Time for some new dreamers, I think


I just got back from the new Star Wars movie, and it was…

…disappointing. The plot made no sense. The character relationships were just there, plopped into place like a collection of action figures. The story was a total rehash of the first movie — Disney and JJ Abrams really played it safe, and made sure to just give audiences the familiar. There were plenty of nods to nostalgia, and the audience clapped and cheered where expected.

It was tired and sterile. It’ll sell toys, but it’s not going to inspire dreams like the original.


After a night’s sleep on it, I have a few more words for the movie.

Pandering. This was more a marketing vehicle than a movie. You could almost imagine them planning it by the clock: introduce the new action figures for a bit, then…Han Solo! and Chewbacca! Audience cheers. After a bit, it’s…Princess Leia! Wild cheers. More action for a while, then…C3PO! Who was just kind of annoying, so weak applause. Then…R2D2! Yay! Except it’s kind of inert. Pining for the big maguffin of the movie, Luke Skywalker! Who shows up at the end.

Mannequins. There was zero character development. Hotshot pilot Poe Dameron is rescued by ex-stormtrooper Finn for totally mysterious and unmotivated reasons, and are instantly bestest friends forever. Rey and Finn meet in confusion, run around a bit, and then are steadfast, loyal friends. Rey and Finn meet Han Solo, go on one short flight in the Millennium Falcon, and suddenly he’s a father figure to them.

It’s also sad what’s been done to Carrie Fisher. I don’t blame her, it’s what Hollywood does to aging women actors: while Harrison Ford can be gray and jowly and wrinkled (and seems to be having some good old sentimental fun with the role), Fisher’s face has been sculpted into a smooth and mostly expressionless mask. She manages matronly sadness, and wearily happy welcome, and that’s about it.

Lazy. While great care was put into planning strokes of sentimentality, the plot was entirely recycled. The first Star Wars had a giant space weapon with a weak spot. The third Star Wars had a bigger space weapon with a weak spot. The seventh Star Wars had an even more gigantic space weapon with…I’ll let you guess. You’d think the Empire would learn something about putting giant space eggs in one gigantic basket or something.

There is a Star War to destroy the giant space planet, but it’s almost incidental — no one seems to care about it very much. And it’s ultimate destruction (come on, that’s not a spoiler, the instant you discern the murky outlines of the plot, you know exactly what to expect — and you can hope that something different will be done with it, but there is no departing from the repetitive line laid down by past episodes, so get used to it) doesn’t seem to be that big a deal in the parade of sentimental reunions, which is the real purpose of the movie. It’s also irrelevant to the ultimate goal of the character’s quest, which is to find Luke Skywalker. Why, I don’t know. The whole fate of the galaxy apparently rests on finding this one last Jedi, but meanwhile, everyone is flinging around Jedi powers all over the place.

Money. This movie is going to do great things at the box office — this was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen turn out for a movie in Morris. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is setting records this weekend. But I have no interest in ever seeing it again. My curiosity was totally sated by one viewing, and while I have fond memories of seeing the first one on the day it opened (and being thrilled with the spectacle!), I don’t get all warm and tingly at the thought of JJ Abrams achieving great commercial success and formulaic Disneyfication setting the standard for all the sequels to come.

For a contrary view, Scalzi liked it. I think, though, they must have shown a different movie in Ohio — he liked it because of the realistic characters and characterizations? What? I can agree that the dialog was better than anything Lucas ever wrote, but still…the interactions between the characters were on the level of something on the comic pages.

I dare you to tell me why Rey and Finn were friends. What the villain’s motivation was. Anything about Luke Skywalker’s personality.


  1. Paul Cowan says

    I just saw it and initially had a similar reaction. Then I managed to turn off my inner critic and managed to enjoy the hell out of it.

  2. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    When I go to see it, I’m planning to do the same thing I did when I went to see the Star Trek reboot – expect utter shit. You’d be amazed by how utterly beautiful a film can be if you drag your expectations through the mud before you get there.
    I do hope it stands up against my deliberately lowered expectations, because I promised the friend I’m going to see it with that I won’t turn my force lightning against them if the film sucks so hard that it turns me to the dark side, and I’d feel awful if I was unable to keep that promise.

