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[personal profile] 4thofeleven
So, general thoughts? I'm not exactly disapointed, but I can't help but be reminded of the quote about someone's work being both good and original, but the parts that are good are not original and the original parts are not good...

Alright, maybe that's a bit unfair, but the movie really struggles when it's not following A New Hope beat for beat.

The good:

- Finn and Rey are both excellent new characters who easily avoid being overshadowed by the returning heroes.

- BB8 manages to actually live up to the hype as a worthy replacement for R2-D2, with just as much personality despite no face or limbs.

- Maz is an excellent spin on the wise old mentor, even if I wish we'd had more time to look around her cantina.

- Chewie! Chewie gets more to do than in any previous movie and probably all the old EU put together, finally getting a chance to come into his own. I was very worried they were going to kill him off, so I'm glad he's still around and will hopefully get just as much to do in the sequels.

- Darth Caedus Kylo Ren's backstory. There's a lot about the character that I felt didn't work, but the scenes about him with Han and Leia worked very well.

The Not-So-Good:

- Kylo Ren lacks any presence as a villain. I mean, I can see what they were going for – he's in over his head, trying to emulate Vader but not quite making it, gnawed by self doubt. It could have been interesting but... well, for starters, having the new villain be explicitly “trying to live up to Vader's reputation and failing” felt a bit too on-the-nose for me, and second...

Well, he's not very competent, is he? His powers are impressive, but he never seems to have the upper hand agaist an equal opponent. There's no “Now I am the master!” moment for him; even without the Force, Finn can hold his own against him for a while in a fight! He needed to be built up as a figure of menace before revealing him as a kid out of his depth. As it is, he never really rises above “Vader cosplayer and occasional annoyance”.

- Making matters worse is Snoke as the all-new, all-different Emperor who a, has a terrible name (Seriously, did they bring Lucas back as a consultant on naming characters?!) and b, is a total cypher, leaving the film without a strong antagonist at all.

(Though General Hux was surprisingly good – he's no Peter Cushing, but who is? I hope he makes a return appearance; he had the ruthlessness and arrogance the new empire needed to be taken seriously.

- Fin's face turn feels a little abrupt. For a decent chunk of the early movie, I assumed he'd been assigned to infiltrate the resistance and was going to have a change of heart once he met them and become a genuine defector... but no, apparently he genuinely went straight to mowing down fellow stormtroopers within hours of his first combat mission.

- Carrie Fisher was utterly wasted.

- Han goes back to smuggling? I'm sorry, I can't buy it. I can believe that he and Leia drifted apart after their son's effective death, but that he'd abandon the Republic/Resistance entirely? (Or that Chewie would let him.) For that matter, the idea that he wouldn't be moving heaven and earth to get the Falcon back is inconceivable.

- The destruction of the Hosnian system. To begin with, can someone please explain to J.J. Abrams that you cannot see planets in other star systems with the naked eye?!

Second, I really don't know what the writers were going for here. The system is not mentioned before its destruction, it's barely mentioned afterwards. It should have been a major raising of the stakes; the Republic suffering a decapitating attack, the First Order establishing itself as a power to be reckoned with, Leia, Luke or Rey feeling a hideous disturbance in the Force. Instead... it's a blink and you'll miss it moment. I mean, A New Hope didn't exactly linger on Alderaan's fate, but at least people had a reaction to it, and it had a connection to characters.

(I initially thought the system destroyed was Coruscant, and I've seen other reviewers make the same mistake. As it turns out, it's a completely different city-scape planet that's home to the Republic senate and leadership. Of course it is.)

- The “Luke is Missing!” plot seems like an afterthought. I'd assumed it was going to be resolved in the sequels, but instead it's jut abruptly wrapped up with R2 waking up and just handing over the McGuffin. It also really lacks the importance of the Death Star plans. If they didn't find Luke immediately... well, they seem to be doing alright without him.

- The general sense that the events of the original trilogy achieved nothing. Thirty years on, and the Empire's slightly changed its paint job, but beyond that, our heroes are still the rebels, the Jedi are still extinct. Nothing's gotten better. Leia lost her family and planet to the Empire, now she's lost her husband and son. Anakin's redemption and Palpatine's death just changed the names of the dark lords, but tyranny still rules the galaxy.

The Baffling:

- Captain Phasma IS Boba Fett in The Return of the Over-Merchandised background character! Except Fett at least had one movie where he was good at his job; Phasma's an active liability to the Imperial cause! I assumed when she was entering the codes to lower the shields she was actually sounding an alarm, but no, she really did surrender and cooperate without any resistance. I tell you, discipline in the Empire's gone to hell since Vader died...

- So, Starkiller Base is just the Galaxy Gun from Dark Empire, right? Between that and Darth Caedus, I will not be at all surprised if later instalments feature reimaginings of Waru, the Yevetha, and that guy from the Bounty Hunter Wars with a gun for a head.

- Poe's the luckiest bastard in the galaxy, yeah? I mean, he's a fairly blandly forgettable character who seemed to be marked for death over and over. He's captured by the Empire but passes on information to his loyal droid! Well, he's of no further use to the story – oh, he gets rescued? Ah, but now his ship crashes, leaving Finn to carry on alone – oh, he somehow survived that too? Well, his reuinion with Finn is so obviously inspired by Luke and Biggs at Yavin, there's no way he's – what, he survived the battle too?! Like, I don't dislike him, but I'm not entirely sure what he was adding to the film that he needed to keep coming back.

- WHERE'S LANDO?!

So yeah, in general... eh, it wasn't actively bad, but really failed to reach the levels of the original trilogy. I'd rank it alongside Revenge of the Sith - so very good sequences marred by a story that never quite coalesces.
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David Newgreen

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