You have seen the new Star Wars, you have. You just might not know it. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a remake of the original film with Rey (Daisy Ridley) as a new and less wet Luke (Mark Hamill) and that does not seem to bother many people. The film has made something like $1.5 billion in the last half an hour plus it has had superlative reviews. Only, do you know who else has seen Star Wars?
The lead character in the new Star Wars film has seen Star Wars.
Remember that often parodied scene from the original when Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness) controls a Stormtrooper’s mind? “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Rey has seen it too because that is the only way that she could possibly know that you can do this and how to do it.
That’s too far for me, that is going too far. I adore Back to the Future part II which is literally the first film repeated but that’s done with the glorious chutzpah of going back in time and showing us the same scenes from a new perspective. Love it. Star Wars: the Force Awakens doesn’t have that wit.
It sets out to be a new episode in the series and initially has the occasional nod to the original. That’s risky: it’s hard to stay absorbed in the new story when you can’t help but nod at references you recognise. It might be worth the risk, to a point, as the needs you to know it’s part of the same world as the original but long before Rey gives us a movie review, the references overwhelm.
I remember watching JJ Abrams’s Star Trek Into Darkness and murmuring “cue Spock” just before he entered and delivered word for word the line I knew he would. With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I clearly remember thinking “at least they’re not going to repeat the trench scen – oh. Bugger.”
I’m with you if you loathe George Lucas’s Star Wars prequels and I’m with you shuddering about Jar Jar Binks. But it’s a fine, fine line between the appallingly poor Jar Jar and the cultural icon Yoda: Jar Jar could’ve worked and at least Lucas was trying something new. The Force Awakens isn’t.
Even the new film’s seemingly big and genuinely good move of concentrating on a woman character isn’t truly new because it is done in the very oldest of ways. I just called Rey a woman because she is but every character in the film calls her a girl. More, every character is surprised when she can fly starships and when she can fight.
She’s never allowed to just be, to do what she does. If a scene is not a repeat of an original Star Wars one then its purpose is to show that the new creative team has cast a wom – sorry, girl – and that they’re great for doing so.
On my drive to the cinema, a car pulled in front of me with a bumper sticker saying “You’ve just been overtaken by a girl”. You’re not now thinking I should’ve called the police, a prepubescent underage child was driving, you’re thinking you know exactly what it meant. It meant that the driver was embodying girl power and that I, as a man driving behind, must be somehow threatened by this, must have my machismo thwarted.
I don’t have any machismo and I could not even fake giving a damn that this car was in front of me. But I have a lot of bile at the assumptions and the presumptions. In the same way, The Force Awakens assumes and presumes that I will be surprised a woman – sorry, girl – can fly, fight, breathe, be. So in the same way I am annoyed and affronted and insulted.
It’s just worse that I already knew the film so well from last time that it couldn’t keep my attention.