Review: When the force awakened excitement died

A long time ago, Star Wars premiered at theatres across this very planet. Despite all of its flaws, it was a truly groundbreaking movie. Star Wars depicted the classical hero’s journey in a new way and in a truly original setting. It enticed the imagination of a generation and introduced an epic new genre to cinema audiences all over the world.

From there, it has gone downhill for the Star Wars franchise. Not much of that proud legacy of the first trilogy was discernable in George Lucas’ prequel trilogy. To my dismay, it has been absolutely obliterated in the first installation of the sequel trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Given the prequel trilogy, my outlook on the seventh Star Wars episode was inquisitive rather than optimistic. Nevertheless, I did have some hope of it at least being a decent film. Lucas had proved that as capable as he was of reinventing science fiction for a new audience, he was utterly incapable of reinventing himself. But for the seventh movie, the Star Wars franchise had rid itself of Lucas and instead brought in award winning director J.J. Abrams.

My hope was that Abrams would be able to spot the potential of the Star Wars franchise that Lucas had either overlooked or discarded, and use it to forge a solid story as the centerpiece of a well-made motion picture. The result of that naive hope was complete and utter disappointment.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens exhibits a complete lack of originality. Most of the script is virtually copied from one or several of the previous six movies in the franchise. The movie begins with a droid that carries an important secret narrowly escaping capture by “the bad guys”. The droid then teams up with the orphaned main protagonist on a dry desert planet. The two in turn team up with an outlaw. Does it sound familiar? It should, as it is the exact same plot outline as in the original Star Wars movie.

The names of people and places have been changed, but it is essentially the same story. And the similarities does not end there. Later on, the rebels set out to destroy the enemy’s massive, spheric doomsday laser. That is not only a rip-off of an earlier Star Wars movie, it is a rip-off of an earlier rip-off of an even earlier Star Wars movie.

In the end, the resistance successfully destroys the doomsday laser (of course) and the protagonist flies off to find a missing jedi master. Once again, we have seen it before. That time Luke Skywalker was the protagonist flying off, now he is the master that is sought.

All things considered, the plot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is old, boring and predictable. Somehow you knew long before it was revealed that Darth Bad-Guy was the son of Han and Leia. And when Han later stepped out onto that narrow bridge you at once realized that he would be killed.

Even if the other aspects of the movie had been perfect, it could not have made up for the poor story. But to be honest, several of the other aspects of the movie were not that great. The footage was terrific, no doubt. The cast, in my opinion, was good but not great. But the visual effects were quite often terrible. Just have a look at this vulture-looking creature:

J.J. Abrams seems to have taken to heart the criticism regarding excessive use of CGI that George Lucas received after the prequels, which is good. But props that look like a 3rd grade biology project is not better. Quite the opposite, it is even worse.

The critique against Lucas’ excessive use of CGI was not primarily about the CGI. It was about the fact that Lucas had a poor story and tried to make up for it using great CGI. Unfortunately, Abrams seems to have missed the main point of that criticism. He omitted the excessive CGI, but kept the hollow story and shallow characters.

In addition to all this, the movie is filled with minor but noticeable details that ruin the continuity or that simply does not make sense. Rey always parks her hovercraft half a mile away from the places she is visiting for no apparent reason. Kylo Ren has been trained in the ways of the force but is ousted in wielding it by Rey several times!?  Finn’s job is to empty latrines on the death star, yet Kylo Ren brings him to a potential battle? And he has detailed knowledge about the technical properties of the death star? Luke Skywalker allegedly set out to search for the first Jedi temple, implying he did not know where he was going, yet somehow he left behind a map of where he was?

In fairness, the movie did have a few good scenes. One of the best was this awesome top gun moment:

Summing up one is nevertheless forced to conclude that those who claimed that the franchise could not possible become worse after the prequels were wrong.