The Force Awakens and Hits the Snooze Button

I have written many articles on many unimportant social and political issues, but nothing has the weight and gravity of this, my attempted review of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

You may wonder why so much fervor and rhetorical pyrotechnics is now and ever will be expended on what is basically a Flash Gordon Space-Samurai Soap Opera adventure flick. Why is not the Internet invented by Al Gore (Peace Be upon Him!) lit up with discussion, debate and commotion about much greater, graver, more intricate and well-crafted films, such as CITIZEN KANE or THE SEVEN SAMURAI or ALEXANDER NEVSKY or SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO?

The answer is that there is no need to remake SPACE BATTTLESHIP YAMATO into a live action film, especially since Leader Desslok was not in the script, one of the most awesome villains of all Japanimation, if not of all sci-fi; he was replaced by some sort of generic hive-mind who possessed human host bodies, and what is up with that? What happened to Queen Starsha of Iskandar? Some remakes do not need to be remade, particularly if you are going to downgrade the villain, make the heroes less memorable and less likeable as the beloved childhood original, and do nothing imaginative with the material.

Just kidding. The real answer is that great, intricate, well-crafted movies are of interest only to a small cadre of socially awkward intellectuals. On the other hand, popular movies and stories define the dreams that define society. Mark Twain once quipped that the Civil War was caused by IVANHOE, with the popularization of notions of chivalry and manly honor among the South. Politics is downstream of culture, and culture is carried from one generation to the next in the form of storytelling.

Myths, not facts, rule mankind.

That is why the Elite are desperate, as desperate as puling drunk for one more mouthful of rotgut, desperate as a cokehead for another noseful of blow, to infuse political correctness into each new corner of pop culture, no matter how small. If they fail to destroy our dream and myths, they fail to reproduce to the next generation, and they are done for.

Likewise, this is why the Sons of Liberty, the Table Round, and the Rebel Alliance of Awesome — that would be us, dear readers, the Good Guys — are vehement to reject political correctness, and get on with the serious business of having fun.

Now, STAR WARS is special, STAR WAR is cyclopean, STAR WARS is Brobdingnagian, STAR WARS is larger than life.

Whoever controls STAR WARS controls the window into the imagination of an entire generation.

I should not need to explain to you why that is, but I will, for otherwise I cannot explain my review of THE FORCE AWAKENS.

In the decade before STAR WARS, flicks were a drag. They were filled with gloom, doom, grit, and anxiety, the kind of fretful worry-wart frenzies about non-issues in which Leftwingers love in indulge. It was the time of SOYLENT GREEN and EASY RIDER. They were made when America was at an apex of wealth and liberty. Meanwhile, back in the 1940s, we had polio, the Dustbowl, and Pearl Harbor, three of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, namely Plague, Famine, and War, were riding the land. And folks made Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials that were fun escapism telling simple stories about larger-than-life good underdogs fighting larger-than-life evil overlords like Killer Kane or Ming the Merciless. And so we were inspired to storm Normandy Beach and topple the Evil Empire of the Soviets.

So George Lucas, liberal extraordinaire, misled by his sheer love of nostalgic film, and without the least notion of what he was doing, decide to remake FLASH ROGERS CONQUERS MARS, and make a pure schoolboy action-adventure film supercharged with the sheer love of escapist film for the sake of film, with some chop-socky samurai sword-fighting thrown in for good measure.

And he accidently brought the whole 1940s back into the soul of the filmgoing public with him, complete with all its conservative values, can-do Yankee optimism, and sassy dames.

The Farm boy is from Tantooine, but could be from Kansas, the lovable rogue could be a hot rodder from Route 66, or any number of other cowboys, rumrunners, or tough guys, and the Princess is a sassy but straight-shooting dame straight out of any number of 1940s adventure serials, comedies, or action flicks.

We have seen so many sassy heroines made directly in the mold of Leia that we tend to forget what decade she is from: she is more like Ginger Rogers or Virginia Mayo playing a gun moll or a girl reporter with moxie than she is like any 1970s actress. What she was not was an icon of feminism, or an ad for female equality with men: she was a princess, that is, she outranked all the male characters.

Leia spoke not just with sass, but with authority, and the script did not have, nor did it need, any embarrassingly unrealistic scenes of her wrestling apes or using wire-fu on hulking thugees twice her size. American gals from the 1940s did not need to wear men’s clothing and false moustaches and speak in a forced low pitched voice to be strong: they were strong and female, not weakminded females playacting at being strong men.

