I went to see the Force Awakens yesterday. There’s some good in the tale but in important ways it’s a retrograde step. Like the Hobbit, this seems more an attempt to mimic what has gone before, and in so doing, invokes the curse of poor imitation. At least in the Hobbit, they had the excuse of a well known story to stick to (the real failing of that trilogy was mish-mash of director style). To go back to the Force Awakens, it was possible to do something different with all the available elements but this doesn’t happen. Instead its deliberate mimicry of what went before is hammered home, piece by piece. Reworking themes from earlier films is the essence of sequels: set up your premise and crank out product. Bucks per bang. This may be what Disney wants for Star Wars but it doesn’t work. The storytelling device is, at best, annoying; it might be ‘for the kids’ but the film lacks charm; there is better product out there. Films have moved on. It’s hard to not be reminded of Disney’s persistent self-plagiarism. More of the same will do.
Now it’s normal to have spoiler alerts, and hence spoilers. This brings me to the central issue: once you work out the premise, you feel short-changed. Coming out of the cinema, a common reaction of those who’d watched was: there is no story. If you haven’t seen the original Star Wars, the Force Awakens might work. If you have, the question of spoilers is irrelevant.
The motivations of Finn are shallow. The opportunities for character building are ignored. Both he and Rae carry the weight of too little back-story for too long, and when it comes, it’s unsatisfying. That isn’t to say that it’s awful; there’s plenty of pyro-technics and these help disguise the main short-coming. Han Solo’s introduction and his seedy loan-shark acquaintances are a gift. With them we begin to see what the galaxy of a long, long time ago and far away might look like but, in impossible to believe coordination (yet okay because it’s choreographed for cinematic effect), angry child destruction is rained down, destroying set and belief in the script. Yep I wanted to suspend my disbelief, but couldn’t.
Go watch it. Ask yourself: why did they bother? Or if you’re a died-in-the-wool fan, drool over bang per buck.
Disney and Abrams could have done so much more with this.