This post focuses on the narrative of The Force Awakens and so contains major spoilers. Please don’t read it if you would prefer not to know what happens in the film
The Star Wars prequels did such damage to the film series that for a long time after Episodes VII-IX were announced I decided I would have nothing to do with them.
Perhaps inevitably, though, I softened my position as the release date of The Force Awakens drew closer. The prequels were awful travesties but George Lucas was not writing this new film – indeed, had nothing to do with it – so maybe it would be better…
In the end, I told myself if the reviews were good, and any friend said to me ‘let’s go’, I would. And in both cases, that is exactly what happened.
I wish very much now that I hadn’t.
There is much that is good about The Force Awakens. It has some neat action sequences and funny jokes in the script; the acting is very good, and there is a lot of potential for the new characters to develop.
I came out of the cinema, however, feeling empty inside. Why? Well, the narrative element of the script, even by Hollywood’s poor standards, was abysmal. The Force Awakens is nothing more than a reheating of A New Hope with elements of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and even the prequels thrown in for good measure.
The film does not pay homage to the original pictures. It does not echo them. It simply copies. It plagiarises.
From the plot:
- Hero is cornered by the enemy, gives secret data to a droid with orders to take it to another hero. For Princess Leia read Poe Dameron; for Ben Kenobi read Princess Leia.
- Family member turns to the Dark Side. For Darth Vader read Kylo Ren (son of Leia and Han Solo)
- Family member still sees good in evil family member. For Luke Skywalker read Princess Leia
- The enemy has possession of a planet destroying super-gun. For the Death Star read Starkiller base
- In order to break the Starkiller base’s defences the heroes have to penetrate a base. For Endor read the Starkiller base (which is an actual planet so it is not precisely the same as the Death Star)
- Light sabre falls into snow. For Hoth read the Starkiller base
- For Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader read General Hux and Kylo Ren
- Heroes on their base must hope that X-Wing pilots can destroy the enemy super-gun by shooting int its vulnerable point before the super-gun comes into range of the heroes base. I can’t remember the name of the rebel base in A New Hope but I’m sure you see the resemblance between the two films
- Hero has vision. For Luke on Dagobah read Ren in Maz Kanata’s bar basement
- Enemy is a winey brat. For Anakin Skywalker read Kylo Ren
I could go on but ten is enough for now. At this point, I should say this: if the film had lifted one or two elements from the previous pictures I would have had no complaints; indeed, I would probably have applauded them precisely for doing so but that is not what happened here.
As I said above, the script has neat touches but they are ruined by the copying. The narrative is so unoriginal, so bad, I should be embarrassed to be associated with it. And as a fan of the original films, I feel a deep disappointment that Lawrence Kasdan – who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back – co-wrote this lazy piece of nonsense.
The lifting of the New Hope plot is not The Force Awakens only problem. It is also a confusing story. When the story starts, the Republic still seems to be in being. On what grounds, therefore, is the Resistance – our heroes, therefore, Leia and co – actually a resistance movement?
It must either be the legally constituted army of the Republic or else a paramilitary force serving it. If anyone is a resistance movement, surely it is the First Order, which I presume is made up of star systems who decided to cede from the Republic after the events of The Return of the Jedi (who else could afford the kind of weaponry they have at their disposal?).
Asking questions like this of Star Wars films is a dangerous job as you may end up with The Phantom Menace and all its talk of trade routes and what-not but establishing the names and roles of the chief characters and institutions should not be beyond the wit of the writers. It isn’t all about the action.
Then there was the whole Where’s Luke subplot. All that bother to bring the droid back to Leia and in the end he isn’t needed. This droid had one section of a space map to give her. R2 D2 had the rest. He switched himself off after Luke went missing. Why? Was he ordered to? It wasn’t made clear. If he wasn’t, his actions are inexplicable. He could have shown Leia the rest of the space map (which continued Luke’s flight path), which would have allowed her to search for her brother in the one section that was missing. As for the confused story, I’m sure I could go on.
But, I won’t. I am weary of Star Wars now, and I expect you are weary of me berating it. Believe me when I say, however, I have never taken less pleasure in criticising a film. I didn’t know this before I saw The Force Awakens but I really, really wanted it to do well. Had I not cared I would simply have shrugged my shoulders and moved on after walking out of the cinema.
As it is, I still would be prepared to go and see Episode VIII as I would like to see what happens to Luke. I presume he’ll be killed at some point so that Rey can become his successor but it’ll be nice to see it happen.
Till then, I remain sorry that the writers of The Force Awakens could not bring themselves – or were not permitted by Disney – to write something original and worthy of the original films.