*NOTE: The following will contain spoilers about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Anyone who hasn’t seen the film yet, should stop reading from this point on.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens has just become the biggest selling domestic movie of all time. The hype machine about the film isn’t letting up and probably won’t for some time. A lot of fans are drooling about the film like it’s the greatest thing ever made, George Lucas be damned. Others are not so enthusiastic and have a wide range of opinions about Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its lasting impact on the franchise. So here are some of my thoughts on the seventh Star Wars film.
As a sci-fi adventure, it does the job and is a good movie. I can enjoy Star Wars: The Force Awakens for what it is. A return to the style of the original films with updated special effects. However, it suffers from being too derivative of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It also suffers from a lack of imagination from director and co-screenwriter JJ Abrams with not only the recycled plot, but also the look of the film. There are not any really amazing new designs of starships and aliens that were a staple of each new Star Wars film. Basically you see repainted X-wing and TIE fighters. Now, the special effects and camera work of the dogfights are quite good and is a definite positive for the film. It’s always nice to see the Millennium Falcon soaring through space again. It would just have been better to see maybe a new Letter fighter (such as a T-wing) and truly bizarre aliens and planets. Perhaps Episode VIII will rectify this.
Another issue is the portrayal of new Sith villain Kylo-Ren (Adam Driver). His temper tantrums and such are not really good at showing him as a source of menace for the heroes of the film. The exceptions are his actions at the start of the film where he murders Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow) and has his troops massacre an entire village and his brutal execution of his father Han Solo (Harrison Ford). The scene where this occurs had me on the edge of my seat and is an emotional highlight of the movie. But right after this happens, Kylo is shown beating his chest like a gorilla as he fights and loses against Rey (Daisy Ridley), who is a novice at using the Force. His screaming fits when he receives bad news from subordinates is more a source of humor rather than fear. One wonders why Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) went into hiding when, as a Jedi master, he should have had no problem against Ren.
Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) was another villain that was somewhat misused. She is the commander of the First Order’s stormtroopers and was described as being somewhat like Boba Fett. But in the movie she is captured by Han, Chewie (Peter Mayhew) and Finn (John Boyega) and forced to lower the shields of the Starkiller Base and is then thrown in the garbage compactor. Not exactly a great way to start her off. Again, I think the next film should fix this by showing her to be as a dangerous foe and top level leader out to destroy the Resistance.
Basically, I see Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a somewhat missed opportunity. The basic story is an interesting take on what happens after the fall of the Galactic Empire, and I do like the way the First Order is portrayed with their Nazi-like rallies and efforts to destroy entire star systems, thereby showing them to be a big threat to the New Republic. It’s just that J.J Abrams and Disney were so keen to play it safe that it detracts from the final product. Hopefully the next film will be willing to take at least a few more chances and truly take the franchise to new and interesting places. This is what I think creator George Lucas was trying to do with the prequels and while the results were mixed, I can appreciate his vision for his universe and his ability to world build. The emphasis on practical effects and a simplified story are somewhat understandable given the backlash against the prequels, but they should be able to do this and still expand the Star Wars universe and really push the boundaries of the genre. This is just what the original trilogy did and is a reason why it is so revered to this day.