My Feelings on Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

This was written shortly after I saw The Force Awakens in early 2016. In the time since, I have found that my feelings on the movie have not changed.

The following contains spoilers for The Force Awakens and for some of the pieces of the EU.  Anyone who does not wish to be spoiled should leave the room.

I saw the new Star Wars movie over the break and it has taken a while to figure out how to put into words exactly what I felt and why.  At the time I left the theater, the only words I could think of to describe how I felt were “profound disappointment,” but that was clearly not the feeling that the general public held.  The movie was a record breaking success at the box office, got nothing but positive reviews, and had many people hailing it as far better than the prequels and restoring the “true” Star Wars feeling from the Original Trilogy that the Prequel Trilogy lacked.  I did not share this belief, and so I spent some time trying to formulate exactly why I felt this way.  In the course of my analysis I tried to isolate what were the key aspects of Star Wars to me, and my conclusion was that The Force Awakens was the worst or near the worst for almost all of them.  After examining it, I rank the Star Wars movies as follows:

  1. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back 
  3. Episode IV: A New Hope
  4. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  5. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  6. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  7. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Before I get into the specific features of Star Wars and why I ranked them as I did, I would like to state that there were a few aspects of what makes Star Wars “Star Wars” that I found I was unable to rank at all.  In terms of visual effects, sound effects, and soundtrack, every single Star Wars movie was either ground breaking or the state of the art of cinema at the time each movie was released.  As such, I don’t think that they can be ranked in these aspects.  However, that also means that while these aspects can give The Force Awakens something over non-Star Wars movies, it cannot help it against other Star Wars movies.

Now that we have gotten the general stuff out of the way, we can get into the minutia.  I have listed these aspects from least important to most important and for each I have the movies ranked from best to worst.

Use of Newly Introduced Heroes

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Episode V: Empire Strikes Back
  3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  4. Episode VII: The Force Awakens 
  5. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  6. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  7. Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Analyzing the heroic characters is complicated enough that I have separated it out into two separate categories.  For the newly introduced characters, it reflects the ability of the movie to introduce and establish the characters.  In the case of The Force Awakens, the new characters are a mixed bag.  Some of them are fantastic, but others fall somewhat flat.

Let us get the part where I have no contention out of the way.  I consider Maz to be a wonderful character.  She has a very interesting design and was perfectly executed.  There is nothing I can say that could improve this character.  However, she is the only new character that I can say that about.

Finn is an interesting case.  He has a very interesting backstory and an intriguing character arc.  He is also well acted and is full of life and personality.  The problem, is the personality that he is full of does not fit his backstory at all.  Someone who is raised from childhood to be a soldier would be very stoic and serious, even after deciding to leave the army they were a part of.  I need only point at Teal’c from Stargate: SG-1 and Grey Worm from A Game of Thrones as examples of how to do this sort of character in an interesting and believable way.  Finn is presented as far too animated and energetic to make sense.

Rey has the issue of being a borderline Mary Sue.  In the course of this movie she demonstrates skills the first time ever attempting things similar to what previous characters have demonstrated only after a great deal of practice and training.  This includes comparing her to explicitly very powerful Force users.  Both Anakin and Luke were shown to have a background as a pilot long before they ever flew in combat, but Rey outflies professional starfighter pilots in a freighter the first time she ever tries flying anything.  She pulls similar stuff with many other skills throughout the course of the film such as the mind trick, telekinesis, and lightsaber dueling.  It strains the suspension of disbelief to give her such levels of natural skill and also undermines the moral given from previous movies that hard work and training is the best way to gain power and abilities rather than any quick method.

Poe I feel is representative of an issue unrelated to character design and as such addressing him here would be unfair to The Force Awakens for this aspect of the movie.  I shall address the issues with him later.

It is important to note that this is the aspect of my judgement where The Force Awakens does the best.  I originally had it ranked lower, but after reviewing the prequels I realized that many of the interesting characters had been introduced as minor background characters in earlier films and as such the parts where they were the best were not in the film they were introduced.  This hurts their ranking for this aspect, but helps it for the next aspect which I place a higher priority on.  The Phantom Menace is ranked to account for Jar-Jar Binks.