  3. Niki G says

    Thank you for reinforcing my choice not to see this. George Lucas already did a lot of damage with the prequels that don’t exist to me, and JJ Abrams already screwed up Star Trek (both of them were awful!) so I didn’t trust him with this either. I might be able to watch it if Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy do a Rifftrax for it.

  4. fmitchell says

    I haven’t seen the new movie yet, but …

    Rewatch the original Star Wars (“A New Hope”) with adult eyes. The visuals are stunning, especially for their time, but the dialog is not good and if you’ve seen Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress and Yojimbo some scenes are awfully familiar. Maybe it’s better than The Force Awakens, although given Lucas’s legendarily bad dialog and directing skills I’m wouldn’t bet on it.

    We remember Star Wars through the haze of childhood memory. The Golden Age of Movies is truly twelve. (Eleven, in this case, but still.)

  5. Ryan Cunningham says

    “We remember Star Wars through the haze of childhood memory.”

    I’m so tired of contrarian internet hipsters trying to out-cynic each other. The Internet is full of boring kill-joys trying to out-grump the competition. Your “fresh take” is a tired cliche. Just cut to the chase and explain how happiness itself is overrated.

  6. Lofty says

    Never been to see a Star Wars film, ain’t gonna start at my age…there’s stuff with actual acting and plots in it I’d see before a tired action flick.

  7. Derek Vandivere says

    I’m not a hipster, I’m a grumpy middle-aged man, and came here to post exactly the same thing as fmitchell.

  8. says

    fmitchell @ 4:

    We remember Star Wars through the haze of childhood memory.

    Oh FFS, learn to speak for yourself. You might have seen Star Wars when you were eleven, I saw it when I was 20.

  9. jojo says

    I saw Star Wars with my husband and 9 year old son last night. We all had different reactions to it.

    My husband was clearly disappointed. There were a lot of things he didn’t like, and he especially missed how powerful the music was in the other 6 movies. I agree with him, but it wasn’t enough to turn me off from the movie.

    My son loved the movie. He had a lot of fun and said he was close to crying at one point. He was thrilled when the movie was over and yelled “I want a light saber!.” I think it had a similar effect on him as the original had on my husband.

    For me, this was MY Start Wars movie. The one I wish I had gotten in 1977. Rey kicks ass. I never connected with Luke, but If I was 12 again, I’d want to be Rey. Strong, independent, able to take care of herself, and powerful in the Force. So what if it was basically the same story again, it was fantasy where a girl can be powerful, and I loved that.

    As a parent, I also loved that Rey was the powerful character. My son watched a movie about a girl, and he loved it. It didn’t matter that a girl was the one with the light saber, he still wants one. So instead of growing up with movies about prince charming coming to rescue the damsel in distress, he can now see a young women stand up and fight for herself.

    (I also loved Frozen for a similar reason. I particularly loved at the end when instead of bending Anna over kissing her, Kristoff asked Anna if he could kiss her. Those little messages add up, and I’m happy that my son is seeing them.)

  10. rodw says

    I knew it! I knew it would suck. After being disappointed so many times I’ve finally learned that the people in Hollywood don’t know how to tell a story anymore. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars on special effects made by some of the most artistically and technically talented people on earth, but then get idiots to write the story line. Or maybe they could write a good story but they figure that the teenage boys who are buying most of the tickets don’t want to be distracted by dialogue and story. Come to think of it, with the amount of money invested in these things, they’ve probably done the economic analysis that tells them these sorts of movies will maximize profits.
    Going to the theater makes it doubly disappointing because no one in the audience seems to care that theres no story – for them its just a bunch of disconnected images. I still cant get over the woman sitting near me who seemed to think that Saving Private Ryan was a comedy ( and she definitely wasn’t high)
    I guess I’m getting old and crotchety….but I’m not that old!

  11. johnson catman says

    Maybe the woman was confusing Saving Private Ryan with Private Benjamin? At least the latter could be considered a comedy.

