This isn’t a review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens; it also isn’t a review of your childhood.
Based on the world’s diagnosably maniacal response to this latest Star Wars film’s release and the critical acclaim that’s echoed throughout the universe (as if a million voices suddenly cried out) my conclusion that the Force Awakens and your childhood are one and the same is logical. That’s what you all are telling me with your Facebook posts and your standing-in-lining and your multiple viewings. That regardless of your age, if you’re able to read this sentence, you grew up with Star Wars as part of your youth.
You dreamed of being a Jedi (or a Rancor, who am I to judge?). You ran around the yard, or the alley, or the living room with an empty paper towel tube, imagining it was a light saber. Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Yoda Elfenberries, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Kim Il Jung — these are the figures that congealed around the squiggly pathways of your brains and turned you one way or another.
And if anyone tries to tell you that Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t a perfectly structured TIE fighter ticket to the magical land of childhood idealism, you’ll tell ’em, fist a’shakin’ where they can stick their hoity-toity critical dark side.
Good for you. Stand up for that which you love.
Just remember that what you love is not you. It isn’t you now, and it wasn’t you when you were 11, either. It may have affected your life — significantly even, if you’re someone like Benson the Dog — and I’m not downplaying that or its importance (even if I did meet Benson when, at 16, I told him the Wrath of Khan sucked and it almost led to fisticuffs.)
I just want people to remain calm, to keep their minds open, and to make their willingness to consider and question and grow a pillar of their personalities. For these traits, they’re what makes a Jedi.
In the comments of Supreme Being’s unflattering review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, one of our regular readers, clearly a smart fellow, got into it about REDACTED‘s death in this latest film as compared to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death in Star Wars. Reacting to his criticism of our criticism helped me to solidify my own opinions. And it reminded me of something crucial.
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death in Star Wars (i.e. A New Hope) is the thematic core of this series of films. It is the moment when the Force — the battle over which engages the Skywalkers and you — is demonstrated in its full meaning. Not as a tool to lift X-wing fighters from swamps or freeze laser blasts or read minds, but as a guide towards our unison with the universe.
The hocus-pocus tricks that Jedi Knights and the Sith use, these are just the bleed-off of that power; the radiant heat born of the universe’s connective core.
Why does Obi-Wan Kenobi let Vader strike him down? Because doing so will be the most potent way to impress upon Vader’s son, observing, that the Force is not about living forever as a corporeal being, or about saving your loved ones from death as young Anakin attempted. The Force is about and between all of us together — you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.
This avoidable death is Obi-Wan telling Luke — not in words, but through action — what is important.
What is important is letting go of the self, regardless of how firmly you cling to it now, or to the ideas that enliven it. Kenobi CHOOSES to die and that choice is clear in the direction and scripting of the film. There is no other interpretation. So we are left to wonder why.
Knowing what we do of this character in this place at this time: the why can only be a result of what makes Kenobi Kenobi. The same cannot, in any sense, be said of REDACTED‘s death. He makes no choice. His motivation is ill-considered and ill-formed and only communicated via exposition. His death pushes another character down a path, but in the most ham-handed, cheesy way. It isn’t a call back to earlier films; it’s trite.
It teaches us nothing about either man or the world or even this one story.
Kenobi’s self-sacrifice is constrastingly a perfect example of how the screenwriting in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back took your young mind and changed it, perhaps forever.
It is a brilliant moment. It is brilliant in the way Vader revealing to Luke that he is his presumed-dead father is — that it is Vader who has motivated Luke, unwittingly, through all of his actions to this very moment. It is brilliant in the way that Vader’s reaching for his son at that same moment is brilliant, for it is this boy — his family — for whom Vader allowed the evil to overtake him. It is a moment that is shocking because that truth has always been there right in front of us but we never, not for a moment, suspected or saw. And even when it first came clear, we could not comprehend all it meant or would mean, not because we were children, but because it was so true.
It was truth born of character and story and the world.
These moments are absent from the prequels, and yes, from The Force Awakens, too. That doesn’t mean your childhood is a lie, or your commitment to what you learned then is wasted. It just means J.J. Abrams had concerns paramount to the truth of myth and fiction.
REDACTED had to die because the actor didn’t want to make any more Star Wars films, not because his character or the story required his death. His death teaches us nothing and means nothing that could not have been communicated in a million other more significant and dramatically potent ways.
I said this wasn’t a review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I don’t intend it to be. I found the film disappointing, but who cares? Telling most people you didn’t like The Force Awakens and why will make as much difference as telling a Donald Trump supporter why the big orange muppet reject is wrong, dangerous, and harmful to our health on a global scale.
People invest in ideas and incorporate them into their beings, rationally or not. They let themselves embody what they think. People who can step outside of their opinions to question them, to test them, and to — when it’s called for — reject them? Those people are special and rare.
They are Jedi.
Let Vader strike them down; it matters not. What matters is showing those that watch that they are part of something bigger.
So I didn’t like The Force Awakens in the way I like Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back. It didn’t — on its own merits, divorced from its progenitors — move me or make me think or plant the seeds of wonder within me. It was a big budget action film that felt, more than anything else, familiar, like the last beer out of the keg.
If you can change my mind: thanks.
May the Force be with you.
Nice to have my comments prompt such a lengthy meditation. I’m gonna disagree with only a few of your points, and fortunately, you put them all very close together:
“Knowing what we do of this character in this place at this time: the why can only be a result of what makes Kenobi Kenobi. The same cannot, in any sense, be said of REDACTED‘s death. He makes no choice. His motivation is ill-considered and ill-formed and only communicated via exposition. His death pushes another character down a path, but in the most ham-handed, cheesy way. It isn’t a call back to earlier films; it’s trite.
It teaches us nothing about either man or the world or even this one story.
Kenobi’s self-sacrifice is constrastingly a perfect example of how the screenwriting in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back took your young mind and changed it, perhaps forever.”
okay, at this point, no more “REDACTED”. So . . .SPOILER ALERT.
You make four points here which I disagree with:
(1) Han’s death is not the result of his own choices and is not the result of Han being Han..
—On the contrary, I see Han all over this scene. Han chose to be there, to confront his son, and to try to take the light saber from him. This was all Han being Han.
(2) His death pushes another character down a path.
—On the contrary, his death marked Ren’s final turn toward the dark side. I think it was Snoke who, earlier in the film, observed that Ren would only complete his turn to the dark side once he overcame his father’s influence, or something like that. The point is, killing Han does not push Ben down another path. It marks his decision to turn wholeheartedly to the dark side.
