The Force Awakens is unoriginal, superficial and dull. The characters have none of the life or independence of those in the original trilogy. They just pant and stare at each-other with intense emotions. I’m not surprised J. J. Abrams scolded Daisy Ridley for being too wooden because he seems to like overacting rather than natural performances.
The plot is ripped off mainly from A New Hope but also episodes V and VI. Jakku is a desert planet just like Tatooine. The Starkiller (a reference to Luke’s original surname before it was changed to Skywalker) is just a big Death Star. Even in the opening titles I became suspicious with references to the First Order (basically the Empire) and the Resistance (basically the Rebellion). Apparently nothing has changed since Return of the Jedi. Some plans are hidden in a droid. They need to deactivate the shields before they can do anything. The vehicles include the Millenium Falcon, Tie fighters and X-wings. One part is a direct imitation of the dogfight in Star Wars. Heavy sigh.
Kylo Ren is one of the lamest villains in movie history. He’s an admitted imitation of Darth Vader. He wears a mask for no apparent reason. He casually takes it off at some point and reveals that he looks like a pouty teenager. He has no presence and isn’t intimidating at all. The fact that he throws tantrums is a weakness, not a strength. It’s a bad sign if I feel like I could easily beat a movie’s main villain in a fight. Also, he’s not conflicted. Near the start, he says “kill them, kill them all” in reference to innocent civilians. That’s evil.
Finn is a dumb idea for a character. A storm trooper with a change of heart? What did he think he was getting into? And how can we continue to see other storm troopers as generic henchmen if we’ve now seen that some of them might be nice guys? There’s no consistency. He’s dull and only adds some mild comic relief.
Rey is a Mary Sue. She learns the ways of the force independently in no time at all. She makes Luke look like a moron. But more to the point, her character shows that Abrams and the writers don’t understand Star Wars. Having Rey learn so quickly cheapens the force and the whole process of learning about it.
Captain Phasma is a throwaway bad guy. She’s tall. She has about two lines. That’s it. General Hux shouts until he froths at the mouth. Another sign of weakness. Tarkin was much more interesting in episode IV.
Harrison Ford is good, but wasted. One terrible scene involves him and others fighting some fake-looking CGI creatures. For whatever reasons, he broke up with Leia after they had a kid (her acting was pretty mediocre I thought, may she rest in peace). This isn’t fleshed out. And he gets killed too easily. He’s not that stupid. And we have nothing invested in his relationship with Kylo.
Abrams’ direction is flat. Everything is shot in medium close-up. Most shots are focused on a character’s face, heavy with overwrought emotion. There are few establishing shots and they are underwhelming. There’s no sense of wonder, no mystery. Nothing that compares with Luke looking at binary Suns as the Force theme swells.
John Williams is amazing but this score is forgettable and somewhat empty. I suspect he was not as inspired as usual by the material. And perhaps the pace of the movie didn’t leave enough room for the music to breathe, to develop. Kylo Ren has a 4-note motif. Rey’s theme is weak as well. There’s nothing that compares to the rich, brilliant, powerful scores of the original 6 films.
The ending is a joke. A slap in the face to fans of Star Wars but also movies in general. It’s a cliffhanger at a literal cliff. The camera swirls around, blurring the background. Mark Hamill turns to look at the camera. How profound. But the real problem is that by this point – I simply don’t care.