Lion of the Blogosphere

Review of The Force Awakens

Star Wars is such an iconic movie franchise. For nerdy males who are old enough to have seen Star Wars as a child in the movie theaters, it’s incredibly amazing to be able to see Han Solo and Chewbacca go on one more mission in the Millennium Falcon. With the same Star Wars music playing in the background. And the same visual look as the original 1977 Star Wars. For this reason alone, The Force Awakens is raking in huge amounts of money at the box office. It doesn’t have to be an especially good movie, it just has to not suck as bad as the previous three movies; no kids or teenagers, no annoying aliens like Jar Jar Binks, no politics beyond the politics of the original Star Wars movie (there’s an evil empire, there are good guys called the Rebel Alliance, that’s all you need to know). J.J. Abrams was even wise enough to leave out the CGI crap, or at least anything that obviously looks like CGI crap.

The rest of this review has major spoilers.

Some of the concepts from Star Wars haven’t aged well. When I was a kid, I didn’t think about why R2-D2 couldn’t speak English. But today, when our iPhones can talk to us in English, why are ‘droids only able to speak in beeps? And when I was a kid, I didn’t think about why the only copy of the Death Star plans were inside R2-D2. Why couldn’t Princess Leia post it on the internet? Email it to someone in the Rebel Alliance? Or at very least make some backup copies to spread around?

Some of the readers of my blog make a big deal about the political correctness of the movie. The three major new characters are a hot girl who kicks ass, a black guy, and a Latino guy. (However I would never have thought the Latino guy [Guatemalan] was anything but white had I not read about it on the internet so he doesn’t really count.)

I too miss the old Star Wars where every human character was a white male (except for Luke’s motherly aunt and a spunky princess in need of rescuing). But nevertheless, you can’t really see an action movie these days without major characters played by black actors and without hot girls who kick ass, so there really isn’t anything to especially pick on here. At least there were no gays, lesbians or transgender people in the movie.

The real problem with the movie is that it’s not really a sequel, it’s more of a remake of the original movie. Let’s make ourselves a chart:

Original The Force Awakens
Princess Leia is captured by Darth Vader Poe is captured by Kylo Ren
Before being captured, Princess Leia puts the plans to the Death Star into the ‘droid, failing to make any backup copies. Before being captured, Poe puts the map to the Luke Skywalker into the ‘droid, failing to make any backup copies.
The ‘droid wanders through the desert. The ‘droid wanders through the desert.
’Droid is eventually acquired by Luke Skywalker. ’Droid is eventually acquired by Rey.
Luke leaves the desert planet in the Millenium Falcon Rey leaves the desert planet in the Millenium Falcon
There’s a visit to a bar filled with strange aliens. There’s a visit to a bar filled with strange aliens.
Darth Vader tortures Princess Leia for information Kylo Ren tortures Poe and then Rey for information
The Empire has a Death Star that can destroy a planet. The First Order has a superweapon even bigger than the Death Star that can destroy multiple planets at once.
Princess Leia escapes from the Death Star with help from Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Rey escapes from the superweapon with help from Han Solo and the black guy.
The Death Star has an Achilles heel which allows the Rebels to destroy it. The superweapon has an Achilles heel which allows the Rebels to destroy it.
Just before the other characters escape from the Death Star, Ben Kenobi is killed fighting his former pupil, Darth Vader. Just before the other characters escape from the superweapon, a major character who has an intimate connection to Kylo Ren is killed by him.

There is also some stuff borrowed from the follow-up movies:

Empire and Jedi The Force Awakens
Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Han Solo is Kylo Ren’s father.
Darth Vader takes off his mask and he looks really ugly. Kylo Ren takes off his mask and he looks like the guy from the HBO series Girls.
A lot of fighting takes place on an ice planet. A lot of fighting takes place on an ice planet.

Despite these apparent similarities, the original Star Wars worked a lot better as a movie with a plot that makes sense.

