So. Star Wars. Again. Yep, it happened; we got a sequel trilogy, and the expectations and hype for this first installment of it were absolutely stratospheric. Of course, when it came out, I went to see it opening day; I really couldn’t avoid it, being a movie guy, and wanting to make sure I wouldn’t be spoiled as well as being able to keep up with the conversation as it happened instead of being days behind. Was I pleased? Yep; it was entertaining, all right. But there was absolutely a caveat to the entertainment I’d experienced, which I shared with quite a few other viewers and reviewers that I came across. So, let’s get the big question out of the way right off the bat: Does Star Wars: The Force Awakens deserve a spot on the fresh edition of the List? In my opinion, not particularly, and I’ll explain why.
It is some 30-odd years after the downfall of the Empire, and from its ashes has risen the First Order, which is basically the Empire in all but name. Countering them is the Resistance, led by Leia Organa, just like the old days. Missing from the equation this time, however, is Luke Skywalker, who has vanished after his fledgling New Jedi Order was eliminated by a rogue student of his… Sound slightly familiar? Well, the rogue student, now going by the name Kylo Ren, has made it his mission, and the First Order’s, to exterminate Skywalker, and to do that, he needs the only remaining map to Skywalker’s destination; information found inside a droid unit (named BB-8), who ends up on a desert planet, found by a wayward scavenger living in the desert, who becomes involved with the Resistance, and who also finds a new path to destiny through their latent ability to use the Force. In case you’re that one single individual who didn’t see The Force Awakens, I guess I should remind you: no, this isn’t Episode 4, this is Episode 7, but I’d easily forgive you if you read that plot synopsis and got confused as to which film this was. And there you have it; my main issue with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the issue I shared with a good percentage of other viewers I found – it’s Episode 4 all over again. Director J.J. Abrams basically did the same thing he did with the sequel to the Star Trek reboot; he made a love letter to the original, and called it a proper sequel. Now, that’s not exactly a bad thing, since the resulting film is certainly an entertaining one. But it just feels derivative, because it is exactly so, and that’s not what a good sequel, and especially a reintroduction to a franchise, should be. As one last note, and there will be mild spoilers to anyone who can’t infer the plot from the synopsis up there, but: I found it quite hilarious that Mark Hamill was billed second in the credits, when he is missing from literally the entire film until the last 40 seconds or so, and has exactly zero lines; I just got a kick out of that.
I have a feeling Abrams deliberately made this film as a handoff of Star Wars to the next generation, of fans and of characters. I’m not sure that sort of idea can support the beginning of the long-awaited and highly-anticipated Star Wars sequel trilogy, of all freaking things. It’s nice to watch, sure, but it absolutely did not live up to the expectations going into the film; though, I will admit, it would’ve been hard for any film to live up to the level of expectations that this film had to it. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a perfect meld of a J.J. Abrams film and a love letter to the original Star Wars, and that should not have been what this film ultimately amounts to. It might get an extra point onto the rating just for being as entertaining as it is, but I was so let down by how derivative it was of Episode 4 that I ended up not giving it that point, and that I think says a lot more than I’ve actually been able to in this review. Did this deserve to get onto the list, just by virtue of being the Star Wars sequel we ultimately got? No, because it wasn’t the one we should’ve gotten.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10
And I guess that’s all for 2015, at least for now. Now, back to my regularly scheduled programming.