Use of Pre-existing Heroes

  1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  4. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  5. Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  6. Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars is very much not a single movie that exists in a vacuum.  Star Wars is an epic saga that spans far beyond a single film and as such having the character arcs span several movies enhances the sense of having the movies tie together and I see as being more important than the quality of the heroes when they are introduced.  As A New Hope was the first installment in the saga and at the time it was made there were not pre-existing characters, that film has not been considered for this aspect.

To begin with, I would like to state that this is Chewbacca’s best movie.  I felt more emotion from him in the scene where Han died than the rest of his scenes in the rest of the movies combined.  I would describe the use of Chewbacca in this movie is superb.  However, the same cannot be said for the rest of the old characters.

Leia is alright, here.  She seems to have had a reasonable character development in the intervening years, even if it is a bit more subdued than it could have been.  However, she then proceeds to not do much with her position.  She is relegated to the role of the wizened old commander who gives support to the main characters but does not have the ability to act directly.  While this use does not take much away from the film, it also does not contribute much either.

Han inexplicitly has not only not seen any development in the time skip, but sees the character development he showed over the course of the Original Trilogy undone.  His character is back in a similar place to where it was at the start of A New Hope.  While Leia’s usage doesn’t take much away from the film, Han’s usage does.  By removing his character development, The Force Awakens undermines one of the best subplots from the Original Trilogy where Han learns to care about more than himself and acts for the benefit of others rather than just for selfish reasons.

I barely count Luke and R2-D2 as being in this movie.  R2-D2 is catatonic for most of the movie and simply seems to exist to give fanservice to all the people who are fond of the character.  He does not do anything the entire movie except waking up for no reason at the end to say “Guys, I had the piece of information you needed the whole time!”  Luke simply has a 30 second panoramic shot with no lines, and might as well have not been here at all.

Then for some fucking reason C-3PO is here.  He has been slowly getting more annoying in each of his appearances and this movie is no exception.  He only shows up to break up dramatic tension in a scene that actually worked well for having the tension with some inane irrelevant comments and then proceeds to do nothing else.  Quite simply, the movie would have been better for pretending that he was never even a character to begin with, as it seems to do with a large number of other characters.

Heavy Hitting One Liners

  1. Episode VI: A New Hope
  2. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  3. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  4. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  5. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  6. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  7. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

At first, I was not going to consider any of the lines in Star Wars due to George Lucas being notoriously bad at doing dialogue.  All of the Star Wars movies are rather lackluster with dialogue and as such it has nothing to do with what makes Star Wars Star Wars and a movie being less lackluster than the others would do nothing to make it a better Star Wars movie.  What remains of the consideration given to dialogue is rolled into the rankings where I address individual characters.

However, as I was considering it, I realized that while there is a dearth of quality dialogue, there is a great deal of excellent one liners (and the occasional two-line exchange).  Every single Star Wars movie has had several one liners that have been delivered with oomph and a fair bit of ham.  This has had the effect of lending to the grandiose feel of Star Wars and provided lines that have stuck with the public consciousness for years after the movies.  Some of them are emotional, some of them philosophical, some of them badass, some of them being great exposition, and some of them just silly, but all of them are memorable and paint the picture of Star Wars in the public mind.

When I look at Star Wars in other media, I can see this effect remain in various forms and many of the best renditions of Star Wars in other media have had their own heavy hitting one liners.  I feel very confident in saying that these one liners are a key component of Star Wars and as such they are an important thing to be retained in further productions.

Thinking back to The Force Awakens and reviewing the memes that have popped up about in on the internet, I can only think of a single line that has had the same impact: “Traitor!”  A single word, delivered by a faceless and nameless character who is only present for a single scene.  The rest of which aside from the, one line, contains no lines at all and is simply a fight scene.  This is a far cry from the many lines, some of them quite complex, present in the earlier movies.  I find The Force Awakens’ lack of one liners disturbing.