Luke Skywalker has a back story that allows you to make sense of who he is as a character. He is an orphan who is raised by his aunt and uncle, he’s unhappy with his boring life as a farmer on a desert planet. He seeks out Ben Kenobi because he is genuinely curious about the mystery of the ‘droids he recently purchased. He’s at first reluctant to commit his life to helping Ben get the ‘droids to the Rebels, but after his parents are killed by Stormtroopers, he has nothing left on Tatooine.

On the other hand, we know absolutely nothing bout Rey, and she seems to go along with helping the ‘droid for no apparent reason. J.J. Abrams needs a hot girl who kicks ass, he doens’t think we need to know anything else about her.

We are also not given any reason for why the black guy decides that being a Stormtrooper isn’t for him. Why is he different from all of the other Stormtroopers who follow orders?

Luke, although strong in the Force, can’t use it for anything without a lot of training. It’s Ben who has the lightsaber duel with Darth Vader and not Luke who we assume would be killed in seconds by Darth who is a master of the Force. But Rey is able to beat Kylo Ren in a fight even though she hasn’t had a single lesson in the Force from anyone. Even the black guy, who has no Force abilities, is able to hold his own for a short while in a lightsaber duel.

In the original Star Wars movie, we are not left to wonder why no spaceship has keys or some other mechanism to prevent an unauthorized person from just walking in and flying off. Luke had to pay Han Solo for passage on his spaceship. Rey, on the other hand, just runs into the nearest spaceship and starts the engine.

In this new movie, lightsabers are handed around because that’s what happened in the original movie. But the lightsaber being given from Ben to Luke had a significant purpose in the original movie, representing a connection to his father (who at the time we did not know, and even George Lucas didn’t seem to know, was Darth Vader) and is similar to King Arthur pulling the sword out of the stone, or Bilbo giving his magic ring and later his sword Sting to Frodo.

Ben Kenobi, who was a master of the Force and a Jedi Knight, was able to convince two Stormtroopers that the two ‘droids were not the ‘droids they were looking for. It was a very subtle use of mind control. But Rey, who is completely untrained in the Force, is able to use the Force to order a Stormtrooper to let her escape and giver her his weapon. How realistic is that? Based on how the Force worked in the original movie, not very believable.

My final take on the movie was that the story just wan’t very interesting. Sure, I loved seeing Han Solo again, but did I really care about what happened to the characters? Was I in any sort of suspense about what would happen? No, I wasn’t. Now partially, this may be because I’m a lot older now than I was then and I’m just a lot more jaded about things. But perhaps the movie just doesn’t have an interesting story because the purpose of the story is to be background for a movie that looks and sounds like a Star Wars movie, and not to make a movie based on an interesting story. I actually did get into the story of Avatar, the last super-blockbuster sci-fi movie that I watched.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

Posted in Movies

21 Responses

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  1. The movie broke the Monday record today, but its audience has shrunk every day since the film opened:

    The huge opening was no surprise (and Disney needed it after the billions it spent on this), but I think that the disappointment and disillusionment are sinking in fast.


    December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

  2. The real problem with the movie is that it’s not really a sequel, it’s more of a remake of the original movie.

    Abrams is a no-talent whom I would fully expect to produce a uncreative plot such as this. But Lawrence Kasden had 35 years since Empire to think about new Star Wars stories and the best he can do is rehash the original movie’s plot? He has no excuse. But the move away from CGI and return to convincing effects is appreciated.

    The three major new characters are a hot girl who kicks ass, a black guy, and a Latino guy.

    As they phase out the original series characters, they a different set of new actors. These three are too weak to build a series on without the support of the original cast.

    Imagine what the film, though tolerable, would have looked like without Solo, Luke, and Leia.

    The Undiscovered Jew

    December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

  3. I’ve not seen the movie yet. I probably will, but I’ll admit I’m not in a rush.

    1. Based on the reviews, this movie reminds me of “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull”. Spielberg and the studios were clearly looking to cash in on a fourth Indiana Jones movie. So they brought back an elderly Harrison Ford, brought back the Marion character (actually the best part of the movie), and cobbled together some sort of plot with arresting visuals. Actually “Crystal Skull” is not bad. It was just too obviously made to cash in and is considered the worst of the four Indiana Jones movies.

