A Review of The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens was a great movie, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt like “Star Wars” in a way that the prequels never quite captured. It had humor, compelling characters, plenty of action, mystery, a stirring musical score, and wonderfully familiar sights and sounds. Clearly this movie was designed to induce nostalgia, and it does an exceptional job of that. It also raises a ton of unanswered questions that makes me eager to learn more.

That said, in some ways, the movie was a bit too familiar. The film almost felt like a reboot of A New Hope (and certain parts of Empire & Jedi) rather than a sequel. This isn’t exactly a complaint, just an observation. I’m sure this was a conscious decision, and I hope we’ll see more original storylines in the upcoming films.

Despite being a fantastic film, there was a lack of emotional grounding in a couple of key events. The destruction of the Hosnian system should have had more emotional resonance. How can the audience be expected to care about some planets and beings that we know nothing about? Similarly, Kylo Ren’s confrontation with Han should have been very moving. It wasn’t for me; probably because I don’t have insight into Ben Solo’s motivations. Of course A New Hope placed audiences in 1977 in a similar situation, asking viewers to care about things that they didn’t understand. I hope that once the new trilogy is complete, we’ll go back and watch these scenes a feel a deeper connection.

I can’t talk about a new Star Wars movie without discussing it in context of Star Wars Legends. Some brief background: before Disney acquired Lucasfilm, there was a very large body of Star Wars content (books, comic books, games, cartoons) collectively known as the Expanded Universe. It told the story of what happened outside of the movies. Disney made the choice to brand this material as “Legends” and start from scratch with their storyline. However for me personally, Legends is Star Wars. I’ve spent way more time with the books and comic books than I have with the movies. So while I’m excited about the new Disney storyline, I can’t help but see the new material in light of Legends.

The Star Wars Legends universe that I know and love contains characters and places that hold much more emotional capital for me than Ben Solo possibly could at this point. I don’t know Ben Solo, but I do know Jacen Solo, and when he turned to the dark side, killed Luke’s wife, and eventually had to be taken out by his twin sister Jaina, I felt it. It meant something to me because I had hours invested in reading about his character and seeing him develop over the course of years. I’m sure that my investment in Legends contributes to the feeling that The Force Awakens doesn’t have emotional impact for which I had hoped.

Disney could have helped fill that emotional gap, at least for some fans, by linking elements of the film more closely to the now discarded Legends storyline. Let Kylo Ren be Jacen. Naming him “Ben” was doubly annoying, given that Ben is the name of Luke’s son in Legends, which really makes more sense. Rather than create a new “Hosnian” system, why not use a system from Legends, that certain viewers know and care about? I understand that Disney is targeting the broad fan base of Star Wars, and not the niche audience of Legends fans, and that completely makes sense from a business perspective. I was just hoping for a little love for the fans who have been following the Star Wars saga closely for years.

All of that said, I loved The Force Awakens. It sets the stage for a new universe with the potential to be every bit as rich and memorable as Legends. I can’t wait to see where this new story takes us.

Originally posted by me, December 24, 2016, on docs.com:
https://docs.com/matthew-justice/1229/a-review-of-the-force-awakens

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