As a movie
It's professionally made but ultimately worthless, shallow and severely lacking in context. People forget Star Wars is often about context. I love a fun and entertaining movie but it all becomes worthless without it.
Here's an example of poor context.
''Poe is an amazing pilot so he destroyed Starkiller Base'' That's pretty much all there is to be said.
Here's an example of good context.
''Luke, a boy with ambitions is introduced to the force. He finally learns to let go of external mechanisms and trusts the force and with the help of a selfish pirate who finally realises the meaning of fellowship, returns to Luke's aid and they destroy the death star''
The film just has strange ideas of context overall. You have Finn who becomes morally conscious at the death of his fellow Stormtrooper, seemingly decides he wants no part in any kind of violence, good or bad. He kills dozens of Stormtroopers without hesitation and wears the jacket of the man who killed his fellow Stormtrooper. Not exactly well thought out. I couldn’t buy into his character, he seemed like a guy who just walked into the film, though he was entertaining. Of the thousands of Stormtroopers, suddenly one of them happens to become morally conscious without introduction and becomes part of the story. The film is lazy to provide proper introductions or context. It just moves onto the next thing, ticking each box that provides instant gratification and not ticking the boxes that provide proper character development or pay-off. Everything just takes place in a vacuum.
A lot of people have complained that Rey is too powerful to invest in or drive the story forward and they’re right. She is essentially a super-hero. The film leaves behind the old concepts of fellowship since the lead can handle everything on her own so it struggles to build the relationships for each character. She doesn’t depend on any other character for help and she doesn’t accept guidance. All the characters actions just take place in a vacuum. Whereas Luke learns to become a hero, her story boils down to “great power comes great responsibility.” Not sure I buy into a super-hero in the Star Wars Universe.
Kylo Ren was a good villain with a brilliant performance by Adam Driver. He’s extremely underdeveloped and is only left to a few short sentences of back story. I wish it was clearer how and why he became so evil. He had no turning point, he had no pain or fear in his backstory yet he was somehow seduced to the dark side. He too easily fits the archetype of a troubled and pathetic brat, which is fine but it could’ve been a lot more interesting.
Han Solo is an archetype. He’s a cowboy and archetypal characters deserve a fitting end. Why does his father-son relationship become the biggest plot point leading up to the events of the film? Yet there is barely any development or build up. It’s another context issue that could’ve made for an engaging story arc.
I found it hard to invest in any of the characters or stories. I thought the mid scene cut at the end was more of a slap to the face than a cliffhanger. The search for Luke story arc would’ve been the only thing worth investing in but there was no closure. I’ve never seen a film make no effort to leave you with any sense of anything. It was just completely mute.
It’s a weak film lacking in many engaging elements. It trades off core factors such as theme, context, and character for simplistic appeal.
As a Star Wars movie
In a world where there are nuances and parodies of Star Wars everywhere from Spaceballs to Family Guy, I would never have thought the franchise itself would fall victim to this regurgitative trend. The similarities with A New Hope are endless but that’s not what I’m going to write about. Star Wars always has an honest story to tell. This was more fan fiction than film yet even fan fiction can still be great. Some people don’t understand that there’s more to Star Wars than lightsabers and spaceships. The originals was a story about a revolution in a pirate themed sci-fi world with heavy Taoist philosophy and samurai. The prequels were sort of a cold war/medieval war blend with eastern politics, freedom vs fascism, and the originals being good vs evil. This film’s themes were just so bland.
This is now a franchise trapped in its own fossilized iconography. Its sense of nostalgia wears off very quick. It rehashes A New Hope, depends on the Original Trilogy for nostalgia and depends on sequels for a more complete story. That’s three disastrous strikes I’ve never seen a film take. The film fails to have an identity of its own, it just fails to have its own contribution to the medium of story-telling and has nothing new to offer. When I watch a Star Wars movie I always say to myself “wow what an engaging story” and if you summarize the plot into one sentence it would give me chills reading it. Sadly the newest instalment offers nothing interesting, nothing that captures the imagination. There’s no context hence there’s no story. There’s no investment hence there is no pay-off and there’s no stakes hence there is nothing to care about.
From a sci-fi aspect, Star Wars is a fresh and vivid universe and it feels bigger in each instalment with new planets, cities, and also new ideas. Again there’s none of that. Nothing that captures the imagination.
Star Wars is a massive Universe with limitless possibilities yet one cohesive story. Star Wars has a philosophy, it has a mythology. Star Wars has strong inspirations, Taoism, Japanese Samurai, Akira Kurosawa, Joseph Campbell, Stoicism, Spirituality, History and Technology. Star Wars is a rich tapestry of ideas, themes and inspirations. With so much material to work with and so much to potentially be made, this film suffers to live up to its legacy.