Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015): a failed review

A whole year ago, the world was treated to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first live-action Star Wars movie in over a decade. I sat down to write my review of that film way back then and… nothing. Blank. Couldn’t write it.

Earlier this year, I tried again. Still no luck. A few months ago, my co-Boother Thomas Stockel lamented that he was reluctantly planning to recap the film before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story came out this year and I, guilty and frustrated over my procrastination, volunteered to take the bullet. But alas, again, I failed.

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I tried a recap, but re-watching the film only filled me with anger and hate, feelings Master Yoda warned me off of many moons ago in the 1990s, when I was but a youngling. It was a strange feeling; I remember the first time I watched the movie, I was disappointed, but I didn’t feel it was terrible or anything, just a letdown. The film still had things to commend about it: excellent special effects… other stuff… excellent effects… etc… but while I had frustrations with the film and could think of numerous plot holes and other annoyances, overall I found it to be little worse than average, a passable movie that (I thought) would make fair background noise if there was nothing else to watch and I needed a distraction. A serviceable way to pass the time. I never imagined that the film would grow to irritate me more and more over the following year to the point where I can now barely stand to watch it even for a recap.

But yet, it did. What was there to say? What could I criticize or point out that a million voices across the world wide web haven’t already cried out about in nerd-rage? Or if not rage, at least nerd-whine? Beyond that, recapping the movie could not be done in good conscience without going over point by point every time the film paid homage/ripped off one of its predecessors, creating pale imitations that only reminded me I could be watching something better.

And yes, I confess: I say this as a fan of the old Legends/Expanded Universe series of novels and comics and whatnot, flawed though they may be, and I did indeed find it difficult to sit through this film without thinking about how much better it could have been if they had taken cues from that continuity, engaged in better world-building, and introduced a number of memorable characters like Thrawn or Mara Jade or anyone but Darth Caedus (of the all the ideas this film chose to take from the books…). But even given that, and putting it aside, judging the movie on its own merits, I found rewatching it to be tedious.

So, I tried instead to make a list of five or so points of everything that annoyed me the most about this movie—again, not exactly something that hasn’t been done before—including everything from the fact that the opening crawl hits the reset button on the story so that Han, Luke, Leia, and the rest are more or less back where they started, just older, with another new rebellion and Luke again the last of the Jedi after his new Jedi Order was destroyed (because we wouldn’t have wanted to see that story, now would we?); or the fact that many of the planets are uninspired and unexplored and one is an outright copy of Tatooine; that the film introduces a bunch of new alien races that could have come from any other generic sci-fi movie while most of the classic ones are relegated to the background, if present at all; or the fact that there’s not a single memorable moment in the musical score save the ones we’ve already heard from the previous movies; to the myriad issues I have with Kylo Ren and the First Order as villains, and so on.

But again, I felt defeated. My review, my critique, felt too much like a chore, and it shouldn’t feel that way. Even if I am writing an angry review, I should feel some sense of catharsis at letting off steam and venting my frustrations, not a sense of growing irritation and a desire to get it over and done with mixed with a sense of plain old “ugh”. Writing this review, or attempting to write it at least, was depressing me. And I kept putting it off and avoiding it. And avoiding it. Until here we are and Rogue One has finally come out, and it’s still not done.

The Force Awakens is a shallow experience, forgettable if not for being a beat-for-beat copy of two much better films, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back respectively. Dialogue, comedy, and effects serve to disguise a thin, hole-ridden plot and lazy writing that wants to deliver a lot of empty “nostalgia” without earning any of its moments.

That would be my summary, but I don’t think it’s worth it. This article is not a proper recap or review, it’s a white flag. I surrender. You beat me, JJ Abrams: you bored me to death. This article is as empty, pointless, and repetitive as the movie I sat through, and much like the film, there are other ones out there that can do the job better than either of us did. I know other people enjoyed it and fair play to them, but if you want to know how I feel about the film, this dreck of an article is basically my piece of crap post-modern art, a work of minimalism that sums up my feelings about the film. If you’re as disappointed in this article as I was in the film, then my feelings have been transmitted.  

I apologize for wasting anyone’s time, but I felt the need to get this off my chest. I cautiously look forward to Rogue One and hope it’s better, and I feel a faint sense of foreboding when I think of 2017 and seeing Episode VIII.    

