With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story so close, a lot of people are trying to tear down the last Star Wars movie to build the new one up. One year of time doesn’t make The Force Awakens terrible, but it does give fans time to clearly see what it is.
I saw one article telling Star Wars fans they had to admit The Force Awakens was really bad. But I hate to break it to you, there really isn’t such a thing as a “bad” Star Wars movie (sorry Prequel haters). While it’s no Empire Strikes Back or even A New Hope, The Force Awakens is a good Star Wars movie made without George Lucas involved. It proved such a thing was possible. At the same time its problems come with what the movie had to do and how they did it.
The seventh Star Wars episode had to cover a lot of ground. It had to deliver for Disney’s shareholders to show the $4.2 billion purchase of Lucasfilm was worth it. It had to win back those jilted fans who didn’t like the Prequels, and it had to re-launch a movie franchise that had been dormant for a decade. Right out the gate it had to be successful, and as a result some of the things that made Star Wars what it was had to be glossed over.
The Force Awakens’ problem isn’t that it’s a terrible Star Wars movie, its problem is that it’s overly safe.
In order to check off all the boxes the movie had to complete they went a little too safe and leaned a little too hard on Original Trilogy nostalgia and repetition to get the job done. I know some Star Wars fans spent a lot of time defending The Force Awakens from the “ANH Remake” comments, but JJ Abrams himself admitted that they purposely tried to lift elements from A New Hope for the movie. It’s almost as if there was a checklist of nostalgic OT elements they had to show in the movie, and the film ran down those checkboxes.
Every Star Wars movie did things that weren’t seen before. Whether its in planets, ships, story, or even technology used; Star Wars was always about breaking new ground and being original. What huts TFA is the lack of originality. It’s absolutely a good movie, but it feels like a Star Wars movie stuck in neutral while others are going forward at a breakneck drag race speed like a car in American Graffiti.
Over the next few weeks you’re going to be seeing a lot of people proclaiming how Rogue One is a better movie than The Force Awakens. That’s really not fair to knock down the last Star Wars movie in that way, but one of the praises Rogue One is getting is that it restores that originality and sense of innovation to Star Wars by giving people a different type of Star Wars than they had seen before.
In another ten years, when we have ten more Star Wars movies, it’ll be even easier for many fans to honestly look back on The Force Awakens for what it was. It relaunched the franchise for a new generation, it broke box office records, it introduced us to new characters and worlds, but it did it all by playing it very safe.