Above all, STAR WARS was pure Americana, as immediately part of our American cult and culture as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or the Lone Ranger.

Long, Long ago was 1940. The Galaxy Far, Far Away was the USA.

STAR WARS was us.

It was a looking glass that, for once, by accident, showed our good features, and was not the funhouse mirror of Howard Zinn style America-bashing.

And it had light saber duels, running gunbattles with blasters, and biplane dogfights in space.

Then EMPIRE STRIKES BACK came out, and, to everyone’s shock and surprise, it was a sequel better than the original. That is almost unheard of in the film world.

The Catch 22 of making a sequel is that the audience wants a second helping of the exact same dish you served before, but, at the same time, they want something new.  If you go in a new direction, you lose some audience for not giving them what made the first movie good; but if you don’t, you get real boring real fast.

The best thing to do is, of course, to think through the deeper implications of what the first movie established, and bring out the innate conflicts on a higher plane, with more at stake, so that the second movie is an organic outgrowth of the first. It is the same dish, but with more salsa. That is the best of both worlds.

The worst thing to do, of course, is to look only at the surface features of the original and copy those, without reflecting on what deeper things those surface features represent, and do a stale rehash that has the same elements, but soulless and mechanical. That is the worst of both worlds.

EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was the best of both worlds. EMPIRE accomplished this by taking the heavy, Darth Vader, who was basically just the henchman of Peter Cushing in the first film, and turning him into a combination black knight, dark wizard, mastermind, and evil overlord and long-dead father from a Greek tragedy. And EMPIRE was not the same plot warmed over: instead of a struggle to find the plans to the Death Star, it was about Luke learning the ways of the Force and the forces of Evil attempting to gather him to themselves.  The deeper meaning of the Force came onstage, and the plot was about an attempt to capture and corrupt Luke, that is, the McGuffin was moral rather than military.

The third sequel failed to capitalize on the success of the second. It returned to the McGuffin of the first film, and the disappointments started when the name was changed from REVENGE OF THE JEDI to RETURN OF THE JEDI. The process of being socially relevant, child-friendly, and politically correct rather than unabashedly pro-fun, pro-good and pro-awesome had begun.

You see, because ‘Revenge’ is awesome cool (just ask the Count of Monte Christo) but Leftists think of revenge as bad, and so the word was changed to ‘Return’ which simply means walking back into a spot you walked out of. It is as undramatic as had the film been called STROLL OF THE JEDI, or PARALLEL PARKING OF THE JEDI or GOOD THING I FOUND THE MISSING JEDI LODGED BETWEEN THE COUCH SEATCUSHIONS.

And the ferocious Wookies, who could have legitimately kicked ass against Stormtroopers were replaced by space teddy bears in order to sell dolls to tots. Big, tough, nasty Wookies killing a space armored vehicle with Molotov cocktails, I would believe. Teddy bears smiting space Panzers with a space log and a leather hang-glider, not so much.

The about face of Darth Vader, the sudden and absurd revelation that the princess was Luke’s sister, and the Emperor urging Luke to kill Vader while Vader is standing right there, and, above all, Luke throwing his lightsaber away all made for some sort of morally confused New Agist version of conduct directly at odds with the World War Two vibe of the first two movies. The Greatest Generation freaking A-Bombed the foe into total and unconditional surrender. They did not throw the A-bomb away in order to avoid the temptation of feeling angry. Feelings are not sins; but to the Left, they are. They produce negative vibes or something.

The rehash from STAR WARS also added a layer of bland tofu of the recipe. The McGuffin was the same, another Death Star, the approach was the same, shooting the one vulnerable spot, and the cantina scene reprise in the gangster hangout of Jabba the Hutt was the same. The shocking reveal where Darth Vader turned out to be yet another major character’s father was the same. Except, in each case, the rewarmed leftover was more poorly executed. Brushing Yoda offstage with a pointless death scene was also poorly executed. When Darth takes his helmet off, instead of the horrifying tenth-degree radiation burns of Dr. Doom, or the ghastly visage of Vincent Price from the Wax Museum, there was a chubby white guy with acne. The film was simply not up to par.

STAR WARS and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK were basically healthy, that is, conservative in moral outlook, as are all dramatic dramas, even the simplest. Conservatism is about taking responsibility for actions, earning, working, fighting, and doing. Conservatives believe in free will.