    2. Reaction from fans to the “Phantom Menace” was incredibly negative. The thing with TPM is that it would have been considered an interesting and OK sci fi fantasy movie if there was no attempt to tie it into Star Wars. They would just have to change Anakin’s last name, and remove Yoda and the droids, and you get rid of all the Star Wars connections. My theory was that Lucas in fact started work on a non-Star Wars scifi fantasy movie, but decided at the last minute to add a few Star Wars elements and pass it off as the first of the prequels. It looks like Disney got the message, “whatever else, make sure the new movie looks like Star Wars.” And they did, and fans are happy to get a movie that looks like Star Wars. But it is going to sink in that what they got was a remake of Star Wars, it doesn’t really advance the story.

    3. Once the sequels are made, if you are introducing someone to the “Star Wars” movies for the first time, there may be even less need to show the new person the sequels than the prequels. Whatever else, Lucas made the prequels and they are part of his conception of “Star Wars”. The problem is that they are really bad. I would recommend skipping them. But if you want to show some one Lucas’ vision of his universe, you have to deal with the prequels somehow. Since the sequels are not by Lucas, they fall into the category of “Expanded Universe” quasi fan fiction such as the Thrawn trilogy, and really depend on their own merits as to whether a Star Wars fans wants to view them or not.

    4. Speaking of the Expanded Universe, while I agree with the decision not to simply put the EU on screen as the sequels, its premise of the Empire surviving and rallying even after Endor is better and more believable than the Empire version 2 just coming out of nowhere. And in this instance the prequels help, since one thing they did was to show that the Empire was really just a corrupted version of the Old Republic, so its institutions could conceivably still function after the death of the Emperor (the rebels are more heirs of the Separatists and would be viewed as such). And it would be a good idea to use Thrawn himself as a character.

    5. Everyone just assumes that Obi Wan and Yoda were the only Jedi to escape from Palpatine and Vader. That is not necessarily true, and this could have been exploited by any sequel writers.

    6. There was enough screwed up with the prequel universe, and in some cases with the OT universe, that they really should have done a movie featuring a character researching the history of the fall of the rebellion, and finding out that things really happened somewhat differently than what was described. The movie would have a second plot that would allow for the action scenes that audiences seem to want. With the plot holes fixed, the rest of the sequels could move forward. Its probably too late to do this. From what I can tell, the decision was made to just have the New Republic somehow fall between Episode VI and Episode VII and start everything over again.

    7. All these negative things said, Disney has a good enough track record with entertainment, and Abrams has a good enough track record, that the Force Awakens is probably a well made and entertaining movie. But I’m just not sure if its a must-see movie like the others.


    December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

    • In my opinion, the Phantom Menace would have been a decent/good Star Wars Movie if
      1) no Jar Jar (or at least improved and less annoying)
      2) less CGI and robot warriors
      3) Anakin was older (a 10-15 year romance age-gap isn’t unbelievable, but it is when they first meet and one is 9…)
      4) proportions were similar as in the original movies (it appears the empire has suffered a great depression since the robot soldiers and spaceships were bigger and more numerous in the not so distant past)

      Changing 3 would have fixed the weird and unbelievable race scenes and made him more complex as a future evil dark lord.


      January 4, 2016 at EDT pm

  4. You haven’t seen “Edge of Tomorrow?”

    Jason Roberts

    December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

    • It was interesting, but the best sci-fy lately was “28 Weeks Later”.


      December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

  5. When I heard some of the actors in the original trilogy were being brought back, I thought it was an excellent marketing move but a creative mistake.

    For obvious reasons, the only human actor in the the original trilogy used in the prequels was Ian McDiarmond (sp?), and Obi Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker was played, fairly successfully in one case, by a new actor.

    Since the actors in the original trilogy has aged, using them again forces the story to skip the part about the New Republic trying to establish itself, which is really one of the stories the prequels should tell. You can use the same characters, but they should be played by different, younger actors, just as two actors have played Obi Wan Kenobi. Make the sequels quickly enough, and maybe a couple of the original actors could be used in later installments.


