Going to the movie theater has become costly, so I’ve become very particular about the movies I watch on the big screen. If I am to be honest, I usually wait to rent films in order to keep myself from going broke. But there was no way I was going to wait to rent Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. So I watched it today, the day of its global release. Now that I’ve watched it, I find myself with mixed feelings. I will attempt to jot down my thoughts before they flee or get jumbled up by all the reviews and reactions I am bound to encounter online. I’m going to try to do this without revealing too much about the movie, but there will be a few spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.
Let’s start with what I feel it’s the Dark Side of the film.
Very little world development
Most of us have seen Star Wars and know about the struggle between the light and dark side, and between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. The long struggle ended (as we saw in The Return of The Jedi) with the light defeating the darkness and the rebels overthrowing the tyrannical empire, which had oppressed the galaxy for a generation.
The Force Awakens is set a generation after the defeat of the Empire and the rebirth of the Republic, but the movie reveals very little about what has happened to the galaxy after the death of the emperor. At the end of the movie, we are left with no idea of what has gone on since the events in Episode VI.
It is implied that The First Order is a resurgence of the Empire in a galaxy ruled by The New Republic. This means that the tables have turned and it is the Empire (or those loyal to the its ideals) that are the underdogs fighting the establishment. It would be logical for us to assume that there are no more rebels, and that the Rebel Alliance has been assimilated into The New Republic, right? Wrong.
The rebels are still around in the much same way they were in the Empire days, and are shown as the same ragtag group of freedom fighters hiding out in gritty, secret bases as they plan to destroy, (yep, you guessed it) another death star-type, doomsday machine. It doesn’t make sense for the rebeles to still be around, and if there is a purpose for the struggle, it is not given.
Honestly, this movie felt like A New Hope 2.0. I am not sure what the intentions where, but when I saw a third massive, world-destroying, planet-sized imperial weapon, I pressed my lips together to stop myself from screaming out in outrage. It would have been bearable if the rebels failed to destroy the weapon, but they destroyed it just like they did the last two. Yes it’s way bigger than the original Death Star (the previous was about the size of a moon, this one was more like a planet), and it’s called the Starkiller Base, but it’s the same basic idea. Why re-use the destroy-the-doomsday-weapon plotline instead of bringing something new?
This felt like a missed opportunity. The story should have focused on The New Republic and the struggles that come from rebuilding it from the ruins of the Empire. This could have been a fertile setting for the story and characters to develop, and would have given us a better idea of the state in which the galaxy is in. Instead, the film tries to draw us in via nostalgia instead of intrigue and originality.
Too Many Shortcuts
Movies nowadays are much faster paced than they were 30 years ago, but this film seems to sacrifice plot development in order to jump to the action. Yes, Star Wars is full of exciting dogfights, lightsaber duels, and awesome sci-fi action, but it is also very much about the drama, about those mystical moments that depict inner battles within the characters that lead them to self-discovery, or self-doom. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few of these scenes, and they brilliantly evoke the deep spirituality that is the core to the story.
Now for things that I liked: The Light Side of the film.
Great Characters Moments
In the middle of the, seemingly, rushed plotline, we find some really memorable character development moments. I am talking about the moments that speak to our hearts and make us feel the inner struggles that propel the characters out of their comfort zones and into the adventure. Star Wars has always been about confronting ourselves with the forces within. In this aspect, the new film does stay true to the spirit of the saga.
The characters have good onscreen chemistry and their interactions make for fascinating dynamics. Even though this movie is more of an introduction to the new generation of Star Wars heroes and villains, and some of the relationships between the characters feel artificial, I have no doubt that this is just the first part of what promises to be an exciting long-term relationship between fans and the characters.
Beautiful Special Effects
The movie is beautiful and the action scenes are heart-pumping and well done. But what I believe is one of this films greatest achievements is how it managed to bring back the intimate drama in the lightsaber duels. Unlike the prequels, there is no spinning-through-the-air, triple-back flipping-while-wielding-a-lightsaber here. The duels in the film follow the pattern of the Original Trilogy, both in esthetic and in storytelling. They are not just fights. They are conversations of the soul; dialogues spoken in the language of the hums and hisses of the iconic energy weapons.
It’s Fun and Accessible
Out of all the Star Wars films, The Force Awakens is the one that boils the story down the best in order to attract, not only fans, but new comers as well. The plot is simple, the characters straight forward, and the story is more or less easy to follow. This could throw hardcore fans off, but it might be what new comers and younger audiences are looking for.
Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens gets many things right that the prequels got wrong, and it’s truer to the tone and feel of the Original Trilogy. Though it often seems like it is sacrificing plot and character development for the sake of action scenes, it is definitely a step towards the right direction. I can hardly wait for the next episode, for no matter what happens, I can’t get enough of Star Wars.