I think we’ve had enough time to digest The Force Awakens. Let’s talk about some real problems in it.
I really liked The Force Awakens, but it wasn’t perfect. There’s so much to love – BB-8! – but there’s some things that grate on me.
Plot Movement Gaps
Not all the movements of the film tied together. The most obvious is that when Finn and Rey get away from the Tie fighters they take off into space and then get intercepted by Han’s freighter. But… wasn’t the First Order still in orbit? They didn’t go to light speed. When they spoke to Han, he made it sound as though he hadn’t been by Jakku in a while. So… WTF? Weak.
I’m most disappointed with the meeting of Rey and Luke. When Luke meets Obi-wan, he’s unconscious and Obi-wan saves him. When Luke meets Yoda, Yoda tests him by being a jerk. There’s a very personal and human moments and Rey doesn’t get this. I would have preferred that Rey encounters Luke while he’s installing power converters on a speeder or something like that.
I have an aversion to stories telling me overtly what I should feel or think. This script does this a bit too much and I hated that it mostly came from Finn. These lines took me out of the story and didn’t really add either.
“That’s a great pilot!”
“You got a boyfriend?”
“I’m getting pretty good at this.”
For all the other great 1-liners in the story (“Where’s my boyfriend… I like that wookie”), these really didn’t fit. They could have done some extra trimming.
X-Wings Scenes were sloppy
One of the great scenes of A New Hope were the rather formal (if still more casual than military) interchange between X-Wing pilots. We heard them check in. We heard the interchange from the room on Yavin Base with amazing synth-voices. What we got in TFA didn’t seem like a trained set of pilots – just random bush pilots with no formality. That’s fine and has a place within the story. But it also felt unfamiliar and lacking relative to the previous band of rebel bush pilots that were more formal and disciplined.
So I get it. Rathtars are essentially another Rancor. But that scene really slows the film down. I personally thought the Rathtars seemed to float more than creep on tenticles (I notice at least some physics problems). The entire sequence is very much like the scene in Star Trek 2009 when Kirk and Scotty beam aboard the Enterprise and Scotty gets caught in the coolant system. This all just felt cheap and unnecessary. I would have rather scene a shoot-out or fist fight rather than the rathtar… thing.
Not Enough Maz
I really wish Lucasfilm had kept the (rumored) deleted scene where Maz, when confronted by Storm troopers in the basement of her castle, uses the force to bring down the ceiling, crushing the troopers. This would have made her character far more powerful, rather than just being a ‘wise sage’. We got to see Yoda pull the X-Wing out of the swamp on Degobah. We got to see Obiwan use his light saber in the Cantina. It would have been nice to get an idea of how powerful Maz is.
Starkiller base and the destruction of the Hosnian system
C’mon. Look having the climax of a film be a large explosion of a threatening weapon is a very good trope. And let’s face it, Death Stars or whatever, are great weapons even if they’re used once. Starkiller, as ridiculous a trope as it is, destroyed the Republic government and accomplished its primary goal. If you’re read Bloodline, then you get a sense of how important that is. But if you didn’t read Bloodline then you probably don’t even get a sense of this at all. And that’s what’s bad. TFA used a repeated trope to commit an important act that the audience doesn’t really have any sense of the impact. That’s really lacking.
In many ways this is a problem with editing. It’s pretty clear that after Finn and Rey encounter Han Solo, the editing and plot movement go a tad off the rails. There’s a lot of movement that’s cut and unclear and that makes the story hard to follow.
Star Wars has a pretty standard ending shot – a wide-ish shot of the entire (or partial) cast. What we got – an aerial shot with Rey holding Anakin’s light saber and Luke staring intently at her – doesn’t fit.
TFA was a great film. But it was lacking in some details that made it feel a tad unfamiliar. It was obvious that this wasn’t a George Lucas film (even the prequels had certain key elements). Lawrence Kasdan has talked about the time constraints of this film. The script shows it.
Tested have a good discussion from last December that’s probably worth watching too.