Lightsaber Fights

  1. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  2. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  3. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  4. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 
  5. Episode IV: A New Hope
  6. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  7. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

I do not think there is any argument to be had about why the lightsaber fights are important to Star Wars.  They have been an iconic part of what Star Wars is from day one and even the people most unfamiliar with it will have to agree that it would not be Star Wars without a lightsaber duel.

To me there are two key parts to the lightsaber fight, the choreography and the fight’s place in the story.  I had considered attempting to rank these separately, but I found that for most of the movies I found their story impact to be equal and can only rank tem on the quality of the choreography.  As such, I cannot properly rank them by story impact alone and have to roll the two aspects together.

I have heard several people stating that they enjoyed the fight in The Force Awakens more than any of the Prequel fights and that it was more true to the Original Series fights because it was more emotionally laden.  However, I find this statement to be nonsense in every possible way.  To begin with, the last fight we got in the Prequels was the duel on Mustafar, which I found to be more emotional than any other fight in the movies.  I also found the fight in The Force Awakens to be rather devoid of emotional context because the characters had such a slight personal connection with each other.

In terms of choreography, there is no other way to describe the fight but sloppy.  Every single other fight has demonstrated a solid base in martial arts, but this new fight just felt like untrained flailing.  It lacked the pizzazz of the Prequel fights and it lacked the technical refinement of the Original Series fights.  Absolutely no sense of footwork skill is demonstrated and quite simply this is the first onscreen lightsaber fight where I did not get a feeling on any sort of skill from any combatant.

For Finn and Rey, this kind of makes sense.  Finn was trained as a Stormtrooper but that training did not include the lightsaber and as such the lightsaber duel was him fighting with an unfamiliar weapon and his technique would suffer from that.  Rey had no training and was only experienced as a street brawler.  Even the most skilled street brawlers will look sloppy when they fight and again her using an unfamiliar weapon would make her look sloppier than her earlier fight did. 

However, Kylo Ren has no excuse.  He was trained as a Jedi and explicitly had enough skill to kill all of the other Jedi students before going to Snoke and got an unspecified amount of further training from him.  At the time of the fight, he was riding the tide of emotions that comes with patricide.  This would give even a weak Sith enough of a power up that he should be able to overcome even very powerful and well trained Jedi.  There is not a reason for him to have a lack of technique at all, let alone lose the fight to a Force blind Stormtrooper and a Force user who’s only training consisted of watching him use the Force a half an hour earlier.

From a pure narrative standpoint, it makes even less sense.  By Rey being able to defeat Kylo Ren before getting any training, her with even a tiny bit of training makes him cease to be any sort of credible threat.  The writers have painted themselves into a corner where they have a villain they are trying to keep around to be a future threat but he is unthreatening.  Any future fights with him will either be easily predictable as Rey winning, thereby breaking any sort of tension, or they will have Kylo Ren win and break the suspension of disbelief.  

Compare Luke losing to Darth Vader at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.  After he receives his training montage from Yoda, Luke goes off to confront his rival.  He finds that despite his training, he is not prepared and gets his ass kicked.  This then increased the tension in Return of the Jedi because we had seen how hard he lost before and are left hoping that he improved enough to win this time.

Uses of Newly Introduced Villains

  1. Episode VI: A New Hope
  2. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  3. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  4. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  5. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  6. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  7. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Whereas the heroes may be important to Star Wars, the villains transcend that by an order of magnitude.  The villains are recognizable even by those who have never watched the movies and often are the only things that people remember about the movie years later when they have forgotten just about everything else about the movies.  Like with the heroes I have separated out the consideration between new characters and pre-existing ones.

The most prominent villain for this movie is Kylo Ren, but he is rather disappointing.  He has a cool introduction scene, but after that he is quickly reduced to a whining and angsty teenager that seems to have not much going for his character besides he wants to be Darth Vader but isn’t.  That alone can be an interesting facet to a more complex character, but he does not have much else going for him.  It looks like the movie is better off for him being considered a rendition of Darth Caedus and pushing him into the next category.

