As with many movies, I first saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and then I read the myriad of reviews of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Many professional and amateur reviews lauded the movie, and just as many (if not, more) panned it. The reason for both the praise and disdain for the movie were consistent, though: Episode VII is an elaborate remake of the Episode IV.
Look at the plot of Episode VII: There’s a republic fighting and losing a war with a more totalitarian regime for control of a galaxy. An operative for the republic is tortured and rescued, intel is given to an adorable robot, and the fate of the galaxy is in the hands of a reluctant scrappy desert dwelling hero, a leather outerwear-clad used-to-be bad guy, and a mysterious old guy who likes to play with laser swords. Also, the bad guy wears a mask, his boss is old and crotchety, and there’s a large orb that blows up planets. Chewbacca did not get a medal in this movie either.
Critics tore Episode VII apart. The dialogue wasn’t memorable and shallow. The story wasn’t original. Even the death of a main character was predictable. Everything sucked about it. Even George Lucas himself said that he was disappointed with the film, and was sorry that he lost his franchise to the “white slavers” of Disney, who he felt, with the help of JJ Abrams, ruined his “children”, the other movies in the Star Wars canon.
First of all, the negative talk about the lack of memorable dialogue is ludicrous. You’re going to see a movie with laser swords, aerodynamically impossible aircraft, and a giant carnivorous crossbow wielding hairball, and you’re expecting memorable dialogue? This isn’t Spacespeare! This film was made specifically for entertainment, and entertain, it did. If you’re looking for a film with “memorable dialogue”, there’s a new adaptation of Macbeth with Michael Fassbender in trhe title role. Try that out. George Lucas complaining about lack of originality is laughable. Star Wars was basically a loose interpretation of Flash Gordon, but with less racist aliens (until Episode I). And given Lucas’s record of working with Disney on different projects for the last 40 years, it doesn’t sound like he was swindled into selling his precious Star Wars to the “white slavers” of Disney, especially since he was excited about giving the reins to new blood to innovate for the next chapter in the Star Wars cinematic universe. Also, I’ll bet that $2 billion felt pretty fine as well. He can swim in that like Scrooge McDuck, another Disney property. Furthermore, what exactly would George Lucas do with another episode that would be so original? The first two Episodes were Space C-Span with racist stereotypes represented by CGI aliens. The third was Space C-Span with an homage to the murderous montage in Godfather. Would he redo American Graffiti with CGI? Maybe a planet based on Good Times with all Jar Jars in it?
So much clap about the new Star Wars, well it’s time to clap back. I will admit that the critics are right: Episode VII IS a remake of Episode IV. However, it was better than Episode IV. Episode VII does something that is rarely seen in Hollywood, and not seen in even the original Star Wars films. It stars an all non-white male cast. Finn is black storm trooper. Rey is a woman junk scavenger. Poe is a Latino pilot. Even the extras in the new film are more diverse than in the original! There are pilots of all genders and ethnicities. It looks like this galaxy’s known habitable planet, as it well should! Even the one major CGI alien is Lupita Nyong’ o, and she is a wise and lovable, unlike the walking minstrel show of Jar Jar Binks, who I assume is long dead. Other things about which to think: If Finn is a storm trooper, then that means he is a clone, so that means that a good amount of those storm troopers look just like Finn. Also, the silver storm trooper, Captain Phasma, is a woman, which means there are a number of WOMAN storm troopers fighting as well! Even the evil people are diverse! We have gone from having only 4 black characters (if you count Jar Jar and Darth Vader’s disembodied voice) and 3 woman characters (if you count Oola the Nip Slip Twi’lek and Aunt Beru’s charred body) to three main characters with significant roles in the forefront, and a cornucopia of humans in the background. In fact, the diversity of the new Star Wars is enough to anger both white supremacists AND “men’s rights activists” to the point that they tried to stage boycotts that hilariously failed. I would not be surprised if Star Wars breaks all sales records by week’s end.
This is what critics seemed to have missed, or perhaps, like Lucas, simply overlooked. I do not think that George Lucas or the some of the harsh critics are deliberately racist. They are simply oblivious of their oversights. This is why the first three films were so homogenous. If you think this is not a big deal, you are wrong. There are plenty of studies that show that it is very beneficial to a child’s self-esteem and personal development to see people who look somewhat like them in the media they consume. There will be a new generation who will see the new Star Wars and watch shows with more diverse casts and read books with all different types of people and places in them and not think it a big deal when they get to grade school and see the one brown kid in the class. And for the love of God, they will NOT touch his damn hair like he’s a pet. Episode VII may be a remake, but it is a remake done right.