A highly anticipated, preposterously enjoyable sci-fi film from a beloved franchise premiered Thursday night to thunderous reviews from fans and critics alike. Naturally, Internet has already kicked this positivity down 20 flights of corrugated metal stairs to focus on The Force Awakens’ relatively minor flaws. This disproportionate scrutiny, typically reserved for comic book movies and Christopher Nolan films, is a natural by-product of the world in which we inhabit. Resistance, to borrow a phrase from another treasured sci-fi franchise once helmed by J.J. Abrams, is a fucking waste of time.
Examination is more valuable. The Force Awakens is not a perfect film, but how many of the common criticisms flying around the Internet actually have merit?
What are you serious? Keep reading. Good lord, I’m not your dad just figure it out, people. Complaints are rated either Valid, or FOH (Fuck outta here).
Supreme Leader Snoke is Pile of Computer Generated Trash
J.J. Bruh. I get that you’re deep inside the Star Wars universe, and this requires alien creatures and sinister villains. But if you must have a character called Supreme Leader Snoke in your film — and you didn’t, because he’s an utterly unnecessary addition to an already crowded movie — keep his disfigured, maybe-giant ass behind a curtain. Snoke is a ridiculous CGI creation pilfered from a Rejected Hobbit Creature Designs folder Abrams found while dumpster diving outside WETA. Is he an alien? Is he a Sith? Is he even a he? Why is he/she/it always shot from a low-angle? Are we supposed to maybe recognize this personthing? Whatever, I don’t even care because the film gives me no reason to care. As TK said, “When I woke up this morning, I had already forgotten that Snoke even existed.” You are Supreme Loser Joke. Go away.
The Force Awakens is Essentially A New Hope Remix Coupled with Fan Service
Verdict: Valid, but FOH
Stripped down to its base elements, yes, The Force Awakens borrows heavily from the original trilogy. A young orphan with a mysterious background and untapped powers from a backwater desert planet gets swept up in an intergalactic quest between good and evil. There’s an adorable droid. Our heroes attempt a daring rescue to recover a captured damsel (who is in far less distress than it seems). One villain is a masked dark side acolyte in black. The film’s climax features a risky assault on a planet-destroying base primed to wipe out the Rebel Alliance, er, Resistance for good.
I’ll let my good buddy Dennis Nedry articulate my thoughts on these criticisms: “Dodgson. Dodgson. WE’VE GOT DODGSON HERE! See? Nobody cares.” All movies reduce to one of about seven architypes. How a tale’s told - the way writers and directors weave characters, casting, cinematography, and tone into the finished product - differentiates stories with fundamentally similar underpinnings. J.J. Abrams took a classic saga and infused it with style, humor, and heart and grace. The absence of a wholly original story doesn’t undermine The Force Awakens’ effectiveness. Look, if you watch an X-Wing squadron led by Oscar Isaac destroy a planet-sized death weapon on a 60 foot screen and your first response is, “BOOOOOOO SEEN IT ALREADY!” snack on this dick and congratulations on your new career at Salon.
Han’s Death Was Telegraphed and Poorly Executed
Cool beans: you guessed that a 73-year-old actor with a conflicted Star Wars relationship wouldn’t sign up for a new trilogy helmed by three different directors over the next five years. Don’t substitute logical hypotheses for storytelling failures. Han wasn’t making it out of this one alive, and we all knew it. The only question was whether his inevitable demise would carry the resonance it deserves.
And Abrams mostly nailed it. His wife asked Han to bring their boy home. He tried. It cost him his life. Han Solo was killed by his own son. What more could you possibly ask for? My lone fear is that the next two films will attempt to set up a redemption arc for Ren, which simply cannot happen. Ren made his choice. He airholed his father, one of the most beloved characters in cinema history. There’s no coming back from that. Not for him; certainly not for the audience. Ren is gone like a freight train, gone like yesterday. Did you know Montgomery Gentry are huge Star Wars fans? No really, does anyone know? I’m genuinely asking. Otherwise putting their lyrics there doesn’t make much sense.
R2-D2 Reactivates Just in Time
This seemingly inconsequential gripe irritates me more than almost any other complaint on this list. In the third act, BB-8 and C-3P0 pay a visit to everyone’s favorite HP marketing prop, R2-D2, who is literally mothballed in a corner of the Resistance base. BB-8, still in possession of a piece of a map leading to Luke Skywalker, tries in vain to activate the rolling trash can. During the last five minutes of the film, however, with Han’s death casting a pall over the Resistance, R2-D2 suddenly springs to life, rolls over to Leia, and projects a map of the galaxy that, when paired with BB-8’s piece, reveals Luke’s location. WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU DO THIS THE MINUTE BB-8 SHOWED UP, R2? Are we to believe he was programmed to awaken (/pats self on back with both hands) only if/when Starkiller Base was destroyed?
New droid rankings in the wake of this nonsense:
2. Motorola Razr
There’s No Real Explanation of the Galaxy’s Political Dynamics
Toward the end of the movie, Admiral Trapbar comments that without the Republic fleet, the Resistance is doomed. Wait, what? There’s a Republic and a Resistance? And they’re not aligned against the First Order? If there’s a Republic with a massive army capable of bringing down the First Order, why hasn’t the Starkiller Base wiped it out? Or, conversely, why hasn’t the Republic made every effort to eradicate a terrorist organization with a weapon capable of annihilating entire star systems? Granted, the idea that a superpower would be reluctant to intervene in a battle between a fascist war machine and an undermanned opposition is not without real-world historical precedent, but even if you assume the subsequent films will answer these questions, The Force Awakens’ lack of clarity on the relationships between these three organizations is mildly frustrating.
Coincidences and Convenience Are The Film’s True Stars
Breaking news: sometimes movies rely on arguably implausible coincidences, twists of fate, to the plot and thill audiences. You know what else often features coincidences, great timing, and blind luck? Life. Yes, Rey discovers her Force powers at opportune times. Yes, the Resistance seems to know an awful lot about Starkiller Base, including how long until it will fire. Yes, the tectonic plates underneath Starkiller Base shift in such a way that Rey and Kylo Ren manage to be on the other side of an impassable trench. Yes, our heroes are able to sneak into a heavily guarded base undetected, plant explosives, and ambush an elite chromed-out Stormtrooper with ease. Yes, Snoke, Hux, and Ren manage to escape a dying planet…somehow. These numerous close calls and inexplicable rescues were noticeable in hindsight, but they don’t detract from the film in any meaningful way. Rey knows how to pilot a garbage ship. Deal with it.
Luke Doesn’t Show Up Until the Last 60 Seconds
This is more a marketing failure than a storytelling gaffe. The reason for Luke’s nonexistence in the trailers, posters, and commercials was fairly obvious, yet Mark Hamill was billed as an integral part of the movie during much of the initial pre-trailer hype (his name follows only Harrison Ford’s on the poster). For him to show up in the last 60 seconds looking like he just woke up after a three-day cat tranquilizer bender is disappointing sure, especially with a year and a half between movies, but it’s certainly not unexpected. The Force Awakens isn’t Luke’s story. It’s Rey’s and Finn’s and Han’s and Poe’s. Luke will return on May 26th, 2017. And he’s certain to have a much larger role. He’ll definitely speak, at least. Probably.