(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.