Speaking of it purely as a movie, without considering that it's Star Wars, it wasn't all that bad. The cinematography was brilliant, as we have come to expect from JJ Abrams. As mentioned in the previous blog there are some really cool shots; the X-Wings flying over the lake are awesome, the Millenium Falcon flying crazy was fun, and there are some really cool fights. However, it was poorly paced. The first half was a bit slow, as if winding up to a big climax. The second half wasn't exactly the climax, it was a super fast series of events that should have been focused on a lot more. For example, one of the most important characters dies in what should have been a heart-wrenching scene, but there wasn't enough depth to it to make me feel any emotion beyond confusion. There wasn't enough time spent on 'Kylo Ren' and Han Solo's history, there wasn't a big enough build-up to the moment and the acting wasn't enough to carry the scene. A lack of emotion during the scene doesn't necessarily preclude emotion afterwards, unfortunately that didn't go so well either. There was a total of about thirty seconds spent on grief and then suddenly everyone was happy again. Your buddy, who is basically family, was just killed by his own son. Some kid you met a couple days ago (who just happened to be stealing your ship) basically just stepped right into your buddy's shoes and is enjoying it. Would you be super happy? Probably not, you'd be torn with grief and emotion. Even Leia, his wife just looked slightly disappointed. If you read the part of the Expanded Universe in which Chewbacca is hit by a moon you'd see how Han reacted, he didn't fly the Falcon for months, he even ran away from his own family to go on a crazy hunt. That is how you write a major character death.
Speaking of better writing, let's move on to the bit where the movie actually is a Star Wars film. I'll start with the good bits, the nostalgia kicks were fun! Okay, sorry, I ran out of good bits.
Firstly, there were no space battles! How can you have a Star Wars film without space battles?!
Secondly, nothing in the story was original. Literally every single plot line has already been done before in the Star Wars universe, primarily in the films themselves. To start with, the writers didn't want to use the really cool and actually different setup of the good guys running a major government who just beat a huge evil government and have to clean up the mess. Instead, they waved some hands and reset the universe to A New Hope. Why would the New Republic not send any help to destroy a huge weapon capable of destroying multiple planets? Why is one of the most famous diplomats in the rebellion now just another General in another small resistance group? The reason that episodes 4,5,6 and 1,2,3 differed so interestingly was because the status quo changed which allowed for some more different stories. Resetting the universe like this just makes it easier for the writers.
The major things didn't change but at least the smaller stuff could have, but once again it was a disappointment. Just compare a few of the things:
- Major rebel group attacked, a droid is given important information and sent off to deliver it. It is found by a kid living on a dusty planet who is good with tech and the force. They find someone to help deliver it who doesn't really want to help. Done in A New Hope.
- Weak rebels can't win an all-out fight against a huge planet-destroying weapon and have to resort to clever sneaky stuff. They end up stealing the plans. Done in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.
- A small team of rebels is sent to destroy the shields on a planet. Done in Return of the Jedi.
- The small rebel team end up with a family confrontation. Done in Return of the Jedi.
- Han and Leia's son turns to the dark side and kills a major character. Done extremely well in the Expanded Universe. This is also extremely similar to Anakin Skywalker.
- Big disfigured hologram guy with evil, anger-issues, helmeted minion commands a huge army from a distance. Hmmm, now where have I seen that before?
Need I go on? There is nothing actually original.
I envy those that can genuinely enjoy this movie, but I just can't. Maybe the backstory will be filled in with the later movies and partially improve some of the huge plot problems, but this movie just feels like the pilot for a TV series, with lots of action and absolutely no resolution. Good cinematography and nostalgia kicks were just a cover-up for lazy writing and a lack of original ideas.