**The following is an in-depth review of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and does contain spoilers.**
Yes, it had its good qualities. The acting was superb. All of the new cast did a phenomenal job (with the exception of Adam Driver's Kylo Ren, but I'll get to that in a moment) and they were a delight to behold on the screen. The film used a lot more practical sets and traditional physical effects over computer generated imagery, and that was most certainly a welcome change of pace not only from "Star Wars," but from modern movies as a whole.
These good qualities, alas, are mostly superficial when you get right down to it.
[sharequote align="center"]These good qualities, alas, are mostly superficial when you get right down to it.[/sharequote]
"The Force Awakens" suffers from, among other things, one of the same major flaws that took down "Star Trek Into Darkness," which was also directed by J.J. Abrams. Abrams has the film so mired in fan service and redundancy that you could literally cut together various scenes from the original trilogy and recreate this film exactly.
It honestly seemed as if there were an original trilogy checklist and Abrams just went down the list ticking the items off one by one. Seemingly unimportant kid in the desert who turns out to be incredibly important? Check. Droid carrying important data who unwittingly falls into the hands of our heroes? Check. Death Star? Check. The list goes on and on.
While "The Force Awakens" is the first part of a new trilogy within the larger franchise, it fails to stand as a movie all on its own. Any good film will leave the audience wanting more, but this movie only leaves you wanting more because it doesn't give you anything. You don't want more because you want to see where it goes, you want more because you're unsatisfied. You're still wanting the answers you expected to get from this one, but didn't.
The movie generally comes across as a two-and-a-half-hour teaser for Episode VIII. It has massive amounts of set-up, but no pay-off. Yes, if you're setting out to make a multiple part epic - as "Star Wars" certainly is - you definitely need to be planting seeds. However, every chapter of that saga needs to have an identity of its own, especially if you're releasing them as separate installments. Both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy understood this, and did it well.
(Image source: Danny Moloshok/Invision for JAKKS/AP Images)
This was a failing that "Atlas Shrugged, Part 1" suffered from as well. "The Force Awakens" is not a film with its own definitive beginning, middle and end. It is the first act to a story, and that's all it is. That's no way to run a movie.
Back to Kylo Ren's failing: He is not an imposing villain. He starts off as if he could be, but once you get to know who he is he comes off as nothing more than a spoiled brat. This was the result of bad casting more than bad scripting. In "Revenge of the Sith," when Anakin turns to the Dark Side, he radiates evil. You can see Darth Vader in the eyes, and the physical performance. You don't get this from Adam Driver's Kylo Ren when the mask comes off.
Once you get to know Kylo Ren and his motivations, he comes off as a selfish, obnoxious child. He has no regard for anyone or anything. He worships Darth Vader, but he can't hold a candle to Vader's villainy. He comes off as someone trying to fill shoes too big for him, and lashing out and throwing temper tantrums like a toddler because the shoes don't fit.
Ren also suffers from a lack of development. Why did he turn to the Dark Side? Why does his lightsaber flicker? Was it poorly constructed or is it a centuries old Sith relic? It's almost like they chose to tell the wrong story. The story of Luke Skywalker's Jedi academy - a story where Kylo Ren is a student until he turns to evil and slaughters his fellow students forcing Luke into hiding would have been a much better movie.
"The Force Awakens" watches like a very expensive fan film, and therein lies the problem. J.J. Abrams is a "Star Wars" fan. Abrams allowed his love for what has gone before - what got him hooked on the fandom way back when - to cloud his judgment as a professional filmmaker. It feels as though Abrams wasn't adding to the franchise so much as he was trying to do everything he loved about the originals, which is where the derivitiveness comes from.
This was the same thing Abrams and writer Robert Orci did with "Star Trek Into Darkness," and what Orci tried to do as director of "Star Trek Beyond," which resulted in him being removed from that position. Screenwriter John Logan, known for writing the films "Any Given Sunday," "Gladiator" and "The Aviator," similarly allowed his fandom to get in the way of his job when writing "Star Trek: Nemesis." An extremely talented screenwriter turns in one of the worst films in Trek history because he can't divorce himself from his fandom.
This was the biggest mistake in making "The Force Awakens," hiring a fan to make it. J.J. Abrams isn't alone, however. The 95 percent approval rating shows that the majority of professional film critics weren't able to divorce themselves from the fandom either, and allowed their reviews to be taken in by a simple trip down memory lane.
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