it’s hardly the sole reason for my disinterest in this guy’s work; it’s merely an example of his focus on style over substance. I know J.J.’s a big fan of these movies, enough so that he effectively turned Star Trek into Star Wars, but I don’t trust him to make a good movie. It’d be fantastic if he proved me wrong, but his track record isn’t very encouraging.
I don’t like to post negative-nancy blog entries, but with the grand reception that this movie has received so far (grown men talking about crying over the marketing clips), I’m genuinely surprised by it all. We’ve seen so little of worth about these movies, that either people are blind sheep and easily fooled (true, but not the point here), or what the general public apparently wants out of a Star Wars movie is far different from what I do. I’d be excited if this was a completely new trilogy… telling a story of space pirates or adventurers trying to exist in this galaxy now that the Empire has crumbled. I’d love to see the Millennium Falcon show up, and then have it revealed that the current owner won it in a gambling session with some old guy. I’d be happy to know that the characters I loved are out there living their lives in peace, instead of enduring decades of war. I’d like to, aside from whatever speculative story ideas of my own I might have, have a reason to be excited about The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, I don’t.
But that’s just my opinion.