By Michael Vass | December 27, 2015
By now just about everyone has see Star Wars: A Force Awakens, but if you have not don’t read this.
Let’s just jump into this. Force Awakens (FA) is just an average film. Maybe its a good film. But it’s not great nor deserving of the record-breaking returns it is generating. The fact is, because the prequels were so universally acknowledged as bad, FA being decent instantly makes it phenomenal. Which is sad because as a fan, old enough to have seen all the movies when they first came out, I really hoped for more.
As has been discussed in many places, JJ Abrams did what he always does, flash over substance. That’s all there is to this film. Nothing really original besides a few characters and scenery – but if you are honest, not even that really. Everything old is new, thank you JJ Abrams.
FA is A New Hope for a modern audience. Death Star, check. Darth Vader and Emperor, check. It goes on and on. We even get Tattooine, Alderaan and a touch of Hoth. All in sharper focus and brighter colors.
But I won’t focus on all that. Too many have already done that. What I have not heard is discussion with the real problem of the film.
Rey is the problem. She is the equivalent of Jar Jar Binks, minus the Looney Tunes aspect. The character of Rey is enormously flawed, but everyone is too giddy about what she does to stop and notice what she is doing in this film.
Let me clarify that I’m talking about the character, not the actress Daisey Ridley. Ridley did a great job in her performance. In fact all the actors did well, with the exception of Carrie Fishers’ Leia. That was just flat and useless. If we are honest, all the original characters are useless. Any character could have been inserted to replace them, all they were is fan service. Which I liked, but honestly wasn’t needed.
Back to Rey… she suffers massively from superwoman complex. It’s a familiar scenario in a Hollywood that is fixated on creating female characters that must be the dominate lead in the film. Think about it. Need to fly a ship? Non-pilot Rey can just jump into the Millennium Falcon and suddenly decipher every mechanical quirk of the ship instantly. She is as good a pilot as Han Solo, without any experience. Yeah, that took me out of the film.
Need a character to have force powers to counter Kylo Ren? Superwoman Rey can do that. Yes, Kylo Ren who has been trained under Luke Skywalker for an unknown number of years if not decades, is a Skywalker decendant which makes him strong in the force, and is being trained in the Dark Side by Supreme Leader Snoke. In mere seconds she is his equal, without a second of training or even any apparent knowledge of the forrce existing. Yeah, that’s believeable.
Why not throw in a Jedi Mind Trick. Superwoman Rey can do that, without knowing ANYTHING. Better yet, she can use a lightsaber as well as a years (if not decades) trained Jedi/Sith. Hell, is there anything that superwoman Rey can’t do? Seriously, she is the answer to everything in the film. It’s Hollywood (and lazy writing) ramming the fact that she must be the heroine and we must cheer for her down our throat.
Yes, Rey is a victory for feminism in Hollywood film. But she took me out of the film at every impossible and improbable superwoman act. Just like Jar Jar Binks. Once the hype dies down, and people look back on this film – by itself and without relation to any future film to come – this will be clear. The fact that fans are filling in the plotholes and making excuses is the same thing that happened at the end of Prequel I – Phantom Menace.
Separate of that, as a stand alone film, there really isn’t much there there. Captain Phasma is useless and unneeded – regardless of what she does in the future. Any random stormtrooper or First Order officer could have replaced her. Maz Kanata is also useless. Just a device to advance the story and generally unneeded. Max Von Syndow is wasted (again, it doesn’t matter if some future film will fill in the gaps). The whole scene of the rathtars was just so over the top and useless. What exactly was the point of that?
Plot holes? How about the fact that there is a tracker on the Falcon, but Han couldn’t use that tracker to find the ship parked on the planet? How about the First Order have engineers that went to the Hollywood school of remakes. How does the Star Killer base move, or get new sun’s for ammo? How did Captain Phasma, Kylo Ren, General Hux, or anyone else get off the Star Killer base?
In terms of the emotional content, again lazy writing killed the story. There was no real chemistry between Leia and Han Solo. As little as there was, even less existed between Kylo Ren and Han Solo. There could be no bigger telegraph between them other than seeing a bigger stronger Death Star with the same exact weakness taken out the same way. The only saving grace was Chewbacca reacting with rage – shot in the foot by Leia barely reacting. Come on, if you have ever seen the reaction of a spouse – separated for decades – on hearing of the loss of a former spouse the reaction of Leia underwhelms if I am kind. Or how about the 4 planets that were decimated by the Star Killer. Did anyone care about the unknown, momentarily seen, nameless and essentially useless whatever that lived on those planets. They might have as well been uninhabited for all the emotional content they provided.
These are just a few of the problems. There are a lot of great things about the film though. The practical effects were excellent. The look was fantastic. Thank god there was no lens flare for once (or if there was I did not notice it). But the look was immersive, lush and barren when appropriate.
So what does this leave us with?
Well not much. Rey is being telegraphed as the daughter of Luke Skywalker, and also the obvious choice to be the focus of a plot twist. But odds are, with the lazy writing so far apparent, superwoman Rey is Luke’s daughter. She will likely also be the ultimate Jedi, to become the equal of Yoda for future films.
Kylo Ren is irredeemable. He will be the transparent evil bad guy that is so common in films today. He will buy in to the Dark Side and never look back. Look for him to fight Rey, she won’t be able to kill him as they are family, and Finn will do it for her.
Supreme Leader Snoke is NOT the 30 ft tall creature he has been made out to be. He may not even look like he presented himself. Hell, given all the attention on Darth Jar Jar (which I believe is plausible) Snoke could be DJJ pulling a great wizrad of Oz. Or he could even be somewhere in the background. In a fan service dedicated film, massively popular fan theories have a way to get into the storyline (saving writers any real work).
At the end of the day, A Force Awakens is a decent film. Better than all the prequels, leading to obvious sequels that must be seen to understand any one story arc – sadly. Standing by itself, it’s flawed fan service that only gets half of what it is doing right. It’s the fourth best Star Wars film, which is what fans have been desperate for since Phantom Menace first hit theaters. Given time, I think most will come to agree this is just a 5.5 film, but if you add in hype and anticipation it’s an 8.