Leftism is about evading responsibility. It is unhealthy. It is about blaming someone else, the Capitalist conspiracy, the Jewish conspiracy, the Patriarchal conspiracy, for any shortcomings. It is about worrying about things where no one has any control, like the weather, and ignoring things where something needs to and can be done, like a war. Leftism believes in free emotions, but not free will.

Hence in RETURN, we had the absurdity of being told that anger, and anger alone, regardless of the provocation or object, was the definition of evil. If Luke has lost his temper even for one second, so the plot told us, he would suddenly change from good to evil like flipping a lightswitch. And he would be Lawful Evil, too, immediately vowing eternal fealty to the Emperor.

It was supposed to be a scene where Luke was tempted by the Dark Side, but at no point was there any temptation involved: the Emperor did not offer anything whatsoever that Luke wanted, not even “I will spare your friends and let them escape if you bow and serve me.”

The scene was painfully shallow and painful to watch, written by someone who had correctly and accurately boiled Leftism down to its clearest expression: a world where results mean nothing, and only intentions matter. It was a scene written by someone who has no idea what prompts men either to resist or to surrender to temptation, someone who does not know the difference between good and evil. There is more to moral righteousness than keeping one’s temper.

Of the prequels, I have nothing to say which has not been said better and with far more swearwords than I could say by Red Letter Media. ( So much is wrong with each of those horrible, unwatchable, unbearable films that analyzing the errors takes more time than watching the films themselves.

I will mention one and only one point raised by Red Letter Media. It is simple test to tell whether a character is memorable: Set yourself the task of describing, without mentioning their job, the personality of one of the characters from STAR WARS. Then try to do the same for any of the prequel movies. You will find that Space Farm Boy, Space Wizard, Loveable Rogue and Sassy Space Princess are archetypes, as are Plucky Bot and Fussy English Butler Bot.

And in the prequels … well… there are the guys who come to talk about the tax policy on the trade federation blockade of the separatists to the elected princess senator girl who did nothing and stood for nothing, and then, uh, the blond moppet conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a Virgin who can drive a space chariot in a lame BEN HUR ripoff scene for some contrived reason, and then there was amphibious Stepin Fetchit, and some Japanese Businessmen, and, uh…. One bad guy had a double sided lightsaber that was kinda cool…

You see my point. Unfortunately, the characters in FORCE AWAKENS have a similar defect.

So, having been elated by STAR WARS and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and being willing to give REVENGE OF THE JEDI a pass because of speeder bike chase scenes, Boba Fett’s jetpack and Leia’s metal bikini, and then having been groin-kicked by the Jar-Jar trainwreck of the prequels, all Fanboydom waited with baited breath to see if the Mouse of Power, Disney, who certainly knows how to tell a tale and tell it right, would add another gem to the crown or lay another egg.

I am here to report that they did both.

The bad elements in this film are as bad as the bad elements in RETURN OF THE SPACE TEDDY BEARS. The good elements are as good as any remake can reasonably expect.

Let me dwell on the good first.

The look and feel of the movie is perfect. On that level, I give it five stars. It looked and felt and smelled like a STAR WARS movie, one that takes place in the real STAR WARS universe, not the lame prequels, which were like lurching zombie mockeries of that universe.

The McGuffin is yet another Death Star, but this time it is built into the core of an entire planet and drains a sun dry to prime its main beam, which has interplanetary or perhaps interstellar range (the film is a little hazy about distances in space).

I thought that this was a way cool idea, grand scale and old style space opera. The scene of the beam firing while Stormtroopers stood on the surface watching a vast, hellish column of energy rise up to smite the heavens was as impressive as anything I’ve ever seen in a science fiction movie. It was like something I would write.

Also, Harrison Ford is in it as Han Solo, and it was not a letdown like Indiana Jones, because he actually acted pretty much like Han Solo.

Actually, it was a little hard to believe that Han Solo, after being a war hero, would return to being a smuggler and a con man, but it would have required some imagination to extrapolate what he really would have ended up being like in his old age, and there was no imagination in this plot.

The plot is a paint by numbers reprise of STAR WARS with the A-plot of EMPIRE thrown in for good measure. Lonely character on sand planet finds a plucky droid carrying secret McGuffin. Stormtroopers seek McGuffin. Run into loveable rogue who helps them escape. Bad guys blow up a planet with superweapon. Girl gets kidnapped. Good guys go to save her before superweapon blows everything to smithereens. Shocking revelation that one character is another character’s family member. Lightsaber duel. Earthquake. Planet blows up. Good guy win. Roll credits.

