Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)


Writer, Nate Brigman

Nate Brigman

SPOILERS because it’s been out for four years.

J.J. Abrams and Disney killed Star Wars with this movie, and NOT in a good way. The only thing  that The Force Awakens brings to the Star Wars canon is a bland regurgitation of A New Hope, with none of the great innovation and world building of the prior installments to the saga. 

Even from the beginning of the movie, there are several plot devices that are either repeats of the prior films or just simply don’t make sense. Essentially, the film begins with a Resistance pilot, Poe Dameron, who travels to a village on the desert planet Jakku to find a map to Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker, who has gone missing. My first problem lies with Jakku itself, which is pretty much just Tatooine but lamer. There are plenty of interesting planet templates they could have used besides the “sandy scrap planet” that has already been in A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones

As the scene continues, the “evil” First Order arrives to find the map, so Poe gives the map to his small droid, BB-8, and tells him to flee the scene. While this unfolds, perpetually masked main antagonist Kylo Ren orders his stormtroopers to fire upon the innocent villagers. A stormtrooper, designated FN-2187, wrestles with his conscience and declines to fire upon them, allowing the rest of the troopers to execute them. I dislike the BB-8 plot device, since it is almost a carbon copy of R2-D2’s solo trip through the desert to deliver an important message in A New Hope, minus the Jawas. However, a more major issue lies within the fact that a stormtrooper, later stated to have been raised from birth to serve the First Order, would simply cast aside an entire lifetime of brainwashing and training to be an elite soldier. That simply does not make sense. Carrying out the First Order’s commands would be a crucial part of his psyche, not something he would just discard on a whim. 

As the plot progresses, Poe is captured and taken to a First Order ship, and FN-2187 helps him escape, and in the process Poe renames him Finn. In the escape attempt, they are shot down by the First Order and crash back on Jakku. Meanwhile, BB-8 is found in the desert by a junk scavenger named Rey, who takes it back to a little junker city. Finn, seperated from Poe in the crash and wearing his jacket, also finds his way to the city. BB-8 recognizes the jacket, and long story short, Finn and Rey forge an uneasy alliance and escape the First Order in the Millenium Falcon, which was just sitting randomly (and confusingly) on Jakku. 

Conveniently, Han Solo and Chewbacca (the owners of the Millenium Falcon in the original Star Wars trilogy, for those that don’t know) find the Falcon drifting through space. Essentially, Solo agrees to help them deliver BB-8 to the Resistance. Han takes them to a tavern/palace run by Maz Kanata, in hopes that she can help them return BB-8. Basically the plot progresses to where the old lightsaber of Luke Skywalker is found, the First Order blows up a bunch of planets with what amounts to a planet-turned-Death Star, and Rey is captured by Kylo Ren and taken to the First Order’s base, along with Kylo’s implied Sith Master, Supreme Leader of the First Order, Snoke. Han, Chewie, and Finn are then picked up by the Resistance and Princess Leia, Han’s ex-wife (years of preexisting canon of a happy marriage shot down the drain!). We also learn that whatever is under Kylo Ren’s mask is Han and Leia’s child. From this point on, the movie is entirely detrimental to the Star Wars canon.

I really hate how there’s hardly anything original in this movie. The entire second half of this movie becomes an assault on this new Death Star, dubbed Starkiller Base, and we’ve already had two (TWO!) Star Wars movies that hinged around the destruction of a Death Star. There are so many things that the writers could have drawn inspiration from that already existed in the established universe. 

Continuing with the story, Rey is then interrogated by Kylo Ren. This scene in particular disappointed me, because Rey gets Kylo to remove the mask, and underneath it is the actor, Adam Driver. Go ahead and Google him, and then tell me if he looks anything remotely like a villain. Kylo tries and fails to be intimidating, and while this goes on, the Resistance prepares to attack Starkiller Base (even this name isn’t original, since Luke’s last name was originally going to be Starkiller instead of Skywalker, and Darth Vader’s apprentice in the Force Unleashed series is codenamed Starkiller).

