THE FORCE IS PRETTY STRONG IN THIS ONE
Star Wars, even people who have never seen the movies could probably tell you the basic plot by this point. It is both a truly beloved cinematic series to hundreds of thousands of people and a great example of just how quickly you can ruin something like that.
If Hollywood learned anything from that, it’s “Don’t give directors exclusive merchandizing and sequel rights.”
Despite the fact that George Lucas was in no way affiliated with this seventh film, people were still a bit worried. Would we get something like the original trilogy, or would it be more of the same nonsense from the prequels?
Thankfully this one leans closer to the original three and it turned out quite good.
The movie does a lot right. It’s a grand space adventure, with the main characters taking in the strange characters and surroundings with the same wide-eyed curiosity as the viewers. The First Order is a nice stand-in for the empire as ‘huge evil organizations’ go and the returning characters are all treated with the respect they deserve.
The new characters are a bit on the bland side, but likeable enough and of course the CGI looks very good…It kind of has to, considering it’s about 80% of the movie’s visuals. A common complaint people had about the trilogy, aside from the terrible performances, awful storytelling and Jar-Jar Binks, was that the fighting was too heavily choreographed. This is still somewhat the case, but it has been toned down a little. Inexperienced fighters have their moments of untrained flailing which make the whole thing feel a bit more natural.
All in all, this is a pretty good movie that manages to breathe some life back into the franchise. The story is a bit lacklustre at times and very clearly written for fans only, but those fans will probably enjoy the movie a lot.
Let’s talk details, though.
One of the movie’s greatest strengths is also one of its greatest weaknesses. It draws inspiration from all of the best parts of the original trilogy. This is the main reason the movie has received such a positive response from fans of the franchise. It doesn’t try to explain the force, it doesn’t force us to deal with whiny characters like Annakin.
However, it does draw very heavily from this. Perhaps a bit too much. In fact, the stories come close to almost being point by point identical.
- Young Jedi’s life on a desert planet (Luke and Rey)
- Huge, evil organization threatening intergalactic freedom (Empire and First Order)
- Cute, easily marketable droid (R2-D2 and BB8)
- Meeting the old mentor (Obi-wan Kenobi and Older Han Solo)
- SPOILERS! Death of the old mentor (Death of Obi-wan and Old Han)
- Rebel pilots assault big base (It’s creepy how similar this is)
- Evil master who never directly participates in the action (Emperor Palpatine and Supreme Leader Snoke)
- Intimidating Sith Lord with some relation to the characters who started out on the light side but was seduced to the dark side by a sith lord (Darth Vader and Kylo Ren)
- Big base capable of destroying planets which gets blown up(Death Star(s) and Starkiller Base)
Anyone who’s seen the previous movies will find themselves going “Huh, that looks familiar” a few times. And you need to have seen the other movies to have any idea of what’s going on.
Perhaps cramming all these points from other movies into this one is why it handles the relationships between characters so very poorly. The actors give good performances for the most part, though nobody really stands out, but the movie doesn’t take enough time to let relationships develop.
Take our main character Rey, for example. Within minutes of meeting Han Solo, she’s been offered a job and he claims that Chewie has taken a liking to her. She’s spent about 5 minutes on screen with him at that point and far less with Chewie.
We can believe he’d offer her a job, considering Rey can apparently fix all technology ever made and can fly anything without any (Explained or shown on screen) experience, but when another character calls Han the father she’s never had a few minutes later, that falls completely flat because the two barely know each other.
The same goes for Finn. Five seconds after freeing the rebel pilot Poe Dameron, the two are best buddies and not long after meeting Rey there’s a weird ‘will-they-won’t-they’ thing between them that never goes anywhere.
You can even see how pressed for time the movie is when a blast from Starkiller base destroys 5 planets and wipes out the Federation. Everybody is kind of…weirdly blasé about it. No pause, no great disturbance in the force, not even really a mention of the countless lives lost. The movie just jumps straight to planning the counter attack.
With another 30 or 45 minutes the movie would have been very long, sure, but the added length would have also given them time to actually have their characters interact more and build up friendships.
The movie’s greatest problem, though, is Kylo Ren. Don’t get us wrong, Kylo Ren’s introduction is very, very well done and for the most part he is perfectly intimidating.
But then he takes the mask off…
Yeeeeaaaaah, there goes the intimidation factor.
Sadly it’s not just that either. The movie tries very hard to set Kylo Ren up as the new Darth Vader and it just does not work. In most of Vader’s appearances on screen, he is almost a force of nature. Calm, collected and seemingly indomitable. Sure, you can fight Vader but excuse us if we don’t bet on you.
At first it seems Kylo Ren is much the same, but it quickly becomes apparent that he is far less competent. Even early on we see him savage a bank of monitors with his lightsaber after receiving bad news. Granted, that’s sort of fitting. We later learn the character actually is quite petty and of course the dark side of the force revolves around negative emotions like anger.
However, let’s once again compare that to Vader. Darth Vader rarely raised his voice. He did lash out in anger, sure, but even then it didn’t seem like he’d lost his cool.
Also, Vader was never actually beaten by a malnourished girl who had spent most of her life on a desert planet and had never used the force or held a lightsaber in her life. Kinda lame, Ren.
While we normally don’t appreciate endings that are clearly left open for sequels, we honestly don’t mind with this movie. The old characters have had their moment in this movie, save Luke, so why not pass it on to these new ones? Let’s see where they can take the franchise. Neither Rey nor Finn were particularly engaging so far, but let’s see some more from them and maybe they’ll grow into characters just as beloved as their predecessors.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens tries to do a bit much in too little time and it suffers for it, but nonetheless it is a very entertaining movie that fans of the franchise really have to see. We kind of hope there will be at least one more movie, but if not, this was hardly a bad way for the franchise to end.
If you haven’t seen it yet, go get a ticket and may the force be with you!