Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a film for Millennials.
The above sentence is the most concise review that I think you’ll find anywhere online. Don’t continue reading if you don’t want spoilers, however, because that’s not all I’m going to say. I’m on the internet, after all, and don’t all of us internet folk have assholes? I mean, of course, opinions.
I have read many a harsh review of the film and I must say that, in general, I agree with every one of them. I have read some favorable reviews, focusing more on J.J. Abrams’ ability to craft a spectacle that is enjoyable in its own right, and in many ways, I agree with those. But the bottom line for me came down to the fact that this film is simply Abrams and Crew doing what can only be described as Good Business by making an attempt to appeal to both the aged Star Wars fan and the new Millennial fans. For Hollywood, the bottom line is Dollar Value, and Abrams has built a redux of a cash-cow franchise that will surely bring back every dollar and more that was put into this film.
My immediate aggravation was Kylo Ren. From the moment he stepped onto the screen, he was weak—to the point that not even his impressive skills with the force were intimidating. I’ve had enough 4-8 hour sessions with sinus pain turned mind-numbing migraine that he could have pulled my sinuses right out of my head, and I’d’ve only spit blood back at him, no map, no coordinates, no ‘droid location. He simply annoyed me just that much. Prone to tantrums and whining, Ren was a farcical attempt at a Millennial version of Vader that fell so short of the mark as to be an embarrassment to the black cape and helmet. In short, Kylo Ren was a spoiled brat the likes of which make Anakin from the second and third prequels seem a seasoned professional. The moment he removed the helmet was the penultimate disappointment. Put the helmet back on, Ren. Stimpy won’t recognize you without it.
Rey was, of course, a little doll. She was so cute that, as an old man myself in my forties, I’d have taken her under my wing and protected her. How sexist of me, no? You needn’t worry about that, as Rey held her own—at everything. She is what so many have said, which is simply too good to be true. To keep this in perspective (and that’s important, I think, because, to quote Alfred Hitchcock, “It’s only a movie”), one must remember that, like Kylo as Millennial Vader (call him, ‘Darth Emo’), Rey is Millennial Luke. I ask you: when is the last time a Millennial was patient about a damned thing? These kids don’t have time to wait on training and shit, people, this is The Force we’re talking about, and these Millennials have been taught they are The Chosen since birth. For Rey to have required such as training to invoke her force powers would not have been acceptable to this generation, and I suspect that Abrams and Crew knew this and they most assuredly ran with it. Since we do not have superpowers such as the force, technology is our superpower here in the real world and, one must admit, these Millennials take to that like babies take to candy. In the sense of our modern, backwards, entitled world, Rey’s discovery and immediate expertise at things that took Luke much longer makes its own completely illogical sense. Was she a little twerp in many aspects that could use a good round of getting her ass kicked? You betcha. Yet I found her to be—withing the illogical confines of modern culture—endearing in her own way. Not in a million parsecs would I seek a relationship with her, were I a younger man, yet I did find her to be good fodder in her own way for a nice What If Scenario, which Abrams gave us without any explanation. Abrams and Crew know how to do this well, and, for the people Rey was intended to draw in, she did this and more.
Finn’s story was too easy, was nonsensical and full of too much modern, political nonsense and Boyega just didn’t have much to work with. Yet I will confess to just simply liking the cat. He had some moxy, he wanted to do good for the sake of doing good. This is rare and needed. The simple fact is that Finn needed much more focus. He possessed a depth in his eyes that told me instantly that he needed a much deeper backstory, something with bones, skin and tissue, not just very well-executed one-liners and sharp wits. When he would pick up a light saber or blaster and he used it well, I bought it, and I credit Boyega for this, as well as Abrams. I wanted Finn to kill Ren with all of the fervor that being a slave to the Empire (ok, fine, The First Order) could conjure up within him, and I think this might have been a more cathartic way of dealing with Ren. As much as Solo clearly liked Rey, I saw more of a connection between Solo and Finn, and I would have enjoyed watching Finn take the angst out on Ren for killing the man who’d helped Finn escape, despite that Solo knew all along Finn was not Resistance.
Aside from Abrams and Crew’s ability to conceive and execute spectacle on a grand and lovely scale, the rest of the film was pure silliness. A Giant Death Star, Nazi fetishization, god complexes, rehashing of old material with slick, new veneers, the ‘droid that was cute but no R2, a giant, god-like Supreme Leader with the ridiculous name Snoke, etc., and so on, I simply dismissed as equivalent to breasts-and-butt anime Fan Service. Abrams and me grew up seeing Fan Service. He’s no idiot and clearly remembered that Fan Service sells a damn movie.
And the spectacle! This is where Abrams shines brilliantly. I remember the first time I saw the USS Vengeance crash into Earth during Star Trek: Into Darkness. That was the first moment for me where Abrams made me sit back and think, “Wow, now there’s something you don’t see every day, Chauncey.” He did not disappoint in this regard concerning The Force Awakens. Rome would have cheered at the awe on the screen. In this regard, Abrams made his money from me, and that simply can’t be ignored. And this is our culture now, is it not? Spectacle. Flash. Effects. Things that are bigger than life firing booming lasers at us and blowing up entire worlds with the power of Sunkist. I should say, the power of the sun, of course, but as it was revealed that this new Supersized Death Star took its power from suns, I could only think of Sunny-D. Unleash the power of the sun, indeed.
Overall, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is simply true to modern cultural form; it is what it is and is this simply because our backwards culture today demands that it be so, and I cannot despise the film for doing what it had to do to make a buck. For me, there will never be any Star Wars films beyond the first three. Not the damnable prequels, I don’t care about Lucas’ order. The first three, wherein my heroes were rabble-rousers, whiners, princesses and thieves, yet possessed within them the spark of redemption and knew, that when all things went to Hell, the only way to get back to good was to do whatever the hell it took, including years of training, discomfort, and controlling themselves, their base natures and their tempers. This is not that time, and it will never be again, thus I simply chalk The Force Awakens up to a generation and culture lost but simply trying to entertain itself, attempting to look for the good, despite no longer remembering what good looks like. In this way, it succeeds, but in only this way.
Well, ok, it also succeeds in being really fun to look at.