    December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

    • I would have set the sequel trilogy a thousand years after the original trilogy. That way you could keep the EU intact, have a clean slate on which to write your stories, and be able to recycle all of the old concepts at will while employing them in new ways.

      I loved the Knights of the Old Republic series, and the sequels could have employed a similar concept of having the series set in the far future.


      December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

  6. 1. How in did Kylo Ren get Darth’s mask? Wasn’t it blown up on Death Star 2, at the end of “Jedi”?

    2. Even at the speed of light, it would take years for the beam from the solar-powered (renewable energy?) death star to get to a different solar system. They annihilated multiple planets in moments, without having to go anywhere.

    3. Pity poor Adam Driver. When he’s not having to pretend to bang Lena Dunham, he’s having to pretend to get his ass handed to him by Daisy Ridley. What a career.

    Anyway, I’m done with J.J. Abrams movies. The last Star Trek made little sense. (To this day, I don’t understand why there were bodies in the photon torpedoes).

    As I watched this one I felt like my childhood was getting raped.

    Raoul Duke

    December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Isn’t there a scene at the very end of Jedi when Luke burns the body of Vader on a funeral pyre on the forest moon? He must have taken the body with him when he left the Death Star.

      Good grief, the more I think about that stupid sun-powered super weapon, the more it bothers me. Someone else pointed out that in one scene Jar Jar Abrams annihilated (presumably) everything that was fought for in the first six movies. Even the CGI effects in that part looked like they came from a different movie.


      December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

    • I’m not a big JJ fan overall, but with the right producer and some 3rd party editing help, his movies could be really good. The one talent he excels in is getting the most out of his actors. You won’t find Abram’s movies with 2nd rate acting performances. Unfortunately, he struggles with timing and plot and generally is far too fast paced to get a slam dunk movie out.


      December 23, 2015 at EDT am

  7. Lion, you are entirely right about The Force Awakens.

    I saw it in a Thursday night sneak preview.

    I was the oldest guy in the audience having seen the original when I was 29.

    How many ways did I hate this film:

    1. There was virtually nothing new, or original in it except this is now the PC version.
    Complete with a strong Grrrl, an Hispanic fighter pilot, and a Black Storm Trooper with a heart-of-gold. All of whom are seriously challenged in the acting & charisma department.
    Additionally, the Darth Vader replacement is a metro-sexual tool.

    2. If you took out Han Solo and Chewy, the movie would have been a total disaster.

    3.There is absolutely no suspense of tension in this film.

    4. The black guy is there why? He deserts the Storm Troopers because why?
    Cause Black people are naturally more caring and empathetic than white people, I suppose.
    Plus, I presume Disney and Abrams want to give us some interracial love action in the next episode.

    5. The years haven’t been kind to Princess Leia – They should have made her a Queen instead of a “General”. Then they could have used longer shots and avoided the close-ups.
    The interaction between Solo and Leia was painful to watch.

    6. This time the Empire gets a really big Death Star, not a puny, dollar store, POS Death Star like they had in the first movie. but fortunately for the Rebels they still leave that spot on the side that if you hit it just right, etc. etc.

    7. Haven’t we seen enough grrl-power films yet? Didn’t JLaw shooting down a fighter jet – with a bow and arrow[!] – in the Hunger Games, sufficiently jump the grrl-power shark?
    Plus, when it comes to acting chops, this Ridley grrrl is no Jennifer Lawrence.

    What Disney did right:

    I don’t know how Disney did it, but they managed to convince practically every major movie critic
    that this was a wonderful film and should be reviewed as such.
    This movie has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and got positive ratings from virtually every the major critic; The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, etc.
    Jedi mind trick? Did someone buy up J Edgar Hoover’s FBI files on eBay?
    “Nice job you’ve got there reviewing movies. Be a shame if something happened to it.”
    Inquiring minds want to know.

    Rotten Tomatoes also buried any negative audience reviews.
    Has RT turned to the Dark Side?

