First, Todd Alcott (warning–spoilers ahead):
Before I go, I’d like to say one more thing on the politics of The Force Awakens. People have commented on my posts (not here, but elsewhere on the internet) saying that the casting of The Force Awakens is nothing but a cynical cash-grab on the behalf of the studio. They point to The Hunger Games and Jessica Jones as examples of how this is the “hip new thing that people seem to like,” and that this too will pass and The Force Awakens will eventually be seen as dated. Likewise, the “Mary Sue” question of Rey elicits learned, beard-stroking responses from people about how it’s a shame that Rey is so competent, but it is, perhaps, inevitable that Disney would demand such an element in the script in order to expand their audience base. “You know, to bring in the Hunger Games crowd.” They strive in their comments to be wiser-than-thou, in the manner of Republicans saying how it is wiser to know that poor people are lazy and proceed from there. Their tone is exactly the manner of the woman at the party who says “I’m not racist, but…”
The supposition underlying the first remark is that narratives focussing on straight white men are, of course, the absolute norm, and, when the culture has gotten over its current fad of non-white, non-male casting, things will return to normal and all will be well. The supposition underlying the Rey comments, meanwhile, is that females are less than human, and should not be allowed to play in the boys’ sandbox.
More here. And Aaron Bady in The New Inquiry:
To criticize The Force Awakens for “recycling” the first three Star Wars movies—to complain that it’s “un-original” compared to that original work of genius—misses the point of the franchise so thoroughly and dramatically that this critical impulse seems more interesting to me than the movie itself. The one thing the original trilogy wasn’t was original. Similarly, The Force Awakens is great, but it isn’t interesting. The jokes are good, the action is organic and compelling, the characters are well inhabited by competent actors, and the cinematography and music is excellent and consistently inventive. But everything that puts you in the moment, when you’re watching it, falls apart as soon as you turn your brain back on. As experience, as ritualistic performance, as society-wide holiday, and as entertainment-industrial-complex, Star Wars is a strange and magnificent and disgusting enterprise. As original story, it’s total crap.
But of course it is. The more interesting question is why we would expect otherwise? Why would anyone act surprised when the new Star Wars turns out to be precisely as predictable and coherent as the story of Christmas itself, or as nakedly designed to sell toys to children? No one complains that this year’s Christmas only re-packages and recycles the stories of Christmases past, and to pretend to be scandalized by how commercial Christmas is “getting” is, itself, a clichéd-to-death joke. The same is true of Star Wars. You can be cynical or you can enjoy it; you can turn your brain on or leave it off. But you can’t have it both ways. Star Wars is what it is, and you can participate, or not. But there’s nothing else it should be.