(3) It teaches us nothing of relevance about the characters or the story.
—See above. The death of Solo teaches us very much about Ren. It marks a crucial moment in his character arc.
(4) Kenobi’s self-sacrifice is a profound example of how to let go of one’s self.
—I still don’t buy this. Of course you can interpret the scene however you like, but your interpretation seems to go against everything in the original trilogy.
—First, Luke *never* learns any lesson about losing your self through death, or letting go of life, or anything like that, from Kenobi’s death. We never see Luke learn anything at all from Kenobi’s death.
—Second, in the actual scene, Kenobi says that killing him would actually make him far more powerful. So it appears that he is happy to die, knowing he will become even more powerful. Ben doesn’t say the oneness of the Force will become more powerful. He says he, Ben Kenobi, an individual Jedi, will become more powerful.
—Third, Ben does not lose his self in death: He appears later as a ghost: first as a ghost that Luke can only hear, and later as one he actually sees. The lesson Luke learns, therefore, is that Jedis can still retain their self-identity after death. They don’t lose themselves and become one with the Force. But Luke still has no freakin’ clue why Kenobi chose that moment to let himself get killed.
But it’s fine if you didn’t enjoy Episode 7. I’m not gonna try to convince you it’s a great film that you need to see again. And I certainly wouldn’t try to defend it against any and all criticism. But some things about it are worth defending, imo.
So here’s the thing, Jason. Yes. What you say is true, assuming you take what you’re told at face value — which is how The Force Awakens hopes you’ll take everything — instead of feeling part of the world and understanding things on a deeper, more cohesive level.
1) Han chose to be there, to confront his son, and to try to take the light saber from him. This was all Han being Han.
Did he choose to be there? Why? Why now? How is that the Han that we’ve grown to know over three other films, as opposed to the Han that shows up here to explain his simple motivations in ungrounded speeches. Han and Leia discuss their son, who MURDERED every Jedi child and caused Luke to abandon them and broke up their (presumably) happy marriage. In a quick scene. We do not see any evidence of this tragic event in their lives. Han is off doing a simplistic bounty hunter thing, because ‘it’s what he knows.’ Is that how you’d react to your child becoming the new Darth Vader, if you were one of the few who defeated the actual Darth Vader? What the FUCK is going on here? Who are these people? Is Luke a coward and an idiot that he didn’t see Kylo Ren’s turn as a possibility and then threw up his hands and left everyone when it came to be? Who is Han Solo here that his son does these things and it’s only when he beyond-coincidentally stumbles back into his ship and the ‘rebellion’/’resistance’ that he considers doing something about it?
Seriously. Fuck that guy. Fuck all these people. If he didn’t happen to luck into the Falcon again, would Han have chosen to confront Ren ever? Ren even offers him the lightsaber, after Han IDIOTICALLY walks out to meet a clearly dangerous master of the Force who hates him. Yes, a father’s love and all that, but come on. It isn’t real. It isn’t grounded. It only works on the thinnest slice of the surface level because we’re told, point blank, that it works by dialogue.
It isn’t in any way Han being Han. It’s Han being a plot device and Ford getting out of Episode VIII.
2) his death marked Ren’s final turn toward the dark side
Yes. ‘Marked’ being the key word here. Why does Han’s willingness to forgive push Ren over the edge? No idea. A hatred of his weakness, which he recognizes in himself maybe? I can come up with explanations, but the truth is the film doesn’t ever show us why Ren is Ren. Perhaps that will come in later installments, but as it stands, Ren is just a cutout. An ‘angry young man’ who happens to be a Force master and to be willing to commit war crimes. Was Han a bad father? Dunno. Was Leia a bad mother? Dunno? Was Luke a bad master? Dunno. Who is Snokes? Dunno. What does Ren want? Dunno. What appeals to Ren about the dark side? No fucking idea.
As ghastly as the prequels were, they at least set up Anakin with a motivation — which granted was mentally deficient — to turn dark (fear of Padme being killed/death). This film gives Ren nothing but a vague desire to please a character who we don’t even ever see in the flesh.
3) The death of Solo teaches us very much about Ren. It marks a crucial moment in his character arc.
Does it? What does it teach us about Ren? That he’s willing to kill his own father? Didn’t we see his violence and wrath in his introductory scene? An arc needs to have ups and downs. Ren is brutal. Ren has a scene where he literally laments his lack of commitment to cruelty. Ren is brutal. Ren has a temper tantrum. Ren is brutal. It isn’t an arc. For it to be an arc, he needs to change and learn and grow (up or down).
Again; it feels like an arc if you accept the expositional dialogue as evidence, but based on what the characters DO, there is no arc. And one of the truisms of screenwriting is a character is what he or she does, not what he or she says. People lie all the time, to themselves and others. Actions make character. Ren’s actions are unwavering and mostly unexplained.
4) And finally:
Luke does learn, but not until the end of Return of the Jedi. It’s a long journey for young Skywalker but eventually he refuses to fight — like Kenobi — and his adherence to the right path in the face of his own death is what finally gets through to Vader. Luke finally teaches his father what the old man so religiously resisted. It isn’t about defeating death, it’s about accepting it. That’s where the power comes from.
Kenobi being more powerful can be read as you read it, or it can be read in the pseudo-religious Jedi fashion; i.e. he releases himself to the universe, making an example of himself that makes him a more powerful of a teacher (in death) than he could be alive. He DOES. He sets that example through ACTION, instead of just mouthing ideas.
I’m not sure I get your read on your third point. It seems… deliberately recalcitrant. Sorry. In the film, we see ‘ghosts’, but that’s just a cinematic device, like a flashback — we don’t actually think characters are going back in time during a flashback — they’re just remembering. In the same way, I don’t think Kenobi is actually hanging around as a ghost; his influence remains. But I wouldn’t argue hard on this point. It’s more of a choice as to how to read the film that gets less defensible as you get to later episodes, and later editions where Lucas added in a bunch of other ghost-y shit.
(1) To be or not to be Han Solo. Okay, I have a better understanding of your complaint on this point now. I think you are agreeing that Han’s death is the result of his choices, so that’s a slight adjustment to how you originally stated your criticism. You’re not saying the scene was divorced from the character’s choices in this movie, but that their choices in this movie don’t make sense with respect to the original character. That the Han Solo in this movie is not clearly the Han Solo of the original trilogy: The new Han has some of the same character traits (and the same DNA), but his situation and actions seem too disconnected to give his death meaning.
