Art by Jerry Vanderstelt.
When the third trailer (below) for The Force Awakens hit last October, it finally sold me on the film. A lot of that was the music, which was a re-worked medley of John William's fantastic work on the Holy Trilogy. Specifically, the section that begins at about 1:04 using "Han Solo and the Princess (Love Theme)" from The Empire Strikes Back. It's deeply affecting and I joked that John William's neuro-programmed me as a child with.
But what about the film itself? Overall, I enjoyed my first viewing. Second time I saw it, I started falling asleep through. It falls apart in the second half and really only gains my attention again at the catwalk scene near the end.
Here's what I liked:
- I like the banter, especially around Finn. The Prequels were often too dour; when there was tension in the Prequels it didn't crackle anywhere near like the energy Han and Leia had.
- Finn is compelling as a conflicted character and his cowardice is refreshing. It reminds me of Eddie Izzard's comments on Scooby and Shaggy (and Falstaff), that true cowards are rarely protagonists. For the first half, Finn's cowardice provides a tension similar to Han Solo's mercenary attitude in A New Hope.
- Poe Dameron's pretty cool too, particularly for what he adds to the dialogue. Glad to hear he will be back for Episode VIII.
- Domhnall Gleeson is on fire this year*. I liked his General Hux as an independent Imperial bad guy like Grand Moff Tarkin, not subservient to the Man in Black.
The film goes off the rails for me in the latter half. I am not excited about a Super-Sized Death Star with a hidden flaw that is a mash-up of the original Death Star, the second Death Star, and the Death Star tractor beams and (AND) it has to suck down a star instead of rounding a gas giant. Yay (yawn).
Oh, boy. It's bigger. They did that already...
Starkiller Base irks me. It's not interesting even if it is a "hyperlight" weapon. At least the Prequels didn't have this option. The story telling purpose of goes beyond just replicating the trench scenes from the first film. It resets the status quo by destroying the Republic and putting the Resistance in the same position as the Rebellion, on their own against an overwhelming power. Meh.
What would be interesting is Death Star proliferation. The Rebel Alliance became the Republic and they already had plans for two Death Stars. The Republic and Imperial Remnant should each have multiple Death Stars and be engaged in some sort of detente due to the destruction a war of Death Stars would wreak. That ties the hands of the Republic and prevents it from openly supporting the resistance. Fleets of Death Stars (or at least the superlaser-equipped super star destroyers of the Expanded Universe) would be a keen image too.
I'm also not thrilled that Rey's Hero's Journey is apparently on easy mode and I'm not alone:
I like Rey, but I think it does a disservice to the villain, Kylo Ren, for her to more than hold her own. They clearly establish Ren as a threat when he didn't just deflect a blaster bolt, he stopped it and held it for minutes. It should be a goal for Rey in later films to defeat him. The Jedi mind trick on Storm Trooper JB-007 is annoying too. I've less of an issue with her grabbing the lightsabre with the force (Luke had next to nil training when he fought the wampa too), but I don't think she should be able to overpower Ren. Yeah, he was wounded, but it's pretty clear he wears armor to emulate Vader.
Rather than the ending we got, I think I'd rather have seen a race to rescue Rey and find Luke Skywalker that ends with Skywalker ending the fight between Rey and Ren; routing a platoon of StormTroopers and sending Ren running from the Jedi Master.
*Gleeson's pretty good in The Revenant and Ex Machina as well. And he has a smaller role in Brooklyn. Frank, from 2014, was also good.