I went to see the new Star Wars film last Thursday. About 10 minutes into the film I realised something about myself that I’ve suspected for some time now. I was watching a battle, no real spoiler alert here as you know there will be battles in Star Wars but a ship was exploding and falling over and as I was watching it I was thinking, ‘that’s not right because if that happened in space the pieces would just float away’. Then I saw they were close to a planet and thought ‘unless, of course, it is within the gravitational field of that planet’. Nerd alert! The reason I had begun to suspect this was when I was watching The Big Bang Theory one night, and Sheldon was invited in for coffee and refused saying ‘it was too late for coffee, if you drink coffee at this time of night you’ll not be able to sleep’. I had actually done this with a male friend of mine one night, although in my defence, I think he did just mean coffee.
Anyway, back to the movie – now I am a huge Star Wars fan so I’m a bit biased in its favour anyway but I wasn’t wholly impressed to be honest. Marks out of 10 – 6 at best.
Now, the reputation for Star Wars was built on the first 3 films, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The first 2 are, in my opinion, still the best out of the entire series. Return of the Jedi was good too, and I’ll never forget the chase through the forests of Endor as seen on the big screen for the first time, but the Ewoks? I had my doubts then and looking back this is the moment for me when things started to go wrong in the Star Wars universe. Cute characters are not really my thing, R2 works because he is an integral part of the story but when they appear contrived which to my mind the Ewoks were, then, they don’t, at least not for me. Apparently, it was supposed to be Chewbacca’s home planet of Kashyyyk, a planet of Wookies but the budget wouldn’t run to so many large costumes so they cut them in half and made Ewoks. I think he should have shelled out for the Wookies, some things are bigger than a budget. But, in fairness, the story was strong so they didn’t dominate the overall picture and I could live with it.
But as bad as the Ewoks were, there was worse to come and the prequels brought to screen one of the most obnoxious characters ever committed to celluloid or rather cgi, Jar Jar Binks. I think Lucas should have been certified for this, what was he thinking, I mean, really? What was he thinking?? Thankfully, the backlash from fans led to his demise and apart from a very brief appearance in Attack of the Clones, he disappeared from the Star Wars universe never to appear again. (I hope) Note to potential film-makers and directors everywhere. Cute characters that can be flogged by the bucket load are no substitute for strong storylines, fully developed characters and realistic, even if it is science fiction, events.
Now that I have had a few days to digest it, there are several weaknesses in the film. Firstly, Kylo Ren, he just doesn’t work, the casting for this part was just wrong, no harm to Adam Driver. He didn’t do it for me in The Force Awakens and he hasn’t improved any since then. Maybe he should have kept the mask on and we could have been left to speculate for years as to who was under the mask, like the Stig, but the weakness of his character is epitomised by the fact that he always looks as if he is about to burst into tears. Another thing too, is his age. He is too young to be the son of Han and Leia, I mean they looked like pensioners and this guy is only in his twenties. Maybe he was a menopause baby, all that hormone fluctuation in Leia could go some way to explaining the gurning. Who knows?
Secondly, Leia. There is a scene in this movie, and turn away now as there is a spoiler coming, that was almost laughable. Leia is on the bridge of a ship in the middle of a battle and the bridge is hit and she is sucked out into space. My initial reaction was, well, thank God for that ( I don’t think she should have been in the new films apart from maybe a brief cameo in The Force Awakens) but then, a miracle, she wakens/comes back to life and flies, like Superman, back into the ship. Considering that Carrie Fisher has now passed away, well it was a chance missed, and the director certainly shot himself in the foot with that one, didn’t he?
Thirdly, the character of Luke Skywalker. Another spoiler coming up. Luke Skywalker as last seen, was a fully-trained, wise, calm, and in control, Jedi Knight. Ok, his nephew turning bad might have upset him but not where he’s huffing around like a disgruntled teenager, especially after everything he went through with his father. I could have understood if he was disillusioned and depressed but again, over-emoting doesn’t compensate for real drama or good writing. Then, they did something that made no sense at all, they killed Luke off at the end of the film. Why??? When they had just brought Leia back to life, why would they do such a thing? It just didn’t make any sense at all. And another thing, it took a long time for Luke to train to become a Jedi, yet Rey managed it in about five minutes, playing around with a light sabre.
Fourth, comedy moments. Good comedy does not have to be contrived or forced, it just has to be well written with good timing. Sticking in a comedic moment to compensate for the holes in the storyline doesn’t do the Star Wars universe justice and is an insult to the fans. This sin was first committed by Lucas himself when he went back and re-jigged the original films and added ‘cute characters’ and ‘comedy moments’, for which he should have been taken out and flogged or made to watch all Jar-Jar’s scenes on a loop for a month, which would have been a bigger punishment.
However, overall, these are small problems compared to the biggest flaw of all, the actual storyline.
Any Star Wars fan could have written a better storyline, both to the prequels and the sequels. I have to exclude Rogue One, this one worked apart from a few dodgy CGI moments with Leia and Peter Cushing but because the overall story was convincing, they could be forgiven.
In continuing the saga, we should have picked up 40 or so years in the future. Han and Leia are old, and Leia and Luke are like old Yodas, helping to train new recruits and passing on the wisdom of the Force. This was another thing about Return of the Jedi that pissed me off. Leia was the one who was leading the rebellion back when Han was still skulking around the universe and Luke was shooting Womp Rats on Tatooine but by the time we got to Return of the Jedi, she had been sidelined.
Anyway, back to the story that should have been written, at this point in the Star Wars universe everyone has enjoyed many decades of peace and harmony. Then, either Luke’s GRAND-child or Leia and Han’s GRAND-child becomes seduced by the Dark Side as it starts to rise again. This is where the story should have begun but in the rush to get something on screen and dazzle us with CGI and play on our emotions with ‘cute characters’ and forced ‘comedy’, the sense of the story line was demoted behind the potential to flog us more tat which will for the most part end up in landfill, eventually.
On the plus side, I do like the new characters of Finn and Rey and it seems obvious that Rey is headed for a fling with Kylo Ren at some future point, a love tug between him and Finn, maybe, will she go for the good guy or the snivelling wimp? Finn, again a good character but wasted here.
So, that’s Star Wars Episode 8, if you’re a fan like me, you’ll probably still go and see it, but prepare to be disappointed. So, I feel there is nothing else I can do but call on that other great Jedi knight…General Kenobi...I watched you many years ago in A New Hope and I regret that I am unable to convey my request in person but if you’re listening, The Force is in a weak and perilous state and the only thing that can save us now is a good writer/director... This is our most desperate hour, if you know someone, use the Force and send them to Disney asap, help us Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re our only hope.