Full disclosure, I actually highly disliked Episode 7 of the Star Wars movies. And it’s worth noting that if you enjoyed the movie, it’s best you turn away right now, because I’m going to be breaking it down with a rusty crowbar and basically point out its flaws while laughing in its face, albeit with the added benefit of explaining how it could have gone down better with some constructive criticism. You’ve been warned!
And in case you’re asking, yes, my disappointment stems largely in part of the fact that it’s an HD remake, though I will admit that if any movie is deserving of an HD remake, it would have to be a movie that came out almost fourty years ago. Problem is, even as an HD remake, I didn’t find it to be any good. So I suppose I should mention that this article is bound to push some buttons for people, so sorry in advance.
Anyway, looking back on it now, I find that the biggest issues that made this movie such a disappointment for me are all issues that could have been fixed in little to no work at all. In fact, some of the things they could have done to fix the movie honestly could have even saved the studio some money, which makes it all the more baffling.
I hope to soften the blow of the article a bit by not merely complaining, but actually describing what the movie could have done to fix its biggest problems. I don’t think I really need to say this, but
Look, I’ll admit it. I’m one of those people who actually call The Force Awakens “A New Hope 2.0” in a conversation. In fact, I do so without even really thinking about it. And while there’s plenty of issues with this in and of itself, I think there’s one thing that everybody can agree with was an issue regarding the fact that this is an HD remake (And I swear to Palpatine, if somebody mentions “ring theory” to me again, I’m going to take that said ring, hook it to their nose, and chain said ring to a ceiling fan blade):
It’s the fact that there are false pretenses that this isn’t one.
Case in point, the rolling text at the beginning of the movie. I was clicking my knees together and giddily squealing like a delighted pig when I read that this would be a story about the new characters flying through the cosmos in a desperate race against the Dark Side to find Luke Skywalker. As it turns out, this is a plot which never happens, and has been resolved in the last five minutes of the movie, so we don’t even get to see it in the sequel, at least. Gee, thanks for getting my hopes up, you guys. What we got, instead, was yet another Death Star that not only sucked out a sun’s energy as well as my will to keep watching, it also came out of flipping nowhere.
So how do we solve this issue? While I honestly want to say “get rid of the Death Star on ‘roids and get back to finding Luke Skywalker,” it’s a solution that, while it would make the movie probably fifty times better, would require a lot more effort than I promised in the title of this article. So instead, we’ll just aim our Death Star at the rolling text, then rewrite it so that it addresses fact that the First Order is building a secret weapon. Because really, if you were just going to remake the first Star Wars film, you might as well keep the parts that actually mattered and provided some context and build-up. There. Now Starkiller Base isn’t completely and utterly random, and the movie didn’t need to pull the ol’ switcheroo on its audience. Still doesn’t address its awful name, though.
As for Luke, probably have him trapped in carbonite somewhere on the new Death Star, because that’s a lot better than having the whole non-plot of finding him resolved by a Deus Ex Machina in the last five minutes.
Out of all of the new characters, Finn’s probably the only one I actually liked, if only because he’s the only one that doesn’t appear to be a remake of the original characters as seen in A New Hope. Even so, I liked the idea of Finn a lot more than I liked his execution. A Stormtrooper who has a change of heart and decides to fight for the good guys instead, who also may or may not have developed some sort of Force sensitivity in the process to aid the new Jedi hero(ine)? Sounds cool to me! But he defected so quickly in the story it may as well have happened offscreen, prior to the start of the movie (and, in fact, be even more effective as a result). Like everything else wrong with the film, pacing once again rears its ugly head to render what could be a notable character trait and reducing it to a trivia footnote.
Thing is, the plot didn’t even need a major rewrite to allow him to defect at a later moment. How? Easy.
Have Poe coincidentally take him hostage in an effort to escape, only to have it hilariously backfire by having the Stormtroopers shoot at them anyway, prompting them on the spot to have to work together to get out alive.
As they escape together, Finn starts to wrestle away from his conditioned sense of duty towards the First Order. Still desperately wanting to return as part of the Stormtroopers as per his mental programming, he sees BB-8 and Rey as his opportunity to redeem himself to the First Order by using them to find the Rebel Base. However, the time he spends with Rey lights the humanity that the Dark Side kept in the shadows. The script largely doesn’t even have to be changed, save for some close ups on Finn’s face to showcase his internal struggle.
As for the alleged bromance between him and Poe: there isn’t one. Not in this revisioning, not in the actual film, either. They knew each other for all of 12 minutes, so pretending they have any sort of connection is nonsensical. In fact, this version might even allow Poe to learn to appreciate Finn more for pulling away from such a powerful force that is the Dark Side by giving Finn’s defection some actual difficulty. Finn might even have more of a reason to like Poe for actually being the one to give him the first push on his path to righteousness.
Oh, Captain Phasma, I had such high hopes for you the moment your ridiculously shiny armour appeared on screen. I believe my exact words when I saw the super-lustrous Stormtrooper in the theatre were an audible “holy shit!” Really, this is a character that had every reason to keep returning and be Finn’s personal nemesis. She was the first to suspect Finn of not behaving accordingly, so the fact that she hadn’t acted upon it would have been a great cause for her to take his defection personally. Instead, she was relegated to be yet another hilarious reference for the first movie. The sad thing is, she really could have been a particularly motivated villain, and indeed, a better one than Kylo Ren, as fantastic as his actor might be.