I can see how that would thoroughly upset you, to have a beloved character killed off in a way that did not feel authentic. To me, the scene was thoroughly upsetting, but for the opposite reason: It felt authentic.
The questions you raise, which you say undermine the authenticity of this Han Salo, have a lot to do with events that happen between Episodes 6 and 7. And I completely agree that Episode 7 can be criticized for relying too much on exposition. A lot of crucial elements of character are merely told, and not shown. But as weak as that is, it is not new to Episode 7. The original Star Wars does not explain why Vader turned to the dark side. It does not explain why Kenobi chooses to die. It does not explain why Kenobi was in hiding, or why he suddenly decides to come out of hiding (as if Kenobi didn’t know his powers as a Jedi would be kinda useful for the rebels before Leia sent R2D2 to find him). You are upset that Solo would only stumble back into action because he coincidentally finds his ship and it contains a map to Luke. Well, Kenobi only stumbles back into action when Leia’s message coincidentally lands in Luke’s hands.
So, is this the real Han Solo? I don’t see why not. Because he believes Leia when she says that he, as a father, can turn his son to the light? Because things didn’t work out with Leia and his family, and he doesn’t think, in his later years, that he has anything to offer the resistance anymore? I completely believe Ren when he says that Han was a disappointing father. I completely believe that Han and Leia couldn’t make things work, and that Han decided to go back to smuggling with Chewie. I don’t see a lack of Han Solo in this movie. I see a lot of untold backstory, but that is bound to happen when thirty years are missing. Trying to fill the holes would have weighed down this movie way too much. The filmmakers decided to focus more on setting up the new characters. And Han was always something of a secondary character. Hell, even his decision to come back and save Luke in the original Star Wars was off screen: Han’s one big moment, when he decides for the first time to do something for other people instead of himself, and we don’t even get to see him make the decision? We don’t even see him struggling with the decision? Sure. Why not? There’s nothing wrong with that, because Han was always secondary. And Han is still secondary, even in his death. So, in sum, I think there was enough authenticity to make this work.
(2) Your criticism here is about the lack of explanations, but a lack of explanations does not always equate to a lack of sense. I think Ren’s actions make sense. They are not explained in great detail, but we get enough of the picture. I am fine with having unanswered questions about Ren’s back story and motivations. (Again, how many unanswered questions about motivations and back story did the original Star Wars leave us with?) It’s a weakness in the film–unless they are just waiting for a future installment to explain everything–but it doesn’t ruin it for me.
(3) I agree that the film relies too much on exposition. That’s a weakness. But it doesn’t undermine the authenticity for me, and it’s consistent with the original.
(4) Luke refuses to fight at the end of Episode 6? He does fight. He refuses to kill his father after he has defeated him, but he does not–following Kenobi–allow Vader to simply kill him. So, no, I don’t agree that this shows Luke learning a lesson from Kenobi’s death.
As for Kenobi becoming a ghost: Luke hears his voice at the end of Star Wars, instructing him to use the force. You could say that was just Luke remembering his voice. Fine. But then, in Empire, Kenobi visibly appears and gives Luke information. That’s not Luke’s memory or imagination. That’s Kenobi being a ghost.
I looked up Kenobi on this Star Wars reference site. (Jesus is there a lot of story there! My Star Wars knowledge is miniscule, apparently.) But this is what it says about Kenobi’s death:
“Upon seeing Luke, [Kenobi] sacrificed himself for Luke and the Falcon’s crew to escape. Kenobi let down his guard and concentrated for a moment, vanishing to the spiritual plane; his body disappearing entirely just as Vader’s lightsaber (instead of severing his body) passed through his empty robe. Kenobi became a Force ghost, and was more powerful than ever.”
Not that we have to agree with this source, but it does happen to support what I’m saying. Except that I don’t see why killing himself helped Luke and Leia escape, and I don’t think we ever saw Kenobi being more powerful than he had been when alive.
You make some strong arguments, particularly in re: the original trilogy which I admit I have not watched in a decade and which I’m NOT some super huge fan on anyway.
And I wish I had time to respond in detail but… I’ve got the baby today, so while she’s napping:
It comes down to the perspective from which you’re watching these films (all of them). I’m first and foremost a writer and I’m looking at them as dramatic constructions. Star Wars and Empire leave things unsaid, but they are (primarily) comprised of elements that track. We’ve got a post going up in half an hour by a guest writer that will address some of this in re: Force Awakens, and how those elements don’t track.
Example: Why does everything happen on Tattoine in SW? Luke’s been hidden there. Kenobi is hiding out there to keep an eye on him / protect him from Vader. Leia is heading there to find Kenobi to ask his help. She gets captured and sends the droids to FIND Luke, which they do. So it’s not coincidence, it’s threads coming together.
In Force, why does everything happen on Jakku? No reason at all. Zero. Max von Sydow’s character is there, but who is he? Besides dead in the first five minutes. Why is Rey there and who is she? One could guess but there is nothing, besides her aptitude for Jedi stuff and a deliberately vague flashback, to explain. Obviously she’s a Skywalker and, like Luke, hidden for her protection — but why on Jakku? She’s got no uncle and aunt to watch her there. She’s not hidden with family. She’s dumped. Why is the Falcon there? No particular reason. Why does Han find the Falcon now as opposed to the day before, when it wasn’t carrying Luke’s daughter, some random storm trooper who happens to know the death planet’s hidden weakness despite the fact that he’s a janitor who’s been in one battle, and the long lost map to Luke?
No reason. This isn’t threads coming together, it’s people knowing where the story needs to end up and forcing elements together in such a way as to make that happen. There’s no motivation for anyone to end up in this particular place, or at least any grounded motivation.
And while you feel Han is being Han in his death scene, I think his motivation here is — in the same way — conveniently pasted over his character in a way that clashes.
You’re talking about explanations and things left unexplained, both of which can be good tools in a script. Force Awakens leaves so much that’s so important up in the air while it spells out so much that’s also important in a way that feels — pardon the pun — very very forced. Ren just happens to be a Anakin’s grandson and follow his exact path and yet no one sees this coming, even though they are, presumably, JEDI KNIGHTS who read minds and love this boy. That is the exact same problem many had with the prequels — why did none of the Jedi’s sense Ani’s threat? Why could no one stop this one boy?
Anyway. Lots to say and little time. Read our post today and see how that makes you feel. You’re certainly in the vast majority loving Force Awakens and I have no problem with that. People should happily love what they love.
