Star Wars is the most profitable franchise in history. It’s no surprise that the new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens smashed box office records. As millions of fans of the original trilogy, I watched this new instalment of the Star Wars series not without emotion, to say the least. Overall I must admit my impressions are mixed.
Don’t get me wrong, The Force Awakens has many qualities: an excellent cast, stunning special effects, and a brilliant soundtrack by John Williams. Yes, the same John Williams who composed the soundtracks for the original Star Wars trilogy. The Force Awakens could have been an excellent movie. It just needed a decent scenario, and, importantly, a director willing to take risks. Of course that didn’t happen—too much money at stake. No magic for Christmas—Santa doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, let’s stay positive and start with the pros.
An excellent cast overall, the old generation of Star Wars actors passing the torch to the new one. Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill are all there, although the latter makes only a brief appearance. They are joined by young and talented actors, Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), and others.
Rey and Kylo Ren are probably the most interesting characters. Rey is a young woman who barely manages to survive on an arid world, yet dreams of becoming a pilot. What can I say, I have a weak spot for this kind of characters, idealistic, tough and vulnerable at the same time. A Luke Skywalker 2.0—a difficult legacy to live up to.
Kylo Ren was a pleasant surprise. At the beginning I feared he would be just another archetypical villain, but his personality appeared to be more complex. Diagnosis—he has a strong, destructive inferiority complex. He venerates his grandfather Darth Vader, but he just doesn’t have what it takes to match the accomplishments of his idol. What Kylo Ren lacks in power and skill he tries to make up for in determination and sheer ferocity. It doesn’t always work, which makes him unpredictable and prone to fits of rage. Good—tortured souls make the best villains.
Now the cons. Plot holes ruined the movie for me (read this: 40 Unforgivable Plot Holes in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’). The plot is hardly credible and not always consistent with the Star Wars universe. For example, in the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke was trained by two Jedi masters, Obi-Wan and Yoda. In The Force Awakens, however, both Rey and Finn are able to use a lightsaber very effectively in a combat situation with no training once or ever.
Spontaneous Jedification: an unexplainable phenomenon where Force-sensitive individuals become Jedi with no training.
The plot is riddled with Deus ex machina, unlikely but convenient coincidences. For example the way the Falcon Millenium is introduced into the story is rather sloppy. Overall The Force Awakens suffers from the typical Hollywoodian sensationalism that damaged so many promising movies. It’s all about marketing, my friends. It’s all about making money.
Another major problem—the movie is blatantly derivative. It’s not a spoiler to say that the writers copied the story of A New Hope with an almost religious devotion, down to the minute details. The names change, but the situations remain identical. Was it really necessary? Couldn’t we visit a few places from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, for example?
But what could we expect from J.J. Abrams, the film director who have ruined the Star Trek franchise by reinventing the characters from the original series? Tasha Robinson writes in her article in The Verge:
in spite of the new faces, The Force Awakens worships at the feet of the original Star Wars trilogy on a beat-for-beat, moment-for-moment, even prop-for-prop basis. Much like Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek, Force Awakens is a stealth remake, with a certain amount of narrative squirming done to make it into a sequel.
Read this article. Personally I find this review bold and enlightening. Another quote:
Let’s be clear: if anyone made this movie without the Star Wars name, no one would accept it for a moment. It’d be universally derided as the thinnest, most obvious plagiarism. But because it comes with George Lucas’ blessing, and because it’s so obviously made by Star Wars fans expressing their joy at being given the keys to the kingdom, and because it invites viewers to become kids seeing A New Hope for the first time again, the critical community has largely greeted it with a sigh of collective relief and welcome.
I agree, The Force Awakens looks and feels like a clone of A New Hope. A clone genetically engineered to optimize its money-making potential. Unfortunately the writers didn’t even manage to replicate the formula correctly and left out some of the most important aspects of the series. See my comment above re. plot holes and “Spontaneous Jedification.”
What else can I say about this movie? Attempts at humor are more or less successful, depending on whether you like this kind of humor. The best lines of dialogue were copied or adapted from the original trilogy. The philosophical depth of The Empire Strikes Back is absent. Yoda is gone, and wisdom is gone with him.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas made three exceptional sci-fi/fantasy movies that captivated the imagination of millions of fans. This is how I want to remember this story. No matter how many millions the new trilogy will gross, no matter how many positive reviews it receives, Yours Truly will remain a rebel loyal to the original trilogy. Because, let’s face it, money has never been a substitute for talent and passion, and will never be.
This Christmas, may the Force be with you, and don’t spend your money on Star Wars tie-ins or merchandise. Buy a good, original book instead.