Let’s cut directly to the chase: I found “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to be good, but not great. The storytelling seemed somewhat choppy and the whole film came off as underdeveloped–as if it was an outline of the action rather than a fully fleshed out story. That being said, there were enough potential interesting story directions to keep me thinking about the film for days afterwards.
What I liked:
- Daisy Ridley as Rey. Ridley is both charismatic and compelling in the role of Rey, the young scavenger who finds herself caught up in the fight between the Republic and the First Order.
- The graveyard of warships on Jakku.
- The rendering of the inside of the wrecked ship that Rey explores.
- Humanizing the Storm Troopers and turning them into Janissaries (the slave soldiers of the Ottoman Empire).
- Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron. Isaac is a gifted enough actor to give a lot of depth to his character.
- Harrison Ford as Han Solo. The older Han, kicked around by life, is still one of the most interesting characters in the film.
- BB-8. I realize that he’s just an R2-D2 knockoff, but for something that’s essentially just two rolling balls with no English dialogue, you really become attached to the character.
What I disliked:
- The potential storylines that weren’t followed up on. The film only hints at Leia and Han’s tragic history and I would have liked to have seen that more developed.
- The constant parade of brilliant actors who are being given next to nothing to do. Case in point, Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie).
- Painting the antagonists as bad and the protagonists as good without any nuancing or shading. There has to be something compelling about the First Order that makes people join up and stay with the organization. What is it and what is the Republic not offering?
- The lily-whiteness of the casting which is disturbing in this day and age. Tokenism isn’t progress, folks. All of the aliens seem to be in bars, very few seem to be either part of the First Order or the Republic Forces, and Finn seems to be the only black man in the galaxy.
- The guys-only feel of the whole cast which again is disturbing in this day and age. What, they couldn’t have cast half the Republic pilots as women? And what’s wrong with making General Hux female? Or Poe Dameron? I counted only four named female characters out of the entire cast and three of them–Leia, Maz, and Phasma–were in supporting roles. In many ways, Abrams’ interest in harking back to the original film also means harking back to outdated gender and racial constructs.
- General failure to explore the “civil war” aspects of the story. Inherently, the Star Wars films are about the breakup of the old Republic into two groups who then conduct a wide-ranging war against one another. Civil wars are always messy, pitting friends and family members against one another, but the only family that seems to be affected by this dynamic is the Skywalkers.
- Speaking of the Skywalkers, when are they going to be outed as enemies of the state? From Anakin on down, no member of that family seems to be able to have a personal crisis without wreaking destruction throughout the galaxy. Okay, okay, I realize that particular plot development isn’t going to happen, but couldn’t one of the other characters at least allude to it?
- Princess Leia’s costumes. C’mon, guys, just because Carrie Fisher is an older actress doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have a flattering costume and hairstyle. The uniform and braids aren’t bad, but the dress and bun she wears at the end of the film are far too matronly for her.
All that being said, I’m looking forward to the next Star Wars film and seeing where Abrams is intent on taking the story.