As someone who doesn’t care much about Star Wars, tho, and a writer, the Force Awakens isn’t a satisfying story. Mostly because it’s a bald retread of existing material that doesn’t bother to respect the truths and characters that made the originals so popular (and it’s popular, not genius in my opinion, and then only because Lucas cribbed so heavily from Joseph Campbell).
Right. Hope that makes sense.
Also. Curious. Why do you think Kenobi let Vader kill him in SW? He says ‘more powerful’ but has anything Kenobi ever done seemed to be in pursuit of selfish power? Does his death help Luke escape? This is such a deliberate action, such a deliberate scene, and such an unexpected turn that it could only be part of the film as an intentional statement.
What do you think that statement is?
Great piece (and great review by Supreme Being). My 11 year-old son has never seen any of the Star Wars movies (!!!) and has only mild interest in seeing them now. I’m not sure how this happened. I definitely liked Star Wars when I saw it as a child, and found the experience of flying through space amazing, but it didn’t change my life the way it seems to have done with some other folks. I didn’t own any action figures and didn’t meld my own imagination with that of the movie in a way that made me want to know the deep mythology of the series. So I never made a point of sitting him down to watch it.
I’ve wondered once or twice whether I’m depriving my son of his cultural heritage by failing to show him these films. But I bet if he were to see the original he might find it slow and a little cheesy. There’s no way he would have the same experience that I did when I saw it (of seeing things on the screen that I didn’t know were possible). So maybe he will see it and maybe he won’t, but life goes on…
I’d be curious to hear what he thinks if he does see Star Wars now, at 11. I don’t think he’s missing out too much. There are so many other, more important, more impressive things even if we’re just talking about films. It’s a cultural phenomenon but so was Avatar and Titanic and less shitty things like Star Trek and Buffy and and and.
He’ll find his own juice.
Glad you liked the post.
What no one’s mentioned is that Kenobi is an archetypal character. He HAS to die when he dies, and it’s powerful whether or not you think through his logic or lack thereof because that’s how archetypes work. They are deep within us all. Kenobi is the guide, the teacher, the one who sends the hero onward with the information he needs. Kenobi fighting Vader is what gives our heroes time to escape. When they’ve reached the Falcon, Kenobi needs no longer fight. He’s also taught Luke what he has to teach, guided him to where he needs to go, and so, his work done, he is able to move on.
A for the ghosts, Lucas is a hamhanded filmmaker. I imagine he really does see them as actual smiling waving advice giving spirits. But we who are not children can see what these ghosts represent–memories of those who have passed on. The “advice” Luke is given by Kenobi might be read simplistically as a ghost talking to him, or else more thoughtfully as the echoes of Kenobi’s (and Yoda’s) teachings spurring Luke on to a deeper understanding of who he is and what he needs to do.
Han and Ren have little if anything to do with archetype. As the latest Force Awakens article on the site suggests, just two more scenes dealing with this relationship before it’s concluded would solve essentially all its problems. Of course it’s easy to fill in all the backstory you want between Han and Ren, but there’s nothing emotionally satisfying about such explanations. We want to see these people DO things, we want to see them REACT, we want to know them before they go around killing each other.
Guys, I think you’re being a bit lazy in this discussion. You’re also misrepresenting what happens in the original trilogy. In Empire Strikes Back, Kenobi tells Luke to go to a specific planet and study under Yoda. Luke had never heard of Yoda before. This is new information, not Luke’s memories, and not some spiritual awakening.
Also, Leia is not on her way to Tatooine. She’s on her way to the rebel base to bring the plans that will help them destroy the Death Star. She puts the plans and her message in R2D2 and tells them to find Kenobi. Luke just happens to become their custodian, because his uncle just happens to buy them from the guys who just happen to kidnap them. And Luke just happens to be strong with the force, and just happens to be the best fighter pilot in the resistance. (Not to mention just happening to be Vader’s son, though this isn’t established until another film, of course.)
Anyway, look, you’re making arguments against me as if I’d said The Force Awakens isn’t full of ridiculous coincidences, as if I’ve said all the exposition works to the film’s advantage, as if I’ve said I’m in love with the damn thing. So let me be clear: I am not defending this film against all criticism. I’ve even said (more than once) that I agree with a lot of the criticisms you’ve made. But I did enjoy the movie and I think it does what it was supposed to do very well. I think it has a lot of merit, despite all of its weaknesses. I’ve been trying to point out some of the areas where I think your criticism has been overly harsh. I have not been trying to argue that the film is perfect, or even anywhere close to perfect.
But maybe you should watch the original Star Wars again, and see how it compares to the new one. You might find that a lot of your complaints about the new one apply to the old as well.
Oh, and about archetypes. Why are you allowed to use the archetype argument to justify Kenobi’s otherwise inexplicable death scene, but not Han’s? Han is the wayward father who doesn’t realize how to get his son back. Ren is the petulant youth who cannot control his anger, and cannot see his way back to his family. Why can’t Han’s death be an archetypal moment in that respect?
Of course, you can say that Kenobi’s character in the original Star Wars is established so much better than Han’s in The Force Awakens. But if you look again, you will find that is entirely not, in any way, even remotely true.
you are certainly right that my memory of the original films is fuzzy. sorry about that; not laziness — juggling too many things. i’ll have to watch them again.
as i recall, however, they are original. new characters. new worlds. new ideas. a new kind of filmmaking. all of that requires a ton of creative energy; creative energy the Force Awakens lacks.
is it a fun space adventure? that’s a subjective assessment. to each his or her own. but you can’t judge Star Wars and the Force Awakens on equal footing. one created something with resonance and staying power. the other cribbed heavily from that thing and moved some pieces around to tell basically the same story in slipshod, haphazard way.
i wasn’t expecting it to be brilliant. i was just expecting it to try something — anything — exciting.
sincere apologies. this is a discussion i’d love to spend more thought/time on but… baby’s crying.
I wouldn’t say you are wrong to find it dull or boring or disappointing or whatever. But it’s one thing to say the film is not what you wanted, and another to say that it is not what any true fan would want. Maybe you wouldn’t put it in those terms, but the thing is, if the majority of fans are more than satisfied with the film, and you claim it lacks authenticity, then maybe you’re missing something. And when you consider that maybe your memory of the original films isn’t as clear as it could be . . . Well, you get what I’m saying.
I do, and I appreciate your verve in this and other comment threads. Thanks.