  12. says

    I found the stories somewhat nonsensical and completely stupid at times in all six of Star Wars movies and the acting rather poor (in all six of them too). I enjoyed them nevertheless (all …)

    I like movies with good engaging story and dialogue. I can also enjoy movie consisting mostly of action sequences and visual effects, if it is done well and the story is not too stupid and the acting too bad – for my subjective personal taste.

    What almost killed Star Wars for me were the absolute nonsensical “turn to the dark sade” dialogues that made absolutely no sense whatsoever in either episode 6 nor episode 3. Those parts were almost too silly even for my not very demanding stomach to handle.

    And the very, very poorly made soppy attempts at romance, well… But maybe I am just too bitter and cynical.

    So all in all thanks for the recomendation, I expect I shall enjoy this one too when DVD gets out.

  13. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    After the unmitigated suck that was Return of the Jedi (Hint: you never turn your bad guy into a good guy…and Ewoks? Fuck that!), I was conflicted about whether I even wanted to see Episode 1. Then I saw it–the 6.6 inch cardboard of Jar-Jar Binks in the cereal aisle. I haven’t seen any of the 3 since Return, and I see no reason to go back now.

  14. applehead says


    So you’re saying no Elon Musk’s will be born from this movie?

    On the contrary, after the relentless exposure to this crass merchandise machine I figure a whole new generation of wheeler-dealers will start to grow up.

  15. widestance says

    Kylo Ren’s motivation? His father was in and out of his life, always feuding with his mom (this was directly alluded to in the movie); his mother was present, but being raised from birth to be part of the Rebellion/Resistance had little time for parenting. After they neglect him for a few years, they ship him off to live with his weirdo Uncle Luke in Ireland. While in Jedi school in Ireland, the Supreme Leader came and “seduced” a neglected, lonely boy into the dark side. He and his buddies formed a clique in Luke’s Jedi School called “The Knights of Ren” before killing all of the other junior Jedi. He’s as conflicted as any son with crappy parents would be, but also strong in the force and targeted by a super-villain for conversion. I also thought it was a nice touch that he was praying/meditating on being tempted by the light side of the force; it was an unexpected perspective.

    Did I watch the movie three times in a row last night? Yes. Yes, I did.

  16. widestance says

    The bad guys’ reliance on Death Stars at this point isn’t so much a battle plan as it is a bad habit.

    You know why the Empire always loses? They don’t follow the building codes. There’s no guard rails anywhere. ANYWHERE. Even the freaking EWOKS had guard rails. There’s no screen over the exhaust port on the first Death Star. They leave the super-duper nuclear reactor exposed to the elements on the second Death Star. The Emperor’s throne room has a direct shaft to the aforementioned nuclear power plant, which is bizarre on its face, but also should have had safety netting to prevent falls.

  17. says

    They also have catwalks all over the place for weird climactic sword fights. Seems stupid to me, & obviously the Empire is stuck in a mindless rut.

  18. Gregory Greenwood says

    While I agree that the movie won’t win any awards for originality, I think that was a symptom of Abrams overcompensating for one of the failings of the prequels most cited by long standing Star Wars fans – that those movies didn’t feel like Star Wars. He was so eager to counter the unfortunate legacy of the Prequels in the minds of the fan base by hammering home the notion that this movie would assuredly be the Star Wars you remember from your childhood that he… essentially recreated A New Hope, at times almost point for point. You can understand how it happened – in a sense the fans brought it upon themselves by demanding the impossible; namely that this movie make their jaded adult selves feel the same way that the original Star Wars made their childhood selves feel.

    That is what really lies at the heart of much obsessive fandom for older franchises – people are not so much desperate for a continuation of that particular fictional universe as they are in mourning for their youthful, more optimistic and innocent selves. They want that feeling of excitement and limitless possibilities back, and when it doesn’t happen they blame the ways in which the new interpretation of their beloved work of fiction differs from what they remember through their rose tinted glasses, rather than confronting the reality that it is they themselves that have changed.

