Disney is a risk-averse, bureaucratic monolith. So I shouldn’t have expected much from the massive, media conglomerate that has been reduced, in recent decades, to swallowing up other franchises and regurgitating them as saccharine tropes.
So does that mean I hated Star Wars 7?
No. It was entertaining.
But I must say that about twenty minutes in, a sense of deja vu grew strong in me as I realized that I had already seen this movie before…way back in 1978.
The Disney Empire took all the archetypes, MacGuffins, and story arch from the Lucas original and repackaged and regifted them to a new generation.
The Plot of the Original:
An orphan on a desert planet crosses paths with a droid carrying a secret message. Feeling compelled to deliver it, the orphan finds an aged mentor who secures passage at a seedy, Casablanca-style cantina. While en route, they are captured by the Empire–commanded by an evil villain dressed in a black mask–but they manage to escape. They ultimately deliver the secret message which reveals the Empire’s intent to deploy the ultimate weapon–The Death Star–to destroy the resistance once and for all. But with the orphan’s newly acquired powers of the force, and the mentor’s ultimate sacrifice, a rag tag fleet of X wings are able to penetrate the shields of the Death Star and blow it to smithereens.
The Plot of Episode 7:
See The Plot of the Original, above.
In terms of screenplay, Episode 7 is a shameless, total ripoff of the original.
This should come as no surprise. Lack of originality plagues Hollywood. Their corporate sclerosis, a symptom of being run by unimaginative, ego-maniacal bean-counters in relentless, paranoid pursuit of next quarter’s earnings, has destroyed the mainstream movie medium.
The original Star Wars, released in the wake of America’s imperial overreach in Vietnam, the president’s resignation, recession and mass-inflation, was a hopeful escape. It transmitted a secret message to the audience: “Yes, the empire can be defeated!”
But today’s Hollywood is no longer a vehicle for raising social consciousness…or any creative risk-taking, for that matter. Hollywood is pathetic…reduced to the role of a tribute band, endlessly replaying hits from generations past.
The direction in Episode 7 is reasonably good, even if it annoyingly staccatos from scene to scene giving the sense that the entire movie takes place within a single day. Abrams doesn’t allow the profound scenes to steep in the mind of the viewer. Instead, there’s a brief hug or a sad look, and then we’re off again into the whirlwind action, unbound by physics or complicated with scenes involving characters I care about (except for the ones I cared about 38 years ago). It does not, in any way, approach the original or the franchise masterpiece–The Empire Strikes Back–in terms of mood or pace or depth of character. It admit it is fun, but had it been a stand alone movie, I do not think it would have rose out of the morass of CGI-laced amphetamine trips that Hollywood hoses us down with every year.
But good for you, Disney. You covered and reissued a hit from 38 years ago to great fanfare. You will undeniably make billions of dollars on merchandise and amusement park tickets, too. Congratulations. Brilliant corporatism! You exploited America’s Beowulf with full knowledge that the American public would never allow their beloved mythology to flop…no matter how bad it has been remade.
But where is your soul, Disney? Can you honestly say that, in all the hundreds of tales that comprise the official and unofficial Star Wars canon, there was not enough material out there to construct something original…something great? Yes, greatness requires risk. Lucas, for all his directorial faults that we criticize him mercilessly for, took those risks and created an American mythology. And Walt did the same. Today’s Hollywood, however, meekly hides in the safety of past glories.