Incoherent Thoughts on The Force Awakens

This review is spoiler-free

I’m not going to write a full fancy-pants review for The Force Awakens, because fuck it, but I did want to jot down some quick observations.

This was a frustrating movie to watch. It has a lot of really strong elements, but they’re marred by a critical flaw. The new characters are all really endearing and likeable and the villain Kylo Ren is both cool and fascinating for a lot of reasons I won’t get into in detail. There are interesting story arcs and pivotal scenes are very well executed. Cool stuff happens.

The problem is that there’s too god damn much of it, as if you’re watching the plot of the entire original trilogy stuffed into a single movie, and it wreaks utter havoc on the film. Things that should be important don’t have the proper impact because they’re rubbing shoulders with seven others things that could have easily carried an entire movie but are instead sideshows to other sideshows.

The biggest casualty of all of this is Rey, our supposed protagonist. Instead of a character arc she’s got a Mysterious Backstory that’s held off entirely as a sequel hook even though it’s incredibly obvious halfway through the movie what her deal is.

This seems to be becoming a trend in blockbusters lately– I’ve noticed it particularly with Marvel movies like Age of Ultron, where the script is really sloppy and messy because the movie is trying to juggle fifteen different storylines and half of them are setup for sequels or spin-offs. The only real way to fix the problem is to simply cut out the chaff, but that’s not possible because we’re setting up a Cinematic Universe here and we need lots of nods and references to other movies that won’t get made for 2+ years, so these awkward plot threads that don’t actually go anywhere and detract from the main focus need to be included.

Actually the movie is similar to the Marvel movies in another way: it ends with a climactic action scene where there’s a big evil Thingy charging up or about to explode or summoning an army of whatevers and the heroes have to defend/destroy it in time. Normally I’d say that just having a fight scene or a thing exploding at the end isn’t enough and you need some kind of emotional component as well; the thing is, this movie does have an emotional component, and a good one to boot, but it’s drowned out by everything around it.

Despite all of this I did overall enjoy the movie a lot and I’m genuinely interested to watch the sequel and see where the story goes. I just hope it slows the fuck down a bit and picks something to focus on.

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14 thoughts on “Incoherent Thoughts on The Force Awakens

  1. Steve

    Posting so long after this review, but I’ve been marathon reading this blog for the past few days. (Ever since I googled “way of kings rts”).

    The entire time I watched this movie, I kept waiting for someone to look at the camera and say, “Everybody get that?”, a la Dark Helmet.

    Reply
  2. R.S. Hunter (@rshunter88)

    I really enjoyed the movie and want to see it again, but two big flaws: 1) everything needs to slow the hell down. 2) the movie leaves waaay too much important stuff for the tie-in materials. I had no idea how the Republic, Resistance, and First Order were connected until a Google session after I got home from the theater.

    I read Aftermath (and a ton of the now non-canon EU stuff) so I knew First Order = space nazis that went to space south america to continue their space nazi plans. But the whole Resistance and Republic thing really could have been explained with just a couple of lines.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Talking Forever About Harry Potter | Doing In The Wizard

  4. rmric0

    This was really a movie in need of some trimming and some downbeats. There’s no real sense of time or distance since everyone is just leaping from one crisis to the next the whole movie could have taken place in one neighborhood over like four days.

    Reply
  5. sonamib

    I don’t know if it’s ok to post spoilers down here, but feel free to delete this otherwise.
    ***********SPOILERS**********

    I’ve seen the movie this morning (it was the only way to actually be able to enter the cinema). While I liked the action scenes and the Han Solo scenes a lot, I didn’t like the way this movie uses A New Hope as a crutch. I mean, really, are we supposed to care about a weapon that’s even deadlier than the Death Star? What’s the actual difference with the Death Star? You can kill a trillion instead of a billion, I guess, but one billion dead and one trillion dead feel the same way emotionally so whatever.

    And the Death Star was always annoying as a plot device because it’s too powerful. A truckload of fictional characters I don’t even know just died, and I don’t care. I know that this overpowered weapon can’t be used against anyone who matters. Against the protagonists, lightsaber skills are actually more useful than the Death Star.

    What I like about the villains in Star Wars is their ability to control the Force and their amazing one-on-one combat abilities. These things are scary and actually matter for the plot.

    Don’t take this rant to mean that I didn’t like the movie. I found it very enjoyable, especially the first half and the emotionally-fraught scene close to the end. But I think there was no need to rethread an old plot point from the original movie.

    Reply
    1. Siluce

      It even says it’s spoiler-free in big bold letters at the very start. And even if it did contain spoilers, you can simply avoid the problem by not reading further after you’ve seen the title and waiting for when you have seen the movie. I can imagine that people who did see it already want to read other people’s thoughts as soon as possible. I know I do.

      Reply
  6. reveen

    How much of you enjoying the movie comes from the actors and how much from what actually happens? I ask because this is something I ask myself against the OT itself.

    Reply
      1. reveen

        Yeah. Makes sense, as much as people go on about the practical effects and DA HEROES JOURNEY I think the entire trilogy is built on the back of having an endearing cast. Good to know that Abrams got that right, at least.

        Reply
        1. ronanwills Post author

          For my money I’d say the new characters are way better than the original cast, but I’m speaking as someone who always found the acting in the older movies pretty iffy.

          Reply

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