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  • Thomas Stockel

    If you feel like crying, man, then just let the tears come. Hug your pillow and scream into it until your throat’s raw. You got a cat? Pet your cat a lot. Let the healing begin.

    • Jonathan Campbell

      No, I don’t have a cat :'(

      But I don’t feel like crying either. I just feel…annoyed. Irritated.

      About to watch Rogue One. Hope it’s better.

  • Premonition_45

    It’s like the producers were so scared of angering the ultra-hardcore fanboys that they neglected to give the film its own identity.

  • Greenhornet

    I’m an old fart.
    I saw “Star Wars” (There can never be a “New Hope” for me) back in the ’70’s and remember when people stood and CHEERED at the end!
    Then came the disappointment when the studios came away with the wrong lesson from Star Wars and flung special effects, light swords, space ships and cute robots at the audience, nearly killing science fiction movies. I became leery of the sequels and didn’t see them until I was sure they would not be crap.
    For me, the story ended on Endor. However, I softened a little for the Disney/MGM park ride, the RPG and the comics. I even watched the “Clone Wars” cartoon with interest; but still, I had let go long ago while things were still good.
    I’m just a bitter old man.

    • Thomas Stockel

      You’re not alone, man. Star Wars’ best days are behind us and it’s sad that so many people I find on Facebook are apologists or people with very, very low standards.

  • NameWithheldByRequest

    “…would make fair background noise if there was nothing else to watch and I needed a distraction.”

    This is exactly how I’ve managed to watch this film multiple times. In fairness, the criticisms of this film, all well deserved IMHO, can be leveled against every single one of J. J. Abrams’ films. All the tedium, plot holes, etc., in this film are evident aplenty in the first two Trek films. They’re watchable, as long as you turn off your brain or are suitably distracted, but they’re mediocre at best, infuriatingly bad if you’re paying attention (which I don’t recommend). Which is why I’m looking forward to Rogue One, because these franchises tend to improve once Abrams is out of the picture, as happened with Star Trek Beyond.

    • Jonathan Campbell

      Rogue One is definitely a very different beast, and more watchable in my opinion.

      • NameWithheldByRequest

        Well, that’s encouraging to hear. I really liked Gareth Edwards’ Monsters, so my expectations for Rogue One are really high. On the other hand, Godzilla was meh, not bad, but not great either. Mostly because Bryan Cranston, the best thing in that film, was killed off in the first fifteen minutes.

  • Daniel Gonzalez

    FUCK OFF AND DIE TFA WAS GREAT!!! FUCK EVERYONE ON THIS WEBSITE TO DAMNATION OF MANKIND!!!!! i swear to god if i do ot find ONE positive review on this website im going to shoot a gun in my mouth!!!

    • Greenhornet

      Don’t hold back, tell us how you REALLY feel.

      • Kradeiz

        Well, since we made it to ten whole comments above with no one resorting to vitriol or pointless name-calling, I guess we were due.

  • K

    Whatever problems I had with TFA, I have to admit that the final shot of an older, tired but still formidable Luke Skywalker made me want to see Episode VIII right away.

  • Gallen Dugall

    If you’re invested in Prequel hate it is impossible to be objective about TFA.
    Many things work in TFA. Daisy Ridley turns in an astoundingly captivating performance given the utter pile of nothing that is her character and the script. If the Prequels had possessed a Daisy Ridley quality performance anywhere in them they would have be beloved by fandom. Also all the special effects and action scenes are competently directed because that’s all JJ Abrams is good at.
    Unfortunately it is worse than the Prequels in some areas. For one thing it is astoundly unambitious. George Lucas should properly be remembered as an experimental filmmaker who lucked into commercial success with the original Star Wars while dramatically pushing the art of filmmaking forward with every project he made. TFA should properly be remembered as a competently made and well presented name recognition fandom pandering cash grab.
    Also TFA is not a rip off of A New Hope. It’s a rip off of the first third of Knights of the Old Republic. Rey is so Revan it physically hurts. I grasped that ten minutes in.

  • trustno173 .

