First off, I want to set the record straight: I am a fan of Star Wars. It was a big part of my childhood, and one of my most memorable movie going experiences was watching Return Of The Jedi in the theatre with my brothers (yes, I’m that old!). This isn’t about hating on the new film or anything like that, and the people who are comparing it to the prequels are just crazy. I actually enjoyed the movie quite a bit—I’m just not in love with it. And now I’m going to tell you why.
Just a warning, this post is going to contain SPOILERS for the film, so if you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend you turn back now. You’ve been warned!
While there are plenty of things to love about the film, overall, I think the studio played it far too safe in regards to the story. I get the need to appease the rabid fan-boys and not stray too far off the grid, but this telling was pretty much a beat by beat re-hash of A New Hope, right down to the death of a mentor/main character in Han Solo and the weapon that the big bad Empire (because let’s face it, that’s what the First Order is) uses to destroy planets. While I wasn’t expecting the studio to reinvent the wheel, I was hoping we would get something different, at least in regards to this universe. There are so many people, places and stories that could have been told, and yet, although technically the locations are different, we’re still bombarded with sand and space and snow. The scenery was a recreation of things we’ve already seen and done and have the t-shirts for. In that regards, I will admit to being disappointed.
My other main issue with the film was that there were a number of things that felt like they had been tacked on, so that the filmmakers could come back later and fill in the blanks, or because they thought they had to add it in in order to make this feel like a Star Wars film. I get that not everything needs to be explained in minute detail right away and that a little intrigue goes a long way, but for me, it became more of a distraction than anything else. In regards to characters, this was the most evident with General Hux and most especially Captain Phasma. Domnhall Gleeson’s Hux was fine, although if he had a mustache, I’m sure he would have twirled it on a number of occasions. The only time I was remotely interested in the character was when he was interacting with Kylo Ren, but that may have had more to do with Adam Driver’s fantastic take on the new villain. And don’t even get me started on Gwendoline Christie and what a waste that whole thing was. After all of the hype and the buildup of a female villain, she had all of ten minutes of screen time and was dispatched rather easily. While I have no doubt we’ll see her again (at least I hope we will!), the point of the whole things here escapes me. We learned nothing of the character at all, and then it was over. Her role could have easily been filled by a random Stormtrooper leader and it would have served the same purpose. It does lead you to believe that if we see her again, she may have a bit of an axe to grind with one of our new heroes, however, so we can at least cling to that.
The other issue I had involved pacing and the inclusion of the battle to bring down Starkiller base. Maybe it’s because it’s been a while since I watched the original trilogy, but the whole outer space battle felt sort of out of place. Like it didn’t necessarily belong in the movie, but was added on because it was Star Wars and we needed X-Wings battling Tie Fighters to make it legit. I, personally, would have been more than content to stick with what was going on down below, on the ground, because it was much more interesting. (Honestly, if the entire movie consisted of that lightsaber battle between Kylo Ren and Rey in the forest, I would have been a happy girl!) This inclusion meant that we didn’t get a whole lot of new character development or explanation and instead got a bunch of cool, new space battles and chases through the galaxy. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, to me it didn’t seem to fit with the story being told. I don’t need everything spelled out from me right at the get go, but a little backstory never hurt, especially when introducing a whole new generation of characters. Keeping the mystery alive is one thing, setting aside characterization for the sake of large set pieces and action sequences is quite another.
I get that J.J. Abrams had a monumental task with not only bringing the franchise back to life, but by also having to condense thirty years of galactic history into a single, two hour movie. Not only that, but he also had to pay homage to the original trilogy and its characters, as well as introduce us to a whole new generation and conflict. And don’t get me wrong, I think he did it well, given everything going on. There is plenty to like about the film, including the new cast of characters. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is so intriguing that I can hardly wait to see what Disney and Lucasfilm have in store. I have no doubt that, like The Empire Strikes Back before it, Episode VIII will be the best entry in the franchise to date. Now that the shackles are off, the story and characters can truly shine. I think Rian Johnson is the perfect person to take over the reins, and I can’t wait to see it.
I just think that a lot of folks out there are viewing this film with the rose-coloured glasses we all have a tendency to wear upon occasion. Especially when dealing with things that we love so passionately. And I love that so many people love the film and are either willing to overlook its flaws, or don’t see them to begin with. Maybe I’ll feel that way too, once I see the film again. Regardless, The Force Awakens will not be on my top ten films of the year list, and that’s okay.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is currently in theatres. Star Wars: Episode VIII is set for release on May 26, 2017.
Make sure to check back for updates—right here on Geek Nation.
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