Now, any fanboy worth his salt should love this movie. I say that because the good elements were actually good. The look, the special effects, the brisk pace … all to the good. This was not, I say again, it was not a kick in the groin delivered by Jar Jar. The plot was not a mess like in the prequels.

The good things in the flick were really, really good. Go, buy popcorn, summon up your inner seven year old, go see your old friends and make new ones. Turn off your brain. Have fun. It is good.

The one element that they added which was nothing like the first six films was the character of FN2187 (played by John Boyega). As far as I know, he is the only Stormtrooper to take off his helmet in any film. He was kidnapped as a child and raised from birth to obey orders without question, to a ruthless fighting machine. He also is tempted, not by the Dark Side, but by the Light.

I thought this was a bold choice and a fascinating character, especially since he immediately gets in trouble over his head. I have a personal affection for this kind of story, a bad guy trying to make good, a henchman trying to unhench.

The camaraderie between him and ace pilot for the Resistance Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac) during a fumbling escape attempt was exactly the kind of thing I remembered, knew, and loved from the STAR WARS. Light sabers, light banter, and impossible odds. But that was one scene, soon over.

The bad things in this film were really, really bad. They were unimaginative, unbelievable, undramatic, and awkwardly shoehorned into the plot. So go to the movie and get your nerdrage on.

Roughly one zillion things happen that have no explanation, which it would have only required a line of dialog, or a word, to explain.

In the opening word crawl, for example, we are told that the ominous First Order is built on the wreckage of the Old Empire, but we are not told the relationship between the Republic and the Resistance. You can make some educated guesses from the dialog, but, again, one line would cleared up the ambiguity. (Myself, I was perfectly happy assuming that the galaxy was half First Order and half Republic, and that the Republic was secretly funding an ongoing guerilla campaign in the other territory.)

After the good opening scene, we are introduced to a scrappy yet dour scavenger girl living in a junkyard on the planet Tatooine. Except it is not Tatooine, it is somewhere else that looks just like it. Junkyard Girl climbs through the magnificent wreckage of crashed battleships, prying out parts to sell for scrap in return for meager food rations. She is alone, eats plain rations, and marks each one of her empty days on the metal walls of her barren quarters with a knife. The camera pulls back and we see countless marks. She has been there a long while, waiting.

So far, so good. This should have been a great character.

She should have been someone with the hard luck life of Luke the Space Farmboy in the first film combined with the streetwise savvy and cool-factor of Han Solo, loveable rogue. But in scene after scene, a bad impression began to build up in my brain like a sour taste in the mouth.

First, I can recite almost as many memorable, witty, or striking lines from STAR WARS as I can from PRINCESS BRIDE or MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. That film was chock full of good lines. I can remember one and only one witty line from FORCE AWAKENS and this girl does not say it. She simply was not a likeable character.

Second, the camaraderie and chemistry that existed between Han, Luke and Leia, R2D2 and C3PO, and Ben Kenobi, here is simply absent.

Instead of chemistry, the writer went out of his way to make Exhenchman and Junkyard Girl at odds with each other, and not in an interesting ‘opposites attract’ sort of way.

Example: our Exhenchman sees Junkyard Girl being mugged. While idle passersby, like cynical New Yorkers, do nothing but watch, Exhenchman, for the first time in his life, decides to do something to help a stranger, perhaps the first thing he has ever done when not under orders. His motive is pure chivalry, the desire of the strong to help the weak; his motive is pure altruism.

Junkyard Girl with her kung-fu staff-fighting technique, however, manages to trash two or three hulking brutes who are taller, have reach on her, and are heavyweights. She is in the ultralight bantamweight class.

Now, I do not mind the trope of the martial maiden who can fight as well as a man, not if there is some science fiction-ish fig leaf to cover the inherent improbability. Without that figleaf, seeing the short, slender frail wail on her muggers is as improbable as seeing a cheerleader deck a halfback with one punch of her slim-wristed little female hand.

Putting on the figleaf is not hard to do: just say she comes from a heavy gravity world, or is half-Vulcan, or takes a miracle drug, or whatever. But without that fig leaf, the nakedness of the unreality is embarrassing.