    Overall I ultimatley enjoyed The Force Awakens but it was far from being perfect as people claim it was. It suffered from a lot of problems like:

    Bland unoriginal and uninteresting worlds Tatooine 2.0, Yavin 4 2.0, Starkiller base being just Hoth, Endor, and the Death Star put together, and some island off the coast of Ireland with a name that sounds like a sneeze. They all look like places you can go to on earth after the prequels (and Cloud City) gave us actual worlds that feel like alien worlds)

    Dialogue that sounds weird coming out of Star Wars, Who talks first? and some of Finn’s lines in the third act really stand out since he probably should have been a bit awkward talking to normal people after years of the Order’s harsh training.

    Lame puppet effects that would only look good for a second of screen time in The Dark Crystal.

    The predictability of Han Solo’s death (the moment I heard Harrison Ford said yes to the movie I knew Solo was dead).

    Maz Katana just vanishing and JJ’s excuse for it was rather dumb.

    Dropping the interesting ‘find Luke’ plot for rehashing the Death Star, and while were at that Luke’s appearance in the movie should have been a secret, that way when we see him at the end it would have a big surprise and a bit more powerful. (Also did you know Mark Hamil wasn’t really there? They had to green screen him in because he couldn’t leave America due to voice acting commitments.)

    Not making Snoke a good enough villain (he should have ordered Hux to blow up Hosnian Prime and Hux would hesitate but go along with it out of fear), Phasma being a pointless attempt to create a new Boba Fett, taking off Kylo Ren’s mask too soon, if he had taken his mask off only in front of Han it would have been much more powerful.

    Poe (aka Wedge 2.0) just coming back without an explanation, he was supposed to die but Oscar Issac wouldn’t do it if he did… then why not just get another actor? They could have at least said how he got back.

    No explanation for what’s going on in the Galaxy with the republic, so they literally had to put out an explanation for why the Republic wasn’t helping out. Again, saying that because the prequels featured politics we shouldn’t, which has always baffled me since the prequel trilogy lasts about seven and a half hours and the politics scenes maybe take up twenty minutes, if that since a lot of them were cut (in the process hurting RotS imo), its like blaming every flaw your new boss has on the old boss, it’s just lazy.

    Maz just having Anakin/Luke’s lightsaber and when questioned says “That’s a story for another time.” It’s just as laughable as when Halloween 3’s villain somehow got part of Stonehenge to America and when questioned how he just laughs and says a similar thing.

    Lack of aliens from the other movies, which doesn’t harm the story over all but it is a bit odd there are no rodians, twi’leks, zabraks, ithorians, or others around.

    I didn’t like the idea of Luke and Han running away as soon as things got bad, leaving Leia to clean up the mess but I hope that will be explained in future movies.

    They didn’t show us Kylo Ren getting rescued so some of the audience assumed he died with the planet. I remember an old woman saying “That little punk deserved to die for killing Harrison Ford” only for me to tell her that he lived, they just didn’t show it, I had to laugh at the disappointed look on her face. (This also makes me wonder how Phasma escaped since they say she’s not dead)

    I won’t count the ‘Rey is a Mary Sue’ thing, since that’s as exaggerated as Jar-Jar’s reputation (I never found him to be annoying) and it’s a bit unfair since Kylo did capture her and I do think their duel at the end was reasonably evenly matched, but she was a bit too good at times like knowing the Falcon so well (there was an explanation but JJ in all his wisdom cut it) and somehow knowing about the Mind Trick, but I didn’t mind her talent at all.

    It got The Clone Wars canceled with three seasons left to go. TCW is my favorite part of Star Wars so I am very annoyed with it for that, and while it doesn’t harm the film’s story at all it was mainly because Disney didn’t want to pay for TCW because of its high budget and high amounts of violence. Seriously, if you like Star Wars check it out, even a creepily obsessed prequel hater like Simon Pegg sung high praises of it. While I do like its sequel/replacement Star Wars Rebels its clearly on a smaller budget and has stricter rules compared to how lax CN was with TCW. While Disney has let us see about 33 of the 65 episodes that were left (13 finished ones, 4 abridged in a comic book, 8 episodes that were unfinished but put up online, and 8 in a novel) we’re still clamoring for more episodes that wouldn’t be that expensive to finish while Disney wastes millions of dollars on Alice in Wonderland 2 and live action remakes of their animated classics…

    Sorry to rant there and that this is so long, I just loved TCW. I still enjoyed TFA but I think it had it problems that people willingly ignore while exaggerating the flaws of the prequels. Let’s just hope that with JJ out of the picture Episode VIII will be better.