1. Totally bankrupt in the originality department. The prequels did have superficial parallels to the original movies, but, in addition to that, TFA also lifts numerous VERY SPECIFIC plot points from the OT (mostly ANH). So far, I’ve counted a whopping 37 of these parallels/ripped-off plot points. And the weaponry/vehicles are all just slightly modified versions of what we saw in the OT. It’s like seeing hundreds of people still driving around in Ford Pintos. All the environments are exactly the same as well (desert/forest/snow; wash/rinse/repeat ). Lucas worked hard to make each of the first 6 movies distinctly different from one another; clearly Di$ney and Abrams didn’t give a sh*t; they were just answering the “We want the same thing! Only different!!” mob cries that now accompany any blockbuster movie franchise.
2. Massive disconnect to the end of ROTJ. We learn virtually NOTHING about what happened in the interim years between this movie and the Rebel Alliance’s crushing blow to the Empire at the Battle of Endor. What are dynamics between the New Republic, Resistance, and First Order? Why is the Republic no longer based on Coruscant? How the HELL was the First Order able to amass so much manpower and weaponry if we assume what remained of the Empire was forced to sign a disarmament treaty once the Galactic Civil War was over? And why did the New Republic totally ignore this faction for 30 years? Were there REALLY that many fierce Imperial loyalists? If so, why did the Republic not track them down and prosecute them after the war the same way the remaining Nazi bigwigs were after WWII? We’re just expected to accept the current situation at face value. While some of this is explained in books related to the movie, you shouldn’t HAVE to look to those supplemental elements to get the whole context of the story.
3. Returning OT heroes making choices that don’t ring true to their OT character arcs. In relation to the previous point, we learn virtually nothing about how the lives of our central OT heroes have changed over these 30 years. It’s all either swept under the rug and not dealt with at all or else half-heartedly explained in a few vague throwaway lines. How DID Han and Leia’s relationship go south? There HAS to be more to it than just their son turning to the Dark Side. Why would Han and Chewie – now decorated war heroes – ever go back to the dangerous life of smuggling after actually helping achieve something greater than themselves? Why did Leia choose not to further learn the ways of the Force/become a Jedi? Why would Luke abandon his friends in a time of need and go off and curl up into a metaphorical fetal position — but then also coyly leave a trail of breadcrumbs to his location to which anyone – good or bad – could gain access? Again, there HAS to be more to it than just his nephew turning to the Dark Side and slaughtering all the other Jedi apprentices. How could all of these characters end up having so little pull within the New Republic given their heroics in order to restore it in the first place? Why would the ever-plucky R2 suddenly devolve into a catatonic state — only to spring to life again at a VERY convenient moment?
4. Contradictions to the SW lore/mythos as established by Lucas. Lucas also worked very hard at creating a mythology for this universe that he created (watch the documentary “Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed” if you doubt this at all). But suddenly we have a character who can grasp the Force in no time flat, and another one who is (presumably) NOT Force-sensitive but can still hold his own wielding a lightsaber against a properly trained foe. There are others that are tied into the previous 2 points, so I won’t go into them in detail.
5. Major plot holes/contrivances for certain things. Again, we get a lot of vague throwaway lines or no explanation at all for certain things, most glaringly Poe’s disappearance after the TIE fighter crash. Since when did Chewie’s bowcaster literally blow its opponents away — and how is it, in all their years together, Han had NEVER actually used his companion’s weapon before? Also: R2’s aforementioned state for most of the movie; Han losing possession of the Millennium Falcon, Han and Chewie’s VERY conveniently being near Jakku to recapture the Falcon after Rey, Finn, and BB-8 left its orbit; the rathtars IMMEDIATELY killing all the bounty hunters but sparing Finn long enough for Rey to rescue him; 3PO now having a different left arm; Han – one of the most beloved characters in the whole saga – being given a totally undignified death, etc.
6. Dialogue. While a general improvement over the prequels, some of the dialogue in this movie also sounded too ‘contemporary’ to my ears, thus contradicting the stylized ’30s/’40s movie speak used in the first 6 movies. Examples off the top of my head: Poe’s “How do we do this – do I talk first or do you?” line to Kylo and Finn’s “That’s what I’m talking about!” Poe and Finn’s other banter during their TIE fighter escape (where they frankly come off more like Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum in “Independence Day”), actually, a good portion of Finn’s lines. I cringed less from lines like “There’s always a bigger fish” or “Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo” in the PT.
7. New aliens/creatures. Honestly, I thought a lot of the new aliens/creatures we saw in this movie just didn’t look very ‘Star Wars-y’ to me. Again, off the top of my head: Unkar Plutt, the rathtars, that alien on whose lap that First Order spy was sitting in Maz’s castle, that huge pig snout creature on Jakku, etc. These looked more like something from Dune or Stargate (or some other SW knock-off), but not SW itself. Also, we don’t get a single ‘classic’ SW alien in this movie (the 3 returning OT heroes that fit this bill notwithstanding, i.e. Chewie the Wookiee, Admiral Ackbar the Mon Calamari, and Nien Nunb the Sullustan)? No Rodians? Or Twi’leks? Or Aqualishes? Or Grans?
8. Lack of tension/sense of danger in second half. In each of the first 6 movies, there was always a sense that things could have gone south for the heroes at any given moment. But there was never any doubt that the good guys would prevail in this one.
9. Perfect-in-every-way Rey. This one is fairly obvious. She pretty much remains the same person throughout the movie. They even have the male characters – Finn in particular – look foolish in order to make her look more brilliant. And since she’s already (nearly) defeated the main villain, why would we doubt she won’t do it again?
10. Excessive amount of fan service/painfully self-aware winks to OT. The Millennium Falcon is a piece of junk! And it did the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs! Hey, look — the holographic chess game! Let’s throw Phasma INTO THE TRASH COMPACTOR! Honestly, they might as well have just stopped, looked at the camera, and said to us “See what we did there?” after each one of these. The only real fan service Lucas gave us in the prequels was Boba Fett’s origin story; anything else that references the OT comes off as foreshadowing.
All in all, TFA came off like glorified thinktank/by-committee fan fiction in my mind… and it suggests the series may be headed toward the same homogenized, cookie-cutter franchise waters that defines virtually every other blockbuster movie series these days. In other words, it may be ‘going down a path I cannot follow.’ We’ll see what happens in TLJ (I already didn’t really give 2 sh*ts about these standalone entries since they were announced).
Featured image source: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) film, StarWars.com – The Force Awakens Logo.