Thursday, December 26, 2019

You Were Never Going to be Happy


I won't properly review The Rise of Skywalker here, nor will I spoil anything for you. I will say this--American cinema is in bad, bad shape.

My overall, general reaction to this film is that it typifies the need to please everyone, especially foreign film markets, without having any core beliefs present in the actual film or story. This is a summer movie, released at Christmas, that should be taken as a fun ride through a world that is already familiar. If you take a step back and look at the Lucas films (the original three), the prequels, and the JJ Abrams series (Rian Johnson's lone contribution is meaningless here) as something to watch when nothing is on, they're fine.

Really, you could turn Brendan Fraser's Mummy movies into the "new" Star Wars and not miss a beat as long as you don't bring JJ Abrams in to ruin everything.  Neither are cinema. They're intended to be entertainment, and there's nothing wrong with that and there's no need to be snobbish about it. The fact is, they work on many levels. But they are not "elite" storytelling, nor are they as important as they are made out to be. In fact, they're just simple, enjoyable films that provide a lot of visual excitement. They are not films where adults speak to one another. They are films where adults escape from reality and shoot things that you don't mind seeing killed.

Here's my overall problem with that. Every attempt to make that excitement happen comes with a suspension of disbelief that gets old after a while. There's only so much you can take. And these films overload you with things that seem to be about marketing toys than they are about story telling.

Overhyped kiddie movies that are designed to appeal to teenagers in China? Yeah, I would agree with that. We make far too much of that crap right now. It's choking out actual creativity, little by little. Star Wars was supposed to revolutionize things. It did so visually, but did not improve story telling at all.

There's a really good story embedded here, and some day, someone will reboot that story and focus on it in a way that will really enhance it for an audience that, I hope, will be ready to experience it. There are hours and hours of performances from great actors that stumbles on dialogue that was added as an afterthought. Is there a single Star Wars screenplay that doesn't read like absolute shit? Honestly, with all of the writers in the world, you couldn't find someone to make the script work? Ever? And, yes, I remember the work Lawrence Kasdan did on the original films. Even he couldn't fully shine the turd.

You have talented actors in every scene, and some of the moments really shine. As a whole, there's not much for them to do except adapt to things that bounce around on a sound stage. There's very little acting between people, but, when there are real conversations, they are brief and forgotten on the next amusement ride through the green screen world that appears, as if by magic, and right on cue.

Star Wars was always more enjoyable as a book, for me, than it was as a film. I can remember reading the original movie tie-in books, as well as Splinter of the Mind's Eye and the series of canonical books that were released in the 1990s. This was always escapism for me, and I like that sort of thing. In the hands of skilled writers, the story is far more enjoyable than in the hands of film makers who are pressured on all sides to make something everyone will like that is full of things everyone will buy that won't offend everyone who lives in a part of the world that hates originality and rebellion.

Having said all of this, Rogue One is still the only decent Star Wars movie. I will welcome your agreement.

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