(minor spoiler for The Force Awakens below)
I broke down and saw the new Star Wars movie, in large part so that I could participate in conversations with my friends. I was hoping I’d be surprised, but I didn’t expect to be bored. I left confused, because there’s all sorts of really great things to like about the movie, but when you put them all together, the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Why was it so damn boring?
After days of pondering, I’m pretty sure the movie lost me very early on, in one fatal scene. That being the scene where Rey steals BB8 from a fellow scavenger.
Not because I have a problem with the action itself, but rather because the scavenger doesn’t react. Ray runs up, yells a few mean words at the scavenger, then rips BB8 from the scavenger’s mount to claim him. She scoots away a few steps and starts inspecting her new-found loot. The scavenger scowls and goes about his business.
This is utterly unbelievable. No way is someone going to run up to me while I’m driving, take valuables out of my car, and then wander away a few steps before settling down, without SOME SORT of reaction from me. Especially if I’m a desperate scavenger barely eking out a living. The scavenger presented in that scene is there soley to deliver BB8 to Rey. He didn’t exist before that moment and he won’t exist after it, and he knows this and accepts it.
To make matters worse, Rey is also aware of this. She doesn’t bother to flee or take a defensive position or even keep an eye on the scavenger. She accepts that his role is complete, and he can now pass gracefully from this mortal coil.
In those few seconds, the movie told me everything I needed to know to completely destroy my enjoyment. The director (or writer?) has no respect for his audience. He doesn’t care to speak with them. This is not a story. This is merely a number of set-pieces, loosely strung together. All action loses meaning, because there are no people in this movie. There are only philosophical zombies, progressing through a chronology of events without intention or awareness.
This is not a narrative, it is a 2-hour toy commercial. Made by people who have forgotten how to play with toys.
I realize that all stories are predetermined narratives, all “freely chosen actions” are contrived by the author to suit his goals. But those goals are supposed to include causing his audience to generate a model of a person in their head, and empathizing with that person. When it is clear that the author’s model of the characters aren’t living people, but rather of empty dolls that fill in the people-shaped holes in a spectacle, it becomes impossible to empathize with them. And so, watching hollow plastic pieces being continuously re-arranged in dramatic poses for the camera, I was bored.
It could have been a good story, had anyone cared to tell one.
I had a similar experience and I agree with you, but I think this post would be a better if it had more than one concrete example.
My reading of that scene was that both Rey and the scavenger happened across BB-8 almost simultaneously. The scavenger’s like: hi little droid, guess you belong to me now. BB-8 is angry because he already has an owner THANK you very much. Rey comes over too see what the commotion is and finds a scavenger trying to steal the droid against its will, and stops him.
“This is utterly unbelievable.”
Not if Rey is the badass Jedi chick she’s supposed to be. The guy would know her, it’s a small town. Furthermore she was in the right, the guy was stealing. Having been caught by the Scary Human Female he would slope off quietly.
However I agree, it could have been better. Terminator Genesis was better.
Except, we always knew this is how it was going to be. Star Wars is like a McDonald’s hamburger. It was written by focus groups and marketing types. It’s devoid of anything but fat and sugar, by design.
There’s so much money on the line, the bankers and managers and all the accountants and corner office lizards have to get their fingers in the gears. They don’t have the guts to keep their hands off and let the artists make something. Artists are dicks, they can’t be trusted with money.
And of course, they’re not wrong about that. Look at the last Star Wars. Profound suckage there.
Plus, going right back to the beginning, Star Wars was never really ‘about’ anything anyway. Lucas took some fairytale boilerplate, tossed it in a garbage can, shook it and filmed the script that came out. It was a vehicle to show off his special effects system.
I watched it at the theater when it first came out. As soon as the opening credits roll off and the camera pans down to the rebel spacecraft shooting at something behind the camera, I said to myself: “Now THAT is a friggin’ spaceship!”
Then the battle cruiser comes growling in over the camera and fills the whole screen. I said to myself: “WAAAAAA!!!!!!!!1!”
Because at the time, all spaceships in movies were crappy. SF movies generally sucked. Hard. Think Star Trek TOS, those model shots are boring. An -obvious- model, obviously hanging from wires in front of an obviously painted backdrop. One step up from Ed Wood.
Star Wars? Story? Who cared?!! Not me, I wanted to see the X-Wing fly down the canyon again. Because I’d never seen anything that cool in a movie before.
So now they’re trying to graft some story onto the Frankenstein’s Monster which is Star Wars, but there is no Author to do it because Lucas can’t write and there’s 200 Very Important And Powerful Men all fingerpainting their initials onto the thing.
It’s pablum. It was always going to be. I was happy it didn’t actively repel me like the last one, in some retarded effort to be “edgy and hip”.
Because, in the final analysis, the point of the thing was to make money. And it is Making Money! Holy fructose, is it making money. Therefore all the Very Important Men will declare victory and set about trying to make lightning strike again and again on the same spot.
Pablum sells. Edgy and hip, not so much.
“I realize that all stories are predetermined narratives, all “freely chosen actions” are contrived by the author to suit his goals.”
Must disagree there old son. The best stories are when you take a guy with some interesting character traits and you hand him a problem. The better the problem, the more interesting the story. Stories where the author has “goals” are generally preachy crap.