I may never have been to comic-con, and I may not have the inside scoop on the inner workings of a Death Star, but I do know good movies, I know strong story lines, and I have been a Star Wars fan from birth. Now I know this is not my typical fiction write up or short story, but Star Wars is fiction, so…….
A New Hope came out around the time I was born, and I can say with certainty that A New Hope the Force Awakens is not. Star Wars lovers have to realize that the first mistake of The Force Awakens was the franchise sale to Disney Pictures. George Lucas himself was quoted as saying, “I don’t like that. Every movie, I work very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships, make it new.” He also referenced it as a “retro movie.” Why was it a mistake to sell to Disney? Because Disney took it and turned it into something light and fluffy with no substance.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Disney. I watch many Disney movies and shows, but to take a franchise like Star Wars and try to do the same ole’ same ole’ just doesn’t capture my heart. What’s even more frustrating is that because Star Wars is so beloved by so many, the movie has made billions—that’s Billions with a B, of dollars out of curiosity sake. And to top that off, it made the list of the Broadcast Film Critics Association’s nomination list after massive outcry from members. Why? Why the outcry? Why?
I have all six previous Star Wars movies—I know them well, and I walked into The Force Awakens thinking it was going to blow me away. It did not. While the beginning scenes were exciting, and I truly loved Oscar Isaac’s acting of Poe and his relationship with BB8, once those first 15 minutes wore off the movie truly fell flat. None of these characters have any back story. Disney doesn’t give us anything to become invested in the characters.
When we first watched A New Hope, we were immediately drawn into Luke Skywalker’s journey. We saw his longing to join the fight for the Rebellion. He longed to know who his father was, and we saw his struggle in his love and commitment to his Uncle Owen and Aunt Prue. We feel for him, we connect to his curiosity of there being “more out there in life.” When Han Solo’s character was introduced, we saw the internal struggle he faced. He’s selfish, prideful and a loner, yet he is drawn to Luke’s mission—he’s drawn to Luke. He connects to Leia emotionally and we not only saw it, but Lucas allowed the characters enough dialogue to show us what they were each struggling with personally. Even Lando Calrissian made us root for him when we didn’t want to. He basically sold out his friends and practically signed the death warrant for Han Solo. Yet we understood why he did it. We saw that he cared about the planet he governs and was truly backed into a corner—he wins us back by helping fix his mistake.
These are the kinds of moments we need in Force Awakens. There is absolutely no sense of character development at all. Why is Rey (Daisy Ridley) a Jedi? And why don’t we see any inclination of it before the end of the movie? When she grabs at Skywalker’s old light saber, her journey through flashing images does nothing to provoke emotion. It only leaves us more confused; especially because her reaction to it falls flat. How is it she has these powers, yet never in her entire life was it ever evident before? Then she meets Flinn (John Boyega) and there is some kind of connection there, but Disney doesn’t let us explore that connection at all. And why can Flinn also hold the light saber? Disney gives us the sense that there is more to Flinn as well, that he has some tie to this Jedi power but there is no back story to explain how or why that might be.
Disney also doesn’t realize that this movie had the legs to stand on its own without going back to the same fundamental fight that was part of the original Star Wars—we don’t need to see another Death Star explode or the nod to Skywalker’s famous flight scene where he travels down the long tunnel to blow up the Death Star. Force Awakens is supposed to be in the future, yet the same battle as before is the premise. Disney could have really taken this in a whole new direction. It really is a retro movie.
Flinn’s fight scenes in the beginning of the movie are intense, and I was drawn into his struggle with not wanting to take a life. But I was also asking why? Why is he struggling? Yes we find out how he became a storm trooper, but it would have been nice if Disney wrote in an internal struggle of flash backs while he was in the middle of the fight so we could see why he is struggling. If his heart is pure and he is just “awakening” from the reprogramming, then let us see that. Show us that he is remembering his childhood, let us connect to him.
When Anakin Skywalker struggled to stay good, our hearts broke for him. We not only saw his struggle but felt it because Lucas wrote dream scenes into his character’s story to show us how he felt about his mother, what happened to her and the pain he felt at losing her. That one scene alone—where he tries to save her, rips at our heart strings. That is the type of story we need here.
Let’s move on to the new “Darth Vader.” Kylo Ren, is horribly written. I became thoroughly confused at why he became dark after seeing his face-off with Han Solo. If your parents love you that much, then what happened to turn you dark? And Kylo Ren’s “darkness” is not believable. I’m not scared of him, I don’t get this feeling of true darkness or even plausible fear. His scenes do not present this urgency of cataclysmic disaster approaching.
Then you have his face-off with Rey. Suddenly Rey knows exactly how to beat him? It took Luke an entire movie and then even more training in The Empire Strikes Back to truly make us believe he was a full on Jedi and strong as ever. Yet Disney allows Rey to essentially kick Ren’s butt when only minutes before finding out she might be a Jedi? Not believable.
So whose daughter is Rey? Is she Solo’s or is she Skywalker’s? It would have been nice to see more of a connection between her and Solo or even her and Ren when he captured her to let us know that they are bonded together somehow.
For me there was just not enough back story to make this movie stand out as a box office block buster. What I did find refreshing were Leia’s scenes. I was worried about Carrie Fisher’s re-portrayal of Leia, but she did a fantastic job staying true to Leia’s original character. She was feisty and strong willed but showed us that now she’s a mother, a wife, a commander. Fisher did a great job with this.
I was also pleasantly surprised by Solo’s face-off with Ren. The scene held intensity briefly and caught me off guard, which is what I want to see more of.
All in all, I understand everyone’s passion for this series and that everyone really wants to just say warm and fuzzy things about the Force Awakens, but let’s tell it like it is—this movie didn’t cut the mustard. I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. Sufficed to say I’m not sold on any of these new characters. Hate them, love them, want to root for them but can’t because they are bad—we need to feel something towards this struggle of light vs. darkness. There’s no attachment or emotional connection to them. Sorry Disney, but whether you’re writing a novel or a film script, you need to give us more character development.