It seems that one of the fundamental rules of the entertainment industry is that the more popular something becomes, the more fashionable it is to rip on it. Some criticisms are even fair, and as something accumulates fans it opens itself up to the scrutiny of that fanbase. No doubt, pointing out plot holes, fantastical elements, or something that just plain doesn’t make sense is fun sometimes, particularly with franchises you love. On the other hand, some people act like contrarians simply to be edgy, or because it makes them feel intelligent to point out the flaws in something popular. Others do it because they didn’t pay close enough attention to the work in question.
Last year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released to near-universal critical acclaim and booming success with the fans. At its height, the movie made around a billion dollars a week. With such a far-reaching and fanatical fanbase for a beloved series like Star Wars, some fan nitpicking was inevitable. The most famous sci-fi movie series of all time is something that’s going to get a lot of critique, and being perhaps the most highly anticipated movie of the decade, The Force Awakens was no different. But amidst all its popularity, some naysayers remained. Certainly, there is no such thing as a perfect, airtight story, and there’s nothing wrong with ripping something you enjoy. But when a movie’s worth is put on the chopping block over a few quibbles which may not even be valid, then it becomes worth a response.
Let’s look at some of the dumbest criticisms made of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and examine why they’re pedantic, one-sided, or just plain wrong. Since we will be discussing plot elements of the movie, there may be spoilers ahead…
10. The Science Of The Movie Doesn’t Add Up
Questioning the science in a series like Star Wars seems a bit strange in the first place, given that fans are always arguing if it’s science fiction or fantasy, and that it’s a story about wizards in space. The Force? Fine. Faster-than-light travel? Sure. Talking ghosts of the dead? Cool. Laser sword fights? Awesome. But throw in something like the Death Star, and suddenly people question its realism. Though there are nitpicks one could make of the original trilogy, scientific criticisms of The Force Awakens were particularly harsh. Probably the most famous example is when Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted about how a sphere-shaped droid like BB-8 wouldn’t be able to get any traction on the sands of Jakku, and would be rolling uncontrollably. Of course, in a universe as vast as that of Star Wars, we don’t know what BB-8 is made of, or what the physics are like on alien planets. Furthermore, the droid does work: the filmmakers built a working model of the droid before the film was released, and there’s a working app-controlled toy version available. deGrasse Tyson’s tweet received so much media attention that there’s even a website explaining how BB-8 works. It’s worth noting that deGrasse Tyson still thinks the droid is cute, though.
9. A Black Stormtrooper?
This shouldn’t need to be said yet again, but it bears repeating. John Boyega’s character Finn, a deserting First Order soldier, provoked an outrage among some fans who felt that the idea of a black Stormtrooper was ridiculous. Which makes no sense at all. In a universe as vast as Star Wars’, with aliens and beings of every imaginable type, the thing that most confounded some was that the First Order could have black people in their employ. In the original Star Wars, no Stormtroopers ever take off their helmets to show what they looked like underneath, and the precedent of a black Jedi was already established by Samuel L. Jackson in the prequels. So if white people exist a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there’s no conceivable reason (except outright racism) to assume that black people don’t. Also, two words: Lando. Calrissian.
8. Kylo Ren Is Too Emotional Or “A Whiny Vader Wannabe”
Naysayers accuse Ren of being a “weak,” “whiny,” or “angsty” villain. What critics of his character don’t seem to understand is that Kylo Ren is everything Anakin Skywalker should have been in the prequels. In fact, this just means they made Ren more human, and showed that he’s a tormented and frustrated character. Let’s also think carefully about Vader’s treatment of henchmen who failed him in the original trilogy and Anakin’s behavior in the prequels before we preach too hard about emotions. Regarding accusations of being nothing but a pale imitation of Darth Vader, the answer is: “duh.” That’s the entire point of his character – just as the First Order see themselves as the successors to the Galactic Empire, Kylo is looking to become what his grandfather was and “finish what [he] started.” This is an example of not paying attention to the movie.