    With all that said there is still much to like about this movie, at least in my opinion. It is refreshing to see Star Wars venture in 21st century territory at least in so far as its leads are not all homogeneously White and male. I found both the Rey and Finn characters to be likable and to have an easy chemistry together, and both largely avoided the toxic tropes and stereotypes associated with women and Black characters in all too many works of fiction. As jojo notes upthread @ 10, it is very refreshing to see a female lead like Rey as played by Daisy Ridley taken seriously and allowed to be legitimately brave and extremely capable. At no point is she really left relying helplessly on Finn or any of the other characters, and when she does get into serious trouble, she mostly get’s herself out of it rather than being left to play damsel in distress until the blokes turn up. Even better, she never has any heinous ‘gold bikini’ moment; she is never sexualised in the movie just because some corporate money man assumes that it will sell more tickets.

    Johen Boega’s Finn is also a character who in some ways mirrors Rey in the way he strives to escape from a figurative ethical wasteland even as Rey seeks to survive in a literal one, and the movie does a good job with a little misdirection with the relative roles occupied by Rey and Finn that plays with the usual Hollywood tropes and the audience’s expectations in a pleasing manner.

    I was also favourably impressed with Adam Driver’s interpretation of the Kylo Ren Character. When cloaked, helmeted and hooded his extremely slender, almost insectoid physique lends the character a good deal of screen menace that is only reinforced by his distorted voice and ruthless actions, but when we finally see the man behind the mask (both literally and figuratively) we see someone riven with doubt and inner conflict; a kid who has gotten in way over his head rather than a cold blooded butcher. Even his unusual cross guard light saber plays into the imagery – I don’t think it is merely coincidental that the blade’s crackling instability reflects the wielder’s inner turmoil. Driver handles the role well despite being so young, and although many people may find him to be lacking in intimation factor after the mask comes off, I thought that the juxtaposition between Ren’s dual identities as fresh faced seeming-innocent and murderous warlord was very effective.

    Hopefully, now that this movie has established that this new movie series are indeed very much caste in the mold of the classic Star Wars movies rather than the prequels, the subsequent films won’t feel the need to follow the established formula quite so closely, and can escape from the straight jacket of what has come before and break some new ground. If nothing else, it would be good to see a little more development for characters like Captain Phasma. There doesn’t seem much point in hiring an actress as capable as Gwendoline Christie and then giving her so little to do, and the same is true of Supreme Commander Snoke as played by a CGI’ed Andy Serkis (will that poor guy ever get to act without motion capture post-Gollum?), among others.

    All in all, I can see why this movie is the way it is, and I think it does the job it was created to do well enough, which I think is to establish the credibility on the film makers in the minds of the fanbase by showing that the new movies will be much closer to the original trilogy in terms of style and approach than the Prequels were. Whether the remaining movies will be able to escape the influence of the original trilogy enough to be anything more than a rehash remains to be seen, but I don’t yet share PZ’s bleak assessment of what is to come.

  19. says

    Haven’t seen it myself yet, but my brother reports that once the movie ended, the entire theater collectively sighed in relief that it wasn’t another Phantom Menace.

  20. laurentweppe says

    I dare you to tell me why Rey and Finn were friends.

    Attachment issues: Finn was raised in what’s essentially a Space-Daesh Youth Camp, and Rey lived on her own without even an Uncle Owen/Aunt Beru as parental figure. They quickly cling to one another because their crave human warmth: there’s nothing surprising or unbelievable about the two characters getting close.


    What the villain’s motivation was.

    To be explained in the sequel, although we’re given hints that the First Order adhere to the “Tyranny brings Order, Freedom leads to Chaos” bullshit that would be utterly laughable if real-world fascists didn’t actually adhere to it as well.


    Anything about Luke Skywalker’s personality.

    He was a lousy student, proved to be a worse teacher.

  21. says

    Fascinating how people take a completely non-existent connection in the movie, fill it in with their own fantasy, and then claim it’s in the movie.

  22. Matthew Trevor says

    I’m expecting to find it a lot like the new Star Trek movies: fun, visually stunning but pretty much completely gone from my memory within a few months time.

  23. microraptor says

    I’m now waiting for Episode 9, when the Empire First Order will assuredly have built a superweapon out of an entire star system.

  24. Menyambal - "Bah! Humbug." says

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did go Christmas shopping. I was trying to find a child’s weaving loom, and went through the toy departments of three different big stores. The Force was strong in them.

