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December 6th, 2016

Max’s View

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
***
I don’t think JJ Abrams is a good filmmaker. I didn’t have high expectations for the new Star Wars movie. But of course I saw it, anyway. My mind was made up in 2005.

In 2005, George Lucas proved that it is possible to make a great new Star Wars film. “Revenge of the Sith” is magnificent: dark, intense, and uncompromising.

“Sith” explored the character Obi-Wan Kenobi: a fanatically dedicated jedi who happily died for his cause after living 20 years as a desert hermit. “Sith” explored the character Yoda: a flawless monk who is equally at home in a swamp hovel as he was when he was a leader of the galaxy.

Finally, the film blew me away by transforming the evil villain Emperor Palpatine into a believable character. At the end of “Sith,” we finally understood how a relentlessly ambitious Senator rose to the heights of power with a combination of deception, political savvy, and utilization of the dark side of the force. As soon as Hillary Clinton saw “Revenge of the Sith,” she decided to run for President.

“The Force Awakens” does not have any great characters. The new heroes are perfectly likable but bland. And the villains are disappointing.

Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader are the one and two coolest bad guys in the history of cinema. In contrast, Rylo Ken (Adam Driver) is a mopey emo kid with a lightsaber.

[Spoiler Alert] However, we’re supposed to believe that young Rylo Ken is second in command in the powerful military group The First Order. As the film begins, The First Order is poised to annihilate the Republic, crush Princess Leia’s Resistance, and take control of the galaxy.

But with Rylo Ken at the helm, I’m just not buying it. He seems slightly less trustworthy and manly than the character Adam Driver plays on the HBO show “Girls.”

JJ Abrams expects us to believe that The First Order has the tax base and the know-how to afford an armada of souped-up starships and a planet-sized super weapon but they are dumb enough to hire Lena Dunham’s flaky boyfriend to lead them.

Sorry, folks. I’m a cantankerous old “Star Wars” nerd. I’m sure JJ Abrams was aware that when he made a new Star Wars movie that guys like me would compare it unfavorably to the five great films that came before it (“The Phantom Menace” stinks).

Mostly, though, “The Force Awakens” is a success. It is entertaining from start to finish. It’s beautifully shot. And the climax is emotionally satisfying.

“The Force Awakens” doesn’t hold a candle to “Revenge of the Sith,” let alone “The Empire Strikes Back.” But everybody likes it. And that’s impressive.

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