As Star Wars: The Force Awakens continues its Wampa-sized box office haul, Star Wars fandom continues to debate the various unanswered questions, both fun and frustrating. While the movie is quite a bit of fun, just how good is it? Does it stand on its own virtues and break new ground, or is it just an overproduced bit of fan-fiction that relies on the enduring reputation of the other films to fill cinema seats?
Regardless, The Force Awakens fumbles in some pretty silly ways which will no doubt drive fans and casual moviegoers bonkers for some time to come.
Fair warning, of course: what follows from here is an in-depth discussion of plot points, so read no further if you’ve not seen the movie!
13 The Plot: Haven't We Seen This Already?
If I described to you the movie where a droid carrying vital information critical to a resistance movement crashes on a desert planet and falls into the hands of a scrappy, young local with dreams of touring the galaxy, escapes aboard the Millennium Falcon, and is pursued by a Dark Force wielding, helmet-clad lunatic and his stormtroopers who control a planet-busting superweapon, which movie would I be describing?
12 The Starkiller Makes No Sense At All
Physics and scientific accuracy have never been priorities when it comes to Star Wars storytelling; the genre of the series is less science fiction than science fantasy. For that reason, the audience doesn't have a problem believing in hyperdrives or super weapons or swords made of light. Whole planets that can destroy solar systems, on the other hand, prove problematic.
11 Leia Isn't A Jedi
10 Finn Has No Character Arc
Both marketing and merchandise tie-ins with The Force Awakens touted Finn and John Boyega as the new lead in the film, which could not be further from the reality. The Force Awakens is Rey’s story through and through. She’s the one that finds BB-8. She’s the one that pilots the ship. Most of all, she’s the one who displays powers of the Force and defeats Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel because she chooses to use the Force. That last point is key: it’s what defines a protagonist.
9 Lupita Nyong'o, Gwendoline Christie And Max Von Sydow Are Wasted
8 Kylo Ren Is Crazy Powerful
…except when he isn’t. The first time Kylo Ren appears on screen he manages to freeze a blaster bolt in mid air with the Force, a power even the likes of Darth Vader and Yoda never even mustered, not to mention all the Jedi shot by their own clone troopers. So what gives? More to the point, why doesn’t Ren use that trick again when Rey shoots at him outside Maz Kanata’s castle, or better yet, when Chewbacca shoots him after he murders Han?
Moreover, Ren also has Force powers of interrogation; he can make people freeze in place or fall asleep at will. And Snoke says his training isn’t even complete! Even granting that Ren might have an even stronger connection to the Force than Vader or Yoda doesn’t really address his strange over-powered nature.
7 Rey Is Powerful, But Remains Untrained
Speaking of the overpowered…remember how hard Luke had to concentrate just to move his lightsaber a few feet in The Empire Strikes Back? Or remember how handily (pun intended) Vader defeated him at the end of that film? Until The Force Awakens, learning the Force was serious business and took years. Rey, however, is magically able to use Force mind control, telekinesis and hold her own in a lightsaber duel against the also-absurdly powered Kylo Ren without any training at all! How's that possible?
6 The Mary Sue Problem
Some detractors of the film have called it a “Mary Sue.” The term is an old writer’s expression for fan fiction wherein some fan would write a script about a new, all-powerful character joining a story and saving all the familiar characters…and said avatar is just a projection of the writer. Critics have called Rey a “Mary Sue” character, given all her crazy powers and penchant for saving the day. They’re half right.
The Force Awakens is a “Mary Sue” story, but the key character isn’t Rey, it’s Kylo Ren. Ren exists as a projection of writer/director J.J. Abrams and his insecurities. Consider: like Ren who tries to continue the perceived legacy of Darth Vader and who suffers massive envy of his grandfather, Abrams has modeled his films — in particular, the Star Trek series — on Star Wars.
5 Droid Ex Machina
Beloved character R2-D2 spends most of the movie in a droid coma, apparently in “low power mode” since the departure of Luke Skywalker some 10 years prior. This development, of course, raises a number of questions: why can’t the Resistance just press the reset button? Why can’t they connect him to another computer to scan his memory banks? Certainly this simple interaction of technologies which exists in our own world must also exist in the ultra-advanced technology of Star Wars!
4 Luke Is Barely In The Movie
Given the ridiculous seven-figure paycheck plus gross and merchandising points that Disney/Lucasfilm must have dished out to get Mark Hamill to return to his signature role, and given that Hamill went through a rigorous workout routine to lose 50 pounds, it’s an utter cheat that he has no dialogue and appears on screen for 90 seconds at most. Early script drafts apparently had a much larger role for Luke, but when J.J. Abrams took over script control, he reduced his role to a cameo. In fairness, in the context of the movie —Luke himself becomes a sort of Macguffin — the move works. On the other hand, since this is the last opportunity for Han, Luke and Leia to appear on screen together, his cameo feels like a wasted opportunity.
3 How Is Poe Alive?
Poe Dameron emerged as one of the breakout characters from The Force Awakens and actor Oscar Isaac seems on the brink of major stardom. Giving him lots of screen time makes good sense…but the execution doesn’t. Poe crash lands on Jakku leaving only his jacket behind, and Finn simply leaves him for dead. Later in the movie, Poe reemerges at an opportune moment without any explanation. In a word: how? How does Poe survive the crash? How does he get off Jakku? And perhaps most importantly, why doesn’t he go looking for BB-8, the object of his search in the first place?
2 Nothing Gets Explained
Elements of mystery have always been key to the allure of Star Wars — the origins of Darth Vader, the fate of the Jedi, the identities of Luke’s family — have all fueled the success of the series by igniting conversation between fans. The Force Awakens tries to strike a similar tone, but rather than producing mysteries, it simply creates vagueness. What exactly is the Resistance in relation to The Republic? Why can’t the Republic fleet aid them? Are we supposed to believe that the destruction of one planet caused the entire Republic to fall?
Most egregious of all: the crazy Force powers of Kylo Ren and Rey stand at odds with everything else we’ve ever seen in the series and the movie offers no explanation for them. Granted, Disney has made clear that countless sequels and spinoffs will follow The Force Awakens, leaving fans to assume these issues will get addressed in future installments. To some degree, that’s fair, and utilizes the serialized nature of the series. At the same time, however, it’s a mammoth conceit, milking the audience for more time and treasure just to get a movie they have already paid to see to make sense.
1 Character Assassination
There’s no other way to see this: the happy ending of Return of the Jedi means nothing. To some extent that was probably inevitable in order for the series to continue. On the other hand, the method Abrams employs to further the story destroys our beloved returning characters. Luke has failed to start a new Jedi order and deserted his friends. Leia has failed as a mother to her son. Han has failed as both a father and a husband, abandoning Leia and their son, Ben Solo, and returned to smuggling. What did our characters do to deserve this level of assassination? Couldn’t they have succeeded as politicians/family/spouses/leaders and still faced a new, dire threat from the First Order?
The fragmentation of the original trilogy’s trinity of characters isn’t just frustrating, it’s sad. Even if further movies could elaborate on the 30 years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens and give Han, Luke & Leia a more proper final adventure, it could do nothing but doom them to fail.
Don't get me wrong, The Force Awakens is a fun movie, dripping with nostalgia for the original Star Wars trilogy. But that's also the problem: the movie seems so concerned with recreating the look, feel, and style of the original movies that it forgets to become a movie of its own. It's a fine start to the deluge of Star Wars movies to come, but not much of a film itself.
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