    Seriously, the Star Wars merch was all over. There were even cartoonish figurines of Darth Maul, from the first prequel. (He was the most memorable character from the prequels, and he died stupidly ‘way too soon.)

  25. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says


    They also have catwalks all over the place for weird climactic sword fights. Seems stupid to me, & obviously the Empire is stuck in a mindless rut.

    There’s a perfectly good explanation for this: Star Wars technology is powered by bottomless pits.
    You remember how the Millennium Falcon keeps breaking down in Empire? Wanna know why? No bottomless pits on the Falcon. Ok, ok, sure, Death Stars have a habit of going kablooey, but it’s worth noting that none of these events have been down to part failure – they’ve all been deliberate sabotage. The Falcon breaks down because it’s old and beaten up, and it has no bottomless pits to hold it together. The Death Stars, on the other hand, would’ve been fine for at least 30,000 ly before they needed servicing if it wasn’t for proton torpedoes.

  26. says

    I’m not a Star Wars fan, and am not going to see the movie, but I sympathize. I just finished The Shepherd’s Crown, the final Terry Pratchett book, and… it was not good. Not quite the same list of reasons, but some which were similar.

  27. PseudoPserious says

    I had the same reaction to TFA, but I wasn’t too bummed because I was halfway expecting it.

    That comment about The Shepherd’s Crown, on the other hand, makes me very sad.

  28. patrick2 says

    This might sound odd, but a key reason I never got into Star Wars as a kid was that I wasn’t sure whether the main characters were humans or aliens. They obviously looked and acted like humans, but were apparently in another galaxy. I spent most of the first movie wondering if these were humans now living in another galaxy or if they were aliens who just exactly like humans, and if the latter, how that could possibly work. This proved to be a major stumbling block to me fully enjoying the movies as a kid, and I haven’t gotten into the Star Wars hype ever since.

  29. says

    @#29, PseudoPserious:

    That comment about The Shepherd’s Crown, on the other hand, makes me very sad.

    I won’t give you any spoilers, but there is an event at the beginning of the book (chapter 3, IIRC) which makes me wish Pratchett hadn’t died just so I could go and yell at him for putting it in, I don’t care if it drives some of the plot or not. Between that and the fact that the book is shortish compared with the others in the Tiffany Aching sequence and not very good, I half-wish I hadn’t read it at all. (But on the other hand, if I hadn’t, I would always wonder what I was missing. I suppose I really wish he hadn’t written it, or maybe that it hadn’t been published.)

  30. Jim Balter says

    I spent most of the first movie wondering if these were humans now living in another galaxy or if they were aliens who just exactly like humans, and if the latter, how that could possibly work.

    You would have a hell of a time with Farscape.

  31. throwaway, butcher of tongues, mauler of metaphor says

    This was definitely plopped on the screen like hundreds of millions of dollars worth of shit. Like: get ready for some sequels baby! You’re in for that ride! Come on! And you’re just like “Fuck me, I’m on the Teacup ride, ain’t I?” And once it stops spinning you’re like, “Yep, sure was. *retch*”

  32. says

    Gosh.. PZ didn’t like it.. lol

    But, yeah, they really really messed up rehashing this, instead of going with the Expanded Universe version, imho.

    Since there is no damn way this can possible be a spooler, given how far they have already diverged from the books.. I mean, come on, the damn new weapon is practically a rehash of the “Star Forge” left ages ago by the Rakata, and finally found, and destroyed, in the days of bloody Revan….

    And mind you, PZ and other’s issue with the whole politics thing wasn’t something they got right either. They **really** should have gone with “expanded universe” instead of this though. It was an interesting romp, and may be fun to follow through the next movies, but.. the books, games, etc. “expanded” the universe in both worlds, and explanation.

    For example – The trade federation wasn’t a “government agency”. It was a group of about 3-4 species, one of which was set up early one as the fall guys, to so the others could get tech they needed for the long game. Grevus was one of those, and he disliked the Jedi, and distrusted the Senate, for believing the lies told about his people’s aggression, which led to a Jedi assault of his world, and false reparations, in the form of tech, to the other species in the TF. When they decided they needed a general they “arranged” for him to have an accident, and need a lot of replacement parts, which included something that “amplified” his distrust and anger into rage and hate. The perfect fanatic, someone that no on would look twice at, given what happened to his world, and who he felt was responsible, when he went rabid on the Republic.