So Exhenchman runs to her rescue, and …. looks like an idiot, standing there with his mouth open, because she has mopped the floor with the apes before he can close the distance. Moral of this scene: you do not need to race to the rescue of young girls in danger. A damsel in distress does not need a brave and strong man to save her any more than a fish needs a bicycle. Let the girls die. Great moral for the kiddies, you jerks.

Now, keep in mind, this was not Woody Allen or Kermit the Frog running to the rescue of Wonder Woman, but a soldier drilled in the arts of war since birth trying to save a streetwise pint sized dame in a skirt. Well, actually she wears a shapeless brown sackcloth throughout.

To add insult to insult, Junkyard Girl then mistakes Exhench for a baddie, runs him down while he runs away in panic, and she can outrun him somehow, and throw him easily to the ground, and threatens him while he blubbers. Can you imagine that happening to Han Solo, or the Fonz, or Captain Kirk? Or even to Frodo Baggins?

Moral of the story: men are useless as heroes. A woman civilian can do a soldier-boy’s job better than a soldier. Men are wimps. Great lesson for the kiddies, you jerks.

But the anti-patriarchy agitprop does not stop there.

More baddies arrive. He grabs her hand to drag her to safety, but in a modern, politically correct movie, she does not need saving, and she is offended by the hand grabbing. Because he only drags her deeper into danger by mistake. Later, she grabs his hand and drags his sorry butt to safety. When she does it, it works.

Then she turns out to be:

  1. an ace pilot who can outfly trained fighter pilots.
  2. And she knows more about the engineering details of the Millennium Falcon than Han Solo.
  3. And she is a crack shot even though she seems not to know where the safety on a handgun is.
  4. And she saves Exhench one more time, using her knowledge of the mechanisms of an unfamiliar ship.
  5. Then it turns out she has force powers like a Jedi, including visions of the future and past. She can resist mind-to-mind combat with Big Bad Sith, and even read his mind in the process. But, unlike Luke, she needs no training: she can do advanced mind-control techniques without a single lesson or even being told that such things are possible.
  6. Hence, she can escape from the innermost dungeon of a Sith Lord fortress unaided.
  7. And she can lightsaber fight without training against a man taller and stronger and trained in the art.

This last is after Exhench yet one more time again fails at acting the man and is bitchslapped and curbstomped by the Big Bad, so she picks up his dropped lasersword and finishes the duel. Then there is an earthquake, and the planet blows up, so that part was pretty cool.

Now, each of these improbable little acts of Li’l Miss Too-Cool-for-School might have been believable if the lazy writer had done his darned job and given the paying customers in the audience even the slightest reason to believe it:

  1. Maybe her ace piloting was because of her familiarity with the wrecks through which she had climbed and scavenged for years, and she knew where every strut and spar was like the back of her hand.
  2. Maybe her years of scavenging had given her such familiarity with machines that, uh, she had worked on Han Solo’s ship previously, as a grease monkey, and read all the engineering manuals.
  3. Maybe she was always a crack shot, because she used to bullseye wamp-rats back home in Beggar’s Canyon, and she was merely unfamiliar with this model of blaster, not with all blasters.
  4. Maybe she is a technopath, and has the same affinity for any starship circuitry as Speed Racer has for the Mach 5. She was using the Force. Maybe she is a cyborg, and could plug her brain directly into the ship core, and understand immediately where everything is.
  5. Maybe the Force is desperate to grant her extra powers to stop the evil Sith Lords or something. Or she has a higher mitochlorian count than Darth Vader. Or she has been practicing in the backyard on her own for years. Or she had years of training but forgot them due to a blow to the head. Or something.
  6. Maybe she was being allowed to escape, in the hopes that she would unwittingly lead the Sith Lords to the McGuffin.
  7. I myself, with only one lousy year of fencing training, could stand with my back to the wall and parry every attack made by a more athletic, younger and stronger man, and he had a foil and I had a broomstick. The idea that an untrained girl could hold her own against a trained opponent is absurd. Maybe the Big Bad was gutshot, wounded by Exhench, under orders not to kill her, or had some ulterior reason for making her think she can fence.

I can play the fansave game as well as any fanboy. But why the heck am I doing the writer’s work for him?

Any of these reasons would have acted as a fig leaf for one improbable moment of super-competence after another, but the writer, not the fanboy, must have to have a line of dialog say so, if that is the reason.

