Let’s talk Star Wars.
Clearly, becoming the fastest movie to gross over a billion dollars in revenue is a pretty big statement made by the public. Even the reviews that are coming in are solid in favor of the 7th installment in the legendary series. Episodes 4, 5 and 6, or as I call them, the “Mother Ship,” were an extraordinary achievement for George Lucas which has spurred billions of dollars in revenue off of his original story concept. Certainly, the prequels were pretty bad from almost every point of view, but the fact of the matter is, Star Wars is an industry all unto itself; and deservedly so.
We can fawn over the successes of George Lucas’ original creation; the brilliant establishment of good versus evil; story and special effect uses that have spurred college courses and enhanced the lives of millions upon millions of people all around the world.
But instead, lets focus on Episode 7, The Force Awakens, and see what the brilliant J.J. Abrams has done (or not). Abrams is a genius; anyone who argues with that need only watch the movie Super 8 to bask in his filmmaking glory. And he has led the resurgence of Star Trek and brought color and life to a series that was left for dead. With Star Wars, though, Abrams is up against the ghost of George Lucas’ past and the expectations to fill the void we have all been waiting for; following the legendary 3 original episodes. This is no small undertaking. Abrams definitely did some things right with the movie, but there are a lot of fans with many, many gripes.
With that, let’s look at 10 Ways J.J. Abrams Screwed Up Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
10. Finn – Stormtrooper With A Heart
Okay, let’s dig into this one first. After being drilled about cloning in previous Star Wars films, we now see Finn, the Stormtrooper who is able to differentiate between good and evil. The soft-hearted Finn is a great character at his core. He is intriguing and unwitting in his adventure to escape the “First Order.” However, Finn is greatly flawed. First off, all other Stormtroopers follow orders. He flips a switch early on and basically decides he doesn’t want to be a Stormtrooper anymore. In addition to his “feelings” and his “doubts,” it is only explained briefly that these new Stormtroopers are trained (so a light reference trying to divert our attention away from them being clones). But then why do every single other Stormtrooper appear to be clones? This one doesn’t pass the sniff test and is poor storytelling. They tried to slide this one by the audience, but we’re not biting.
9. Rey – Superwoman!
Rey is an awesome character well played by Daisy Ridley. She is extremely likable and is extremely interesting as a “scraper.” However, Rey goes from living in a destitute land and being just a regular unknowing girl to being the second coming of every great Star Wars hero that pre-existed in the original series. She is fearless, talented, athletic, intelligent, and can seemingly do anything she wants. She even is able to harness her hidden abilities, “The Force,” and self-teach herself to be great. She is so amazing in Episode 7 that one wonders how in the world she will follow this up for the rest of the series. She literally out-Forces another Jedi, our arch villain Kylo Ren (aka, Ben Solo) and is able to reconfigure Han Solo’s ship, baffling even him. It’s just too much for her to be able to do anything she wants with ease. Even Luke had his bumps in the road way back in the day and he is a pretty damn impressive Jedi.
8. Lightsaber – Community Property?
Since when could a person just pick up someone else’s lightsaber and wield it around like they have been using it for a lifetime? As defined, lightsabers are weapons used by the Jedi and the Sith. It is also a weapon that requires a high level of skill and extraordinary training. Remember Luke in Episode 4? What’s strange is that Finn, our defected Stormtrooper, is easily able to grab Luke Skywalker’s old lightsaber and use it as if he had been training with it for years. This is a major story flaw being that Finn hasn’t been trained with such a weapon. Even if he is a closet Jedi (which we have no evidence of at this point), his ability to adequately use the weapon owned by another Jedi is a major head scratcher. Again, our heroes are just too strong and too good in this movie. They never seem to have to overcome much of anything.
7. Han Solo – Son Becomes Kylo Ren, Who Cares?
A big part of the story within the story in The Force Awakens is the fact that Han Solo and Princess Leia’s son, Ben Solo (aka Kylo Ren), is our new Darth Vader wannabe. Han Solo has parted ways with Leia, much of it apparently having to do with their son being a Jedi-in-the-making who defects to the Dark Side. However, Solo’s excuse for going back to hustling in the galaxy and forgoing his family and son as if they meant nothing is quite confusing. He was ultimately heroic, overcoming his youthful ways. He fell in love with Leia and they had a child together. Then he just bolts? It’s not like Han Solo is a professional athlete who has 10 baby mamas. The lack of remorse he (and frankly Leia) show over their son being wrapped up in the greatest evil in the world is a major turn off. It’s a complete disregard for Solo as a parent and makes him look foolish at best. Where is the emotion J.J?
6. The First Order – 1942 Said What?
Knock offs sometimes work. People can pay homage to past success and make references to amazing material from decades past. However, with the First Order, we have an idea of what exactly is happening with this wannabe group from the famous book 1942. It’s not only an old tried and tired idea, but the Hunger Games series pretty much rolled out a very similar homage without actually ripping off the classic novel. The First Order is also so small in scope. We don’t get a real feel of their power. They have some Generals who seem to be running the show on ships while a crazy holograph on a throne gives orders. It is one of the oddest displays over power. And then The First Order starts blowing up entire solar systems with such ease, one wonders where this all came from. There is absolutely no build up to this kind of display of power and we don’t have the opportunity to feel for the victims and root for the Rebels.
