Friday, January 08, 2016


Amid all the holiday travel, I managed to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and have been considering what to say about it. I find I don't really have much.

(1) The story's not very original, of course, but the characters are excellent. This is seen in any number of ways. The most obvious is that they don't whine -- even Kylo Ren doesn't really whine, despite the fact that he often looks like he wants to do so. We've had whining characters in Star Wars from the beginning; Luke spent a lot of time whining, and Anakin took whining to the level of a performance art.

They also don't respond in wooden ways, which is a massive improvement as well. Just the acting and character direction on their own make the movie better than any of the prequels. One of the things that makes the movie is that Finn and Rey, without either of them being in any way goofy characters, do ebullience very well. My favorite moment in the movie is when Rey manages to bypass the technobabble-thingamajig and she is practically sparkling with triumph, which sets up Han's dry, understated reaction to it perfectly.

(2) The theme of the movie is the danger of fear; it pops again and again as something that holds us back from good. And their doing so is generally handled well, and in ways suitable to the characters. And it's notable that what both Rey and Finn need to overcome their very different fears is friendship -- both of them escape their fears when they are put in situations in which they realize they can no longer use being alone in the world as an excuse.

(3) There are some weaknesses. The battle and duel choreography have nothing of the excellence of the best fights of the earlier movies, for instance. Even minor fights in the prequels, for instance, were better choreographed than anything here. (It does help a lot that the movie makes it easier to care about the characters involved in these sequences. That was the problem with the prequels -- carefully choreographed fights between characters with whom we had little connection in circumstances that usually seemed not to matter much. And one of the worst choreographed fights in all of the movies, that between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV, is one of the best fights of all, precisely because it is between characters who really matter under circumstances that really matter and is played out in a way that continues to matter for the story. There's nothing on that level here, but it does at least avoid the sterility of the prequels.)

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