Captain Phasma has an interesting character design, but doesn’t do a single thing with it.  She is a continuously looming presence but the implied threat of her presence is never realized.  I have read that she was originally supposed to be the Stormtrooper to fight Finn in the “Traitor!” scene, but they changed it when they could not figure out how to get her out alive.  I think this does an injustice to the character when her dying in that scene would have actually made the character much more interesting.  Especially since I have seen Gwendoline Christie fight on screen before and know that she could have perfectly made that an entertaining fight.

Hux was practically not even there.  I did not even learn his name until after I watched the movie and every single instance of him being in the movie could have been removed without changing a single bit or even many people noticing.  He may as well be “Generic Imperial First Order Officer #1”.

Snoke has the potential to be an interesting character and my assessment of him may greatly change depending on later films.  However, as it is now he is not doing much.  I do see a great deal of parallel between how he was introduced and how Emperor Palpatine was introduced.  However, The Force Awakens misses a few of the key details that made that introduction work.  First, The Empire Strikes Back benefited from the fact that it had already firmly established Darth Vader has a terrifying and horrific villain.  Secondly, when the Emperor was introduced, it was with the clear signs from Darth Vader that he was afraid of and completely subservient to this man.  The Force Awakens both lacks having Kylo Ren established as a full villain, and also fails to have him being fully afraid and subservient.  Kylo Ren more maintains the air of being a petulant child talking with his parent when meeting with Snoke.  It makes Snoke come off as a much weaker villain than the Emperor.

Use of Pre-existing Villains

  1. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  4. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  5. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  6. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Like with the heroes, I am not considering A New Hope for this category as it was the first instalment of the series.

I am going to be generous for this one and allow Kylo Ren to count as an adaptation of Darth Caedus.  If I did not, then this would be the first installment of the movies since A New Hope to not include a villain to have been previously introduced.  I do not count a 5 second shot of Darth Vader’s melted mask with his breathing in the background as an appearance by the character.  As such, without comparing Kylo Ren to Darth Caedus, The Force Awakens would suffer greatly from a lack of entry in this category.

Superficially, they are very similar characters.  They are both sons of Han Solo and Leia Organa Solo, both grew up being trained as Jedi, both later turned to the Dark Side and joined the Sith, both killed fellow Jedi at the beginning of their turn to the Dark Side, both killed a family member to solidify their place with the Sith, and both are explicitly compared to Darth Vader.

So, it may appear that all of the key aspects of the character have made it into the movie, but I disagree.  Kylo is not established as a hero before becoming dark, Kylo is not introduced as one of the most peaceful Jedi, Kylo is not shown to be willing to use diplomacy when all other Jedi have abandoned it and turned to violence, Kylo does not have a close relationship with his twin sister, Kylo is not hailed both in universe and out as a war hero for his diplomatic prowess, and Kylo was not shown to turn to the Dark Side out of a quest for knowledge with the intent to not become evil.  It is these things that make the character entertaining to me, and the lack of them makes Kylo severely lacking in comparison.

Even with the aspects that they share, Kylo is somewhat lacking.  When Darth Caedus killed a family member it was a member of the Jedi Council who started her career as a Sith Acolyte and a personal assassin for the Emperor.  The fight between the two was one of the best that happened in all of Star Wars and Caedus almost lost, only winning by resorting to trickery and emotional manipulation to get her to pause just enough to strike the killing blow.  With Kylo, we got a few seconds of him making eye contact with his dad before a single stab to kill him.  Furthermore, while Kylo is shown to aspire to be Darth Vader but not be that good, Caedus is explicitly more powerful than Darth Vader and is stated by other Sith to be a greater Sith Lord than Vader ever was or could be.

