I didn’t head to the theater with high expectations. Nothing will ever be as good as the originals. I went in anticipating nostalgia and some light saber dueling. That’s it.
FAIR WARNING: SPOILERS GALORE AHEAD!!!
This is the second time in the past couple of years that I’ve gone to the movies with low expectations, yet left the theater thoroughly annoyed. The first time was the Riddick 3 movie that turned out to be Pitch Black 2.0 and absolutely no forward progression the story after ten years–TEN YEARS– of waiting for answers that never came. We had forward progression in The Force Awakens, but the path taken was a bit too familiar.
Before I dive in, I’d like to give you some perspective on where I’m drawing my opinion: I’m not a devout Star Wars fan. I have not read every last book in the Star Wars section. I have only watched the movies multiple times and played one of the video games. I’m also a hater of episodes I-III. I’m a writer and author with my own humble opinion, so please take the following as you will, be it agree or disagree.
The good first…
The movie was nostalgic. The music, the traditional opening sequence with the fanfare loud enough to scare your cat off the couch, the sound effects, the use of makeup and costumes over CGI characters (thank you!), and the presence of the Force. I had a nerdgasm over all that. I love the whole Star Wars universe and this movie stayed true to the original.
Heck, the opening sequence was great. It pulled me in, made me want to know more, and even seeing a storm trooper break away from the mold was interesting–confusing yes–but I was willing to go with it. I really thought we were in for an interesting tale.
If you’d never seen the original Star Wars trilogy, you probably loved the movie. The story would’ve been fresh and new to you. For those of us who had, there was a bit too much deja vu.
The bad. The bad, bad, bad…
I knew from very early on that Han Solo was going to die at the hands of his son. When Mr. Grumpy Pants, a.k.a. the Vader Wannabe, talks about feeling the pull of the light, my eyes glazed over and a whole bunch of checkpoints from the original trilogy lined themselves up in my head.
You have got to be kidding me. After all this time, they’re recycling an old script?! *cue horrible flashback of the end of Episode III* NOOOOOOoooooo!
Riddick 3 made that mistake, as did The Dark Knight Rises, and probably many more films I’ve spared myself the pain of enduring. If there is no fuel to justify continuing the story, then DON’T DO IT! Leaving the audience wanting more is okay, great even. It means you did your storytelling job RIGHT. I’d use the movie Gladiator as an example, but I’ve heard rumors there’s a new one in the works. Oh, dear.
Anyway, I think the trio that wrote The Force Awakens should have gotten the script that hit the silver screen out of their system, and then gone back and rewritten it again.
The part that pulled me in was Luke Skywalker gone missing and everyone wanting to know where he went. Great. Keep it. The part that fell flat was, sadly, Rey. I was eager to see a girl kick ass on screen with a light saber. Poor Rey had no driving force in the plot. She gets yanked into the conflict but keeps wanting to go back home for a reason that came off as weak. Considering how long she’d been waiting and how hard life was, you’d figure she’d jump at freedom from it all. Her wanting to go home didn’t come across like Maximus’s.
I think the audience could have used a little more info on Rey, given her a little more depth. Maybe they’re trying to hide that she’s Luke’s daughter or something. I don’t know. But if they’ve worked that hard to keep her a mystery, they must be trying hard to line up a doozy. The bottom line is, Rey needed a helluva lot more drive in the plot.
Oh, and don’t get me started on how she magically figures out how to use the Force at one point, or how she sees Han as the father she never had, which was never developed in the film. The actress herself did a great job with what she was given. I’m glad she landed the part.
One of my writing mentors in my grad school once ripped into me for writing a lousy villain in one of my books. Vader Wannabe (VW) epitomized my blunder, and has 100% made sure I’ll never writing such an idiotic character ever again.
Anyway, VW was this whiny, juvenile character who threw not one but TWO tantrums. What. The. Eff? The part where VW idolizes Darth Vader and aspires to be him one day was great. It sets himself up to be his own worst enemy, which would make for a very interesting story. Hell, the writers should’ve thrown in the “I can teach you the ways of the Force” line when VW had Rey captive.
To be honest, I thought VW was going to come off as developing a crush on Rey in that scene. He’d just been kneeling there, watching her, and when he took his helmet off, I figured Rey might’ve had an “Oh, shit. The big bad guy is handsome. Maybe we should try being friends” moment. But no. VW dives into bully mode and kills that relationship opportunity.
Come on, people! You set yourself up to have some great storytelling and you killed it! And you killed Han Solo! Father and son should have exchanged a hug before VW sees a flash of the mangled Vader helmet and skewers his father.