7. Kylo Ren Is Easily Defeated By Rey
We’ve probably all heard this one: “LOL, Ren was defeated by a total n00b.” Well, not exactly. Ren wasn’t trying to strike Rey down in a lightsaber duel, but to capture her and bring her to Supreme Leader Snoke (probably to turn her to the Dark Side), as were his master’s orders. Kylo was badly wounded by a Wookie Blaster, as evidence by him spilling blood everywhere and pounding on the wound. The same blaster killed trained and armored Stormtroopers in a single shot. He had also recently undergone trauma by, you know, killing his own father and all. Kylo Ren shows considerable skill in combat and use of the Force, but he is not invincible. Before facing Rey, Kylo also easily defeats Finn in literally 30 seconds and leaves him for dead. For most of the fight, Rey is in retreat. When he corners her, Kylo doesn’t take the opportunity to carve her to pieces because he tries to convince her to become his student. At the end, Rey mostly wins because of the planet being destroyed around them. Watch the video of the fight carefully and you’ll see just how dumb this criticism is.
6. Luke And Han Were Cowards For Running Away
Okay, seriously? Han’s son joined the First Order, and Luke’s training turned him onto the Dark Side of the Force. You would think having your son turn into a mass murderer, and even worse, being the one who trained your nephew into becoming said mass murderer, might leave someone a bit of a psychological wreck. Especially since Kylo Ren is now responsible for the deaths of countless billions, and previously slaughtered the entire Jedi order that Luke had worked so hard to build. At this point, very little is known about what happened to Luke and Han in the thirty years since the events of Return of the Jedi, so it could have been even worse than that.
5. Why Build Another Death Star When The First Two Failed?
This one is just plain incorrect. The First Order deciding to build a bigger, better superweapon is one of the most plausible things about The Force Awakens. Going back to the mentality of the Cold War, in a universe where gigantic superweapons have been shown to work, of course a militaristic power would want to build one. Because that’s the thing about both Death Stars and Starkiller Base: they worked. Even if they were destroyed in the end, the original Death Star completely destroyed Alderaan, and the second one inflicted serious damage on the Rebel fleet. Starkiller Base fared even better: it completely annihilated five major planets of the Republic, including its capital world. Pretty good trade-off, if you ask me.
4. Starkiller Base Is Too Easily Destroyed
It’s a pretty big stretch to say that the attack on Starkiller Base was easy in any way. The Resistance suffered massive casualties, which is made plainly obvious. Not to mention the plan by the Resistance to blow up Starkiller Base actually fails; the Resistance is in full retreat after not having put a dent into it, when the base starts tearing itself apart from the inside thanks to the actions of the main characters. Anyway, from a story-telling perspective, it would be pretty hard to continue the saga of Star Wars if a planet-destroying superweapon remained in the hands of the antagonists at the end, especially when they were minutes away from destroying the Resistance’s headquarters.
3. Kylo Ren Shouldn’t Have Taken Off His Mask
Oddly, this one seems to be repeated by the same people who say he’s trying to look too much like Darth Vader, so on the one hand, Kylo’s character shouldn’t wear a mask that resembles Vader’s, while on the other he should be more like Vader and wait for three movies or more to show his face. In any case, this complain is overstated: Kylo Ren takes off his mask for the first time to show Rey he doesn’t need to wear it to frighten her, and the second time when he faces off against his father, Han Solo, and deceives him into thinking he will return to the light. Both of these make perfect sense in the narrative.
2. Rey Is Overpowered Or “A Mary Sue”
First off, the movie is called The Force Awakens. It’s about great power awakening inside a protagonist, and the audience being set up for something in the future. Rey clearly has a mysterious past we’ve yet to understand, and a deep connection to the Force and to Luke Skywalker. Furthermore, no one seemed to have a problem with Luke quickly becoming a powerful Jedi as a teenager, or Anakin as a ten-year-old single-handedly crippling a Trade Federation fleet and being called “the Chosen One.” The definition of a Mary Sue is a character who is competent in too many areas, but Rey is also shown to have many human faults. Still, even if we assume that the charge of “Mary Sue” sticks, it seems silly to get upset that the protagonist has an awakening with the Force in a movie called The Force Awakens.
1. It’s Exactly Like A New Hope
This one is perhaps the most common. There’s no denying that The Force Awakens shares many plot elements, scenes, set pieces, and much of the story with A New Hope. What critics fail to realize is that 30 years passed between the last Star Wars films, and that this was done on purpose. Director J.J. Abrams defended the references an intentional way to reassure fans this was still the same Star Wars while introducing new characters and themes, and the similarities to A New Hope were part of the creative process to bridge the gap between the old and new universes.