OK, let me preface this by saying that I am a huge Star Wars fan. I went to film school because I dreamed of going to work for ILM and someday working on new Star Wars films. I have read almost every book in the Star Wars extended universe. When I got a bonus for my first editing gig, working on The Fellowship of the Ring DVD I bought myself a replica of Han Solo’s gun from the Empire Strikes back. I equally hate the prequels. They are crap, and ignore much of what the original trilogy did. I am also not much of a fan of J.J. Abrams. I thought the casting of his new Star Trek films was great, but the films themselves did not feel at all like Star Trek to me, and the second was utter nonsense that ruins Star Trek all together. I have always felt that J.J. Abrams is more into spectacle than a story that makes sense, and would rather rely on coincidence or magic as long as it gets him where he wants to go, and unfortunately for me this has carried over to Star Wars The Force Awakens. So while most people really seem to love this film, I can honestly say that I like it better than the prequels, and I do think that John Boyega and Daisy Ridley did good jobs with what they were given, but overall the film just isn’t good to me and that is after 2 viewings. Sure it looks great, but spectacle does not make a good film!
REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS…
My first and biggest problems is how much of a rehash this is. It is a retelling of A New Hope, with elements of Empire and Return of the Jedi. I mean a simple descriptions is that a droid with plans in it, ends up on a desert planet, and meets up with a young hotshot pilot who is also powerful in the force. That person meets an old man who takes that person under their wing. The person then meets a wise alien powerful in the force and goes on to help the destroy the evil dark side users planet destroying space weapon! Sounds like a mishmash of all the star wars plots, and that is what it is. Sure it has some interesting new elements, but overall it doesn’t feel at all new. And that is a problem. It is just too much what we have already seen.
Yes, the new character Finn played by John Boyega is fun and really enjoyable but his story has faults, and I think daisy Ridley does some great acting, but her character is too powerful with no flaws and is just badly written, but I will talk more about that later.
And then their is the problem of coincidence. Too much in this movie relies on coincidence. Sure there was always coincidence in Star Wars, but this film takes it to a whole new level. And it doesn’t explain anything. The prequels had way too much explanation in them, that was unnecessary and hurt the plot, but this film goes to the other extreme and explains nothing. BB-8 gets found by the force sensitive Rei, who runs into the escaped Storm Trooper Finn, and they accidently stumble into the Millenium falcon, and she can amazingly pilot the ship. As soon as they get off planet, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) finds them. He takes them to a space bar run by force user Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) a powerful force user who has Luke Skywalker’s first light saber (which fell into the gas giant at Cloud City) and it just happens to give visions to Rey. Later on the Death Star, I mean Starkiller, Han and Finn just happen to run into Rei, so they can get her out. And after the Starkiller is destroyed (hasn’t the Empire, or as called here the New Order learned that Death Stars don’t work), R2-D2 who has been powered down, just powers back up and has the rest of the map to Luke Skywalker that BB-8 has the last part of. It is all coincidence, without any shown motivation in the story and it really weakens things! Lets lose some pace and have a little explanation!
And as for Finn, while I do really enjoy John Boyega’s portrayal, in the movie much of his character’s story has some serious faults. A kid stolen from his parents, and made a janitor on a space weapon, is later made a stormtrooper for an elite battalion led by the supposedly amazing Captain Phasma (Gwendolyn Christy with much hype, but an awful character), but won’t shoot who is ordered too, wouldn’t there have been some trsting for this? Then he so freaks out when a friend who is another stormtrooper dies, he helps an enemy escape, and ends up being ok with shooting and killing other stormtroopers who he could also know. And how is he so good with a lightsaber? In A New Hope these were obscure weapons not jany had seen! Sure maybe the New Order trained against them, but would you train a janitor with a lightsaber? And if you have a military stolen at birth, would you advertise he is a traitor? I wouldn’t cause it could give people ideas, amd yet he keeps running into New Order people who know he is a traitor! Otherwise is that stormtrooper who is such a bad ass against lightsabers his former friend then. And how is at that the creatures on Han’s ship kill everyone as soon as they get them, until they run get Finn and they just cary him till Rei can save him.