But how do we give her any opportunity to be established as a villain at all?
It’s actually probably the easiest change, one that doesn’t even necessarily require her actor to be present (although if she was, it would be all the cooler (especially if she took off the helmet, too).
Simply put her suit of armour on the “AYYYY TRAITOR” Stormtrooper actor that was dueling against Finn on the planet Takodana. Instantly, the fight between the two would have been more personal, and Captain Phasma would have been an established villain in the story, even if her defeat at the end was merely a joke. As an added bonus, her action figure would have more lore-accurate accessories than a trash compactor.
Before everybody gets up in arms, let me just add something in defense of Rey, aside from the obvious (which is that, like the rest of the new cast, her acting was fantastic), since I think it needs to be said. Amid some pretty valid criticism of the character, a lot of people also tend to bash her for her knowledge of being a pilot as well as being an excellent mechanic. It needs to be said that her being an excellent mechanic without a mentor is actually completely within the realm of even real world realism, let alone Star Wars’s fluid “realism,” given her circumstances.
Think about it. She spent very much her entire life stranded on a desert planet with the only means of getting food and water coming from her going inside machines and dismantling them to sell them for nourishment. The only way she would not be a master mechanic after a lifetime of reverse engineering would be if she suffered from heat stroke. Does she end up having one talent too many by the end of the film? Probably, but by and large, it isn’t BS given her circumstances, so I think anybody should definitely be able to chew it.
I’m a little iffy on where she picked up flying a spaceship in the middle of an abandoned desert when she barely had enough money to feed herself, but at least they have a scene of her putting a helmet on her in the beginning. I’m not being sarcastic here, I’m serious when I say that it was smart directing. The helmet does paint the picture that maybe she did happen to fly a ship in her past long before she actually does any flying in the movie. It’s not just something that she manages to pull out of her bum later on in the movie at her convenience. Though with her seemingly knowing more about the Millennium Falcon than Han Solo, we’re starting to veer into some seriously dangerous territory here, but I guess there’s probably an explanation for that somewhere-
Oh, she’s a master of the Force already.
Look, it’s one thing for a character to grow exponentially in their abilities, it’s another to master something without having any prior knowledge of how to use it whatsoever. I’ve seen the comparison that even Luke needed virtually no training to use the Force to enhance his aim, but even then he had a mentor in the form of Obi-Wan for a short while to teach him the very basics. And really, Force Awakens, there’s your solution right there. Rey was riding shotgun with it for a third of the movie. A couple lines of dialogue, and while the solution wouldn’t have been ideal (it would have been a much more engaging story to have her train with Luke before using the Force, because admit it, that would be freakin’ awesome (and give Mark Hamill some more screen time)), this would strongly mitigate the fact that she seemingly managed to learn how to use the Force from absolutely nowhere.
Enter Han Solo, who was present when Obi-Wan taught Luke the very basics how to use the Force. All he had to do was poorly parrot what little he knew of what Obi-Wan said at the time and have those instructions resonate with Rey the moment she first uses the Jedi mind trick. After all, the movie has been setting up Han Solo as her personal Obi-Wan ever since he appeared on screen, why not actually run with it?
And really, that’s it. Now she has a catalyst from where she developed her Force abilities, and the rest of it being self-taught is instantly more digestible. Heck, it would probably be cool, even. Plus, for whatever it’s worth, it keeps ring theorists happy. Now excuse me while I weld this ring to my nostrils and find a giant set of propellers to chain it to.
I like CGI as much as the next guy. By which I mean I roll my eyes every time I see it on screen. But the Rathtar scene, while not inherently bad as an action scene, was one that served absolutely no purpose in the plot whatsoever. It’s not a problem that this scene exists at all, really. The primary issue is that the movie could really use the screen time the Rathtar’s had to better flesh out the new characters and provide better pacing.
More than that, the Rathtar were one action scene too many in the movie, a classic Hollywood mistake. It makes mathematical sense that people like seeing action on screen, so the more there is of it, the better it should be. Problem is, people aren’t machines. They need to breathe, and The Force Awakens doesn’t ever seem to give its audience enough of a break to really let them catch their breath so that they could enjoy the next action scene. I did like the fight on Takodana, sure. In fact, I liked it very much, and even praised the cinematography to my friends regarding how they smoothly transitioned from one action scene to another. But this is when I was looking back on the movie. I needed a gallon of coffee to re-energize myself before I could ever actually enjoy it while I was in the theatre, because just a moment ago we were fighting tentacle monsters who presumably wanted to do naughty things to Finn. Had it been cut, it probably would have given enough breathing room to make explosions everywhere not become something the audience actually grew accustomed to in a single movie. It may have even probably address them finding another piece of the map to get to Luke, if we were being unrealistically optimistic.
I realize my opinion is subjective, and frankly I’m probably the only one who thinks that any of these above tweaks would have been an improvement. Of course, that doesn’t change the the fact that I’ll stick by it. Besides, Star Wars isn’t a franchise that’s a stranger to people deciding there’s a better way to do what they were already doing, and I’m sure there are plenty people out there who have their own ideas on his Force Awakens could have handled its issues.
So, do you agree? Disagree? What would you have done differently? What was your biggest issue with the movie?