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The Chatterbox Awakens

January 25, 2016

I’m usually the person whose opinions run contrary to everyone else’s, but on Saturday I realized how far I swim from the mainstream. Perhaps I belong in isolation with other deviants, a chubby cellmate for El Chapo, or maybe I belong in a special camp for like-minded people unable to be assimilated into proper society, aberrant people such as those with a passion for Jerry Lewis or think Sarah Palin a gifted intellectual. On Saturday, Mrs. Chatterbox and I saw the new Star Wars movie, and throughout most of it I wished I was in a different galaxy, one far far away from the movie theater where my butt was growing sore.


Spoiler Alert: If you have yet to see the movie you might not want to continue reading.


Like most everyone else, I was blown away by Star Wars when it premiered in 1977. The dialogue was a bit shaky and some of the costumes laughable, but overall it was an interesting blend of science fiction, nostalgia, special effects, and religion, with additional spice added by the incredible music of John Williams. The next two movies in the franchise were equally satisfying, although I was fatigued with George Lucas’ fantasy by the time the three prequels came along.


I decided I wouldn’t see this new movie unless critics were blown away by it, which they seemed to be. A billion dollars in ticket sales further convinced me that I needed to check out this cultural phenomenon, so I did. What did I find? Absolutely nothing new. At times I thought I was watching a remake of the ’77 movie.


I couldn’t help but be struck by the avalanche of plot similarities: young persons on the cusp of adulthood (Luke/Rey) both have untapped powers and are plucked from the obscurity of a parentless existence on a desert planet patrolled by an evil entity; an engaging droid possesses the secret location of something the villain is desperate to obtain; Han Solo/Finn both resist the urge to join the rebels and become freedom fighters until people they care about are impacted; the Evil Empire of the first series supposedly collapsed yet looks remarkably intact only thirty years later with a “Supreme Leader” replacing an evil “Emperor;” a death star (planet in this case) is about to destroy the rebel base unless it can be demolished by the ragtag fleet of rebel fighters looking exactly as they did thirty years earlier except for being painted black. The list goes on….


I understand many of the similarities were cookies for old folks like me, such as the return of the beloved Millennium Falcon and the bar/cantina scene with its assortment of bizarre alien characters, but couldn’t new elements have been added, a few plot twists perhaps? Great that we’re able to see how old Leia and Han have grown and I did feel a pang when—well, I won’t give it away except to say it wasn’t enough to warrant the price of admission.


I don’t know the extent of Lucas’ involvement in this latest effort, but he must have been pleased with the computer-generated creatures not possible in his first movie, but these are not sufficiently satisfying on their own and have become common place in sci-fi movies. And once again we have a battle between good and evil (the Force versus the Dark Side) played out for the soul of an integral character, yet I can’t help but think The Dark Side prevalent in the universe since only thirty years after the fall of the empire, an even greater evil has taken its place—now referred to as The First Order, with the Force left struggling to awaken.


To be sure, Jar Jar Binks was a terrible distraction in the first prequel, but it did seem like an attempt was made to add new elements to the story, especially in battle scenes and the underwater city of the Gungans on Naboo.


I give The Force Awakens a “C” for lack of originality. The last thing I expected to find in a galaxy far far away was—dullness. In the words of Yoda, “Bored I was…”





Not bikini-clad Princess Leia and Jabba the Hut, but pretty darn close.



Have you seen The Force Awakens? If so, what did you think?






