Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Goddess of Star Wars

I still want to know more about these two. If these were the old Extended Universe days, we could expect at least one short story about them in an anthology. Maybe now they'll have a comic or even a cgi cartoon. Yeah, I think Disney's going to make back all the money it gave to Lucas and then some.

I saw Force Awakens again last night with my friend Tim who hadn't seen it yet. I had two free tickets thanks to my bag being temporarily confiscated last time. I was able to use them at another Regal owned cinema, which was good because when we went to the first one the 3:20pm showing we'd planned on seeing had sold out. 3:20pm on a Monday. Oh, yes, Disney is making its money.

I saw an article to-day linked to by my friend Iain on Facebook called "The Force Awakens is the Least Interesting Star Wars Yet". I do actually agree that the prequels are more interesting, certainly bolder. Though it's also more interesting and bolder when someone shits in the middle of your rug than if someone doesn't. Though I don't think Lucas was mean spirited and as I said in my initial review there are still a lot of things I admire more about the prequels compared to Force Awakens, in particular I think Revenge of the Sith is a better film. Despite the flaws of the prequels, I find the story of someone's fall to the Dark Side in the midst of a morally ambiguous environment fundamentally more provoking than a couple good kids against the Nazis. But in fact, Kylo Ren borrows quite a page from the Book of Anakin, and the struggle with pain and complexity that Ren alludes to is pretty much exactly what Anakin was going through, though more explicitly.

Ren is a more complex character than the protagonists of Force Awakens which is not a bad thing. It reminds me of the great 1940 Thief of Bagdad, a tremendously influential film on the great American filmmakers of the 1970s. The villain played by Conrad Veidt in that film was far more nuanced and complex than the protagonists who were more archetype than character.

People complaining about Rey's lack of complexity are, I think, out of touch with a certain kind of storytelling. I said I can see how Rey might be called a Mary Sue the other day, though she really doesn't strike me as an avatar for Abrams or Kasdan. I think what people mean when they use the term "Mary Sue", putting aside people who use it as a sexist pejorative, is a character who is simplistic and beloved to an extent that's annoying. Which is slightly different from how the term was originally defined to refer to an author's vehicle for wish fulfilment and self gratification, though the two could overlap, certainly.

We live in an increasingly atheistic culture, which may be a good thing, and maybe the lack of trust in government over the past fifty years has had something to do with it but people no longer respect stories about a character who is not us, who is distant and greater than us. We occasionally get Rey's POV--when she's deciding not to sell BB-8, maybe when she mind tricks the cameoing Daniel Craig. But mostly we watch her, usually from Finn's perspective, sometimes from Han's. When Han marvels at her ability with machines (which is perfectly legitimate, by the way, despite criticism. She has to know her way around all the ships she scavenges and she has to know what she's picking up) we marvel with him rather than join in her glee because his confusion is more like us than her knowledge. When Finn watches her fend off her attackers, we're learning with Finn about her while we never regard Finn from Rey's perspective in the same way.

Oh, by the way, I'm going to get into spoilers now.


Hercules was born super strong. He didn't have to train. That doesn't make stories about Hercules bad stories. Rey was apparently born with abilities in the Force far greater than Luke. She has better self control than Luke did at her age. That doesn't make hers a bad story. Just a different story. And in this way, yes, the movie does not ape the original trilogy.

Personally, I tend to prefer Luke's story, just like I tend to prefer Spider-Man to Superman. But I respect and like Rey's story. It's not unlike what works really well about H.P. Lovecraft. The menace he describes is effective because of how strange and powerful and distant it is from us and Rey's heroism works the same way. Her vision when she holds the lightsabre is not like Luke's vision in the cave in Empire Strikes Back. Luke made a crucial decision going in to face the darkness. He brought weapons despite Yoda telling him he didn't need them. He chose to ignite his lightsabre and fight when he confronted the vision of Vader. The only substantial decision Rey really makes in regards to her vision is try to back away from her destiny afterwards. She wants to go home and wait for her parents to come back rather than confront the scary, weird future. But that's a comparatively superficial reaction and pales in comparison to the great abilities she's already shown. Mostly the operative reactions we have to Rey are awe and adoration. Like a goddess. We're never going to see her embarrassed for her hubris like Luke because she doesn't have hubris. We're not likely to see her exhibit sexual attraction to Finn the way we saw Luke and Han dealing with their attraction to Leia--or Leia dealing with her attraction to Luke and Han. We're never going to see her struggle with the moral complexities of the universe like Ren and Finn because she's always motivated by the desire to take care of people despite her initial reluctance to take in BB-8.

That's why she's able to beat Ren so easily. For the men in Force Awakens, life is confusion and questions about pride. But Rey embodies justice so she doesn't have to question it, she just needs to pluck up her courage a couple times. She's Our Lady of Graces.

We could even see it as a progression. From Anakin's struggle for morality, to Luke's struggle with himself, to Rey's embodiment of neuroses free nature.

A couple observations form my second viewing:

I like the device of the sun going out, explicitly made a sign of doom and then coinciding with Ren's decision to kill his father.

I'm pretty sure the guy holding Rey's hand in her vision flashback is the guy selling portions and from whom she stole the Millennium Falcon.

I'm really digging the mediaeval knight vibe with Kylo Ren.

Where are the TIE Interceptors, the TIE Bombers, the Y-Wings, B-Wings, and A-Wings? Where are the Resistance capital ships?

Luke looks oddly like Warwick Davis in Willow at the end of the movie to me.

Why is she called General Leia instead of General Organa or General Solo? Did people call the first U.S. president General George?

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