Upon its release in 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens received nearly universal praise.
Of course, this wasn’t surprising thanks to the nasty flavor left by the mediocre prequels. It was like a mouthwash to wipe the taste of rotten caviar from our palettes. Exciting, entertaining and satisfying as it was, the movie still wasn’t without its flaws.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens does a great job of standing on its own. In fact, it would’ve been nearly perfect; however, the movie had six films worth of canon to follow, and in that respect, it dropped the ball.
Fortunately, not all is lost. The issues and inconsistencies didn’t necessarily ruin the movie, but they did raise some questions that can still be ironed out in the next installments.
The Force Awakens…Too Quickly
No Instruction Manual
Early in The Force Awakens, we see the beginnings of a new Jedi saga with Rey. It’s safe to say that she’s a fantastic character; tragic and strong, if not a bit naive. While her origins are unknown, it’s soon quite clear that she has Force sensitivity. But this is the problem.
First, let’s look at Rey’s development as a budding Jedi and compare it to the supposedly more powerful Luke Skywalker. In A New Hope Luke gets a small taste of what it’s like to use the Force, but it’s clear that he’s way out of his league. The most we see of Luke’s Force powers involve him being shot in the butt with a remote, followed by an epic shot that destroys the Death Star. While the latter might seem like a breakthrough, it was only through Obi-Wan’s spiritual guidance that he was able to pull it off.
By Empire Strikes Back, Luke’s Force powers start off very small. In fact, his knowledge is so undeveloped that it takes everything in him just to clumsily grab his lightsaber to avoid being eaten by a hungry wampa. It’s not until Yoda gets a chance to train him that Luke is finally able to grasp the basics. And despite all the training, he’s still no match for Darth Vader.
Now examine Rey’s progress. The very first instance of Force use we see is in the form of a Jedi mind trick, which she masters on the third try to escape her First Order captors. There’s no buildup to that. She doesn’t have to learn the basics or even understand her powers. This sudden aptitude is more reminiscent of a video game character gaining experience as they level up, not a real person trying to learn a very complicated mental technique. If J.J. Abrams was going for self-discovery, it should have started small. Not only did this break the established continuity set by the original trilogy, but it also cheapens her own development. If she can do so much so soon, then how much training will she really need?
Forget training, Rey thought the Jedi were just a myth until Han Solo confirmed that the Force wasn’t a bunch of “mumbo jumbo.” It’s just way too much aptitude in too little time.
“Cutting” to the Chase
Another thing wrong with The Force Awakens is Rey’s excellent swordsmanship. Near the end of the movie, Rey finds herself in single combat against Kylo Ren. At this point, we’re biting our nails, thinking that there’s no way she’ll escape unscathed. Instead, not only is she in one piece, but Kylo Ren ends up in worse shape. How?
Again, Rey has only recently heard about the Force and her experience with a lightsaber is nil. The fact that she’s able to successfully defend herself against a trained Dark Jedi is just too much of a stretch. Adding to the incredulity is her ability to use telekinesis to grab her lightsaber before Kylo Ren, effectively demonstrating stronger Force abilities than her opponent. Yes, Kylo Ren isn’t fully trained himself, but he certainly knows his way around the Force much more than Rey. Sad as it sounds, it would make much more sense if she fares only slightly better than Finn.
The Force Awakens suffers from another minor gripe in the Force department. We’re all quite familiar with the scene when Rey touches the lightsaber and immediately experiences intense visions of Luke’s last moments before he retreats. But where in the previous six movies do we see such a thing?
When Obi Wan hands Anakin’s lightsaber to Luke in A New Hope, Luke doesn’t get knocked back with disturbing visions of his father’s final confrontation with Obi Wan. He just picks it up and examines it like any other novelty.
For the first time, a new generation of gamers and a new generation of viewers collided with Star Wars in an unprecedented way, with many games bleeding into the expanded universe of books and comics (until it was greatly cut off at the knees in The Force Awakens, but let’s leave that for another time).
Although the classic Star Wars game legacy attempts to live on in today’s era of DLC and lifelike graphics, these releases simply don’t carry the same appeal and charming simplicity [Click here to read more…]
New or old, characters have a huge impact on a movie franchise. We see how badly written Anakin and Obi Wan are in the prequels. The original trilogy, however, does an excellent job of creating people who are both flawed and admirable — like real human beings. Although not as glaring, there are some cases where The Force Awakens doesn’t do justice to the characters, new or old.
Overall, Rey is a decent character. We see how she’s determined and headstrong, frightened by her newfound powers, yet naive with the whole “my parents are coming back” obsession; however, the writers appear to be trying too hard.
