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.