    The history of the Senate is.. odd too. At one time it either didn’t exist, or wasn’t worth much. When the whole Rakata thing took place (thousands of worlds finding themselves freed from slavery by some plague that wiped out the Rakata ability to use the force), there formed numerous different factions and systems of government. some worlds never joined, others shifted partly, or completely to some form of democracy. They didn’t all join at once, nor, given their histories, would they have wanted to 100% conform to one standard. Some, being alien in thinking, may not even be able to. So, the Senate, to form at all, would have had to cement rules “between” them, but not enforce strict rules over how planets where run locally.

    You might also assume that the Trade Federation was the people running the money too (again, not a government agency, but rather a federation of separate worlds, running things as a sort of corporation, with a seat on the Senate If you think that is far fetched, then explain to me, exactly, who the internal sovereignty of a corporation, especially under a governing body that refused to regulate them, isn’t a defacto state, if not precisely a government? I have always held that the problem with corporate money in politics is less that it consolidates power in a small number of hands, than that it is, for all intents and purposes, like letting California bribe our Senate to ignore the issues going on in NY).

    But, nope, that is one highly mathematical race, who managed to develop, over time, an encryption and money trade system so good that a hacker has, at best, either have the proper codes to access it completely, or each micro-transaction to the account increases the odds that the entire network would detect and error in decryption and freeze the assets linked to credit chip/account. Unlike ours, with a simple pin, this is more like.. a non-sequencial lock (guessing based on a lot of the story behind people getting into them, but not getting it all), but, by necessity, asynchronous. You might want to transfer a billion credits, but you do this 1,000 credits at a time, sometimes simultaneously, and not always in perfect sequential order. As long as the checksums for the specific transfers seem to match, you don’t run into a problem until the “cumulative” result of these, when compared, trips and alarm, then… its all over. But, by then, you might have 5%, 10%, 50% of the account, depending on the amount, and what level of security you could afford, maybe? No one in their right mind, giving that *everyone’s* finances are done this way, including whole governments, would want to destroy the system. Anything that did would hit you the same as everyone else, and even a smuggler, pirate, or Sith Lord still needs bloody money. The obvious draw back being, of course, that, while you may “keep” most of your money this way, you may also lose some of it permanently, if the hacker is good enough, and you can’t find them, or where they squirreled away what they stole. Nasty catch-22, but.. then, if you where dealing with billions of credits.. would losing 10% of them be “better” than, “Oh, I am sorry Mr. Blah, but that account is empty.”, then next morning? Kind of hard to hire the nasty bounty hunter to get your money back, if you lost everything… lol

    Didn’t, in the book, stop on of the people of that species shuffling money about in shell accounts, to.. say, pay the cloners, and help fund the trade federation, and certain pirate groups, etc., to create more chaos, or Palpatine to keep doing so, once his own master.. died in his sleep…

    But, yeah.. The movies, all of them, have glaring gaps. The books, fill a lot of them in. So.. they threw out the book, dredged up the whole, “son goes to the dark side”, part of the story form the books, but throws out all the rest, including the issue of a new Jedi order trying to work with a Senate that doesn’t trust them much any more, but still wants to use them to “fix problems” (including the sort that they created to stab each other in the back, then lied to the Jedi about), as well as the remnants of the Empire, and an, inevitable, exterior threat. Nope.. Lets wipe out the new Jedi, throw Skywalker into the dark some place, where no one knows where he is, and make up a really stupid, implausible, and not making any sense, version of the Solo’s son trying to, “Finish what daddy tried to do and get rid of the Jedi, for everyone’s good.” I mean, how the F would someone even get to that, unless we are supposed to assume that the grey freak is Palpatine’s, inexplicably still alive, master, and somehow new enough to make up the lie, and have it believed, while no one bothered to question why Vader went off his nut in the first place…

    But, its still a serious stretch. Think I am giving this three lightsaber blows to the head, with respect to plot, and continuity, and one wookie thumbs up for not being that bad, as long as you know jack about anything related to the expanded universe, or actually care about the gaping plot holes that result, when you delete decades of those explanations and stories… I Wouldn’t watch it again. and, maybe eventually get over the stupidity of what they did, but.. I can’t say I am all that happy about the result.

