Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Star Wars Rant (*contains spoilers*), how it helped my writing, and Teddy Roosevelt

This epitomizes my feelings as Star Wars: The Force Awakens began:


And my feelings as it ended:


At first, I couldn't quite articulate what left me unsatisfied and empty. Many people love the movie, and I can understand why--it has a lot of excellent scenes, elements, and characters. Especially Rey and Han. But it felt like the story was sacrificed to draw out the mysteries that are supposed to be revealed in the sequels. In fact, I've even heard some people defending this as a reason that the movie actually worked for them.

But. There's holding back. And then there's deliberate stifling. The Force Awakens was full of the latter. When Rey asked Maz Kanata to answer a perfectly legitimate question about Rey's past, Maz dismissed her with, "That will be revealed at the proper time." There was no reason whatsoever Maz couldn't reveal it then. No one was getting shot at, or even feeling a remote disturbance in the Force. It was an obvious opportunity to address some of the plot holes, and it was deliberately, obtusely avoided to the point where I wonder if the screenwriter contorted into a pretzel doing it.

This isn't storytelling. This is lollygagging. And it's best articulated in this Salon article, which finally fully explained why I felt so empty at the end of the movie. (It had a good point about the gargantuan Death Star too.)

However, just because something isn't created to my liking (or someone else's) doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be maligned, either--as the commenters of the Salon article wisely pointed out. And, sometimes, looking at something from multiple angles helps the overall creative flow. For example, I used the lack of context in The Force Awakens to put extra elements into parts of my story that felt a bit skeletal. After a group of people is murdered, instead of glossing over it, my protagonist now actively wonders why they had to die, and whose lives were affected as a result. So thank you J. J. Abrams, and Star Wars, et al. You make me a better writer.

And, to further drive the point home that all criticism is subjective, there's this quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -- Theodore Roosevelt 

In other words, we are all glad for a new Star Wars movie, regardless of the outcome.

Fight on, Mr. Roosevelt.


Unknown said...

Karen, I'm glad you got something good out of the movie. Yes, J.J. is having problems with relationships in his nostalgia movies, isn't he (as in Star Trek 2). --Steve

Karen McCoy said...

Yes, Steve! I think so. Though Star Trek 3 is going to be directed by the Fast & Furious guy, so oy.