Any one or two or three or even four might have not broken suspension of disbelief. But the cumulative effect of seven or eight was grating. There was only one scene where she makes a mistake, or fails to do something better than a man: she accidently trips the wrong circuit breaker to open a door she meant to close.

Imagine the sexes were reversed, and one competent man was able to outperform five bubble headed blondes each one at her lifelong profession and task: he cooks better than a woman cook, he drives better than a woman driver, he kills a rat the woman is afraid of, he wrestles a snake while the woman cowers and screams, and he is better at organizing a wedding. Would you or would you not affirm that such a plot was no more than a sneering joke at all womanhood? So, here. The plot was one long sneering joke at manhood.

She was a better soldier than the soldier, a better pilot than the pilot, a better swordfighter than the swordfighter, a better Jedi than the Jedi, and a better engineer than the guy who lovingly retooled his own hotrod ship over the years … all for no given reason.

Look, I’ve played EDGE OF THE EMPIRE. You can play a Jedi student, or a smuggler, a hired gun or a technician, a bounty hunter, or a droid or a wookie or whathaveyou. Then you spend points on skullduggery rather than piloting, or whatever. I played a Bothan spy. I could built the Exhench guy or the Ace Pilot guy or even Han Solo with the point allotted and the scheme of the game.

But, unlike Bottom in MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, no one can play all the roles at once. No one could build Junkyard Girl the way she was portrayed in the film. You would need five times the allotted number of points.

If they had simply made her a competent staff-fighter and a master engineer, that would have been enough. Then add a line or two to explain how she can outfly fighterpilots, or have a character wondering how she can be so powerful in the Force without any training. That you could do.

Time for a Writer’s 101 lesson: In any ensemble piece, each character needs a skill or a quirk or something that makes him memorable, and in the plot, and you need each character to do his one shtick at least once in the plot. R2D2 has to hack into the computer system via the electrical plug at least once, because he is the hacker, and Han Solo has to outrace pursuing battleships at least once, because he is the hotshot pilot, and Obi-Wan must sense a disturbance in the force at least once, and say something mystical and cryptic, because he is the Old Wizard and this is his shtick. But if Mary Sue can outhack, outpilot, and outwiz the robot, the rogue, and the wizard, she is a boring character because she can do everything, and they are all boring characters because they can do nothing. See? Simple.

But all this is a minor complaint. After all, James Bond both can outfight, outshoot, outdrive, outscubadive and outparachute any foe he comes across, and seduce any woman, and identify the year of the bubbly and which side of which field in France the grapes were grown. Heroines as well as Heroes get to be good at everything: fine. But James Bond is not part of a team. He is a loner.

My major complaint is that there was no chemistry, no camaraderie, no affection between Junkyard Girl and any other character. She was good at everything and so there was no need for Exhench to be there. There was no need for Han Solo to be there.

There was one brief heartwarming scene where Exhench and the girl work in tandem to destroy a threat, and afterward they both laugh in wonder at their good luck or skill or both. For that moment only, they seemed like a team spirit was forming. But then it did not form. The Junkyard Girl in all other scenes was sober and vexed, cross and dour, when she could have been a wisecracking female Han Solo or a fresh and optimistic female Luke Skywalker, or a sassy middle class version of Princess Leia. They could have even had her be a young yet still mysterious mystic like a young Obi-wan Kenobi. Instead they were trying for what? Annoying and peevish brat?

She is not the only annoying and peevish brat in the film. Even the Big Bad is not big and bad like Darth Vader was. He is Teen Vader, he wears a little teen mask, and he chops apart walls in fury when he does not get his way. So he is kind of a boring and unimpressive character, despite a good start in the opening scenes. He is whiny Teen Anakin all over again.

There is one cool and interesting scene where Teen Vader is praying to his grandfather, Darth, and vowing to finish his evil works. Teen Vader sobs and admits he find himself tempted by the Light, which he regards as unforgiveable weakness. Again, evil tempted by goodness is an innately interesting and dramatic theme, and I liked it.

I should mention the Big Bad’s bossman. The Bigger Badder was a giant shadowy figure on a giant throne. He carried his scenes well. I assume we will find out in the sequel that he is actually only six inches tall, but projects a gigantic impressive hologram of himself. Again, he lacks he coolness factor of Leader Desslok or Emperor Palpetine, because he also loses his temper. Not even the bad guys act like men in this movie. Han Solo is the only masculine figure in the whole flick, except for Chewie. And Junkyard Girl.