5. Ben Solo/Kylo Ren – Immature, Whiny Villain.
Seriously, if this was their best attempt at recreating a younger version of Darth Vader, it failed miserably. Not only is Kylo Ren literally the most whiny and uneventful villain, the fact that he constantly is taking his mask on and off gets annoying. Darth Vader couldn’t remove his mask or he would die. His sinister voice was classically vocalized by James Earl Jones and was freaking amazing. Here, we have a Bane wannabe (Batman reference alert!) with his voice and the mask but it seems more like the Darth Vader Halloween mask and voice altering microphone my son has.
There is so little in the way of Kylo Ren being imposing, we barely fear him. He displays weakness and chaotic tantrums throughout the movie and then is “out-Jedi’d” by Rey who doesn’t even know she is a Jedi when the movie first begins. Ren also seems to be put in charge of so much, yet he lacks in strength and punch. It is another immature version of a character we wish would be cold and imposing.
4. Han Solo – Worst Swan Song Ever
Okay, Han Solo is one of the greatest characters ever created in feature films. We can say that because it literally has made Harrison Ford a superstar. The character and charisma of Solo is the man every man wants to be and the man every woman wants to date. But in The Force Awakens, Solo’s character is tired and old. The man himself has aged, but why is his character lacking in any sort of emotion or feelings throughout the film? It is an odd swan song. Solo does get a few one-liners in, but with a young girl stepping in (Rey) to overshadow Solo, it takes so much strength away from such an influential character. We get the “passing of the torch,” but there could have been so much more for Solo to do. His death (which we will get to more) isn’t even mourned for more than a few seconds. Maybe we’ll open the next film with a proper death march and a Han Solo ceremony, but in The Force Awakens, Leia senses Solo’s death and sadly sighs. That’s it? A freakin’ sigh! Yeah, epic fail with this story plot.
3. First Order Versus The Rebels – What The Heck Is Going On?
J.J. Abrams does a good job of introducing characters in this film, but their execution leaves a lot to be lacking. With regard to the two great forces in this movie about to collide, it all seems so narrow. Abrams fails to build the scope of the new Darkside led by the First Order or really establish the Resistance/Rebels all too well. One thing George Lucas always did a very good job of was identifying the scope and magnitude of the players involved. When you saw evil, you sensed they were big, imposing and unbeatable. When you saw the Rebels, you sensed they were smaller and a mobile unit of sporadic fighters trying to rise up against the evil. It was classic David vs Goliath. But here, one scene is tossed in (our Nazi/1942 rip off) to show a random speech given to Stormtroopers and there is a shot of the old Death Star versus the First Order’s new weaponry.
Honestly, watching planets explode left and right throughout the galaxy would have been a lot more believable and intense had we had some context and a better scope of what the evil truly was. The storytelling is fast and weak here and has little definition to help build our suspense up. Even the final lightsaber fight between Rey and Kylo Ren is forced. She seems more Jedi than he is. There is little in the way of suspense and she basically kicks his ass.
2. The Big 3 – Solo, Leia and Skywalker
So, we have our big 3 from the original series making a triumphant return. Let’s get Luke out of the way since he has no dialogue and only a few moments on screen. We get a single glimpse of Luke Skywalker at the end of the movie and he has morphed into a Obi Wan Kenobi-like character. I don’t have too much of an issue there as his presence (or lack thereof) was constantly alluded to as the main story plot in this film. So that was our teaser. Moving on to Solo and Leia. Where was the passion? Where was the love? Where was any emotional connection at all? This film was completely devoid of the emotion that led to us falling in love with the original series and launch all of this madness.
And this, the 7th installment, was the amazing return of these legends and all we get is Leia roaming through what looks like a police trailer doubling as the Rebels’ main operating station and Solo giving us a few good moments and then simply being a sidekick in the movie. This was honestly a tough pill to swallow with so much potential at hand. It was a clear decision to not focus on the past and to try to push the story forward. But in doing so, Abrams and his writing team lost so many opportunities. The real loss is the lack of connection in the film which Lucas did so well in Episodes 4-6.
1. Han Solo Dies – Holy Crap
First off, our biggest “hook” character goes down. This definitely sucks. I get the story plot and wanting to build up anger against Kylo Ren, but sadly, Solo falls at the hands of his son. Fans everywhere felt more pain in Solo’s death than the rest of the characters in the film. If you have one of the greatest anti-heroes of all time on film, one of the most iconic characters ever created, one of the most charismatic and fearless heroes ever, and you have him die by getting duped by his son after a corny 5 minute scene of talking, I mean, what the hell!
Listen, if you’re going to take Solo down, let’s have him go down fighting. The fact that Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) simply lies to his father about wanting to be a good guy as he stands in the epicenter of evil and then kills Solo, is the most anticlimactic moment in the history of filmmaking. I mean, come on. That’s what our Han Solo gets? He gets a lightsaber to the gut without even a fight? He dies without a single laser blast or anything? I mean, Obi Wan Kenobi’s death versus Darth Vader was legendary. The same was true of Darth Vader’s death before Luke Skywalker. This is criminal that Han Solo gets suckered by his son who is whining about not wanting to be evil anymore. This is easily the worst of the worst and shame on the Abrams team for not doing a better job here.