  33. says

    Watched it last night in Oban (west coast of Scotland) last night with a bunch of pals from our village. I’m not a particular fan, but I remained awake (always a good sign) and found the visuals coherent and believable. Plot I could detect none, apart from deliberately setting-up leads for sequels.
    Bizarrely, I felt I was watching a Harry Potter flick, what with the Snape character and the waltzing around in snowy woodlands. Liked the Skerrig Michael location for the meet-up with the jowly silent bloke.

  34. gijoel says

    I saw it and my reaction was; meh.

    Good points: The film is well made, and Abrams decision to go largely with practical effects paid off. It was nice to see the Millennium Falcon again.

    Bad points: Yoda on a stick, not another super laser planet. Kylo Ren was an immature idiot who never outgrew his terrible twos. He wasn’t so much menacing as pathetic. Vader would have gotten shit done, and wiped the floor him and the two chosen ones. The First Order seem to composed of obnoxious wankers who’ve button their shirts too tight.

    In my head I have this image of the First Order demanding the Republic to bail them out, because their too big to fail, and need money to build another super laser.

  35. laurentweppe says

    @Caine: To be fair, the Jedi in the prequel were almost as obsolete, clueless and in over their heads than the current GOP

  36. Amphiox says

    Maybe it’s better than The Force Awakens, although given Lucas’s legendarily bad dialog and directing skills I’m wouldn’t bet on it.

    Lucas didn’t direct this one, nor had any input into the script and dialog, so if those things are bad this time around, it isn’t because of him.

    My experience of PZ’s movies reviews are that if he likes it, I’ll love it, if he thinks it’s “meh”, there’s a 65% chance I’ll like it. If he hates it, there’s a 25% chance I’ll still like it.

    PZ’s taste in movies is more stringent than mine….

  37. llamaherder says

    Kylo Ren was an immature idiot who never outgrew his terrible twos. He wasn’t so much menacing as pathetic. Vader would have gotten shit done, and wiped the floor him and the two chosen ones.

    I loved Kylo Ren more than I’ve loved any villain in a long time. He’s young and immature and human and believable and he doesn’t fully understand what it is he’s aspiring to.

    He’s not supposed to be ruthlessly efficient and menacing like Vader.

    Not yet.

    He’s exactly what Anakin should have been in the prequels.

  38. llamaherder says

    I mean, come on, the damn new weapon is practically a rehash of the “Star Forge” left ages ago by the Rakata, and finally found, and destroyed, in the days of bloody Revan…

    The new weapon is nothing like the Star Forge. The Star Forge was a factory, not a planet destroyer. If you’re going to pass up the obvious (Death Star) and reach into the EU, there are better comparisons. The Mass Shadow Generator, the Sun Crusher, Nihilus, and others.

  39. cartomancer says

    I don’t know why people are so negative about nostalgia. Nostalgia is wonderful.

    Particularly for people who had very happy, very fulfilled childhoods, but find the world now to be a dull, frightening and unhappy place, bereft of the magic and wonder it once had. The chance to reminisce and experience some of that magic again is very welcome. Why should we feel ashamed about indulging this pleasure? Why should the creative industries shy away from helping us to do so?

    If you’re not into nostalgia then fine, you don’t have to be. But for those of us who find great pleasure in it, lay off! It’s not hurting anybody. I find I get pleasure from precious little else these days apart from reminiscence and nostalgia, and it does annoy me to see this attitude that would rubbish my memorious joys simply because of where they come from.

    And yes, they could have done something else with it, rather than creating a vehicle for all this wonderful nostalgia. But why do a Star Wars film at all if that’s your aim? Do another film instead if you want something different. They set out to make a film that caters to the nostalgia of Star Wars fans and they succeeded. So what if it doesn’t tick any other boxes – that’s a noble and valid goal in itself.