There is also the fact that without the presence of his sister or their relationship, we will never get anything that can match their final duel.  She was one of the best fighters in the Jedi order and in the same war that Caedus demonstrated the effectiveness of diplomacy, she demonstrated her martial prowess by leading a disinformation campaign against the enemy and personally dueling and beating some of the best fighters of a warrior race where the average warrior can beat an average Jedi.  During that war, she had been awarded the title of Sword of the Jedi by the Force itself. 

I am telling you these things about her so that you understand how big of a deal it was that when she figured out that Caedus had become a Sith, she determined that she could not beat him and needed additional training.  She sought out Boba Fett and trained under him.  She then hunted Caedus down in the middle of one of the largest battles the galaxy had ever seen and dueled him one on one.  It was both one of the most impressive duels from a martial standpoint and one of the most emotional from a character standpoint.  Once she had killed him, she cradled his dead body and cried as she mourned the death of her brother.  That single moment is one of the most emotional moments in all of Star Wars and the set up that the movie has given us for their version of the character has given future movies no possibility to have something that gets anywhere close to that moment.

The Presence of Historical Events and Philosophies (with a particular focus on WWII) Transplanted into an Interstellar Culture on a Galactic Scale

  1. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  2. Episode IV: A New Hope
  3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 
  4. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  5. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  6. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  7. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

This is a matter that does not seem obvious to most people immediately, but to history buffs, Star Wars has never been subtle about drawing historical parallels.  The clearest example being how the Stormtroopers were clearly at least partially based off of the Sturmmann and several shots in A New Hope being direct recreations of air battle scenes from the WWII film The Dam Busters.  However, that is by far not the only example of historical parallels in Star Wars.

The Republic is distinctly based off of the Roman Republic.  The structure of the Senate is very similar and the terminology for the body and many of its positions is identical.  The fact that this Republic stood for a thousand years also references Rome and the fact that it was replaced by an Empire is another overt reference to the Roman Republic despite that for Rome that thousand years and the Empire overlapped with each other.

Palpatine’s rise to power is clearly based off of Hitler’s rise to power.  They are both democratically elected before maneuvering politics to give themselves more power and spinning public opinion to support him gathering more power.  He used a tactic of engineering an outside enemy to fight and unit his people much like many leaders have throughout history (this was also used by Napoleon and Genghis Khan).  However, both Hitler and the Emperor used a rarer take on the tactic where they pushed public opinion to consider people already accepted as a part of the society as enemies of the state.

The Jedi themselves are clearly based off of a combination of the Samurai and Buddhist monks.  However, the events that happen to them very much parallel European Jews during WWII.  As much as Palpatine parallels Hitler, the Jedi Purge parallels the Holocaust.  Order 66 takes the place of Kristallnacht as being the event that kicked off the Purge/Holocaust into motion.

But these parallels go beyond simple events and political maneuvers.  The design of imperial ships and even their strategic doctrine is as if the Imperial Japanese Navy’s interpretation of the works of Alfred Thayer Mahan was required reading at the Imperial Naval Academy.  During WWII, the Japanese Navy sought a “decisive victory” where a single major battle would crush their foe.  This is a school of thought easily seen in the Empire’s approach to the major battles of all three movies of the Original Trilogy.  In all three cases, the flaws of this strategy that became evident during WWII are also shown in the movies.

A New Hope demonstrates the superiority of small craft with precise strike against a large and relatively immobile craft.  A fact that became evident during WWII and was considered revolutionary enough to completely throw out the last 500 years of naval doctrine and restructure the way the world thought about navies.

The Empire Strikes Back, shows the advantages of engaging in asymmetrical warfare and refusing to engage with the full force against a superior foe.  In this case, the Rebels may have lost the battle, but they escaped in sufficient force to negate the attempt by the Empire to force the matter to a close in a single engagement.  

Return of the Jedi represents one final attempt by the Empire to crush their enemies in a “decisive battle” but this fails both due to the Rebel’s having a small craft superiority in space while engaging in asymmetrical warfare on the ground.  It clearly shows that when both are used correctly in junction with each other can result in an overwhelming victory.

