*Star Wars: The Force Awakens*

by on December 17, 2015 at 10:54 pm in Film | Permalink

I’ll leave my review at the top of the comments section, if you are curious.  I’ll avoid any direct plot spoilers, but I will tell you what I thought.

1 Tyler Cowen December 17, 2015 at 10:55 pm

Meh. The first hour was a drag, as dozens of classic Star Wars memes were repeated in derivative and mostly uninteresting fashion. At about the halfway point the movie picks up, but by the end I was left with a flat feeling again. The new female lead was the biggest plus. A Darth for Millennials? Not every dramatic moment was in fact dramatic, nor does Freud seem to have emotional power any more. The visuals are nice enough, though few if any are startling. Han Solo could use Elizabeth Warren in his life. Learning curves are either very steep or very flat, depending on the character. Think of it as Star Wars for an age where Hollywood doesn’t really matter any more and everyone knows it. I persist in my contrarian view that the Lucas critique is much overrated.

2 Corey December 17, 2015 at 10:59 pm
3 Yancey Ward December 17, 2015 at 11:12 pm

No, the critique of Lucas is not overrated, but I was worried that Abrams’ reputation might be.

4 Ted F December 17, 2015 at 11:17 pm

First commenter to get the Lucas Critique joke.

5 loveactuary December 18, 2015 at 6:51 am

+1 Ted F

6 Jeff R. December 18, 2015 at 10:08 am

I got it as well, but I did not get the Elizabeth Warren reference. Any ideas?

7 Ronald Brak December 18, 2015 at 10:21 pm

As a foreign type I have no idea what it could mean so I’d be interested in an explanation too. At first I thought he was a President in the 1920s, but it turns out that was Warren Harding, not Elizabeth Warren.

8 Charlie December 18, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Murderous lenders chasing Han. I guess he needs the CFPB?

9 Ronald Brak December 18, 2015 at 10:56 pm

Thank you.

10 anon December 17, 2015 at 11:35 pm

a lot of us “get” the lucas critique joke but I suspect a much smaller percentage of have the sane sign for interpreting “joke”.

11 Nolan December 18, 2015 at 10:48 am

To perhaps up the contrarianism, TFA left me yearning something closer to the prequels. They could rhyme with the the originals without feeling derivative. Their focus on adding substance to the universe–and telling Anakin’s story–may have upset casual fans, but I’ll take clumsy substance over polished mimicry any day.

12 Chris Hansen December 18, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Just saw it and thought it was great fun but totally agree about polished mimicry. On the other hand, clumsy substance is not the stuff of movies. If I want world building and real substance, I’d rather read a book.

13 Sean December 18, 2015 at 2:25 pm

I feel like their are deeper stories in some of the other Star Wars books. I haven’t read them but have seen information online.

Dark Side coming from another far away galaxy. I think Luke might mess with combining dark and light. A bit of a more complicated than good/evil plotline. I think the movies could be far more interesting if they played into these themes.

I haven’t watched this movie yet, but from what I”ve seen it looks like another galactic war of blowing big things up with simplistic villains and good guys.

14 CW December 19, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Having just seen it today, I have to agree. A big meh for me, coming from a child of the late 60s/70s whose head was exploded in wonderful ways by seeing the original Star Wars and then even more so by Empire. This film left me feeling hugely flat at the end. I don’t agree much with the contrarian view on the prequels however: those are a wasteland of late-Lucas revisionism, but I suppose as such they do complete the awful job begun in the weakest of the original three (the flaccid Return of the Jedi) in nuancing away Darth Vader’s core of pure evil. Oh well. I still have the first and second original films… but of course, not really; at least not until Disney releases the original unaltered films, assuming that ever happens.

15 The Anti-Gnostic December 17, 2015 at 11:10 pm

IOW, it was appallingly bad.

16 Ray Lopez December 17, 2015 at 11:39 pm

I’ve never seen any Star Wars movie, nor any Star Trek movie, though I try and keep with with the memes in those movies*. Generally I don’t watch movies unless my gf watches one with me, though I did watch the Breaking Bad and Narcos TV-series.

As for this movie, I once read George Lucas has a mild form of dyslexia, or that was the implication, so it might explain what one reviewer called the “B-movie dialog” in Star Wars.

*May the farce be with you!

