This review contains spoilers!
Let me open this review by saying I am a Star Wars fan.
I have read all of the Star Wars novels, and I’ve logged countless hours playing The Old Republic. I love the characters, I love the lore, I love immersing myself in something that is so massive but so emotionally relatable.
I miraculously managed to avoid spoilers, though I did hear from friends who assured me they loved it. I also heard from people who were completely unsatisfied with it.
I wanted to love this movie. I wanted to believe.
I was underwhelmed.
Going into the theatre, I was so thrilled that this episode of Star Wars had a female main character, and POC main characters. Coming out of the theatre, I was still happy with that – but less so with the stories that were presented to me.
I understand that this is a franchise, and that the writers wanted to draw parallels to a previous episode and previous characters. I also understand that this is most likely a setup for another trilogy and that the audience is likely to learn more of the characters in upcoming films. But I felt that the parallels were far too overstated, almost to the point of laziness. I also didn’t come to know the main characters as much as would usually be warranted.
Is Rey Luke’s daughter? Most likely. Did you have to beat me in the face with it? You did not.
Foreshadowing would have been satisfied with the moment Rey picks up Luke’s lightsaber to face off against Kylo Ren, and the music mirrors that of when Luke picked it up. Especially when you add in the flashback/forward sequence when Rey touches it for the first time.
I felt that the writing lacked imagination. The writers were satisfied with recreating Luke’s story in his daughter, and I feel that she could have been so much more than that. She could have been her own person.
As far as fandom rage goes – do I think that Luke would have really abandoned his daughter on Jakku, a desolate desert planet much like the one he grew up on? I do not. Do I think that he would have abandoned her to a life of lonely scavenging? I do not. Even if for a moment I believed he would do that: tell me about it.
Give me Rey’s story – her struggle, her thoughts, her feelings, the things that drive her. I know that Rey is a whiz with mechanics, that she’s a self-taught (?) pilot. How did those things come to be? What made Rey into the person that she is? The only thing I know about Rey with certainty is that she was abandoned to wait for someone who would never return for her, and I think that’s an unfortunate one thing.
Let’s set that aside for a moment, to examine Finn’s character. I liked that we learned more about Finn – about his reluctance to kill, and his unwillingness to be a Stormtrooper. I liked that both he and Rey have a commonality in their pasts, not knowing their families and growing up in emotional solitude. I liked that Finn had funny one liners, but that he seemed like more than that as well.
He didn’t want to kill but seemed to have no problem doing away with his former comrades. I know that kill or be killed is a different situation, however there wasn’t even a moment of remorse shown and I thought that was a shame and a detriment to his character. For someone willing to rescue a young woman he’s just met from the hand of Kylo Ren to not attempt to do the same and try to break the conditioning of his former comrades didn’t seem right to me.
When in the resistance base he didn’t even mention to them that the Stormtroopers were kidnapped as children to serve their dark purpose!
As for Poe Dameron, ace pilot – that’s all we know of him. Member of the resistance, and someone willing to die for his cause. That’s basically it.
So besides these character specifics, what was my problem with TFA?
I didn’t feel anything.
I wanted so much to be immersed in this world, to feel the trials and triumphs of the characters. However, even when faced with the death of Han at the hands of his son – I felt nothing. (For someone who consistently cries at even slightly emotional things, this is a big deal.)
Because rather than learning the stories of these characters, I felt that the writing simply played off of the stories of those that came before them. While that has its place in a franchise I think that this this first new film would have been the perfect opportunity to get us to root for these new characters. I deeply hope that this will be remedied in the films that follow.
I just kept waiting for their stories, and ultimately felt unsatisfied.
I don’t want this review to be completely negative, however. There were things that I loved about this movie.
Visually, it was fantastic. I take my hat off to the costume department, the cinematographers and the VFX and sound teams. If not for the writing, I would have had a totally immersive experience.
I also liked Kylo Ren as a villain – and the thing that pulled Han and Leia (and Luke) apart. While I knew that this film wouldn’t follow the canon of the novels, with Han and Leia having three children, I loved that rather than dark side Jacen, we still got to see a dark side child from them even if he wasn’t fuelled by the same motivations.
It did briefly make me wonder if Rey was his sister rather than Luke’s child and if rather than a redemption arc for Ben, we would eventually see his death at her hands… but I think that’s just fandom reaching on my part.
My final verdict: this could have been so much better, but it wasn’t as terrible as some are making it out to be. Same familiar feel, with good action, but a story and character building that is deeply lacking.
May the next films be far better, and deserving of nothing but praise.