Even the art design of the Star Destroyers is based on the design philosophies of late battleships with a bit of late WWII tanks.  They are clearly designed to be able to bring all of their guns to bear on a single target.  Meanwhile the armor is angled to maximize the defensive profile of the ship while engaging these targets.  In this manner, the Star Destroyer is perfectly designed to engage large targets at long range and get into a slow pounding fight where the better ship comes out intact and the other is broken.  This was the exact same purpose that battleships were designed for.  Early battleships did have some peculiarities with the design, but later ships were designed to bring all of their main guns to bear on a single target at once.  They were simultaneously designed to be able to take a beating from said target and stay afloat through even the worst damage.  

The influence of tank design comes in the idea of angled armor.  Battleships did use angled hulls where they could, but because the hull was mostly shaped due to hydrodynamics and shells usually came in from indirect fire, it was only a minor development.  However, a starship, like a tank, would be taking mostly direct fire and so would benefit from the advances in armor developed there.  The biggest development that matters is the idea of sloping the armor so that the same amount of material would have a greater effective thickness and would have the potential of deflecting the shot rather than it penetrating.  This was a development first introduced in the T-34, but the greatest resemblance with a Star Destroyer can be found with the IS-3 and later models of the IS line.

I could go on, as entire books have been written on this subject, but I feel what I have covered here includes the most important points.  I am explaining these things to you so that you can understand what I am looking at when I say that The Force Awakens falls short in this regard.  There is a brief bit of overt NAZI imagery, but the movie lacks any sort of deeper substance.  

JJ Abrams did state in an interview that the First Order is inspired by a theoretical concept of what would have happened if the NAZI’s fled to Argentina and kept working together.  However, we do know that in real life several members of the NAZI party did flee to Argentina and it is easy to imagine that if they had begun acting publicly, they would have been swiftly dealt with.  Instead, I think a more realistic and interesting movie would be one more tied to how things actually happened.

In real life, several groups of special forces and spies actively hunted and arrested hiding NAZI’s.  I can easily see a similar thing happening in the Star Wars universe with a small group of New Republic Officers and some of Luke’s New Jedi Order hunting down former Moffs and Imperial Officers with the intent of bringing them to justice for their crimes.  I am picturing a less villainous version of Magneto in X-Men: First Class tracking down “pig farmers” and “tailors”.  After the brief amount of time I spent considering this matter, I am now disappointed that JJ Abrams had the basics of a good idea but completely failed to bring it to fruition while somehow seeming to think that he struck brilliance.

Putting the “War” in Star Wars

  1. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  4. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 
  5. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  6. Episode IV: A New Hope
  7. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Something that Star Wars has always been at least somewhat successful with has been an entertaining and rather accurate depiction of how war would look at the scale of a galactic sized civilization.  Some of the movies have done better than others, but almost all of them have incorporated some sort of large scale battle.  However, The Force Awakens shows us no large battles an only a few small skirmishes with little sense of how they fit in a larger conflict.

The size and amount of these skirmishes is remarkably similar to that in A New Hope due to the blatant repetition of the plot.  On first glance, you might assume that should mean that The Force Awakens and A New Hope should be ranked the same, but A New Hope contains one element of warfare than none of the other movies have properly shown.  That is the use and importance of espionage.

A New Hope’s plot is greatly centered around the transportation of classified material, and the first half of the movie is entirely centered around protecting this information from the Empire who wishes to contain it, and getting that information to the people who can make use of it.  At the end of the movie, that information is analyzed and used to find a weakness in the superweapon that is fought in the climax.  Without that data, the Battle of Yavin could never have been won.

In The Force Awakens, the equivalent piece of information is the map to find Luke.  That map has no bearing on the rest of the story of that movie and simply serves as a MacGuffin to give the characters an excuse to interact with each other.  It has nothing to do with the final battle, meaning that the battle could just have easily have been won if the information never existed and the characters had another reason to interact.  The information only leads to a sequel hook that may become important in later movies, but for this movie is unimportant.  As such, The Force Awakens completely lacks the benefit of depicting the process and benefits of espionage that A New Hope has and without any other aspect of war being depicted, leaves the movie as barely containing any war at all.