Here’s the thing though, and of course I can only speak subjectively: sometimes stories work and sometimes they don’t. There are guidelines for how to make stories work, based on centuries of experience, but they aren’t guarantees. The flaws you point out about Star Wars are there, but there’s also something else there, something that taps into our deep need for stories that resonate. That’s why I see so much meaning in Kenobi’s death; because that action resonates (SB calls it archetypal characterization but that’s another way of saying the same thing).
I don’t think people are wrong for liking Force Awakens. I think people, in general, have stopped being demanding of their entertainment and that has gradually degraded the quality of films (but, due to different competitive models, not TV). I’d be the first to admit that I am certainly more demanding than most and more demanding than I was when I first or even last saw Star Wars.
But that’s not important.
I’m here to share my opinions, not to impose them on anyone.
Even if Star Wars was horribly flawed, there’s no reason why this film should be a lazy retread of it. I would hope that the talent available in Hollywood could take an idea — flawed or not — and run with it. That’s not what I’m seeing. Articles today admit Abrams et. al. haven’t even figured out how this trilogy ends yet — just like they hadn’t figured out how Lost ended, and look how that turned out.
Lucas, for all of his many flaws, knew where he was going with Star Wars. I see that evidenced in the story (I recall imperfectly). Here, I don’t see that evidenced. I see a lot of rough ideas thrown at the wall and an intention to figure it all out later on down the line. To figure out why or how or who Finn is later. To build a backstory for Snoke when they have to. Its a method of filmmaking that is common, but one that’s short sighted.
But we’ll see, won’t we? We’ll see if the kids of today respond to this film as we did to Star Wars, and if when they’re 40 they stand in line to buy Rey toys. I suspect they won’t. Marvel’s doing a better job of building worlds and I don’t love their stuff either.
If you want to write your thoughts and opinions up about this film, we’d publish them. They’re valid and considered and have emotion wrapped up in them, which is good. Just let me know.
Thanks for trying to change my mind.
I agree with a lot of that. Though I don’t think it’s fair to expect a new generation to respond to any film the way kids did to the original trilogy. The relationship between childhood and film has changed too much, and the original Star Wars films played a significant role in that. Also, I don’t see clear evidence of a fully-worked-out narrative in the original Star Wars. Also, I read that Rian Johnson (who is writing Episodes 8 and 9) met repeatedly with Abrams during the filming of Episode 7, so there will at least have been at attempt at a cohesive story spanning the three films. I’m willing to keep an open mind about the the quality of the next two films, but I’m not getting my hopes up. (Looper, anyone?) Anyway, thank you very much for offering to publish my review here. I don’t think I have much more to say about all of this, and I don’t think I want to put all my thoughts together into a stand-alone review, but maybe I’ll feel differently in a few days.
I guess I hope that kids can still react to EXCELLENT storytelling in any form the way we did. We can (and have) argued that SW wasn’t excellent storytelling… not moved to argue further.
Again, working from faded memory, I believe Lucas started out making Star Wars after mapping out the full 9 films. Why that map turned to such garbage for Eps 1, 2 & 3, I can’t say and don’t need to nerd out to that level anyway. Likely because Lucas isn’t that good a storytelling, just bright enough to crib from smarter folks.
Looper did blow, but I liked Rian Johnson’s first two features quite a bit. Brick especially.
Here’s what I want to leave you with, though, in response to what you’re saying here and elsewhere, and what I’ve been trying to put into words (and the other authors, here, perhaps, too, of whom one is a professional screenwriter and the other two have had some success in the field).
I’m going to leave you with questions, some answered.
In Star Wars:
Who is the main character: Luke Skywalker
What does he want: Adventure / heroism, i.e. To go off and fight with the Rebellion.
Does the film, from start to finish, chronicle his pursuit of that goal and the obstacles he overcomes to achieve it: Yes.
I’d be surprised if you had any arguments with those statements.
In the Force Awakens:
Who is the main character:
What does he/she want:
Does the film, from start to finish, chronicle that pursuit and the obstacles:
From my perspective, that lack of clarity — who is the main character? Rey? Finn? Ren? Solo? What do any of them really, clearly want? Is it Leia’s search for Luke that the film is about? Is it Rey’s desire to stay on Jakku and await her missing family? Is it Finn’s need to escape the First Order? Solo’s hunt for the Falcon? Ren’s struggle with the dark side? All of which are there, to varying degrees… but none of which drive the film, which lead me to answer the third question with a ‘no.’
That no means, in very definitive terms, that the film isn’t structured with any adherence to the basic rules of screenwriting. It could be seen as a very successful art film, like Slacker, which lacks a 3-act plot, or be said to have multiple leads, like Love Actually, but not really as it doesn’t have a main through-plot and it doesn’t have a discernible theme that connects all the stories the way ensemble films do and should.
You can ask these basic questions about any film, and usually, even for crappy ones, you know without thinking about it what the answers are. I can’t answer them for The Force Awakens without a lot assumptions and mental gymnastics. It’s about “Star Wars” and that’s not enough. The main character should be Rey, but of all the characters, her motivations are the least motivating. She is reluctant to leave Jakku. She is reluctant to take the light saber. She doesn’t want to adopt BB-8. What does she want? Why? I’m not being snide when I say I really don’t know, because she doesn’t let me know, and what she wants seemingly shifts without warning. And so is it satisfying when she finds Luke (her father?) at the end? Not for me. Because she didn’t want that for most of the film. I don’t recall her ever behaving in a way that suggests she wants anything but to go home and to do basic things like survive and protect her friends.
We can say that she wanted her family (and assume that’s Luke) from the beginning, but that need didn’t DRIVE her actions, and if it is the main plot of the film, saying that reveal will come in Episode VIII isn’t gonna cut it. Not dramatically; i.e. by the rules of drama. If she found out Luke was her dad at the end of Act I, then YES. Good. Then her search for family can lead her into life-risking battle with the First Order, for the honor of her family, and, at the end, to Luke and we all cry and cheer.
But that didn’t happen.
I have — I agree, without enough focus — been driving towards that. That’s why I didn’t connect with the Force Awakens. It isn’t ABOUT anything. It is a film in which a lot of (cool) stuff happens to a lot of (attractive) characters who are more-or-less interesting, but not compelling, because I don’t really know what they want and so I can’t want them to get it, or fail.
