Thursday, 24 December 2015
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS: A Review of Star Wars Episode VII
A friend of mine posted this in the comment section of an article on the new Star Wars film:
"I enjoyed it a lot, but I liked it better the first time I saw it, when it was called A New Hope."
Some people I've talked to love the parallels between the new film and Episode IV; others think it's a cheap way to make a film.
But which writer among us has NOT re-used a pre-existing plot to make a new story?
Shakespeare did it.
Milton did it.
How many versions of the Odyssey are there? I mean, come on.
I agree that there is a vast difference between stealing a story and claiming that you made it up from scratch and re-imagining a plot and making it your own. But Episode VII is definitely not guilty of plagiarism.
I'm in the camp that applauds J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt's self-aware use of pre-existing Star Wars themes and plot points to bring Star Wars to a new generation.
Let's consider a couple of similarities between IV and the original trilogy:
Father/ Son Problems - I love how the writing team re-imagined this conflict between generations in VII. Instead of Luke having to come to terms with his father's affinity with the dark side, losing a hand in the process, Han has to face his son, who has become corrupted. In one of the arguably best shot, and most theatrical, scenes of VII, Han and Kylo Ren meet: that hand on Kylo's face, that is drama at its best. So now we wonder, will this relationship still affect later plot points? Will Kylo Ren become more corrupted, or will he regret killing his father?
Hands - "Stop taking my hand!" Rey yells at Finn as they run through the scavenger market on Jakku. Peter Brinn has commented on this, saying it could be a tongue-in-cheek jab at George Lucas for all the hands that were cut off in the previous six films. Especially Episode III. Yikes.
There should be a "No Hands Were Cut Off in this Film" stamp on Episode VII (well, unless you count C3P0's extant red arm). There are a couple of moments where a severed body part seems likely to happen, but J.J. and Co avoid this entirely. Hands instead are held out to others, and connection between people seems to be more of the theme behind hands in this film than loss.
The Droid That Is Carrying Something Important That the Bad Guys Want - BB8. How can you not love this quirky little ball of a robot? Obviously our R2D2-style comic relief/ loyal companion who bravely rolls through the desert and ends up with the film's young hero. BB8 approaches problems inventively and can think critically. He's a sentient robot with personality, and I love how this is just accepted. No philosophical quandary if robots have souls or not in this film. They're people too.
Is this plot point maybe a bit too close to the original film? Yes. Completely. But there's a great moment where BB8 finds R2D2, and it's clear from how BB8 looks up to R2, that the writers also are paying tribute to the original rebel robot.
Chewie Still Doesn't Get a Medal - Chewie is definitely the hero of this film. He's the one who weakens the big bad planet destroying weapon so that the rest of the team has a chance of blowing it up. He takes out like twenty stormtroopers, drawing fire so that Rey and Finn can escape (well, until Kylo Ren finds them). He single-handedly flies the Millennium Falcon (which, we see earlier in the film, is no walk in the park) to save Rey and injured Finn from the exploding planet weapon. And he still doesn't even get a medal. Not even a hug from Leia (thanks to Peter Brinn again for pointing that out). I'm excited though that he's going to be continuing his adventures with Rey, though really, why is he still second mate? He should be flying the Falcon. Anyway!
Are there parallels between Episode IV and Episode VII? Of course there are! That's the point! You've got a solid Star Wars storyline in A New Hope, so why not adapt it and riff of it for the new film? And, you have to admit: this is easily the best Star Wars film since Episode VI. Delightful new believable characters who can act. Breaking down the light/ dark binary between factions (Finn and Kylo Ren are both conflicted). Well-shot scenes in dynamic and interesting settings (unlike the boring scenes we had to sit through in Episodes I and II). Those classic wipe fades between scenes! As a writer myself, all these nuances, large and small, warm my heart.
So, there are my thoughts. What did you think of Episode VII?