    The only negative reviews I found were by users on IMDB and there are a pile of them –
    and those reviews weren’t buried:

    Here are some headings from the entertaining negative reviews on IMDB:

    Boring and Predictable
    It’s like when an unknown Chinese manufacturer decided to make a fake iPhone
    Perfectly average
    The Manipulation Power of Nostalgia and Mass Appeal
    Was this supposed to be a SEQUEL….or REBOOT? Failed miserably at both….
    Blockbuster: Unimaginative, cheap, no fantasy, lacked vision
    Unimaginative ripoff of the original trilogy
    couldn’t be more disappointed
    You thought prequels were bad? That Star Wars cant get any worse? You. Were. WRONG!
    This is a big let down but why are we surprised?
    The Force Awakens, The Death of story driven Star Wars?
    Thank you Disney and J.J. Abrams for ending the Star Wars for me
    JarJarAbrams is the Sith who destroyed the Star Wars franchise
    the dark side is strong with this film…being Abrahm’s creativity
    Star Wars Episode VII: A Painful Generational Gap
    Star Wars VII “I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This”

    Please tell me i’m wrong for hating this.
    Star Wars: The Force Awakens – a eulogy
    Sigh, I’ve seen this movie before, 38 years ago.
    Dumb Movie For DUMB PEOPLE!
    After this. . . .the prequels don’t seem to bad, and they were rotten!
    Star Wars: Bastardized, Rebooted, and Redefined (for adolescents)
    The force was not with this movie
    Excellent product of Hollywood + Disney + Remake = Terrible movie
    Can’t figure out how come this movie is close to 9 stars on IMDb
    Do not give your money and time to those people
    Feminist garbage!!
    This is not the Movie you are looking for
    The Force is weak with this one…
    What’s next? Let’s go kill Indiana Jones!

    Nedd Ludd

    December 22, 2015 at EDT pm

    • Am I the only one while watching movies who roots for the bad guys like the Empire™, the Nazis, the Commies, the Islamic Terrorists? Maybe it’s the “Christian” in me, but I always like the underdog. In Hollywood, the bad guys have triumphed something like zero times in ten-thousand matches. It might be interesting if they made the bad guys somehow morally complex. Maybe they do things that seem bad for good and just reasons.

      I’d watch a story that made our founding fathers look like irresponsible jerks who were just trying to dodge the fair costs of civilization and for having the British defend its colonies from the French and Indians in the North American Theater of the Seven Year War. Make the British and the Loyalists sympathetic.

      Let’s rehabilitate the loyalist Benedict Arnold! He didn’t betray the Patriots. He was true to his crown…

      All they had to do to make this Star Wars movie interesting was to show the “good guys” getting corrupted to show that the seeds of moral weakness are everywhere. If the black storm trooper dude can find redemption, doesn’t that mean that moral mobility goes in both directions?

      If I’m disgusted and bored by Hollywood, maybe it’s time for me to write my own stories. Perhaps there are interesting stories out there that are ignored by the mainstream because they violate the spirit of weakness that enables the precious prole audience to feel good about themselves, their failures and their disappointing existences.

      Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta

      December 23, 2015 at EDT am

      • Game of thrones has complex characters , no ultimate evil for no reason vs. ultimate good .


        December 23, 2015 at EDT am

      • You’re not the only one that likes the “bad guys”, and I like to take movies & books apart to try to see from the other side.

        Looking at it from another angle, the Empire/First Order were/are the good guys.
        – The emperor wanted to get rid of the Jedi, an elite that was capable of mind-control capabilities, among other dangerous powers
        – We see how orderly the Empire is, and how clean their environment seems (moral order and cleanliness seems to be a negative trait in our modern-day pop culture). We can only assume that they encouraged this on conquered planets
        – In the expanded universe, we learn that the Emperor dislikes non-humans; he realistically sees how non-humans and humans cannot interact healthily (District 9 deals with this topic nicely)


        December 23, 2015 at EDT pm

      • What is good about the Rebels/Republic anyway? Slavery seems to universally accepted in the Republic. The Jedis respect the slave-trade too. Qui-Gon Jinn hagles with the jewish used car salesman to free Anakin. His budget did not allow him to buy Anakin’s mother too, so they left her on the planet. She was later sold to her future husband. She married her slave master? Was this consensual?
        The Republic is supposedly democratic. Why are there queens, viceroys and dukes, who seem to make political decisions for entire planets on a whim? What about elections and political parties? Are slaves allowed to vote?

