Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Well, my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has generated a lot of interesting feedback, and as friends have been seeing the film over the last several days I’ve had a number of fascinating conversations, digging deeply into the film.
Sometimes I find that if I write a review immediately after seeing a film, after a few days thinking about it my opinions can shift or change. But in this case that hasn’t happened. I still find myself feeling very much the same way about the The Force Awakens as I did when I walked out of the theatre. I had a great time seeing the film, and there’s a lot that I loved about it. At the same time, I’m bugged by some of the story-telling choices, some of which feel are conscious choices by the filmmakers that I happen to disagree with, and others of which feel like mistakes that the filmmakers did not intend. Bottom line: the film is far better than I had suspected it would be, though not the triumph that I had secretly (and perhaps not-so-secretly) hoped for.
I stand by everything I wrote in my review. Though, after continuing to think about and talk about the film, I find that despite my lengthy initial review I still have more to say. And so, some additional thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens!
The thing that most bugs me about the film is some of those story-telling blunders that start to accumulate in the second half. There are too many coincidences in the film. (Han just happens to bring Rey and Fin to the place where Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber has been kept? A super-Force-strong girl, an old man with the location of Luke Skywalker, AND the Millennium Falcon are ALL on the same planet??) Too many things in the film are hinted at and not explained. (Who is the old man at the beginning of the film? Why did Luke Skywalker create a map if he didn’t want to be found? Why did that old man have a piece of it? Why did the Empire have the rest? Why was Artoo asleep for so many years and how/why did he re-awaken (should this film have been called The Droid Awakens?) at the end?)
I’m particularly mystified as to why the filmmakers did not more clearly establish the political situation in the galaxy. Has a New Republic been re-established, as we’d all suspected it would have been following the events of Return of the Jedi? Does this Republic control most of the galaxy? Why would the destruction of five or six planets cripple the New Republic? We’re not meant to think those five … [continued]
I don’t remember a time in my life in which I didn’t know about and love Star Wars. I was a little kid when the original films came out, and by the time I really remember it, Star Wars was already a complete thing. Three films: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. I read lots of articles about Star Wars as a kid and I of course knew the story that George Lucas had at one time pictured a Star Wars saga consisting of nine films… and obviously I was aware that those three Star Wars films that had been made were numbered Episode IV, V, and VI, but it didn’t seem like there was any prospect of additional Star Wars on the horizon. I just accepted that, and I was all right with that. Those three films painted a complete story, and I was satisfied.
I still remember the excitement when word trickled out that George Lucas was actually going to go ahead and make his fabled prequel films. Like, I think, almost every Star Wars fan on the planet, I was hugely excited to see the backstory fleshed out. A chance to see the Jedi in their prime? To learn about what the heck the Clone Wars were? And to finally discover just how the Emperor and Darth Vader were able to destroy the Jedi? It was tantalizing. Well, we all know how that turned out. Watching Episode I in theatres that opening night was the most crushingly disappointing cinematic experience of my life. I’d never really considered the possibility that the movie wouldn’t be great. Episode II felt like a step forward at the time but that film has aged terribly. There’s a lot that I like about Episode III — it’s the only prequel film that I can say I enjoyed — but it was too little, too late. To me, the prequels are best forgotten.
And so, again, in my mind that was it. George Lucas didn’t seem interested in making any additional Star Wars films, and after the disappointment of the prequels I was totally fine with that. The Star Wars story was finished.
And then Mr. Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney and immediately the announcement was made that Episode VII was in development. I of course followed those developments with great interest. While I can’t say I was surprised that the decision was made to make more Star Wars films, I truly never expected to see Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher ever again reprise their roles on-screen. I was stunned when that was announced, and even now after seeing The Force Awakens I am still … [continued]