Or 8/10. Or 10/10. Whatever. My point is that it doesn’t deserve a rating that high.
I think gets a 6/10.
Hold on. SPOILER ALERT. READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I will admit that the movie did Star Wars some justice.
The visual effects were amazing. The universe looked realistic. Characters looked like they were actually in their environment. (As opposed to green screens.) CGI characters looked natural and moved naturally. J. J. Abrams created a film where the environment and characters bond to create a beautiful visual experience.
There’s more I could compliment. The acting was great. The moments of nostalgia were warm. But I’m moving over to talk about the dark side of the film.
The plot was basically a copy of Episode 4. Below is a plot outline. Feel free to fill in the blanks and see the similarities.
A droid contains information on __________ (Luke’s whereabouts / the Death Star). The droid flees its location as it gets attacked by stormtroopers led by __________ (Kylo Ren / Darth Vader). It escapes, but its master, __________ (Poe Dameron / Princess Leia) is captured.
The droid finds its way to ______ (Rey / Luke). The duo, along with _________ (Finn / C-3P0), eventually leave the desert planet they’re on.
Meanwhile, to demonstrate the power of ___________ (the Death Star / Starkiller Base), __________ (the Grand Moff Tarkin / General Hux) uses it to blow up _________ (the Republic’s captial / Alderaan).
Now, at this point, there’s a little change. In Episode 4, it goes A to B, but it Episode 7, it goes B to A. I’ve provided both under headings.
A. The group finds their way into __________ (the Death Star / Starkiller Base) They disable lots of machinery. __________ (Han Solo / Obi-Wan) dies after contact with _________ (Kylo Ren / Darth Vader). The others clear out real quick after that.
B. Plans for the __________ (the Death Star / Starkiller Base) are analysed. They locate a flaw and create a plan to exploit it. Meanwhile, the big machine of death sets its sights on the rebel base to destroy it.
X-Wings fly in and save the day. __________ (the Death Star / Starkiller Base) blows up. Everyone has a big celebration. The End. (Mostly)
Do you see now it now?
Maybe Abrams wanted to start off on the right foot and do something he knew would work. Well, it did, but what happened to trying new things? George Lucas might have made mistakes, but at least he dared to explore.
That’s the basis of science fiction, isn’t it? To go where no one has gone before.
But there were other problems. One of them was Captain Phasma. After all the hype surrounding her, she ended up with 15 minutes of screen time. And if I heard Finn right, she got killed in a trash compactor. The film wasted precious minutes developing a expendable character.
About the ending. To summarise, Rey finds Luke on some island planet. They stare at each other solemnly. Rey then pulls out the lightsaber and offers it to Luke. The end.
Yes, it’s a terrible cliffhanger.
In my mind, movies should present a problem and solve it by the end. But what’s the problem in Episode 7? Can’t find Luke? If so, why’d they blow up Starkiller Base? That entire thread was a detour. Yes, they found Luke at the end, but very little of the film was actually about finding him, and more about chasing BB-8, Rey and Finn around.
On a side, there are some places in visual storytelling that it’s perfectly acceptable to have cliffhangers. It’s called television. If you think of TV series and movies like books, movies are short stories and TV series are novels, with each chapter being one episode. Short stories don’t end in cliffhangers. Plot twists, yes, but not cliffhangers.
Enough on that.
There’s one thing that I think the prequel trilogy did well. As a kid, I marvelled at all those amazing ships. The Jedi Starfighters with the hyperdrive rings and the Vulture droids were among my favourites.
But that was set 30 years before the original trilogy. 30 years after the originals, however, what do you get? X-Wings and TIE fighters. Again. Really? The only real advance in technology is Starkiller Base, and it blows up. Yes, Abrams was going for familiarity, but 30 years with barely any technological improvement is really pushing it.
I can recall coming out of some movies thinking, “wow”, all the way. Movies that told me an amazing story I’d never heard before. My problem with The Force Awakens is that not much of it was new. I felt shortchanged. We were promised gold by their marketing team and delivered chrome by the filmmakers. (Chrome, get it? Phasma? At least I didn’t talk about the trash compactor…)
Anyway, I still recommend that you watch the show, if only to get all the future cultural references, and maybe to understand the next movie. Hopefully Abrams is done with the old stuff and will give us a new galaxy (and a new plot) to explore by 2017.
At least I’ll go in with more realistic expectations next time.