One of Rey’s (very) apparent characteristics is her independence. Throughout the movie, it’s obvious that she can essentially handle herself on her own. The problem is that she asserts this too overtly, especially during her first encounter with Finn. First, she vocally demands that Finn let go of her hand while they’re running for their lives. Is that really the biggest issue in such a situation? Simply letting go would be just as effective. Then, she runs ahead of Finn throughout that scene, effectively taking on the rescue role herself. But the thing is that it feels like the writers go out of their way to make this obvious; some viewers argue that it’s their attempt to cater to modern day progressive political movements, but that’s up to the audience to judge.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at Leia’s performance throughout the trilogy. While she, Han and Luke are cut off by stormtroopers on the Death Star, Leia immediately springs into action. In short, they wouldn’t have escaped without her. She’s also depicted as a prominent leader in the Rebellion throughout the trilogy. But at no point does she have to display callous behavior by rejecting the help of others. Yes, she takes charge, but only because she doubts the competence of her newfound friends. She shows her skills and leadership through doing things that take courage, talent and confidence. It’s not forced down our throats, but rather displayed over time.
Han is an interesting character in the original trilogy. By all definitions, he’s a thief — dishonest, shady and no stranger to illegal activity, Han is the last guy you’d want to deal with, until we see his good side.
Although Han makes his living through illegal means, we see that he’s still a good person in the end when he returns to save Luke in time to destroy the Death Star. He even stays on with the Rebellion, despite being the target of bounty hunters throughout the galaxy. It’s clear that, despite his lack of scruples, he’s willing to place his friends above all else.
In The Force Awakens, however, it’s as if we’re seeing the Han Solo from A New Hope. When he meets Rey and Finn, he explains that he disappears after his son, Ben, turns to the Dark Side. Where’s the loyalty that made Han stick with his friends through thick and thin? Up until he runs into Leia, he’s already planning his exit, offering Rey a job in his “business.” You could argue that he eventually comes around to his old self by helping infiltrate Starkiller Base, but it doesn’t feel like a moral choice. In A New Hope, Han barely knows Luke, yet is willing to risk everything when he realizes the boy’s situation and appreciates the Rebels’ bravery.
Out of all the characters in the original trilogy, Luke’s transformation is easily the most complex. He goes from a naive, aimless farm boy to a reckless, impatient Jedi in training. Finally, he comes back in Return of the Jedi fully trained, calm and meticulous. This is why it makes no sense for him to vanish when his Jedi training program is destroyed by Kylo Ren.
If anything, Luke should take responsibility for his failure (which frankly isn’t really his fault to begin with). Rather than run and hide, we’d expect Luke to stick around and help his friends. As the only surviving Jedi, he should realize that the Republic needs him more than ever. Instead, Luke vanishes, yet leaves a map behind that could just as easily fall into the wrong hands. If Skywalker’s aim is to disappear, then leaving an annoyingly complex map isn’t the most efficient way to do it.
Whether you’re into sci-fi or not, there’s no way you haven’t heard of Darth Vader; he’s become a household name. Intimidating, cold-hearted, conniving and with a nightmarish voice to boot — he’s the embodiment of evil, and everyone knows it. Considering Vader’s image, it’s no surprise that his upcoming reappearance in Rogue One is so highly anticipated.
But aside from [Click here to read more…]
Bridging the Gaps
While there are plenty of things wrong with The Force Awakens, most are fortunately minor enough to be patched up.
Obviously, Rey comes across as a prodigy rivaling both Luke and Anakin; however, this can be countered by having her struggle during what we assume will be her training with Luke.
There’s a lot to the Jedi arts besides tricking the weak-minded and grabbing things out of the air. For instance, Rey is clearly susceptible to fear, so having her show some struggle embracing her destiny and her duty as a Jedi could still be possible. Overall, though, she needs to look like a student in any discipline — clumsy with her lightsaber and unstable with her Force powers. Maybe add a pinch of frustration and confusion for good measure.
The Lightsaber Vision
Sadly, the lightsaber vision scene can’t be brushed aside. Clearly there’s a reason behind it. Whether this is explained during Rey’s training or through some other means, the next movie needs to provide a good reason as to why Luke’s weapon triggers the vision. While they’re at it, maybe they can explain how someone even came into the lightsaber’s possession, considering how it fell into oblivion, along with Luke’s hand.
Fixing the Characters
Sadly, it’s a bit too late for Han Solo, so I guess we’ll have to axe him from the improvement list. Still, his issue is so subtle that it really has no impact on the movie anyway. Han gets a pass.
As for Rey, again, we need to see her whole independent side displayed through her actions, not her words. Developing from a Jedi in training to a headstrong, courageous and effective leader — like Leia — would be a great way for us to see who she is without having it thrown at us through simple dialogue and menial actions.
Luke just needs to be vindicated. He disappears when he shouldn’t have and leaves a map behind that could put him in mortal danger. These two actions need to be explained in the next movie. Maybe Luke foresaw the whole thing and felt he needed seclusion in order to train Rey, using the map as a means for her to find him.
Everything wrong with The Force Awakens is relatively minimal, especially if you consider the prequels. Minor as they may be, inconsistencies cause more problems when continuity is involved. Fortunately for this movie, these things can be mostly solved with credible explanations and good storytelling — both of which we have faith in for Episode VIII.