Unfortunately, all this nonsense of macho girls and girlish men is in keeping with the modern, politically correct jabberwocky and self-imposed delirium of our annoying, peevish and bratty elite thinking, but it shatters the ‘Greatest Generation’ vibe of STAR WARS.

Contrast and compare: Leia kissed the Space Farm Boy for luck before they swung on a swashbuckler style line over a drop, and she hugged the pilot after a successful, if suspiciously easy, escape and spacefight scene. (Note that she was the only one brainy enough to know the escape was suspiciously easy.) They were spontaneously feminine things to do. There was a love triangle between Luke and Han for Leia. The girl was girlish without being one inch less a princess. She was portrayed as attractive to the opposite sex. She still needed rescuing.

And, as any married man will tell you, she like a woman in that she gets things done by being in charge. She is the one in the control room in the final fight scene, not behind the yoke of a fighterbomber. She is the one who gives out medals, not the one who gets them.

Leia is feminine. Junkyard Girl was not. She was playing a typical male role in a typical male fashion. If a guy had been swapped in halfway through the film, the writer would not have needed to change any lines, nor change how they were delivered.

My major complaint is not that Junkyard Girl was a feminist stock character, it was that she was cardboard stock. She formed no rapport with any of the other characters, and so the central charm of STAR WARS was missing. That lack of charm has to do with the awkward attempt to crowbar a female character into a male role, but be that as it may.

My second major complaint was this: If you rewatch STAR WARS or EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, or if, like me, you have the darned thing practically memorized, you should realize how many plot twists there are, how much of a character arc is present, how artfully very impressive moods are put across, and on and on. For all it being a lighthearted nostalgia piece, space opera no more serious than Buck Rogers, it was actually well crafted and well written.

An example of mood: Millennium Falcon reenters normal space from hyperspace at the position where Alderaan should be. The ship is pelted with debris. Farm Boy expresses wonder at the impossibility. Lovable Rogue grunts that the planet isn’t there. Old Wizard cryptically remarks that it was destroyed by the empire. Lovable Rogue says that there is not enough firepower in the whole star fleet to do so much. Dread mounts.

They chase a fighter toward a small moon. It is not a longrange fighter: what is it doing out here? The mystery is solve when they see the fighter streaking toward a small moon. The orchestra plays an ominous chord. “That is no moon.”

And there is an example of a memorable line. Another immediately follows it: “I’ve a very bad feeling about this.”

In fact, I here is a clip of the exact scene. Notice how understated and eerie it is that Obi Wan knows before he can see any evidence the fate of the planet or the identity of the fighter.

An example of plot. First plot twist: they get captured. Second plot twist: they escape capture by hiding in the smuggler’s hidey holes. Third plot twist: Evil Black Knight’s way cool mind powers allow him to detect Old Wizard, and he takes up his light-up sword and goes off by himself to hunt for his old master. Fourth: Comedy relief robot sidekicks reveal that Space Princess is alive and on the station (even though her death warrant has already been signed). One impromptu rescue later, a garbage chute to the trash compactor and a sudden death and a dogfight in space then Fifth Plot twist: the escape was too easy. The Empire is following them back to the secret base. But there are schemes within schemes and wheels within wheels here, since the rebels are hoping to lure the Death Star into a battle where the stolen plans give them a chance to destroy it.

Compare and contrast: there were no plot twists, hardly any real plot, in this film. There is at least one major surprise, which wild horses would not drag out of me, but it was done in a lazy fashion, without the proper foreshadowing and set-up.

Not only the dialog was forgettable, the plot was entirely straightforward except for one clever thing that I liked: Exhench, unwilling to admit to Junkyard Girl that he is a Stormtrooper, say he is a Big Deal in the Resistance, and is forced to pretend he knows where to go and what to do when he has not a clue. I rather liked that plot thread, but nothing really comes of it.

It was nice seeing Han and Cheewie again, though. Harrison Ford does such a good job with such nonchalance that he alone is worth the ticket price.

So how can this movie both at once be a really enjoyable return to a beloved childhood favorite, and be a bland and dull, and in places offensively stupid and politically correct piece of trash?

Because it is a remake, not a sequel.

