Why I chose not to review Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asked by twos, even threes of people when we will have our Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens review up. Initially the plan was to have it post either Wednesday or Thursday before the film released (depending on embargo), but after a great deal of thought, I’ve decided to not review The Force Awakens.
And I couldn’t be happier with that choice.
Here’s the thing, I’ve been professionally reviewing films for many, many years now, for multiple sites. I can’t even begin to count how many, but it’s in the hundreds. I’ve reviewed films ranging the gamut from Tron: Legacy to The Expendables to Black Swan. Since founding DBP I’ve stuck to more genre specific films, and we’ve posted several.
When I review a film (or game, TV show, product, etc.), I come at it analytically. Sure, there is always a certain amount of personal taste when it comes to reviewing any form of art, but I try to present my opinions backed up by critical thought.
I lay out specific points and explain why I came to that conclusion. Disagreements are common – that’s the nature of reviews – but I try to make a case so it doesn’t read like I am arbitrarily dismissing something. I actually take a lot of pride in that.
When I go into a press screening with the intention of reviewing a film, I watch that movie in a specific mindset – I watch movies differently when I’m reviewing them. I look for things like how a scene is constructed, and how the acting affects the story. I judge the CGI to see both how it looks, and how it fits with the film. I listen for the sound editing to see if dialogue is drowned out by sound effects, and I consider how the score compliments the visuals.
It’s something I now instinctively slip into for screenings, but I can put it aside and “turn off my brain” in other circumstances. If I couldn’t, I’d probably grow to hate movies fairly quickly. Hell, I’d never be able to watch Hackers again, and it’s tough enough to defend it now (shut up, I love that movie).
Anyway, I had every intention of screening and reviewing The Force Awakens in that same, critical way, while analyzing the film’s nuances. I would then spend a day or so thinking it over before writing and eventually publishing my review. At least that was the plan.
There was an extra reason for me to be excited for the screening. Most press screenings here in Portland occur the Tuesday evening before the film’s release. There are exceptions, but the vast majority also allow you to bring a guest – something I love to do, if for no other reason than it helps me to crystalize my thoughts by talking to someone about the film I just saw.
As it happens, my birthday was this Tuesday (feel free to send cash gifts), so I was holding out the hope that my wife and I would get to see an advanced screening of The Force Awakens on my birthday. Can anyone blame me for wanting that?
This screening proved to be a little different though, probably due to Disney’s justifiable paranoia about leaks. It was moved to the middle of the afternoon, and it prohibited guests.
Despite some scheduling issues, I could maybe still have made it, but I didn’t want to see it alone. I reached out half-heartedly to some soon-to-be movie critics for DBP (more on that in 2016), but they both wanted to see it with friends/family.
I couldn’t blame them. In fact, I agreed with them. The more I thought about it, the more I became a little jealous of them.
I realized that I don’t want to review The Force Awakens. I don’t want to have to watch it with a critical eye. I’m a long time Star Wars nerd, and recently even did a marathon of the five films (I watched the Machete Cut, it was a bad idea). I want the pomp and the circumstance. I want to see it with a crowd of screaming fans and feel that electricity when the John Williams score first kicks in and the words “Star Wars” scroll by in IMAX.
It’s more than just wanting to enjoy the movie, I want to enjoy the communal sense of wonder over this film, even if it is artificial.
It’s been a tough year. Assuming you have a decent sized social media presence, it’s almost impossible to log in and leave feeling upbeat and optimistic. There are serious problems facing the world, and given our penchant for embracing the shocking over the informed, it’s tough to enjoy the news.
Fear is everywhere, and if you follow politics, you’d be forgiven for thinking that everyone in the country is a day away from turning on everyone else. Negativity is the currency of the world, and the Internet spreads that currency quickly. But Star Wars seems to be one of the few things everyone can get behind.
There’s probably even a connection between the two. People seem almost desperate in their need to embrace this film. And why not? For 135 minutes, you can put aside your ideological differences, forget that the people sitting a few seats down from you have a different set of beliefs, and not worry about where the guy in front of you in line may have been born. You can just enjoy it.
My wife and I are seeing the film at midnight tonight, and we will be there early to share in the buzz. We won’t talk politics or current events. We won’t worry about the future or the past. That will be waiting for us when we get out, but it’s nice to have a break.
Plus, to be candid, it’s not like the DBP review of The Force Awakens is the one that will set the Internet on fire. I assume there will be one or two others out there. Or one or two thousand others.
Sure, it’s just a movie. It won’t solve the world’s problems. It won’t feed the hungry or improve education. But it’s something we can all get behind without any agendas or conflicts. I dig that people are looking forward to something rather than tearing into each other. And I’m glad I get to be a part of that.