the force awakens commentary
Oh yeah, and you know there’s gonna be a few spoilers.
This is the film that JJ Abrams was expected to deliver. Lots of action, basic dialogue, and a lot of homage to the original series and other science fiction. If you’ve seen Abrams’ other films, you’ll recognize the approach and style. Running through explosions, the killing of a major character, and chirpy banter.
The more interesting question is how The Force Awakens contributes to the overall Star Wars franchise. The film is enjoyable to watch, but by no means a classic. It doesn’t have the visual daring of A New Hope, nor the classic writing of Empire. It doesn’t even have interesting action set pieces of Jedi’s more interesting sequences, nor the emotional resolution of that film’s conclusion. For those who rank films, I’d put Force Awakens in between Jedi and the prequels.
One can also ask about how The Force Awakens speaks to the dramatic and aesthetic development of the franchise. Here, the news isn’t terribly good. Abrams’ approach to the material is to extensively recycle the earlier films. There is so much borrowing that The Force Awakens might be dubbed “Lil’ Star Wars.” All living major characters have returned. Key plot points have also been recycled, from the use of a next generation Death Star to having a cantina with lots of strange aliens. As a result, the Force Awakens relies too much on existing material when the original series introduced new visual and dramatic elements in each film. I suspect that Abrams knows this as well – the central character, Rey, literally lives in the abandoned husk of an AT-AT.
Still, this film is as a step in the right direction. Disney has shown that it can create a film that is very enjoyable, has humor, isn’t a visual mess, and has some characters that you might care about. And it’s audience wants some connection with the original series, which was well delivered. I think a lot of people will want to see the coming conflict between Rey and Kylo.
My hope is that the SW 8 director, Rian Johnson, will be allowed to be a little more creative, in the same way that Irvin Kershner was allowed to be a little more operatic with Empire. If nothing else, we’ll have a nice series of space westerns and at best, we can have films that possessed the dramatic build ups of the original series.