Star Wars is a hard franchise to take over for anybody. It’s been in the heart and minds of the general populace. Comic book movies and fantasy series are just as big blockbusters but doesn’t have that have fan base that crosses many swaths of people.
The movie was entertaining, I laughed a few times, not as boisterously as the high school kids behind me but more than once. The new characters were excellent. Ridley and Boyega had amazing on screen presence. You can see the sparkle in Rey’s eyes as she talks about the Jedi. Their on screen presence as a possibly romantic couple is touching and while Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher come back they always play a second fiddle to the new cast. The transition from the old set to the new set was masterfully done, with enough on screen time and presence to make an impact in the story but the focus was always on Rey and Finn. Rey is significantly less whiney than Luke ever was and having a female heroine is always a plus in my book for empowering and changing how sci-fi works. The trailers always led us to hint that Finn was the new Jedi but it was a nice surprise to see that Rey was. The special effects were a great mix of CGI and real effects, the only scenes that threw me off were the sinking of the TIE Fighter which seemed oddly CGI heavy but I loved the new stormtrooper outfits, additions to the light saber and that oh so familiar sets of desert planet and generic imperial base. The movie’s sets felt real and well done.
But there is one critical flaw in the movie. It has this weird reliance on previous knowledge of the trilogy. the first 30 minutes is a series of throwbacks and requires this information and nostalgia factor in the film. This is understandable as your transitioning a very large fanbase to a new set of characters, but then they proceed to repeat the entire story.
The parallels between New Hope and Force Awakens are SO numerous and so obvious that it seems ridiculous. You have “plans” that escape on a droid after a massacre of a rebel outpost. The desert planet and the young Jedi who lost their family (at least Luke had Uncle Owen). The parallels of Obi-Wan and Han Solo. Yes, they’ve modified a few things so that it has different emotional weights but the story is almost so carbon copy of the original that it just made me feel unexcited. Yes! The new characters have different motivations, which is what made the movie so great. The characters are different and I personally think far more likable and interesting than original cast.
It just felt… so boring. For all the shit Lucas gets for the sequels he at least TRIED To make another movie. He tried to make something that expands on the universe and tells a different story and though he failed at it, he at least attempted it. Force Awaken is just… Star Wars. It’s the same story again with a more modern setting, which I think works for many but it just killed all the excitement for me. I thought it wouldn’t! I thought maybe I can still get excited but it didn’t. An action movie about underdogs fighting an empire and it’s boring otherwise. BUT I’ve seen series evolve! Mistborn, a book trilogy, transitions from overthrowing an empire to doing what needs to get done afterwards. It told different stories and was an excellent series.
The only compelling difference that I truly enjoyed was Adam Driver’s character Kylo Ren. Vader was just straight up evil, while he menacing he had almost no story involved in him until later movies. You get a better picture of him at the end but in this movie they don’t want you to wait. But Kyo Ren! You can see how he’s embraced anger, how he’s powerful but still young and hot headed. You can tell that he has turmoil over what he feels he must do and what he has done and while I knew what was going to happen with him and Han Solo because of previous issues with this film, it was still a touching moment of realization that he is going to do it.
My fear is that the next movie will just be rehash of the Empire Strikes back now but hopefully with a changing of the directors and an established return fan base they can experiment but I fear with Disney that this won’t happen and we’ll just get Empire Strikes Back (Again).