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A C is a strict verdict. I agree though about lack of originality. It doesn't bother me though. I did expect it from this particular movie. I did expect the fight between force and dark side (this is what Star Wars are about :D), same as I expected young characters to be put in place of the old ones. Overall I think it was not bad entertainment... I give it a B. See ya around! :)
By: Anja on January 25, 2016
TOTALLY, dude! Boring and derivative and had lots of holes!!
By: Tabor on January 25, 2016
I saw it and really liked it. It did not bother me about plot originality. At least I was able to follow what was going on! My sources say George Lucas did not like what they did with his movie. It sounds like the storyline didn't go with how he thought it should have gone. May the force be with you!
By: Linda on January 25, 2016
I really liked it and was also not bothered by the similarities to the first film. It was Abrams love letter to the original trilogy. While not the most original, it felt very comfortable and satisfying, especially after the terrible prequels.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on January 25, 2016
As far as the plot goes, it was just an homage to the first film. So I get it when people like you say there was nothing "original" with the plot. But the movie was chock full of originality in other aspects. For one, female jedi are very rare and having Rey as a hero is just a breath of fresh air for me. Additionally, there were many things with the Force that I have never seen before. For example: Kylo Ren stopped a blaster bolt in mid-air. Darth Vader couldn't do that and he was ultra-powerful. Rey was able to download instructions almost instantly on just about anything (one of these was to get training on how to use a lightsaber and another was how to jedi mind-trick someone) and all of this was done without a master. The lightsaber called out to Rey. This has never happened in any movie and suggests that lightsabers may be alive in a way because only living things have the ability to call out...right? Starkiller Base also had the ability to fire it's main weapon THROUGH hyperspace (that strange alternate dimension that the Millennium Falcon flies through when it goes faster than light). This was touched on briefly in the film. Lets also not forget that the seat of the entire New Republic senate was completely destroyed by Starkiller Base. However, the galactic senate WAS NOT on Coruscant, which we know was the previous "center of the universe" where the senate used to be. What's going on with Coruscant? Why did the New Republic form its government away from the center of the galaxy? All of these questions have implications that will lead down new paths and each one could take a movie to explain. Clearly, something strange is going on with The Force. It's more powerful than it used to be. And it's those hooks that make it a compelling film. Sure, it followed a pretty standard storyline, but just like the justaposition of the two suns to create an alien universe in the 1977 film, J.J. Abrams created his own "double exposure" by giving us handfuls of things we have never seen before that indicate "this is not the universe you are used to" so the whole things feels fresh and exciting.
By: Michael Offutt on January 25, 2016
We haven't seen the movie, but I imagine we'll check it out at some point - in our living room :)
By: The Bug on January 25, 2016
The picture you have here-if you take the girl's head, it reminds me of Ingmar Bergman's film, "The 7th Seal", where one of the main characters is Death. I figure it is a rehash of the old and I don't get how the evil empire can get so huge in just 30 yrs but hey, Jar Jar was an idiot and when Yoda does his flips and kicks battling Christopher lee only to return to his cane walking very slowly, I laughed out loud. I still have to see this and will this week sometime
By: Birgit on January 25, 2016
In 1977, at age 20, I fell in love with Leia. I don't want to see her on the doorstep of a nursing home! It will remind me that I'm only a few steps behind her.
By: Sage on January 25, 2016
I think the only Star Wars movie I've seen was the first one and I can't remember anything of it. Think I'll skip this one, too.
By: Catalyst on January 25, 2016
Thank you thank you for saving us time and money- I suspected it would be a I can confirm it once it is out on DVD. Cheers- have a great week!
By: Kathe W. on January 25, 2016
I really enjoyed it despite the flaws.
By: pt dilloway on January 25, 2016
Much the same as you.
By: John on January 25, 2016
Haven't seen it, and don't intend to. The first three movies were enough for me.
By: messymimi on January 25, 2016
I only watched the first movie 1000 years ago and I enjoyed it, but never became a big fan, so I am even more out of touch than you are. I expect it is actually a very good movie for SW fans of which there are zillions, so it is probably just you and that are out of step. The older I get the less I like action movies and special effects anyway, so go and enjoy all you SW fans...i won't judge.
By: cranky on January 25, 2016
Great analysis. An LA Times critic weighed in with a similar take. As I responded to him, the best thing about this new "awakening" in the franchise is that a couple of new generations get introduced to the theme and the force. Good vs. evil, light vs dark and all that good mythic image. I suspect Disney did not want JJ Abrams to wander too far afield from a proven formula. Their interest was not to push the boundaries of the franchise, but to protect their $ Billion cash cow.
By: Tom Cochrun on January 25, 2016
Thank you Stephen. You saved me a three hour round trip to a theater. I fear my age has dimmed my enthusiasm for a rehash. Don't think they need my bucks anyway.
By: Arkansas Patti on January 25, 2016
Haven't seen it, and thank you for the spoiler alert notice. WTF... "Sarah Palin a gifted intellectual". Did you smoke again? ;-)
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 25, 2016
I've never seen the original Star Wars and certainly have no desire to see the new one. I'm not into La La Land stuff much.
By: LL Cool Joe on January 25, 2016
I just have no interest or desire to that movie!
By: Bouncin Barb on January 25, 2016
I have no interest in seeing it. I only saw the original Star Wars (during the re-release in 1979) because a lesbian whose girlfriend was out of town at a gymnastics meet needed a date with a car to take her. Yeah. I'm a good friend like that.
By: Val on January 25, 2016
I agree with the Bug. If I see it, it will be on Netflix!!
By: fishducky on January 25, 2016
Well, I'm somewhat relieved by your review, because I don't plan to see it. Yours is the only opinion that I'm not missing anything, and I respect your opinion, Stephen.
By: Robyn Engel on January 25, 2016
I saw it. I liked it. I agree with you 100% that it lacked originality. But, I still liked it. Because...I'm easily amused. I WAS disappointed when Spock died, though. But, so did Khan. So, we have THAT going for us.
By: Al Penwasser on January 26, 2016
I find you review of the film rather ironic. For I have refused to watch the latest Star Trek movie because it was directed by Abrams, and from what I have seen and heard about the movie, the characters are pretty much unrecognizable in comparison to the originals. Whereas, you did not like the new Star Wars being too much like what came before. By the way, John Lucas has indicated in interviews that he is not a big fan of what they have done to his baby. Alas, Bob Iger and the current Disney management tarnishes another entertainment institution. Have you tried watching ABC (especially the news shows) lately? I would not recommend it.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on January 26, 2016
After reading your review, I'm glad I didn't spend the money to see it. I loved the 1977 version, but none of the new ones that followed it held my interest for long. It was doubtful that I'd see The Force Awakens. Now I know for sure that I won't be going to the movie theatre any time soon.
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on January 26, 2016
I doubt that you belong in isolation with deviants...although there probably would be a lot of blog fodder there. I haven't seen it yet. I will probably hold out until I pick it up on demand or Netflix. I have talked to a number of people that gave it a C. I loved the original back in the day but I tend to lose interest in franchises that have multiple prequels and sequels.
By: Cheryl P. on January 27, 2016

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