By: Matthew J.R. Kohler
When I was little, I loved to watch the original Star Wars trilogy over and over. I tried so hard to know the films by heart. Later, Star Wars recaptured my heart with books such as Heir to Empire, video games such as Battlefront and Knights of the Old Republic, and television series like both iterations of The Clone Wars. So when the new film came out, and everyone was saying, “This is the return of Star Wars!” I knew I had to see it. The film reminded me of how fantastic Star Wars can be, but only because it missed the mark…by several miles. You read that right; Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is not an excellent, or even a good film. It was very mediocre. Below are my points for how The Force Awakens is a depressing movie to watch.
Action! Action! Action!
The last ninety minutes of The Force Awakens felt like the last thirty minutes of Attack of the Clones. Instead of explaining things that need to be explained, the filmmakers show another pointless action scene. The first thirty minutes is actually good because they try to set up the movie, but once we get onboard the Falcon, we wave bye-bye to context. One after another, the action sequences pile up to a numbing number.
It’s funny to me that everyone makes fun of martial arts films because they have dialogue that leads up to a fight scene. What they don’t understand is that non-action scenes are supposed to explain who characters are, what they want, and the reasons for their actions. That way, when the action sequence arrives, it’s a payoff for the build-up. But when a 2-hour movie has umpteen action sequences, with only a handful of non-action scenes that generally trade exposition for nostalgia and jokes, no payoff is occurring; instead, we’re just watching vague outlines of good and bad people trying to kill each other.
Pretty much anything Star Wars-related is a universe builder, not a 2-hour-long action spectacle. Even the prequel trilogy got that right.
No one is taking it seriously.
In the original trilogy, every character is a serious character. Sure, there are funny moments with each one, but no one says anything that is out of character. Remember Yoda? He started off as a crazy person. Then, when Luke realized he was a Jedi master, Yoda’s personality changed from funny to serious. In turn, the audience knew to take him seriously. In The Force Awakens, you had Han Solo, the old fart who forgets stuff. He misplaces the Millennium Falcon and doesn’t know that Chewbacca’s bowcaster is awesome. Finn is the most worthless character ever, and is the butt of all jokes. Chewbacca is turned into the injury-prone suitor to the yellow Yoda. The main antagonist, Kylo Ren, is fully grown man who’s still stuck in the terrible 2’s. Then, there’s the main protagonist, Rey, who is perfect (because apparently having little-to-no struggle with figuring out the Force and beating the main bad guy—not once but twice—is what makes for an interesting protagonist). When a movie spends more time making jokes, references, and force-feeding us action than telling a story, it’s impossible for me to take the movie seriously.
For some odd reason, any film before and after the original triliogy makes no sense. Every movie has plot holes or “movie magic” in them, but it becomes distracting when there are contradictions in the narrative and characters. First off, Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber appears in The Force Awakens, even though the saber floats away in The Empire Strikes Back. Who found it? When, where, and how was it found? Second off, Force-newbie,Rey, is better than Force-veteran, Kylo Ren, at using the Force, yet he wants to be her mentor. On that note, how did Kylo Ren destroy the Jedi? If he killed all of the Jedi, it makes no sense that he couldn’t hold his own against Rey. Another example is how Finn was able to defend himself against Ren when he couldn’t hold his own against a Stormtrooper. It makes no sense! The list goes on. Why does Artoo Detoo wait till the end of the movie to turn on and show everyone the map to Luke’s location? And, how does the Resistance know how to blow up Death Star 3.0? In Star Wars and Return of the Jedi, it is explained to the audience how the Rebels found out about the Death Star plans, and how to blow it up. That way, the ensuing space battle made 100% sense.
When is the last time a whiny main villain was awesome? Never, unless you count Cobra Commander (who is known for losing, which is not a good thing to be remembered for). Kylo Ren, for the first twenty minutes, is fine. But, even during that time, the movie tries too hard to make him cool by stopping a laser bullet. You know what Vader did to be cool in his introduction? He walked. Even Darth Maul just had to lift his head, and Boba Fett just looked around. All of these characters became favorites. Once Ren starts acting like a baby, I stopped caring about him. I don’t care if he is “conflicted.” His immaturity and wannabe-but-just-isn’t-Darth Vader schtick makes him non-threatening. When Darth Maul returned in The Clone Wars, he was very sad to look at, but that’s because he was chopped in half and abandoned for ten years. You actually know why he is like that. Vader didn’t first start off broken either. It took three movies to explain why he is the way he is. The Force Awakens tries to cram what would be six hypothetical hours of character development into two hours for Ren’s actual character development, if we follow the same logic. By the time it becomes a staple for him to get upset, it starts becoming a comedic part of the film.
The Magic Scene is Missing
Every memorable movie has that one scene or moment that wants you to come back for more. The “set of skills” monologue from Taken, “Do you feel lucky?” from Dirty Harry, and Kirk yelling “Khan!” in The Wrath of Khan. All of these movies will be remembered forever because their most memorable moments either fully represent the movie, or are simply cool. So how is a movie good when it either copies a much better film, or doesn’t do anything that the world is talking about? Everyone is talking about the comeback of Star Wars, saying something to the tune of, “This is the first movie in 32 years to get it right!” You know what other movie had ungodly amounts of hype, and was adored by fans upon release? The Phantom Menace. Anyone who knows their Star Wars knows what happened after the smoke cleared—everyone realized what a letdown it actually is, and it became popular to make fun of the movie and outright dislike it.