Now. People can call that being too demanding, or having unreasonable expectations, or not being willing to enjoy myself, but from my perspective, wanting a major motion picture to follow centuries of tried and true and foundational tenets of drama? That’s fair. People can and should experiment, but that’s not what this film is: it is in no way an experiment. It’s just bad writing. As much as anyone can say so objectively: it is bad writing.
That’s why writers don’t like it. If you don’t care about writing — and you don’t have to — you can obviously enjoy it much more.
I am glad people enjoyed it. I might see it again and see if I can enjoy it myself more. But these problems can’t be fixed in retrospect.
I’ll shut up now. I’m not trying to convince you or anyone not to like it. I’m just trying to put into words what I found disappointing about it.
I honestly don’t want to get caught up in a big back and forth. I liked the movie, but I acknowledge that I like it because I like Star Wars and I like lightsaber battles and x-wings fighting tie-fighters. And that’s enough for me.
But anyway, I see a lot wrong in your long reply here. We don’t know why Rey is on Dakku, just like with Luke, until the second movie. I imagine Max Von Sydow is there watching over her in some way, probably the one holding her hand in her flashback. My point being we don’t know yet, and we didn’t in A New Hope, and that was fine. Also, Finn doesn’t know how to blow up Starkiller Base, or whatever. It’s a plot point. He’s a janitor, but he lies because he wants to help Rey, and then they figure out how to blow it up. There’s a huge, clunky scene where the Rebellion, or whatever, figures out how to blow it up.
Also, Han says he scanned the Millenium Falcon, that’s how he found it. And there’s a throw-away line that explains why they couldn’t track it on the planet before then. It’s pretty thin, yes, but it is explained.
My biggest problem is all the stuff with Han’s death. That was poorly handled. But ultimately, it’s a space movie, and I had a really good time watching it. It doesn’t totally hold up under scrutiny exactly, but I honestly don’t care, as the characters were strong and the dialogue was snappy (mostly), and it kept me going through what looked and felt like a Star Wards movie.
I’m glad you liked it and that you wanted to add your two cents and that you don’t want to get into a back and forth.
My opinions are coalescing as I write these comments; perhaps later than they should have, but then, there’s nothing wrong with changing one’s mind. While I respect that you enjoyed the dialogue and characters, I felt the characters derivative and/or questionable (not the acting, the characters) and the dialogue seriously clunky and expositional. But whatever.
What I think Force Awakens lacked more than anything else was the originality that made you care about Star Wars in the first place. I may have been foolish to expect that, but I never claimed I wasn’t foolish.
Most of what was new in Force Awakens — Finn as AWOL storm trooper, say — didn’t make much sense. Everything else felt like something we’d already seen just slightly bigger, or turned on its head, or whatever. God Made Slugs gets into some of that in his post and I won’t repeat.
I can see how returning to that world, regardless of the lack of originality, was what you wanted and what most people wanted and why that was satisfying for all of youz. That’s all well and good.
I think you can probably also see how what I wanted was to return to that world to see something new — not a new version of Tattooine, or a new death star, or a new Luke, Yoda, Han, Vader, Emperor, etc: something really new. Something that made me think, or stuck in my head, or sparked my imagination.
There may be very little new under the sun, but Star Wars takes place under a million suns. I’m no longer going to be impressed with “I’m your father” or death stars or light sabers, even if they have weird crosspieces. Try something new. You certainly can afford to.
Hopefully that’ll happen in Episode VIII.
True story; I watched the original Star Wars with my eight-year-old, and after an hour, she asked, “Who is this movie about?”
Rey is a very believable, engaging character, and not nearly as annoying or one-dimensional as Luke in the original.
I’m obviously not saying it’s great writing. But your take on this is quite a bit too much to swallow.
That’s fine. Don’t swallow it then. But it does seem as if, aside from your anecdote, you’re responding to arguments I didn’t make.
Your argument now is that it’s fine to find things to like about the movie, but the writing is indefensible. I find that too extreme. The writing has strengths and weaknesses. I found character motivations to be very clear throughout, and never found it hard to follow what was happening or why. So I just don’t buy it when you say “writers don’t like it.” Some don’t, but I am sure a whole lot do. And I don think the movie is nearly as weak as you say, in terms of dramatic structure. You seem to be acting as if it cannot be somewhere between perfection and total shite.
Who is the main character?
What did he or she want?
How is the film about that pursuit?
You’re fighting a lot of straw man arguments and doing well against them. I never said it had no merit or that Rey wasn’t likable or that Luke wasn’t a whiny brat.
The Force Awakens isn’t your father. It can lack a dramatic structure and you can still like it. Please do.
You seem to be saying the writing has no merit. I am disagreeing. i don’t think the film is as lacking in dramatic structure as you do. So I don’t see where I’m attacking straw men. But maybe we can pick this up later. I’m not interested in trying to change your mind at the moment by providing a thorough analysis of the film’s plot. I will say, though, that Rey, Finn and Ren are the main characters. The film progresses primarily by virtue of their choices, which are generally based in character. Maybe see it again and see what you think. But in the meantime, I’ll just observe that you haven’t said anything that makes me doubt all this.
I am saying, extremely clearly, it has no dramatic structure.
No one has requested a thorough analysis. The fact that it seems challenging to answer my three simple questions proves my point better than anything I can write could.
It seems like you’re defensive about this film and your opinions of it. Don’t be. This post is about how you’re not your ideas or the things you like.
If what I’ve written hasn’t introduced any doubt into your mind, so it goes. All I’m trying to do is share.
You say it doesn’t have any dramatic structure to speak of. And I think you are being way too harsh. The fact that I am not compelled to offer detailed answers to your questions is not proof of anything other than the fact that discussing this film with you has grown tiresome.
It might be interesting to see what you think after revisiting the original and then episode 7.
Just because this is going to bug me, I’ll give short answers to your questions.
I’d actually say Rey is the MAIN main character. Finn is secondary. Ren and Han are the main supporting characters after Finn.
Rey wants to find her rightful place in the universe. She feels abandoned and alone, and has learned to do a hell of a lot to survive. When she meets Finn, she is excited by the prospects of joining the resistance. But she still feels like her place is back on that planet, because that is where she had been abandoned. She is still torn. Then she finds Luke’s light saber and realizes that her destiny is somewhere else. When she finds Luke, she is finally where she is meant to be.
That’s the main arc of the film. It’s not hard to see it. I think, if you watched it again, you might find it more compelling than at first. I also think you might enjoy a film-to-film comparison between Episodes 4 and 7. There are very deep similarities in how they are structured, and The Force Awakens actually plays off of the original film in interesting ways. So, in short, I think it is downright absurd–ridiculous–to claim that The Force Awakens has no dramatic structure. I don’t mean that as a personal attack: We can all be absurd sometimes.