17 Kevin December 17, 2015 at 11:34 pm

It’s an open secret that the original “Star Wars” was heavily rewritten by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (who also worked on “American Graffiti” and “Howard the Duck”). The tragedy of George Lucas’s life is that he was a crappy screenwriter who didn’t realize it. Amazing, because his contributions to the series and film in general were immense. And his punishment, it seems clear, is that he will now see Disney ruin the story arc he developed so many years ago. I think there is even some chance that these new films will trash the franchise in a way the prequels never did (because there will be so many of them, in ten years we might see a Disney Star Wars Channel).

18 Hadur December 17, 2015 at 11:37 pm

Why does Tyler put so much effort into signalling that he has refined tastes in the arts?

19 prior_test December 18, 2015 at 3:04 am

Depends – he also puts a lot of effort in maintaining the pretension that he is a man that dines at gas stations and strip malls, and only occasionally revealing that no, a man in his position is perfectly capable of using the Michelin Guide, particularly when someone else is paying the bill.

20 Gabriel Duquette December 18, 2015 at 10:32 am

What would you accept as evidence of refined taste in the arts?

21 Ray Lopez December 18, 2015 at 10:53 am

“Good & Plenty: The Creative Successes of American Arts Funding” by T. Cowen (2006)..”In Praise of Commercial Culture”.. and a book on Mexican artists in the mountains in and around Mexico city comes to mind, which reminded me in some ways of chess players and the chess community: “Markets and Cultural Voices: Liberty vs. Power in the Lives of Mexican Amate Painters”

22 Ass the Hole December 19, 2015 at 1:21 am

Probably because he is an ugly, clumsy, uncharismatic nerd who does not have any warm or appealing physical trait. So basically he overcompensates and falls over himself to try to show he is a suave, sophisticated , discerning member of the cultural elite.Basically the same pattern of an unpopular smart highschool kid who become an emo, grunge or whatever the current fad of the time is, only this time with more money, less hair, some fancy degrees and a somewhat irritating smarter-than-you personality.

23 8 December 17, 2015 at 11:49 pm

Ever since watching Lost, JJ Abrams never disappoints or surprises me. As soon as I heard he was involved, I expected a good looking piece of $#!%.

24 Ronald Brak December 18, 2015 at 12:42 am

I have seen all the Star Wars movies. And boy was that a mistake. Well, a mistake 3 times out of 6 definitely. Anyway, it is my highly informed opinion that the latest Star Wars movie is better than the last four. Take that as you will.

25 So Much For Subtlety December 18, 2015 at 1:59 am

Han Solo could use Elizabeth Warren in his life.

You mean having dealt with the lack of Black people there are still not enough Native Americans a long long time ago?

26 Thomas December 18, 2015 at 2:19 am

Is this the new Planet of the Apes movie?

27 MichaelG December 18, 2015 at 4:34 am

I have never been able to understand the reaction to the Star Wars movies. For me, they are just action adventure with some minor bits of comedy, and lots of nice visuals. All pretty forgettable, and nothing that stands out against other big special effects movies. Empire Strikes Back starts to have more memorable characters, but still nothing I would consider great writing, acting or drama.

As a programmer, I also cringe to think how much work goes into these creatures and gadgets on screen for a few seconds. What a waste of talent!

28 C.L. December 18, 2015 at 9:03 am

These are exactly my thoughts. Star Wars is just a simple action adventure. Indiana Jones in space.

29 Ed December 18, 2015 at 1:39 pm

“Star Wars is just a simple action adventure. Indiana Jones in space.”

Completely agree. The main problem with the movies made after the first one is that the first, other than having a self-contained story that didn’t aesthetically require sequels, was a fun but flimsy action adventure movie. The premise was just too thin to sustain more than a couple of sequels.

Most geeks seem to think that “Empire Strikes Back”, the first sequel, was the best of the half dozen movies. I disagree, I think the original “Star Wars” was the best and each subsequent movie was somewhat worse than its immediate predecessor. But no one thinks the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth movie were as good as the first two, so my point is still valid even if ESB was in fact the best of the six.

With the Indiana Jones movies themselves, the concept was obviously getting really thin with the fourth and no one wants another Indiana Jones movie. The consensus is that only one of the three sequels was maybe as good as the original.

30 Nick_L December 18, 2015 at 1:26 pm

I find your lack of faith disturbing. This is an economics blog. The talent is not wasted.The pressure to produce at this level forces rapid innovation – especially true of the earlier Star Wars movies. As far as expanding your own skills, capabilities and tools, may that force be with you, too.

31 DavidC December 22, 2015 at 11:47 pm

If you think something isn’t a big deal, but a large number of others disagree, how much do you discount your own opinion and begin to wonder if it is you that is wrong?

