THE FORCE COULD BE IN BETTER HANDS.
Even though STAR WARS may be in pretty good hands. The Force Awakens is clearly made as a sequence by sequence nostalgia trip. Right from fighter pilots cruising through the death star, to a an even bigger death star to a parent less stranger alone on a planet with misplaced ideas of amily and belonging. And yet Star Wars: The force Awakens, gets a lot right. From the Storm Trooper with identity issues to the scavenger who finds her way into the force.
The one thing that they didn’t really treat with as much respect as they coud have, was the Force.
The Force under JJ abrams’ leadership ends up being a reflection of this generation and the stark differences between this generation and the one that began making Star Wars what it is now, as viewers. The Force under JJ Abrams’ leadership doesn’t have to be learnt, there are no teachers required, there is no failing at it, there is no practice required, there is no sense of ‘riyaaz’, no sense of needing to work hard at it no matter how strong it is within you. The Force under Lucas’ leadership was almost like talent. You could have oodles of it but you’d still have to hone it, work on it, train under someone who’s a master at it to really be able to harness it, fail, stand back up time and again, the Force, just like inherent talent isn’t something you can just get to be good at, in a flash. The Force isn’t two minute noodles.
Interestingly the way the Force is dealth with, ends up being very similar to the way this generation treats gratification. There is an almost a faster and faster loss of a sense and understanding of delayed gratification. Everything that’s desired is wanted right now. And the world isn’t teaching you that that’s not okay. It’s teaching you that it is. You don’t need to go to a guitar teacher to learn the guitar. You just do it off youtube. You don’t hone a talent, people don’t read as much, book sales are plummeting every year, films have gone at least in India from 3 hours to 2 and all content is getting shorter and shorter. Everything needs to be shorter, smaller and require less of your attention for it to be consumed. And sadly the Force in Abrams’ movie ends up being made for a time when delayed gratification has almost become extinct. In Abrams’ movie Rey, the new Jedi ends up randomly being able to use mind control to get her way out of trouble, she ends up being able to harness the deepest parts of the Force by just shutting her eyes and thinking about it. She doesn’t learn, isn’t taught, doesn’t submit her ego completely in front of a Jedi Master. Hell she can even beat the main antagonist by just thinking of the Force. And she’s a pro at it.
What was beautiful about the Force under Lucas’ command, was that it played out like the learning one has about a form of martial arts. It required a complete submission, you couldn’t leave your training half-way else you’d fail at your goal, like Luke did in the second film. The Force was something you’d have to earn the hard way, a metaphor for talent, fame, respect, in life itself. The Force upheld years of the tenets of every good martial arts film including ‘The karate Kid’ and every good old Jackie Chan movie like ‘Fearless Hyena’ or the latter Van Damme films. The Force was also akin to Bruce Lee’s life and teachings. Even Beatrix kiddo couldn’t just get up and go on a rampage. She had to get the best swordsman to agree to make her the best sword and she had had to train when she was younger. Tarantino spent almost half a movie showing us her journey to become a master martial artist under the guidance of a very tough teacher, a jedi. Its only then that you believe how she gets out of the coffin using the two inch punch. Akin to Bruce Lee.
Lucas and Laurence Kasdan created a world where the Force was partly inherent and partly learnt, like Talent in the regular world outside the cinema hall. And that’s probably why it struck an immediate chord with us. The new film almost negates the importance of a teacher like Yoda. It doesn’t leave Rey with enough of a deficit of Jedi learning for her to form that kind of bond with a teacher. And robs us of a deep possibility of an internal journey for Rey.
So no matter how much I enjoyed Star Wars in general, and watched it twice, and loved it for that one line that the rastafarian Maz says ‘The belonging you seek, doesn’t lie behind you, it lies ahead”, for me it let down decades of good martial arts films and what they upheld, Joseph Campbell and his teachings of world mythology, and it let down its own predessors when it comes to the Force. It treated the Force like a quick fix, like a short cut….it treated the Force like two minute noodles.