The following discussion will contain spoilers for Star Wars The Force Awakens.
Well, it was about that time to talk about Star Wars The Force Awakens. I have now seen the movie twice. The first time was with my best friend at the very first showing opening night. I saw it again last night. Overall, SWTFA just has too many story problems for me to say that I liked the movie.
Let me frame my Star Wars fandom a little before my comments. I would consider myself a moderate fan. As a kid, I was captivated by the original trilogy, loving the world of the movies, the toys, and several of the video games. I even read a few of the books. I saw the prequel trilogy with high enthusiasm. While I loved many of the action scenes in the prequel trilogy (most of the lightsaber fight scenes were incredibly well done), the story was not what I expected. As I have gotten older, my love of all the movies has slowly waned. I see more and more issues with the story. While this article can be very crude with its writing, it brings up a lot of valid points regarding the plot issues. I still do love many of the elements of the Star Wars world (the force, lightsabers, x-wings), but I was not that optimistic about SWTFA.
I’ll start off with some positives though. I loved all the actors. They all did a great job with their parts. Rey was great at balancing her galaxy naivete with practical ship smarts. Finn did a nice job with a lot of the wonderful humor of the movie. Poe provided the new generation Han Solo swagger (for the 30 seconds he was in the movie). Kylo Ren was a menacing villain (until he started whining). The actors from the original trilogy did a fine job too, though I wasn’t as excited about their presence.
The action scenes were pretty solid, especially the aerial combat scenes. My favorite scene was the x-wing fighters flying over the water towards Maz’s cantina. The humor was great, culminating in the Finn/BB-8 thumbs up. And the music, as always, was stellar. The direction didn’t have too much shaky camera, which always drives me nuts.
Ok, deep breath, now to the issues where the story was just lacking. Many of these issues can probably be attributed to differences in expectations for what this movie was going to be. I’ve seen several comments online talk about how this movie was a reboot, and I can understand that characterization. However, that is not what I wanted out of this story. I wanted Episode VII, the story that comes after Episode VI. Instead, SWTFA almost exactly mirrors many of the plot elements from the original trilogy.
Let’s review many of these elements to emphasize their frequency. A few would not be too bad. But, there were so many significant ones.
A droid is given an important message and goes on the run from the bad guys to a harsh desert planet. The droid just happens to run into the very person on the planet to help it. Those persons take the Millennium Falcon to escape the planet. There is a cantina scene. There is a diminutive, wise alien that helps the protagonist. The bad guys develop an unreasonable super weapon and use it to destroy some planets. The bad guys eliminate the opposing government. The good guys find the location of the super weapon and locate a weakness. A small team infiltrates the base to lower the shields. The bad guys find the good guys’ base and prepare to blow it up. The good guys destroy the weak point on the super weapon through a trench run. The super weapon is destroyed and all the pertinent bad guys survive.
I simply could not believe they used the idea of Starkiller Base. While I can understand it as a Death Star reboot, it is just a terrible story idea. Its presence makes the First Order almost look silly. Sure, destroying those several planets was horrifying, but the impact to the wider story was vague. The planets were the home of the Republic government, but we got almost no information about that from the movie. And then, after using the weapon once, it was destroyed. So, the First Order spent however long building a giant super weapon for it to have essentially zero impact on the larger story. If they build it again, I will have truly lost all hope for the Star Wars storytellers.
Many of the interactions from the good guys were just incredibly random and fortuitous. I can look past the fact that Rey and BB-8 just happened to get together. I wish they had a less wave the magic wand meeting, but every story gets a few leaps. I wish they had done Finn’s turn away from the First Order better. It wouldn’t have taken much, just a random line or two about how the First Order indoctrination isn’t 100% perfect. Instead he went from raised Stormtrooper to eff this a little too quickly. Han and Chewie finding the Falcon was incredibly random. Poe surviving and getting back to the Resistance was random because we have no clue how it happened. Rey and Finn’s ability to handle a lightsaber was incredibly random, though that might be just a personal hangup. I ascribe the idea that only force trained people can handle lightsabers with any proficiency to be canon. And, Rey developed force powers pretty quickly and pretty randomly with essentially zero training.
The final problem I will highlight in this piece right now is how some of the bad guys were handled. Kylo Ren burst onto the scene as an absolute badass. He mercilessly cut down Max von Sydow’s character and then froze Poe’s blaster shot. As the movie wore on, he became less and less menacing. He took off his helmet and started whining about how he wasn’t strong enough. And, he let two completely inexperience lightsaber wielders hang with him. Sure, he eventually defeated Finn, but it took a bit, and then Rey nearly had his number. By the end of the movie, he is lying on his back covered in injuries and, we assume, waiting to be picked up by someone from the First Order.
And, then there is Captain Phasma. Holy shit, they completely screwed up with this character. She looks absolutely badass. She is portrayed by an actress who has shown that she can be absolutely badass. And what is her key role in the movie? She gets captured by an old man, an old (I assume) wookie, and a completely green ex-stormtrooper. Then, she rolls over on the First Order after pretty much one threat from said green ex-stormtrooper, and she disables the shields on the First Order’s super weapon. Then, she gets kicked down the garbage shoot into the trash compactor, where we assume she dies. However, since she is a major, named character, I assume she will appear in later movies. So those movies will have to frickin’ wave the magic wand to explain how she lived. If SWTFA is the only appearance of Captain Phasma in this new trilogy, then the writers completely blew it with this character. She deserved so, so much more.
Phew, ok, that is enough dumping on SWTFA for now. I just wanted so much from this movie, and it delivered so little with regards to the story. From what I have read, I seem to be in the minority, which is fine. Everyone is welcome to their own opinion. I’m glad for the people who did like the movie.
In a future post, I would like to delve a little more into Kylo Ren and what elements make a good villain. Until then, we can just sit back and watch as SWTFA makes all the money. All of it.
May the Force be with you.