Thanks. I’m glad you added this response. I felt poorly about the way this discussion would have been left, otherwise.
I’d love to get into what you say above further, but I sense that you’re done, and reasonably so. I’m also feeling like I’ve got other, more important things to think about.
I see now where you’re coming from and why you objected to my statements. Our differences are real, but we’re coming at this from very different places. I’m content to leave it at that.
If at some later date, you want to hear more of what I have to say, I’ll likely still be here. Maybe, by then, I’ll have watched Ep 4 and 7 again.
And let’s look at A New Hope for comparison’s sake:
Luke is an anxious youth who wants a bigger, more exciting role in the world. When his uncle buys a droid carrying a secret message for Kenobi, Luke learns that his father was a Jedi. When Luke’s guardians–his aunt and uncle–are killed, he realizes there’s nothing left for him on that planet, so he joins Kenobi and decides to try to become a Jedi like his father. He manages to use the force, with Kenobi’s spiritual guidance, allowing him to blow up the death star. He’s thus taken the first big step towards finding his role in the universe.
Very similar to The Force Awakens. And like Episode VII, Episode IV starts with a lot of drama and situations that do not directly establish the main story line.
Episode IV opens with the attack on Leia’s ship, the escape of R2 and C3PO, the capture and selling of the droids. We are introduced to Leia and Darth Vader, and a love/hate relationship between the two droids, before Luke’s plot line begins at all.
Episode VII opens with the attack on that planet, Finn’s inner conflict, the interrogation of Poe, and Finn and Poe’s escape.
Rey’s story emerges out of the larger conflict, just as Luke’s does in the original.
And you could complain that this arc relies too much on coincidences and contrivances: Rey just happens to find the droid, and just happens to get captured by Han, and just happens to find Luke’s light saber? What are the odds?
My response has been to point out that the same criticism can be made about the original Star Wars, too. Leia’s ship just happens to get attacked next to Luke’s planet. Luke just happens to become custodian of R2D2. And the Millennium Falcon just happens to get captured by the death star (for no apparent reason), allowing Luke, Han and Obi-Wan to find Leia.
In both films, the coincidences and contrivances are forgivable flaws, because what is ultimately important and satisfying in these films (apart from the action and special effects) are the characters and their interrelationships. Plot contrivances are always going to be in the background in these films.
I’m not saying The Force Awakens is as good as the original Star Wars, by the way, but I’m not saying it’s worse, either.
There is one thing that we haven’t touched on that I would criticize: pretty much everything about how the handled Chewbacca. It seems like they included him only because they thought he should be there, but they didn’t quite know what to do with him. After Han’s death, Chewie reacts emotionally. That was necessary. But then what? Chewie is just out of the picture. When they return, Chewie walks right past Leia. They don’t even acknowledge each other. Instead, Leia embraces Rey. After learning that Han died, wouldn’t Leia hug Chewie? Wouldn’t she at least acknowledge him? The hug between Leia and Rey didn’t convince me, either, but this goes back to the long-standing problem of Leia’s lack of emotional depth. Her presence in this film was often downright awkward.
So, yeah, as I’ve been saying from the start, there is plenty to criticize here. But I still admire what they were able to pull off, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.
This is becoming beyond absurd. You are right–Abrams ripped off the entire plot of Star Wars for the Force Awakens. We are now in complete agreement on this point. Your earlier argument, which boils down to “The Force Awakens is a good movie because Star Wars sucks too” is not a persuasive one.
Let’s talk about the use of coincidence in drama. In short–any story may BEGIN with coincidence. In fact, this is how many DO begin. It’s good drama. A man wanders down a lonely dirt road in the middle of South Dakota–and there, begging for change, is a woman, the girl he once met as a child on a trip to Botswana! And so a tale unwinds from there. No one cares about how amazingly unlikely this is, because unlikely things happens all the time. It’s BECAUSE something unlikely has happened that we are being told this story.
What is not acceptable in good drama in when coincidence figures in later in a story as a cover for logic, be it emotional, plot, or character related. A man’s problems cannot be SOLVED because he randomly runs into a woman he knew as a child on his trip to Botswana. This feels cheap and contrived. It is the sign of terrible story-telling, of laziness.
Star Wars begins with a coincidence: Leia sends Artoo off with a message for Kenobi–to the very planet where he is hiding. And we don’t care. Because that’s what starts the story–the time a princess sent her message into the void–AND IT FOUND ITS RECIPIENT! That’s the start of a story. Little else could be called “coincidence” at the outset. Artoo is a droid. On Tatooine, Jawas collect, repair/junk droids, and sell them. They find Artoo. Luke and his uncle need a droid. They but one off of the Jawas. Luke finds the message. His uncle knows the man mentioned in the message–the crazy hermit, i.e. the guy everyone in the area clearly knows about. And as we will learn later, there’s a good reason Kenobi is there–he’s watching Luke. Call Luke buying Artoo coincidence if you like–I call it storytelling–but it doesn’t matter either way. We’re still starting our story. Luke goes to Kenobi, and there we are. The story begins.
It is not coincidence that the Falcon is taken by the Death Star. Kenobi directs them to Alderaan, because that’s where Leia lives. Because it’s where Leia lives, it’s the planet the Death Star destroys as a test. When they come across the Falcon appearing there, they grab it. They don’t know who’s on it yet. They’d grab any ship that approached.
And so on.
Star Wars may be goofy and clunky, but it tells a simple, direct story that’s grounded by characters with very clear goals.
The Force Awakens also begins with coincidence, which to me is fine, and not the issue with the movie. Presumably we will learn why Von Sydow is there on the same planet as Rey with the key piece of the map to Luke. Poe goes to get it. Ren follows him. Rey comes across BB-8, and Finn comes across them both. This is all very convenient, it’s a bit of a stretch, but like I said, this is how stories start.
Then they spot the Falcon. This is STILL okay–but barely. The Falcon is another major character. It’s becoming very, very convenient for literally everything to be in once place. And yet we’ll accept this too. Better would have been if Rey collected parts for spaceships, and if this place was actually a sort of used car lot/junkyard for old spaceships. They could have filled it with beat up, dead ships, probably a few ones we’d recognize from the original trilogy. To have the Falcon in such a place would be very believeable. But to think of that would take the five seconds I spent thinking about it. Abrams doesn’t have that kind of time or impulse.