So, Han, Chewie, and Finn go to the planetary surface of Starkiller Base to deactivate a shield and allow Resistance pilots to attack the base. Rey escapes her restraints by using the Force (a mystical power that only certain beings can use, notably the entire Jedi Order (good guys), and the Sith (bad guys)) to mind-trick a stormtrooper. Now this is a major issue, since Rey is entirely untrained in using the Force for anything. She literally just discovered she had any Force potential, and has no idea whatsoever how to focus her raw Force energy to manipulate a mind like that. One doesn’t instantly become that powerful like flipping a switch; it takes a long time to learn to focus Force energy like that. 

Rey and Finn meet up, but Han stops to confront Kylo, his son, and we learn his real name is Ben. Han tries to reason with him, but Kylo impales him with his lightsaber, killing him. Han falls off the catwalk they are on, and Chewie shoots Kylo in the side, mildly injuring him. Finn and Rey run outside to a snowy forest, where they are pursued by Kylo, and the worst scene in the movie happens. Finn, who has no Force abilities, whips out Luke’s lightsaber to fight Kylo, and actually lasts about thirty seconds against a Forceful, fully lightsaber-trained Sith apprentice. It shouldn’t have lasted three seconds, let alone thirty, and Finn ACTUALLY WOUNDS Kylo’s shoulder.  What’s more, Kylo only wounds him into unconsciousness instead of eviscerating him like a true Sith. He just murdered his father, but he can’t kill some random guy? Rey then picks up the lightsaber and the scene goes from bad to worse. 

A lightsaber is one of the more difficult weapons to use accurately in combat due to the fact that it has no blade weight since the blade is pure plasma. This affects how you swing, the force you apply to blows, and how to angle attacks. Rey’s only experience using melee weapons is with a metal staff, which has very different physics to it. Furthermore, there are seven distinct styles of lightsaber fighting, known as forms. These all require years of training to perfect, since the smallest misstep can be exploited by a more skilled opponent, usually fatally. Rey, again, knows none of these forms. Kylo, however, is most likely a practitioner of Form V, Djem So, based on his broad, powerful attacks that immediately follow firm parries, which focus more on strength than deflection. This is why it is utterly ridiculous that Rey, who has never before ignited a lightsaber, defeats Kylo in one-on-one combat. Being powerful in the Force does not equate instant knowledge on the intricacies of lightsaber fighting. I know I’m a massive nerd, but Disney should honestly know better, or at least hire people that do.

So, Rey defeats Kylo and slashes his face. The Resistance pilots succeed in their attack on Starkiller Base, which causes the planet to begin self-destructing. Chewie picks up Rey and the unconscious Finn in the Millenium Falcon for their escape, while the First Order picks up Kylo. With the conflict over for now, BB-8’s map is combined with one that R2-D2 (Luke’s droid that he left behind) is carrying, and Rey goes to look for him. The film closes with her flying to the planet Luke is on, ascending a mountain, and seeing Luke standing there. He turns around and they look at each other for about twenty seconds, and the credits roll. Naturally, Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke for thirty seconds total in the movie, has his name second in the actor credits.

So, if you’re still reading after that massive rant, I commend you. Don’t get me wrong, The Force Awakens is a good movie; it’s just a terrible Star Wars movie. I wanted to like it when I watched it, and I was excited for it, but it failed to perform to my liking. However, for people that don’t care about lore and the destruction of the preexisting canon, it was a great movie. It was the fastest film to gross $1 billion at the time, and it’s total gross was over $2 billion, making it the highest grossing Star Wars film by far. I just wish it had been done in a more canonically pleasing way. I would recommend all the Star Wars movies besides this one and its sequel if you haven’t seen them. I (don’t) apologize for my incensed rambling, and yes, I will work on getting a life.