Big Ross joins the CC2K Star Wars discussion with this SPOILER filled essay.
Before I go any farther, DO NOT READ THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE. THERE WILL BE DISCUSSION OF SPOILERS.
Still with me? OK. Of the many opinions being voiced about Star Wars The Force Awakens (TFA hereafter), one I’ve heard here on CC2K and elsewhere is that it is great fun, feels like a Star Wars movie, but is such a rehashing of Episode IV (and other elements of the original trilogy) it may as well be a remake. If it’s not clear, this last bit is a negative thing. CC2K alum Joey Esposito went so far as to say realizing this broke his heart. This is something I want to discuss a bit more.
First of all, I loved TFA. I had a blast watching it, and rode a high that lasted the rest of the day (and enjoyed it tremendously on a second viewing). Tony Lazlo nailed it when he said it looks and feels like a Star Wars movie. Abrams and company managed to capture that old magic, and that accomplishment alone is worthy of praise. And while others find reason to complain about the plot/remake aspect of TFA, I can’t say that I do.
I realize that I wrote recently about being worried that TFA would pull a Jurassic World and play the nostalgia card (for the record, I can’t believe how much I nailed that; I should go buy a lottery ticket or something), but in hindsight, I can’t say I’m surprised. Star Wars hasn’t been the vision of an imaginative, daring young filmmaker for a VERY long time. And once it was bought by Disney, and they announced they would make Episodes VII-IX, the chances of it ever being that again were slim to none.
One thing I’m sure of is that geeks and nerds the world over, ever since the announcement of Episode VII said the same thing. “It can’t be worse than the Prequels.” These words were spoken with hope tinged with desperation. I’m sure Disney execs said the same thing, but with none of the hope or desperate quality. For them it was simple determination driven by the fact that they invested an astronomical amount of money into acquiring Star Wars. Now that they had it, they were going to be damn sure that they were going to make a profit off of it. That meant one very simple thing.
There is absolutely no way they would give Episode VII over to some daring young filmmaker with a vision. It doesn’t matter if it was the greatest pitch in the history of Hollywood. Daring and different would be received as risky, and risky is the very last thing Disney would want. So they brought in Abrams, who proved he could not only reboot another venerable sci-fi franchise with Star Trek, but launch it to new heights. So we got TFA, and the rehashing of plotlines and elements from the original trilogy. Familiarity, nostalgia, these are safe bets. Sound investments.
I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t be sad that TFA wasn’t daring and new and different. But really, can you blame them?
And Now for Something Completely Different
I want to defend the use of Starkiller Base in the context of the movie. Rumors of yet another superweapon circulated in the leadup to release, seeming to be confirmed by the image on the poster. Having seen the movie, we know that The First Order built an uber Death Star. We can complain about the absurd physics of it, though in a universe where ships the size of X-Wings can make hyperspace jumps and maneuver the way they do in space and planet atmospheres, StarKiller Base is par for the course. No, I want to justify its existence altogether. I think there’s is an in-movie reason for seeing a superweapon built for a third time.
Imagine you are the command structure for a military regime bent on galactic domination and subjugation. Option A is to build an armada of ships so vast, an army of soldiers so extensive that you can deploy them, conquering and holding hundreds of worlds in star systems scattered throughout the galaxy. The logistics of this seem if not impossible, then unmanageable. How big would a military force have to be? Would they have to be in constant motion, moving from system to system quelling rebellion after rebellion and quashing resistance wherever it arises? How quickly do your troops burn out from constant deployment? How do you maintain your fleet of ships? How many resources does it take? Isn’t there an easier way?
Enter Option B. A nuclear option of sorts. Instead of the costly, logistical nightmare of conventional interstellar warfare, you build a superweapon. A battle station that can destroy whole worlds, or entire star systems in a single stroke. You demonstrate the power of such a weapon, relying on the fear you inspire with your willingness to use it to keep systems in line.
Maybe it isn’t just preferable, but necessary. Or simpler, easier, or more cost-effective. And yes, maybe some lucky, Force-sensitive pilot blows up the first station you build, but until that moment it was working! Would military commanders or political leaders give up on the idea so easily? Think of the real world politicians and the war on terror. The setting, enemy, and circumstances have changed over the years, but the answer trumpeted by some leaders has been the same. Whether it’s been Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, or Syria; Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, ISIS, or Assad; the solution has been unchanged. Air strikes. Invade. Troops on the ground. A surge, a sustained surge, a new surge.Remove Hussein from power. Remove Assad from power. Again and again and again, the same solution to solve these problems. Is it any wonder the despotic rulers of The Empire and The First Order are so quick to keep going back to the superweapon well?