Guess what? I watched The Force Awakens for the first time since it was in theaters over three years ago tonight. Those that read with any regularity know how I feel about the film. But if you don’t, in short, I think it’s the worst Star Wars film of the bunch (yes, I think it’s worse than The Last Jedi by a landslide). And I would go so far to say that it’s one of the worst films “period” I’ve ever seen too (for its deception of not being much more than an Episode IV reboot). That’s not hyperbole. I feel it took Star Wars down a path that a large chunk of the community couldn’t follow. Anyway, this isn’t another chance to jibe the film. I have rethought a couple of things, and I felt it is worth sharing. Click through for more.
If you watch the first act of The Force Awakens without any bias or preconceived notions and shut off your awareness of what happens in the film, and if you forget about where it ultimately goes, it might be the best sequence of the film in the entire Star Wars saga (the first act I am talking about here). Between the imagery of crashed Imperial fleet vehicles on the sands of Jakku to Rey’s little-to-no dialogue, you are engaged unlike any other Star Wars film out there. You’re not sure what’s going on, and there is an eeriness because of this. It keeps your attention. And that’s a success for any film. You take in plenty of new characters all at once, and it’s also difficult to see where the characters’ loyalties lie, and this helps to add to the wariness and uncertainty present in the film. (By the way, I wish the film went into some explanation of why so many Imperial vehicles were crashed on Jakku.)
The new techniques utilized in the Force, like Kylo Ren freeze-framing a laser bolt was a fresh change of pace, and the bloody handprint on Finn’s helmet was jaunting, and it helped to create something we haven’t’ seen before until this film. And all of these things work hard to prevent the idea that The Force Awakens is meant to be anything other than “a reboot of A New Hope.” Sadly, it fell short of this by the end. I digress. I genuinely believe all of these things that stood out for me positively are the responsibility of the parts of the script they kept that was written by Michael Arndt. In my opinion, Arndt has an uncanny ability to stay in a familiar universe while keeping things very fresh and unique. I would love to see his completed script. I bet you the story would have been incredible.
Unfortunately, things go haywire very shortly after the first act. After the attack of the Jakku village, and after BB-8 goes its way, and then the intoduction of Rey and what transpires around her initially, the film just completely falls apart for me. I wish the story took a different path because I believe what Arndt started could have been pure gold if given the opportunity. But I am also assuming he is responsible for the parts of the film I find the most exciting and enjoyable. That’s a big assumption on my part. But I have a good feeling about that.
Anyway, I still think it’s a terrible film, but I would be remiss not to acknowledge that the first act of the film is done very well. I believe that Disney started off telling a good story but then went in a direction that I couldn’t appreciate at all. The last two acts also forever negatively changed the story too. Of course I see eye to eye with the standard complaints of the film. These include: (1) The opportunity of us ever seeing the OT core cast of heroes together again was ripped right out from under us. (2) And of course, Rey’s instant and superhero powers negatively impacted the film by stripping the authenticity of a hero’s journey out of her hands.
I hope that if you enjoyed The Force Awakens that you continue to do so. I never bought the Blu-ray of the film, so I never expected to watch it again. But because I always have to catch Return Of The Jedi during the marathons, The Force Awakens now follows it, so it stayed on, and I found myself watching the beginning of the movie rather intently. The first act isn’t terrible. But I wish I could say the rest of the film held its ground.
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