The original trilogy is pretty good. It goes a long way toward world building and has some clever and even poingant threads built into it. Has there ever been a redemption story quite like Annakin Skywalker’s. After the first movie, he’d pretty much the embodiment of evil and fear. By the second, we’re left confused and by the end we’re rooting for him and sad to see him die. We don’t realize that the story is his until we get to that point either. And that’s without Luke’s story of growth (Whiny kid->angry young man->calm forgiver) or Han’s own Casablanca-like redemption. What makes ROTJ so mis-understood is that it turns the story on it’s head – it’s not killing that is heroic, but choosing not to. It’s not hating that is powerful, it’s forgiving. Etc…

32 Joshua Gans December 18, 2015 at 6:53 am

I couldn’t disagree with Tyler more.

33 RG December 18, 2015 at 10:22 am

I agree on the derivative aspect, but still found the movie a blast. Loved the new characters/actors and feel like they could put a fresh spin on it going forward.

34 Dan in philly December 18, 2015 at 8:44 am

So the movies, all of them, are kids stuff. What do you expect from new incarnations? I don’t expect much from comic books either.

35 Uninformed Observer December 18, 2015 at 8:52 am

Whatever dude. It wasn’t an art film, it was space opera. And in that narrow genre, it was the best I’ve seen since Dune.

36 Laowai December 18, 2015 at 10:46 am

+1

37 mahmet December 20, 2015 at 4:05 am

Warhammer 40,000 is by far the best Space Opera franchise now, though unfortunately Hollywood hasn’t gotten around to making a major motion picture. It will definitely happen eventually, as Hollywood loves licensing existing IP that has a built-in fanbase.

38 C.L. December 18, 2015 at 9:01 am

I agree with TC. It’s not as good as the hype said it would be. Not even close.

It still got 95% at Rotten Tomatoes for example by critics. o_O
The audience rates it at 93% (and falling every day).

39 RG December 18, 2015 at 10:35 am

It was never going to live up to the hype, nor could it recreate the magic or cultural impact of the original. I set my expectations accordingly and really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next one.

40 C.L. December 18, 2015 at 5:37 pm

I know JJ Abrams quite well from Lost and Star Trek, so I set my expectations accordingly as well. He did his job, it is what I expected, maybe even a bit better. I enjoyed the movie. I just don’t get the hype of some media outlets and Star Wars fans that’s all.

41 dave smith December 18, 2015 at 1:29 pm

I loved the movie. My son (13) and I got dressed up as Jedi and went. It will be a memory he will never forget. (Wife had to stay home with sick daughter)

The movie was safe and predictable. The acting and dialog is the best of the seven. The female lead and Chewbacca stole the show, in my opinion. I thought the music was subpar.

42 Dan in Euroland December 18, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Safe and predictable are typically not indicators of a successful film.

Fortune favors the bold.

43 Ronald Brak December 18, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Top grossing films of 2015: Jurrassic Park 4, Furious 7, Avengers 2, Minions 3.

Fortune may favour the bold, but it appears the box office favours what people have seen before with minor changes.

44 J December 18, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Could Prof. Cowen please expand on his statement that “Hollywood doesn’t really matter anymore”? I’m not taking the position that it does matter, I’m just interested in what particular sense he means that (and I suppose, in what way he believes it used to “matter”).

45 Ian Lippert December 20, 2015 at 2:48 am

People who should watch this movie:
fans of Star Wars

People who shouldn’t watch this:
People who think bringing Art house sensibilities to popcorn flicks is criticism
People who overate the quality of ep 4-6
People who are too hyped out of their minds
People who hate popcorn flicks

Personally i am not afraid to admit it, the nostalgia was strong with me. Some of the scenes Tyler derides hit me on an emotional level very few films can because I love the Star Wars universe and I loved being pandered too. Not just once but multiple times. Pretty much throughout the whole movie.

If you think this movie is mediocre then it’s probably just not for you. It’s ok to not like things other people love. Also, Tyler’s critique is basically to his readers what force awakens is to Star Wars fans: a bunch of nostalgic pandering to Better posts of yester years that make no sense to non-fans.

46 mahmet December 20, 2015 at 4:01 am

Star Wars has been lame, boring, and repetitive since “Return of the Jedi” came out with the “second death star” and “Ewoks.” The exception for me as a kid was the wonderful cel-animated “Clone Wars” cartoon that came out around 2002 (it was very heavily influenced by “Samurai Jack” if anyone remembers that show.)

Anyway, if anyone wants to check out a good family-oriented (but spooky) holiday movie this Christmas, I recommend The Krampus, which is fantastic for the whole family.

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