And speaking of the bad ass storm trooper who can take on Jedi. He rocks, but is only in the one scene! Wouldn’t it have been better if it had been Captain Phasma? She seems to be of high rank in the New Order, and leads her own troops, but when push comes to shove she folds. Han and Finn threaten and she drops the StarKiller’s shields essentially dooming her side. And though their are two dead Stormtrooper bodies on the ground behind them, they put her in a trash compactor to make a cheap joke that harkene back to A New Hope and ensures that she comes back, even though she really didn’t earn it.
And then their is the Dark Vader replacement here, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who of course turns out to be Han and Leia’s son Ben Solo. Instead of channeling the original trilogy, this Darth Vader obsessed Dark Force user, who defeated Luke and killed everyone in his new school of Jedi seems to act more like whiny emo Anakin Skywalker. He has temper tantrums and even Storm Troopers turn and walk away when he is throwing one. Nothing like the Dark presence of Darth Vader. And yet we see him as possibly the strongest force user we have seen, able to stop blaster bolts in the air (not deflect them like Vader or Yoda) and freeze people and force rape their minds! And he was trained by the last Jedi, Luke Skywalker! And yet he is so easy bested by a completely untrained force user, and is stupidly saved by the ground cracking open seperating him from Rei. I mean Stormtroopers showing up at least wouldn’t have felt like such a coincidence!
And then we have Rey played by Daisy Ridley. She is super cute, and acts very well, and is a total bad ass, but as a character she is just way too good. She was abandoned on a desert planet and works scavenging, but she can instantly pilot the Millenium Falcon better than Han Solo, and fix it better than him too. And he instantly likes her and wants her to join him, and he and Finn will risk everything to save her. She is a crack shot. After being overpowered and captured by Ren, she manages to overwhelm his mind and read him. And later defeat him with a lightsaber the first time she has ever used one, though he is well trained in using one, with him only being saved by the ground of the planet splitting open and saving him (seriously!!!!!!!). She is way too good at everything with no character faults or faults at all. She doesn’t even need to train or learn anything, she can just do it perfectly! I mean Luke had to struggle, and train, and he trained Kylo Renn before he was trained by Dark Force user Snoke (Andy Serkis), and this untrained girl can easily defeat him! Yes it is cool to see a girl kicking ass with the force and a lightsaber, but she doesn’t have to work for it, so it is meaningless! The original Star Wars trilogy was based on Jospeh Campbell and his Power of Myth, following a heroes journey and struggle, but Rei has no struggle, she is just too good for no reason.
And as I said, I know they don’t want to go into the political machinations of the galaxy, like Lucas did in the prequels, but some explanation would be good. Why is Leia the General of the Resistance, who the New Order says is being secretly funded by the restored Republic. A Resistance would be against the current government, not fighting the enemy. And was the whole Republic government really destroyed? If so it was such a throwaway!
And what about the New Order. It seems to be the Empire 2.0 with Hitler references amped up. No longer any thought to them being right though, just being evil and wanting order in the galaxy under their thumb, through destruction And is Snoke an alien or a really deformed human, cause the Empire has always been a human only club. There is just no depth here. Tarkin in a New Hope was evil, but there was something to him, but General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) is just evil in this. And his troops are all stolen as children and mind controlled to obey, there is nothing good there at all, so why would anyone follow them? At least before they had the imperial academy that Han went to and Luke wanted to go to. Personally I would have found Stormtroopers indoctrinated to think they are on the side of right, and not just forced to believe that much scarier. And how bright can the New Order be to put their resources into building a third death star, after the first 2 were so easily dispatched. Why not try something new? How many ships could they have built instead of that one weapon?
