Note: Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been in theaters long enough that, for most everyone interested in the movie, you’ve probably already watched it. But if you haven’t, there are spoilers in this post.
To date, I’ve watched all Star Wars movies that have been produced. Some are good, but lately, they’ve been painful. Star Wars episodes IV to VI impressed me. Episodes I to III gave me a headache and caused me to shake my head in disappointment. And Episode VII poked me in the eyes.
Gluing the Story Together
There are two ways you can experience a story: an interesting way that keeps a viewer stuck to her or his seat, satisfying us at The End; and a boring, forced way that causes you to wonder why you sat in a dark movie theater eating stale popcorn for two hours.
And it all depends on characters: protagonists and opponents.
And despite all the misnomers that incorrectly label a story as character-driven, all stories really are about characters. Would you sit through a two-hour movie that was about a rock crumbling to dust?
Probably not. (But if it helps, I’ll put a lightsaber in the shot.)
A character is the spine of everything that happens. Even action and myth stories have a protagonist that move the plot along a spine, changing the character in small ways by the movie’s conclusion. And of course, the action-story opponent is powerful as hell, keeping us at the edges of our seats and munching on stale popcorn until final credits roll.
But in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, neither a challenged protagonist or a dangerous opponent presents themselves. Unfortunately, this story glues together a string of uninteresting events.
This is not the Jedi Training you are Looking for…
Rey, the story’s protagonist that drives this story, has lots of potential to be an interesting hero. Or maybe I should say, Rey could have had lots of potential. I had hoped for so much better, but the Disney writers didn’t deliver.
Instead, we get a character that has no apparent weaknesses or flaws. She’s already developed. Nothing to overcome except for the occasional and predictable blaster and saber battles that seem to interrupt things.
Rey can do no wrong. She’s an amazing fighter from the very beginning. She fixes spaceships before you can hand her a wrench. She quickly and easily realizes the Force’s potential and uses it with no training or struggling to adapt it to herself, personally, overcoming any flaws that might inhibit her from realizing her great potential.
What makes Episodes IV to VI interesting is that it takes Luke Skywalker three episodes to gain some mastery of the Force. Will Luke ever be strong enough to defeat Vader and the Emperor? Even during the final lightsaber battle, Luke is not quite the match for Vader’s destructive abilities.
But with Rey, I already know the answer: Of course she will defeat the bad guys in the end. In fact, why worry about looking for Luke Skywalker? In fact, why bother watching two more films to see Rey’s outcome when I already know what will happen? Rey’s gonna’ win.
And there is a bigger kick in the Star Wars proverbial teeth: Because Rey is so powerful, because she has no apparent flaws to overcome, the viewer cannot understand or appreciate the distinctions between the powers of the Force and the powers of the Dark Side. We just have to believe that Rey likes sunshine, puppies, and cute, round droids, and she would never, NEVER use the Force to do naughty things.
That Big Beach Ball in Space is Gonna’ Blow Up!
In the Force Awakens, there are two opponents: the Starkiller Base and Kylo Ren. Both are weak, and so the story flops.
During Star Wars Episode IV, the Death Star was a truly awesome force. And this is the main opponent the Rebels are working to overcome by the end of the movie. This hostile, destructive construct has only one weakness, and Luke finally exploits it while attempting to overcome one of several character weaknesses.
But the destruction of the Starkiller Base is so unmemorable, I considered it just another blaster battle that interrupted things. (Yawn.) Sure, the base has big laser, missile, phaser, whatever thingies. Sure, it is dark and menacing looking. Sure, it has a weakness, but the event is boring. In the end, the Starkiller Base is as threatening as a hostile beach ball.
And what’s up with this Kylo Ren dude?
He’s easily defeated by Rey at the end of the movie. This is why Force Awakens poked me in the eye: If Rey is struggling through two hours of movie time to only easily defeat the opponent at the end, what was the point of watching this movie?
Another thing that irks me about Kylo Ren: He likes to wear a mask…just because?
Vader wears a mask to breathe and to hide his identity from others, including his son, Luke Skywalker. When Vader finally unmasks, we finally see his humanity and how he truly cares for his son. Vader has a transformation. He’s no longer just a killing machine for the Emporer.
When Kylo takes off his mask, I see a kid who had been reading too many comic books and he now thinks that Vader black masks are, well, “Cool.”
The Plot’s been Forced upon You.
In Episode VII, both a flawless protagonist and a weak opponent come together to create a boring story. So, what the viewer watches is an uninteresting chain of events: And this happened, and, then, this happened, then this happened…
And this makes the story feel “forced.” It becomes painfully obvious in a scene when Rey gushes at Han Solo’s first appearance. And it’s not much better during any battle scene or during a Kylo Ren appearance.
I’ll stop here.
But so does my interest in the Star Wars universe. I don’t want to go through this experience, again. Star Wars: The Force Awakens poked me in the eyes.