Star Wars

Star Wars

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There’s something intimidating about not being part of a fandom, especially one which is as large and omnipresent as Star Wars. Despite my parents being a film geek and Sci-Fi nerd between them, the Star Wars films weren’t something I grew up with. I gleaned a fair bit from pop culture and I’d say I’m definitely a fan of Sci-Fi, but I kept putting off watching them. Then The Force Awakens happened and I thought: “It’s now or never…Wait, in which order do I watch them?

This should be blindingly obvious but SPOILERS.

Princess Leia being a bad ass

Suddenly the internet made way more sense and I had that strange almost deja-vu I got the first time I saw Hamlet performed and thought: “I’ve heard this speech before”. Star Wars is such a cultural phenomenon it was like I had experienced it before I’d seen the films. I was terrified I would hate it. As someone who regularly geeks out about things they like, I know that people can project feelings of hostility towards new fans. This is usually from a subconscious desire to ‘protect’ the fandom, but I think it’s healthy to critique the media we consume, and to welcome change and fresh perspective.

Thankfully I really enjoyed the original trilogy. I binged it with a Google tab open asking very obvious questions like: “Why isn’t Leia also a Jedi like Luke?”, “What exactly is The Force?” and “Why are Stormtroopers so inept?”

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The First Order commit genocide just because

I did a lot of forum lurking, but tried to form my own opinions. While I have issues with the fandom, there’s a lot about it which I love, such as the world-building and engaging action sequences. Some of the flaws are endearing, but in general the characters can be flat and I think a lot is left for the audience’s imagination. When this is done well, it leaves possibilities for great fan fic, when it’s done badly it seems lazy. Although I think prospective genres like Sci-Fi and Fantasy should try to push our ideas of cultural norms, I can be more forgiving of the original films as a product of the time.

I have no such feelings for the prequels…

https://youtu.be/4l5eZp8Ae9c

Much ink has been spilt over this, but I think folk get angry about the prequels because they had the potential to be amazing. I wanted back story, but instead I found my immersion killed by a hokey script and some offensively one-dimensional characters.

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Cheeky cameos from Han Solo and Chewbacca (amongst others)

The bar was so low The Force Awakens could have tripped over it. I went in knowing pretty much nothing about the new film, and yet it still surpassed my expectations.

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Finn’s Stormtrooper existential crisis

It’s not without it’s faults, such as tendencies to pay lip service to the franchise, and tired themes and scenarios, to the point where parts felt almost satirical. The trouble with Star Wars is, it’s all good fun (yes BB-8 is cute and lasers are cool) but after the credits roll I find myself bombarded with unanswered questions and no longer willing to suspend disbelief. Many of the scenarios feel hollow and the characters have broad brush strokes of personality, without nuance. While The Force Awakens is a solid film, it could have been more challenging and stimulating. While there were some attempts to bring complexity to characters and their motivations, such as the internal conflicts of Kyle Ren and Finn, I felt many relationships and actions were borne of plot convenience, and the weary battle between good and evil meant nothing.

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Kylo Ren vs. Rey and Finn

On the other hand, I was very impressed with the strong performances of the cast (both new and familiar). Honourable mentions must go to Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn, and I was delighted to see more diversity in the fandom. I found Rey’s character to be the most genuinely complex person in the franchise, and she’s the only character other than Princess Leia who I’ve ever really connected with. Rey is independent, empathetic and resourceful to name a few of her characteristics. I was intrigued by Finn’s origin as a Stormtrooper and we didn’t get any real insight into why he would alter his alliances after being trained from birth to fight for The First Order. Rey and Finn felt tangible, and gave me hope that I could expect more of the same. My hopes for Episode VIII include fleshing out and developing the characters and backstories of Finn and Rey, without falling into the franchise’s pitfalls of simplifying characters and plots to formulas and archetypes.

 

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