Final Thoughts

There are a few other additional issues I have with the movie that can’t be properly fit under any of these metrics for comparing the different movies.  They can be best summarized as regarding the general attitude towards the EU by the movie and its creators.  I did not want to cover Poe Dameron earlier because I find him to be the most prominent and clearest example of this problem and as such, I have chosen to use him as the figurehead for this set of problems.

At first glance, Poe seems to be an excellent character.  He is dark haired, pale, and a bit serious.  He was dedicated to the military to the extent that you might think he was boring but once you meet him you find that he is friendly and welcoming.  It becomes clear that he is not a part of the military not because he had no other options or because he is cruel, but because he is good at what he does and truly feels like he is doing good through his work.  He is capable of performing a wide variety of roles in the military, including sensitive covert missions, but he is at his best when he is in a Starfighter where he is capable of pulling Jedi level bullshit despite not being at all force sensitive.

With that level of depth and personality to the character, many people are holding him up as exceptionally written and a great addition to the Star Wars universe.  However, all of those traits were already present in a single character in the form of Wedge Antilles.  Wedge Antilles was one of the most popular characters in the EU and was present as a major character in several separate series.  He was also present in the movies and was both stated by name and had several speaking lines and was the only side character to have a speaking role in all three movies of the Original Trilogy.  It should not be at all hard to bring this character into the new movie.

So, why give the character a different name?  The only legitimate reason I can think of is the fact that Wedge would be around the same age as Luke and therefore a bit older than what would be required for the role he filled in the movie.  However, there was no effort to have the character appear separate or otherwise tie Poe to Wedge.  From how I hear from most people who just watched the movies, they have no idea who Wedge is and so for them, there would be no issue or confusion with the character being named Wedge Antilles.  If they chose to have Wedge appear as his actual age, it would still not have been difficult to acknowledge the closeness of the new character with Wedge.  It would have been easy to have a couple lines from Poe mentioning how he was mentored by Wedge and/or naming him after one of the characters from the books that was also mentored by Wedge.  I would have gone with Gavin Darklighter as he has his own personal tie with the Original Trilogy, especially A New Hope.  His older brother was the old friend of Luke’s who died during the Battle of Yavin, and their relationship could have been changed to that of father/son or uncle/nephew if that made the timeline work better.

If this was an isolated issue, I might not have as big of a problem, but this is simply the most blatant in a long series of examples of how JJ Abrams has chosen to ignore the EU.  He has not been shy about it either.  Early into the writing process for The Force Awakens, he stated that we would not be getting an adaptation of any of the stories from the books as he intended to tell a new and unique story.  I was cautiously optimistic that we would get an exciting new story to be added to the collection of great stories that is Star Wars, instead I got a rehash of A New Hope with much of the nuance that made the original movie so enjoyable removed.  To me, this speaks to an attitude of contempt towards the EU, an attitude that I find insulting to the fans and demeaning to the writers of the EU.  I also find it idiotic of a decision to ignore the hundreds of stories, thousands of characters, and years’ worth of man-hours of world building that went into the EU.  When a setting has material that rich to work with, it should not be ignored.

I am left feeling as though I have no choice to state that while The Force Awakens may have been a decent movie on its own and certainly made its money back, it is an utter failure as a Star Wars movie and that JJ Abrams contribution to the saga has lost what made the previous movies so charming and will taint the name of Star Wars for years to come.  Star Wars will possibly never even recover from the blow this movie has dealt it.  Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a shameless two hours of nostalgic fan service that could have similarly been achieved by JJ Abrams standing naked in a room full of Star Wars memorabilia while masturbating into the camera and screaming “NOSTALGIA!” 

I leave you with these words: “The Earth King has invited you to Lake Laogai.  There is no movie in Ba Sing Se.”

One thought on “My Feelings on Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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