It’s been more than a week since the release of what can we consider as the mammoth of this generation. Wait, I’m talking too big. Anyway, it’s been more than a week since the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and I’m lucky enough to have two screenings in two days. Fortunately I enjoyed it and even more fortunate is that means that I can savor the film even more with consecutive screenings like that. Although I can talk more about that later.
I’m gonna talk about Star Wars. Let’s jump it off from the latest iteration, “The Force Awakens” by JJ Abrams. Simply said, I liked it. Even before it was released I already have hope from the directors. Also truth to be told I’m relatively new to the franchise. I’ve watched the prequel trilogy around mid-00’s. I’ve watched “A New Hope” and “Return of the Jedi” not long after that, and days before the release of the latest iteration I’ve spent my time catching up with the whole original trilogy back-to-back. The reason why I had hope with Abrams is because I liked how he handles the Star Trek reboot, how it convinced me to enjoy the Star Trek franchise.
I relates myself more as a Trekkies than Star Wars fanboy honestly. Which I have reasons to do so but let’s not talk about that now. As that is besides the point—and my favourite space opera franchise is Mass Effect, for similar reason to Trek.
So “The Force Awakens” is great. Star Wars as a franchise is great. It has this rich and ever expanding universe (although we suppose much of the expanded universe are now deemed non canonical after the release of TFA). Within that massive universe lies a rich mythos and characters from the familiar Skywalkers to the notorious Jar Jar Binks, or even any non-movie characters that I could not name. One non-movie character I’m familiar is the Starkiller from “The Force Unleashed” video game, which is actually my entry point to the franchise. To me that is still my favourite Star Wars product I ever enjoyed.
I didn’t really enjoy the original trilogy. Much more the prequel trilogy which is actually a special effect vaganza of the age but I can’t talk more. I want to focus more on the original trilogy. The one that started it all, “A New Hope”.
Originally it wasn’t titled that way. Also Lucas releases several edition after the original release. The movie itself earned its episode title after the first re-release if I recall correctly. As I said I didn’t really enjoy the movie. I’ve set my experience from my latest screenings which used the DVD version, which also means it’s the altered version where Han shot later and he had a talk with CGI Jabba by the Falcon hangar. I have no problem with the ugly CGI or the whole controversy regarding who shot first. It’s that I jst found the movie to be plainly uniteresting.
It sure does have a great set design, an engaging scene here and there, adorkable characters, memorable mascot character, Harrison Ford’s charisma, etcetera etcetera. The plot is fine, there’s no problem with it at all as it play safe with Campbell’s hero’s journey. Although we open much of the film through the lens of two droids before being hastily forcing a protagonist by the name of Luke Skywalker who lives with his relatives. After that the story goes as you know it.
And just that.
One problem that made me feel like the film is uniteresting is because how the movie really goes by the number. By that I mean how it goes exactly what it supposed to be. Rather than a film that made me experience things it just goes like watching a snowball rolling down the hill. It sure goes even more interesting the more it get bigger but you know it will get bigger and you know it will only goes down from now. Also by going the number it reflects how it is exactly what is supposed to be, a pastiche. Coincidentally days before the release Slate publishes a fatty exposition on how Star Wars is a pastiche and an epitome of postmodernist film. A pastiche I can agree, but I won’t rush on saying the latter term.
But let’s face the fact that Star Wars is indeed a pastiche. It’s not that a pastiche is a bad thing. A pastiche can be good and Star Wars is the example of it (while let’s say “Tiap Detik” is a really bad example of a pastiche). But being a good pastiche doesn’t equal an enjoyable movie in all. Watching it back then it might be good, until you realize you’re just watching a collage of several movies that came before it. But it’s been more than 30 years from its original release and the pastiche has peremeated much of our popular culture that it becomes ridiculous. Maybe it’s a mistake to measure the film by today’s standard but I found the film more ridiculous than great.
It just jump from one scene to another. One set piece to another, rushing the narratives of our young inexperienced hero. Brief exposition, laser shootings, conversations, climax, dogfighting (in space), the usual. And just that.
By the time I finished my marathon of original trilogy I found myself unsatisfied. I have to admit it is more of popcorn that fills up your thirst and nothing more. No lingering sense or whatsoever. I find myself questioning what makes the series so revered?
By that time I instinctively do a comparison. Still I can’t get the answer. Most likely this is the problem of taste. Then time goes and I went to the first screening the second day it was screened at theaters.
And it was good. I think it is better than the original trilogy, of course technological capability plays much of it success, just like the original then. Simply said, I love “The Force Awakens”. I like the characters, I like the narratives, I like the scenes, the dialogues, the directing. But at the same time it is still the same Star Wars movie I remember, it left me with nothing.
To point out how the movie throws many reference to its original series is a two-fold problems. It leaves the same taste as the original trilogy and so in the end it becomes a pastiche of a pastiche. Despite the lingering emptiness I felt after watching it the film still ends up enjoyable as I still enjoy my second screening the next day. Just as “A New Hope” goes rolling like a snowball TFA bears the same trait. But in its advantages the plot haven’t permeate our culture yet—but it will.
Perhaps the problem why I didn’t enjoy it—the original trilogy—is because that I’ve been exposed to its plot already. I’m already familiar with the plot from numerous parodies and reference made by other media that it familiarizes inside my head. It weaves the plot without even needing to watch the movie. So I was left with watching the technical aspects, the presentation of the plot. Which as a pastiche, won’t be as interesting if I already familiar with the references it refers to. One or two “Aha!” moment or a bit of chuckles might occurs but that’s it. Just as referential jokes won’t live up through the ages then the film as this also ages. Unfortunately it doesn’t age like wine.
Still it’s not that the original Star Wars is a bad movie. It is a good movie, groundbreaking even, not to mention the cultural impact it left until today. It’s just that the film was mediocre at best. And when a franchise has the main source of its canon (i.e. the movies) as a weak product I don’t think it is a good for a franchise.