But whatever. We’re still good. And then–things go south. Once Finn and Rey escape into space, what then? Where does the story go then? They have nowhere to go and nothing to do. Neither has any specific goal or desire. Rey wants to stick around home. Finn just wants to get away from the First Order. So…what? Maybe seek out the resistance? How? Where? It’s a dead end to the story, and we’ve barely begun.
But they’re save from wanting anything or choosing to do anything, because out of the blue, Han and Chewie show up. This is not an acceptable coincidence. Any coincidence from this point on will ring false and lazy, and so it does. Abrams is interested here in one thing only–getting Han and Chewie on the Falcon. He wants to see it, the audience wants to see it, so to him, that’s the “delightful” part. Why Han’s there, how he’s there, Abrams doesn’t give a shit, and he figures no one else will either. Get the famous characters on their famous ship, let them interact with the new characters. That’s it.
Good writers don’t pull this crap. They know it’s important to have at least some kind of logical thread, because they know such a thread makes stories satisfying at a deep level. It doesn’t take much thought, but it does take SOME. A throwaway line about scanning for the Falcon doesn’t cut it, in fact it’s worse, because it’s a flat-out admission of what’s actually happening–there is no reason, and the filmmakers don’t care.
Luke’s lightsaber is even more unforgiveable. It’s beyond mere coincidence and into the absurd. At this point, all you can do is throw up your hands and give up. Nothing will make sense, we are told, just enjoy watching the scenery.
And after that, finding Luke is sidetracked, lost, gone. It doesn’t matter for this movie whether or not anyone finds Luke. There are no stakes involved AT ALL with regards Luke and the map. Suddenly we’re worried about a Death Star, and Ren is Han’s son, and blah blah blah, we get a poorly told retread of Star Wars, and when, finally, it’s all over, everyone remembers to go look for Luke, so he can…I don’t know. That’s for another movie. Which it’s fine to have Luke’s story be in another movie, but not when you set up THIS movie to be about finding Luke.
And, I’m afraid, so on. This movie…sigh.
“Your earlier argument, which boils down to “The Force Awakens is a good movie because Star Wars sucks too” is not a persuasive one.”
That was never my argument. I expect you know that.
Our disagreement seems to boil down to this: I claim the movie is objectively flawed, but those flaws do not make it a bad movie. You claim that the movie is objectively flawed, and those flaws do make it a bad movie.
Evil Genius claimed the objective flaw is a complete lack of narrative structure. I disagree. That is not the objective flaw.
You, Supreme Being, claim the objective flaw is an over-reliance of coincidence and lack of grounding in clear character motivations. I disagree here, as well. I agree there is a heavy reliance on coincidences, but I don’t see this as a great flaw, and I don’t see it lacking grounding in character.
The objective flaws I see are: an over-reliance on exposition, some weak handling of minor characters, and a heavy reliance on coincidence. The last of these is the least problematic, in my opinion.
First off, when Rey and Finn take off together in the Falcon, Rey thinks Finn is part of the resistance and that he needs to get back to his base. She wants to help him get back. This is a pivotal moment in her arc, and her motivations are clear. Finn has lied to her. He’s improvising, trying to save his skin. Again, the motivations are clear. There’s no shortage of character development.
And is it such an unforgivable stretch to think that Han was able to pick up a signal from the Millennium Falcom. It’s a coincidence, but not an absurd one.
The biggest coincidence, we agree, is the light saber. We are not given a reason to think that Rey would just happen across it. However, I think this can still work for a lot of people. The thing is, what helps some fans forgive all the coincidences in the original is that they believe Luke was meant to fight his father. He was meant to find R2D2 and study under Kenobi. After all–as we know through exposition–Kenobi knew his father, who was also a Jedi. This exposition and coincidence make us believe in Luke’s journey. It’s not just that the coincidence and exposition help set up the character arc. They are pivotal in making us believe in it. And Kenobi apparently believes that Luke has some great purpose. Otherwise, why wouldn’t he use his Jedi powers to help the resistance in other ways? If you just look at the original Star Wars, there is no explanation at all as to why this great Jedi warrior makes any of the choices he makes–including his death. But there is this underlying feeling that it was all just meant to be. I think it’s much the same with The Force Awakens. Rey happens to get close enough to the light saber just when she needs to, so that she is able to respond when it calls out to her? That smacks of destiny. Again, since you’re so keen on thinking archetypally, why turn off that level of analysis when confronted with this new film?
Anyway, even if you reject that argument, I still don’t see why this one big coincidence is so damning. Some coincidences are okay if they’re in the first act, but not if they’re in the second? That seems like an arbitrary principle. Have you ever applied it to other films? If a coincidence facilitates the plot and character development, and doesn’t belittle the climax or resolution, then what’s the big problem?
And, no, I think the death star capturing the Millennium Falcon is out of the blue. Is the Empire forbidding transport ships from flying in that area? And they’re not suspicious when the vehicle turns up empty? Earlier in the film, they could detect life forms on spacecraft. Now they can’t? This is all lazy writing.
Which is not to say Star Wars sucks. It’s only to say it is objectively flawed.
I think you are trying too hard to ignore the subjective aspect of your problems with The Force Awakens. You’re looking for objective justifications for something that is more about your own interests and expectations.
I just rewatched the scene from the original Star Wars, when the Falcon is captured. They try to explain it by saying that the ship has “the same markings” as the one that blasted its way out of Mos Eisley. So you could explain that as the Empire just being cautious, capturing any ship that might be suspicious. That’s fine. But that they wouldn’t notice that there were life forms, when earlier in the film they were able to detect life forms?
Anyway, this is all fussing about details. The main point I’ve been trying to argue is more general: Clearly the overwhelming majority of fans are satisfied with the new film, even though they are very aware it is flawed and that it borrows heavily from the original. Your point seems to be that this is because the standards of audiences are lower than before. That might have something to do with it. But it’s also possible that there is more to appreciate than what you are letting on. I am possibly the most critical film audience I know, and I am willing to give this movie a pass on its flaws. My standards are higher, not lower, than they have ever been. So your attempt to explain the positive response to this film is not convincing. I think you’re missing something.
What is needed here is obviously a detailed comparison of Rey and Luke’s character arcs, which I have just produced: http://specterofreason.blogspot.com/2016/01/luke-skywalker-and-rey-comparing.html
The conclusion: Rey’s arc is similar to Luke’s, but more compelling.
No need to thank me.