Oh, I know that technically it is a sequel, allegedly taking place decades after the close of TEDDY BEARS OF THE JEDI, but the story follows the same plotline, except that the roles of Han, Luke and Leia are all played by Junkyard Girl, since she is the cynical rogue, the innocent novice, and the girl with the McGuffin needing rescue all at once. Except she escapes on her own. The rollerball robot is not as cute and sassy as R2D2, because he is not given as much to do, and the Exhenchman and the Ace Pilot don’t actually do all that much.

There is a way cool scene when the X-wings come screaming across the lake to the rescue. The hollow star-eating weapon-planet with forests and snowy mountains and atmosphere above its hull was a convincingly impressive weapon, but, again, there was no moment where the impressiveness was played up, no moment when someone whispered, that’s no moon…

So it is a fairly good remake as remakes go, and it does what it sets out to do, and recapture some, or almost some, of the energy, cleverness, craft, excitement and innocence of the original.

So why is this not the review I wanted to write, with me dancing jigs on the steeple, painted with woad with bells on my toes, yodeling for joy? Because the jerkwads of Hollywood had to take a favorite movie and crap it up with political correctness. Because this film is critic-proof. No matter how bad it is, everyone and his brother will go see it.

And the political correctness is subtle. It has to be subtle, because if the poison tasted of poison, the victim would spit it out: so it is sugar coated to go down easy. Do you think controlling the myths and dreams of a generation has no effect on the generation? Story tellers are the secret legislators of mankind.

The scene where Luke tosses his lightsaber away rather than using it in righteous wrath to smite the evil Emperor may have only been a scene in a kid’s space opera flick: but the majority of the American public regards exactly that same maneuver, preemptive self-disarmament,  as the only moral and right thing to do in the face of the appalling evils of our present war, a war they dare not admit exist, lest they feel a split second of anger, and like a lightswitch being flipped, turn entirely evil themselves. That is what they think will happen if we fight back. If you smite a Sith, you become a Sith.

Why can’t the modern Leftist tell a decent story? Even when he is copying a good and healthy-minded original scene by scene in a paint-by-numbers fashion, it turns out sick-minded.

The answer is ultimately where all ultimate answers reside, in the deep places of the soul.

When we forget God, we forget how to tell tales. I submit that when a man forgets his Creator, he forgets how to create. Anyone raised in the Church is raised with compelling and impressive stories from childhood, from the tragedy of Eden to the epic of Exodus to the divine comedy of the Resurrection to the awesome high-tech special effects extravaganza of the Apocalypse.

We conservative Christians live inside a story, and we are curious about pagan stories, seeing even there glimpses of the universal light. Pagans are never curious about any Christian story, but repelled, for darkness hates the light. Political Correctness is not a story but a political manifesto, a complaint, a call for political change, a boring sermon we’ve all heard endlessly.

Our modern story tellers live in this arid and airless and lunar landscape of lifeless policy statements. Their characters are wooden puppets, merely stand-ins for whatever current political figures are they wish to mock or applaud. Their plots are borrowed without understanding what it is they borrow.

Their stories turn out sick minded because political correctness is not a political philosophy, not a religion, not a worldview, it is merely a destructive parasite which feeds off all these things and destroys them. Their tales are sick minded because sickmindedness is not a bug, but a feature. To spread their mental disease is why they make these films, not for money. If they wanted money, they would make what the audience wants to see. Instead they package their unpopular dreck in the outward surface appearance of what they audience wants to see, like wrapping a diseased harlot in a shining and spotless wedding gown, or coating a booger in caramel and chocolate.

In this particular case, the social justice message is so small, and so unnoticeable, that it should prove no bar to anyone who wants to go see a remake of STAR WARS that correctly captures the mood and look of the original.

So I cannot either recommend nor condemn this movie. I loved it and hated it.

I loved it because it was an honest to goodness return to the real Star Wars universe. Once again I was transported to the galaxy long, long ago and far, far away. I was a kid again. For that I am grateful.

I hated it because it read like a Mary Sue fanfic where the writer puts herself in the story, does everything right and even Han Solo is sweet on her, and there is no drama and no point to the other characters even showing up.

Like I said about SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, some remakes do not need to be remade, particularly if you are going to downgrade the villain, make the heroes less memorable and less likeable as the beloved childhood original, and do nothing imaginative with the material.

Now I am going to go dig up my old EDGE OF THE EMPIRE character sheet and ask the GM if he will run his game again. He made up a better plot with a more interesting McGuffin and a more compelling plot that this turkey.