        The rebels live in dire and primitive economic conditions. The bad guys seem outspend them militarily, so they must be more economically successful and they are technologically advanced.


        December 23, 2015 at EDT pm

  8. What’s the deal with everyone getting upset about Spoilers™ nowadays??

    If anybody has already seen or knows the gist of the original film, that was probably the ultimate spoiler. There is really no need to be surprised other than by how shamelessly unoriginal it was.

    Our mass culture is exhausted,

    I can’t remember the last time any thing came along that was truly original and novel. We only seem to think we want something new, but we only get disappointed and we don’t tolerate it when the narrative deviates from well-worn tropes.

    Long live the monomyth!

    (But make sure you give it a properly fashionably modern packaging with multicultural sheen and progressive aggressive feminist heroines.)

    Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta

    December 23, 2015 at EDT am

    • “Our mass culture is exhausted…”

      If you like sci-fi, “Moon” is highly original. (Though the Tom Cruise movie “Oblivion” appears to be a ripoff of it, to the point I think you might not enjoy the former if you’ve seen the latter.)

      As for sci-fi books, “Darwin’s Radio” is probably the most original thing I’ve read in decades. I also liked “Moving Mars.” Both are by Greg Bear.

      “South Park” has been good this season. (I had a chuckle when Randy asks the cop, “Do you even know what ‘farm-to-table’ means?”, as if that determines whether one can work in law enforcement.)

      I know what you mean though, about mass-culture. Even “The Walking Dead,” seemed to be running on fumes by the end of this season.

      Raoul Duke

      December 23, 2015 at EDT pm

  9. On the flip side, Driver’s turn to the dark side is far more believable than Vadar’s. After all, several seasons of sleeping with Lena Dunham has got to destroy the soul of any man!


    December 23, 2015 at EDT am

    • Heh, you’re right. A turn as Lena Dunham’s boyfriend is a more plausible reason to turn to the dark side than anything Anikin/Vader went through.

      When I first heard that Adam Driver was cast in the film, I thought to myself “No way, he’s too goofy looking to pull this off.” But on the other hand, I’ve been wrong about casting decisions before, so I took a wait and see attitude….until he pulled his mask off. “Do’ah!” I was right the first time.


      Mike Street Station

      December 26, 2015 at EDT am

  10. I like reviews with spoilers. After finding out about what exactly the “plot” is for this movie, I will probably not see it, and save myself the the time and the money.

    Also, this blog post, written before the release, makes a pretty convincing case that there is no way Disneyfied Star Wars can be worth watching:

    It essentially comes down to that Disney, unlike Fox with the first movie, sank too much money into this to take the needed creative risks (plus its only an investment for them, they are probably doing it to develop the theme park rides); JJ Abrams is a hack popcorn movie director; and finally the decision to bring the actors from the original “Star Wars” back, playing their original characters, forty years later. They also apparently had John Williams, who literally is dying, do the score again. As I explained earlier, bringing the original actors back by itself sinks the movie since it means you have to skip over what happened during the thirty years after the Battle of Endor.

    But one thing interesting that I found out about the spoilers is that this really was done as a reboot, with apparently no attempt at all to connect the movie to the end of the Return of the Jedi. There is an Empire, or First Order, which is more powerful than the Empire in the original trilogy, and the good guys are rebels, or resistance, against the Empire. Han Solo is a swashbuckling space pirate (the actor is 73 years old). He was a general at the end of the last movie. Leia is apparently not a princess. Luke is wheeled in in the last scene, apparently to get Mark Hamill into the credits. There is a “Force” which doesn’t behave anything like it behaved in the original trilogy and the prequels. There is no explanation for any of this. It really does seem from the spoilers that the premise is that the events in the original trilogy never happened.

    If this is true, its interesting that the reviews don’t mention it, since maintaining continuity with the rest of the series would be an important consideration as to whether to see the movie.


    December 23, 2015 at EDT pm

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