Sunday, February 14, 2016
Lettin' Loose! (Episode 7 SPOILERS!)
Don't tell me that's another Death Star. Oh no. Please no. Not again....
I said I would reserve my spoiler-laden review of The Force Awakens until the new year. Here we are, almost mid-February, and I am willing to let 'er rip.
I liked the movie in many ways. I was happy to meet a few new characters (Poe, Finn, Rey, BB-8) and I loved seeing some old friends (Han, Chewie, Leia, the droids). The beginning of the movie is wonderful, right up until the Starkiller Base.
I can't stand the idea of Starkiller Base for a large number of reasons: the first of which is it represents a weak plot device. A re-tread of a re-tread. Please. No more superweapons. PLEASE.
Worse yet, this particular superweapon is MORE SUPER-ER than the Death Star. They even have a hologram (and a speaking line) to prove it. We are supposed to believe that a splinter faction of the Imperial remnant that fled to the Unknown Regions has somehow, in less than 25 years or so (you have to have the OT civil war end with the Galactic Concordance, followed by the Military Disarmament Act) built a weapon larger and more capable than what the Empire achieved. Not very likely, even in space opera fantasy. Terrible storyline is more like it.
Starkiller Base somehow shot across ~60,000 light years (literally half the distance across the galaxy, through the galactic core) to hit characters on Hosnian Prime we barely even glimpsed, yet alone met. I was not sure exactly who just died until I read the Visual Dictionary. At least the Death Star had the courtesy to actually show up near the planet it was about to vaporize. Sniping from the edge of nowhere seems less...compelling.
On top of the poor story telling relating to who was being shot, we have an absolute train wreck, details-wise. Somehow people 20,000 light years away from the target (Han et al on Takodana), off-axis from the shot (the line between Takodana to Hosnian Prime is perpendicular to the line between Starkiller Base and Hosnian Prime), see the light from the superweapon streak across their sky (right to left...IMPOSSIBLE...look at the galactic map) and hit what appear to be a cluster of moons in orbit around Takodana. What? Wait. Who just shot whom? And where are Han and Rey? What? Who? How did they observe that from that distance? What is going on here?
Next up, Starkiller wants to take a big shot: this time they hope to line up for a 100,000 light year (the galaxy is 120,000 light years, end-to-end) shot on the Resistance HQ of D'Qar. Again, shooting through the galactic core. Somehow people on D'Qar know this, in real time, and can get a countdown clock going.
Almost everything good about this movie was a remake of A New Hope. I mean, droid with secret plans meets a special, Force-sensitive yet untrained outsider protagonist on a desert planet and must get back to Rebel HQ... you have heard that before, right?
Other parts were bad precisely because the tried to remake A New Hope. Countdown clock to Death Star...I mean...Starkiller Base comes leaping to mind.
Captain Phasma is not a "captain" in rank. She is apparently the head of all First Order stormtroopers, yet in the novelization, the movie, and the book Before the Awakening she appears to either conduct or oversee individual troopers' training. According to my guesses at Stormtrooper rank structure, she'd have to be something like a "High Colonel" to lead a ~10,000 strong Stormtrooper Legion. Higher equivalent rank to lead more troops (something like an Army General).
Then we have the problems of radio communications between forces on the ground on D'Qar and fighters currently in hyperspace, the X-Wing's ability to "linger" in hyperspace until they wish to exit in order to attack, and Han's dangerous misuse of the Falcon's hyperdrive levers...twice! These things strike me as Jar Jar Abrams taking George Lucas's toys and roughly bashing them together just for the hell of it. It was a safe (read "remake") movie. The places where is wasn't original, it frequently wasn't good.
Another thing: the totality of the Resistance "fleet" is apparently two squadrons of T-70 X-Wings, led by Poe. Red Squadron and Blue Squadron, led by a guy calling himself "Black One" (?). Fifteen starfighters, zero capital ships. That is the definition of a crappy "fleet" in my book.
I do like Kylo Ren. I like that he is a dark sider worried about "falling" to the light side. That's a cool twist. I am conflicted about who his parents are, and I am very troubled by the fact the Luke couldn't hold it together, training-wise. The Luke I see at the end of Jedi would be able to re-build the Jedi order. Eventually. He wouldn't fail then run away and hide.
Overall, besides Starkiller Base, I liked it. I didn't love it. I went twice. I would almost go again, just to spend some time with Rey and BB-8 on Jakku. Hang out with Han and Chewie on Takodana. See Finn's funny and misguided attempts at being chauvinistic, start to worry when we meet the rathtars and the poorly named space gangs. Then daydream about how Episode 8 can't possibly include another superweapon. Right?
ASIDE (In defense of properly applied Superweapons)
The first Death Star was cool. No doubt about it.
The Second Death Star was a trap. The Emperor knew that the Rebels would have to respond in force if they knew a second one was being built. The trap almost worked to gather and destroy the Alliance.
Any more Death Stars, or Starkiller Bases, or Sun Crushers, or whatevers can please go away. You are not a Dark Lord of the Sith, you are not the Emperor of the galaxy, and you cannot handle the logistics of building such a thing. It is beyond you. Let's leave it at that.
Now, as for The Force Awakens, what could we have seen instead? Why not certain confirmation that the First Order has been not following the terms of the treaty they signed. They have secretly built a mighty fleet (compared to the deliberately de-fanged and moth-balled New Republic Navy). They have also infiltrated and corrupted many in the Senate. They use their new power to strike Hosnian Prime, not with a superweapon shot from the next galaxy over, but with a conventional fleet action surprise attack. They pull some strings behind the scenes, get some key defense resources reassigned or whatever, then roll into orbit with a fleet and lay waste to the surface. Then they flee before any help can be scrambled from individual member planet defense forces. You wind up in the same sort of place, but you don't need a stupid superweapon to do it. You also don't need to have a ex-stormtrooper, who worked as a janitor, know how to disable the planetary shields. Or at least threaten the Captain who's not a Captain to do it for him. So. Annoying.