Here are my thoughts about the Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday. There are major spoilers.

  • The parts that are just remakes of A New Hope are terrible, the original stuff is very good. The movie as a whole is deeply flawed. I wish they spent less time remaking A New Hope and more time of new stuff.
  • I saw no need for JJ Abrams to direct this. I find him to be overall a boring director and he contributed nothing to this movie other than fanboyness. (Don’t think he’s a boring director, anyone remember Star Trek Into Darkness? Didn’t think so.) I would have much preferred them to have gotten Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean movies) to have directed this. Verbinski is a much more “operatic” director who can work well with both action, characters, and mystical elements who’s style would lent so much more to directing a Star Wars movie. Instead we got mostly ham-fisted character scenes, and Call of Duty actions scenes.
  • Why did Poe go away for so much of the movie? A road trip movie with him and Fin would have been awesome, with them suspicious of each other’s motives and ultimately having to work together for survival and saving the galaxy.
  • God damn “The Liar Revealed” plot clique. Lazy ass writing for an otherwise good character. I really liked John Boyega in this movie.
  • Honestly I didn’t like Rey at all, which is apparently a major disagreement with a lot of people. It may be that she has to follow up Furiosa, but I found her character flat and with too many moments that broke my suspension of disbelief. Rey makes me appreciate more how well Nausicaä was handled in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, they could have easily of taken the easy way out in that movie but didn’t, unlike The Force Awakens. For instance in Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä is revealed in the exactly the same way as Rey (both investigating old technology, showing resourcefulness, and competent in taking care of herself in the light of losing her family), but she solves problems throughout the movie using her established skill-set, without new magical powers like Rey does. Even in A New Hope Luke does nothing wildly outside of his established skill-set, which grounds the character in believability and makes us more invested in his journey in the originals. Rey’s successes are a product of magic story devices, which makes her successes ultimately seem hallow. I sincerely hope that she is not secretly a Skywalker.
  • I loved the practical effects and sets. The movie felt so much more real than the last two prequels. The CGI was hit or miss. Starships looked good but too often CGI characters looked really bad, like the Discount Yoda Cantina lady with the glasses. Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies looked better than her seven years ago.
  • Seriously another Death Star? It was a rehashed plot device in Return of the Jedi and here it’s just a big fat joke. It’s clear they wanted to focus on the characters doing their things which I would rather them have fully committed to instead of cutting away to confusing space battles. Also the trench run at the end was the last straw for me in the A New Hope remake fest of this film.
  • At least the Millennium Falcon is in this movie for some reason beyond just fanservice (to justify Han Solo’s entrance) but its reveal was pathetic fanservice.
  • At least they had the balls to kill Han Solo. I think they may have had more planned but with Harrison Ford’s plane accident they were forced to cut his scenes, so I’ll give them as pass for this. Harrison Ford actually seemed to be acting and enjoying himself for the first time in years.
  • I liked Kylo Ren, it would have totally made sense to portray young Anikan Skywalker like this.
  • Too much action. Just so much uncoordinated action. I mean it could have really slowed down a bit at times.
  • Why is the Rebel Alliance called “The Resistance” now? Why aren’t they the New Republic Military now after the end of Jedi? If they aren’t the Military, doesn’t that discount the meaningfulness of Return of the Jedi? What are the stakes now? Is “The First Order” like a new cult Nazi group trying to take over? How could they destroy The New Republic just by taking out a few planets?
  • Supreme Leader Snoke is a fucking stupid name, and the character looks stupid. At least they took their time revealing the Emperor in the originals.
  • Carrie Fisher was awful. I mean seriously she basically wasn’t acting. Though they handled Leia’s and Han’s relationship well, in that it wasn’t happily ever after which seems believable.
  • John Williams forgot how to score a film. Seriously, his scores where fantastic in all six previous Star Wars movies (redemining entire sections of the prequels). In The Force Awakens, there’s no main memorable theme motif, and the general score noise level is deafening. Like the quite scenes with Rey on Jakku, the score was entirely too loud.

You can catch enough glimpses of a good movie in The Force Awakens which makes that the bad in it even more frustrating. Overall I didn’t like the film. It had too many moments where I was taken out of the movie by its flaws for me to truly enjoy it. The parts that I liked I really liked, and the parts I didn’t I hated with a passion reserved only for the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Overall in the trade off between the Force Awakens minimal highs but not terrible lows, and The Phantom Menace’s’ great highs, and horrible lows, honestly it’s not as easy of a decision as people make it out to be (given the The Phantom Menace hatefest that has happened). The Phantom Menace was original, and did some really great stuff (and terrible things), but it was fun. The Force Awakens just wasn’t fun to me while still haing a lot of problems, just not as big of problems as The Phantom Menace. Ultimately, to me it comes down to the fact that The Force Awakens lacks great cinematic moments, which have always been a part of what it means to be a Star Wars film. I find it hard to name one part of the film that I would compare to the sheer cinematic joy and excitement of The Phantom Menace’s Duel of the Fates or Pod-racing scene. You need that excitement in a Star Wars film, and once you factor in the remake nature of The Force Awakens, it’s hard to actually say it’s a good film.

Once some times separates The Force Awakens from the release hype, I think it’ll go the way of the prequels, to be generally considered a lackluster sequel to strange trilogy of films that somehow stands the test of time. People seem to forget that The Phantom Menace was quite popular when it came out too, and it took the hype a good deal of time to fade away before it became hated. Maybe it’s just really hard to make a good Star Wars sequel? If we accept that fact and given that amount of good faith people seem to give the new Star Wars move, it follows that we should honestly start giving George Lucas some slack for the prequels. Sure they have problems, but he tried to give us his vision of his creation and we hated him for it. (No slack will be given to him limiting access to un-Specialized editions of the original films, or the very existence of the Holiday Special.)

I do have hope for the next film in the new Star Wars trilogy, its got a very good director in Rian Johnson but I do expect at least some remake nature given the setup established in by The Force Awakens which is sad. Luke is obviously replacing Yoda in various force training scenarios, main characters are already separated, Rey will have another confrontation with Kylo, basically all the main setup points of The Empire Strikes Back. However, I am super excited for Gareth Edward’s spinoff film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, here’s its synopsis “Rebels set out on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star.” That to me sounds awesome, and the cast is awesome too.

Also I’m very concerned about the “It’s not a remake, but basically a remake” trend in Hollywood (see Jurassic World). Mad Max: Fury Road, didn’t remake any of the original Mad Max movies, why do other movies have to resort to it? I’m now getting nervous about the new Ghostbusters movie.