And speaking of the Star Killer, it seems ridiculous. Easily destroyed by a small group of rebels bringing down the shield (can we say Return of the Jedi) and a few snub fighters! WTF! Where was the fleet? We saw one Star Destroyer in orbit after one shot of the StarKiller, but did they have no more ships to go against the resistance X-Wings? And did the Resistance really have no capital ships to throw at them, and only a few X-Wings? We hear of a New Republic fleet, but what is it doing while all this is going on? The only reason to show only a few X-wings is that they are trying to slavishly imitate A New Hope! And the StarKiller eats Stars to power itself and yet seems to be a planet with people on the exterior, even though it would have been a wasteland after the first star it ate to charge itself before we saw it. Not only that but in the New Hope the Death Star is built up and a big threat, but here we are searching for Luke for the whole film, then we stop the search, and have a new Death Star to deal with, but it has no dread to it, or consequences as we have no idea what it actually destroyed!
And more slavishly following the original trilogy we get Lupita Nyong’o’s Yoda, I mean Maz Kanata. Not only is her bar basically the Mos Eisley Cantina from A New Hope, but as a force sensative little Alien she literally seems to be Yoda. Maz seems here cause they wanted her here, and wanted her to give Rei Luke’s first lightsaber, previous Anakin Skywalkers, which she tells us how she got it is another story. Sure since it was lost along with Luke’s hand at Bespin, where it seemed to fall into the depths of the planet (and since it was a Tibana gas mining facility it seems it was likely a gas giant planet where the lightsaber would have fallen and been crushed and lost forver), but maybe was recovered from facility. She is just there for exposition. To get Han to Lei, and get the lightsaber to Rei.
And Han Solo, yes it was great to have him and Chewy back, but still so much was wrong! He lost the Millenium Falcon, and as soon as Rei and Finn fly it into space he stumbles upon it. And I know losing his son to the dark side and having him murder all the training Jedi would be a blow, but it puts him back right where he was before the original trilogy, but worse. He is back to being a smuggler, but no longer seems to be a good one! He has pissed off two groups not delivering often (after only losing his cargo once before the original trilogy), and has no defences on his new ship so they can easily dock and come in. He hasn’t grown at all, and is not even battling the New Order that his evil son is now a bad ass in. I thought he did what was right now? No lets let your son destroy the Republic you fought so hard for. And there is the matter of his death. It was obviously the big twist, I mean he wanted to die in Jedi and it had to have been what he agreed to before he would come back, but the circumstances are ridiculous. First off, we have a bridge across an endless pit, that only has rails for it’s first 20 feet. So are people expected to cross that? Or are there no rails so Han can fall after his son kills him once Lea tells him to save their son. So he is playing the old Man Obi-Wan and gas to die, and especially by the hamd of his son. Expedience, not sense! And then no funeral for Han? WTF?
And the End, WTF! Already BB-8 is the R2-D2 of this film, but then having R2 powered down for the whole film, and after the Death Star, uh I mean Star Killer is destroyed to have R2 wake up and just happen to have the rest of the ridiculous map to Luke Skywalker (about the dumbest Maguffin of all time, because how could it exist?), which he has just ben sitting on even though it at least showed an area where they know Luke is! And then Lei just sends this girl that she barely knows to find her brother, from the opening scroll, the only one who can save the galaxy! What? And it is so easy to just fly there? And then Luke is an Island with no habitation, just standing there, and seems pissed off, though he must have heard the Falcon and felt Rei coming! And with Han dead we never see the original trio back together! What a f***ing waste! Not only that, but the whole Luke scene where he doesn’t even speak, feels so tacked on, like it should have been in the next film, because it adds nothing but fan service, and makes the film seem incomplete, without an ending.
I can honestly say that I couldn’t believe that I was watching the same film that everyone else loved! It is just not a good film and scares me to see what else Disney will be doing with Star Wars. Honestly I would be much happier if this new film had not happened and the extended Universe of books gad just continued. Sure it gad some bad stories, but it also had some amazing ones! In fact many of those would have been so much better than what they actually did, and could have kept the extended universe going. I am so let down and depressed.