“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has been one of the most hyped films of all time, with an ad campaign that served only to assure there would be the usual mix of stormtroopers, lightsabers and space flight. On opening night I went with my father and little brother to see it on the big screen.
“The Force Awakens” was fast paced and fun. With the days of rotoscoping long gone, the visual effects were quite fantastic. Minor details such as mist being lit by the glow of lightsabers certainly put the ham fisted CGI of the prequel trilogy to shame. With the exception of that which was intended to be disgusting or horrifying, the film was visually appealing throughout its duration.
What the movie lacked, however, was originality. In each of the preceding six films there was something new and exciting to discover about the Star Wars universe, but it’s clear that during the creative process for “The Force Awakens” the producers’ primary concern was to not alienate fans by taking risks in altering the flavor of the franchise through any kind of paradigm shifts in what is possible in that galaxy far, far away. Ultimately the film suffered by doing nothing new beyond magnifying that which worked previously, and introducing a couple of new planets and odd species.
When George Lucas sold Disney the rights to the Star-Wars IP, many of his fans were fearful that the soul of the franchise would be lost. These fears were far from unfounded. However, there wasn’t so much as a Disney logo prior to the film, and had I been ignorant of the fact I was watching a Disney flick, it’s unlikely I’d have noticed.
That is not to say nothing was lost in the transfer. The entire expanded universe which had been fleshed out through novels, video games and the like were officially rebranded by Lucasfilm in 2014 under the title “Star Wars Legends,” and axed from the official canon. This was done so as to allow creative freedom with the new trilogy, rather than necessitating episodes seven through nine fit into a convoluted web of stories, the details of which even Lucas himself is largely unaware of.
Much of my frustration with the movie came from incessant absurdities. The characters have the uncanny ability to approach whatever computer console, weapon or vehicle they please, and away they go in excellent mastery of the heretofore unknown device. This isn’t new in Star Wars. When Anakin hopped into a Starfighter and shot down hordes of droids in episode one, those who would have batted an eye had already left the theater, likely fleeing JarJar Bink’s voice. Star Wars has always been corny, and under its new creative directors that has certainly not changed. There’s little reason to assume that George Lucas could have crafted a more compelling film.
Going to see “The Force Awakens” expecting to be wowed like those lucky theater goers in 1977 will result in disappointment. As an action film though, it was beyond adequate.