  40. blbt5 says

    The original Star Wars started with the story and filled in the scenes. This is the opposite: stringing together the scenes they wanted first and then not caring if there was enough or any backstory or plot to make sense. Same thing with two new SyFy productions, Childhood’s End and The Expanse, as well as Leftovers on HBO: no story, no plot, just a string of disconnected scenes and a waste of some great acting.

  41. carlie says

    It’ll sell toys, but it’s not going to inspire dreams like the original.

    I think there’s one specific area in which it might well inspire dreams unlike the original: it showed a young woman who was badass, who yelled that she didn’t need help because she didn’t need help. That kind of characterization for women is still rare and wonderful when it happens.

    She wasn’t sexualized, not in the slightest, not in her costume or demeanor or how anyone treated her, not even in the creepy scene where she was strapped down while Ren probed her mind. I held my breath in that scene waiting for the sexual innuendo to happen, but it didn’t. It’s difficult to describe how ubiquitous it is to frame a woman as a sex object in a movie, because of how rarely it doesn’t happen. It’s hard to describe how it feels to be waiting on edge for the disappointment of it turning at some point, the way it always does, waiting for the gross glance or the creepy comment or the “oops, you came into my room when I was changing” moment, and how light and elated it feels when that doesn’t ever happen, not to her, not to any of the women in the film.

    Whenever anyone underestimated her, she rolled her eyes and kept on going. She had aptitude with the Force that Ren only dreamed of having. God, and there was a female stormtrooper leader too! More than one woman who could fight and be strong! Whaaaaat? Seriously, rarer than rare.

    For all she was a good character, Leia was never like that in the original trilogy. She was always obviously an object of desire (ahem metal bikini). She was still saved more often than not. She was more of a cheerleader for the Luke and Han buddy movie. Amidala? She only existed to fall in love with Anakin and have his babies and die. This movie lets girls have a hero to imagine they could be, the same way boys could imagine they were Luke or Han. Girls can imagine kicking butt without necessarily ending up paired with a guy at the end as their only trajectory. We didn’t get to have those dreams in the other movies.

    (or, what jojo and Gregory said)

  42. microraptor says

    I think there’s one specific area in which it might well inspire dreams unlike the original: it showed a young woman who was badass, who yelled that she didn’t need help because she didn’t need help. That kind of characterization for women is still rare and wonderful when it happens.

    And all of the men respected her abilities instead of trying to get macho or insisting that she really did need their help. That part was nice.

  43. Marc Abian says

    Like a joke, this is a film that suffers when analysed. The things that make this enjoyable are harder to describe. The visuals, the set design, the action, the dialogue, the acting were all at least good. 135 minutes flew by, and it was a lot of fun.

    On reflection, there are some problems, and I think it’s instructive that there’s a lot of consensus online about what they are.
    1. Similarities to IV. Droids with important info on a desert planet, yet another death star.
    2. Coincidences. The droid happens to go to Rey, Finn, happens to find her, they happen to escape on the Falcon, which happens to be found by Han and Chewwy who lead her to a person who happens to have Luke’s Light Saber.
    3. Finn traumatised by the horrors of war so much he abandons the order and happily kills a bunch of fellow soldiers on his way out without a second thought.
    4. Rey developing powers so quickly. There’s a heavy emphasis on training in the other films, but if Rey needs it for the plot about 2 hours is fine for Jedi mind tricks, and force pulling a light saber from a guy who can stop blaster shots in mid air (granted he was injured at the time, but the film should have played that up and made him barely able to fight, then she can beat him realistically).
    5. Taking the climax of the ROTJ and making it meaningless by having a rebranded empire which seems just as powerful.
    6. Breakneck speed. The OT had plenty of time for characters to talk to each other when stuck in asteroid fields and sitting in caves and develop relationships and show the audience who the were. TFA seemed like it was made to cram as many action set pieces together to make a cool blockbuster.

    One criticism I don’t agree with was that Ren was not as scary as Vader. Whatever you think of that decision, it was certainly by design. His motivation was never given, but hopefully that will be cleared up satisfactorily.

  44. microraptor says

    4. Rey developing powers so quickly. There’s a heavy emphasis on training in the other films, but if Rey needs it for the plot about 2 hours is fine for Jedi mind tricks, and force pulling a light saber from a guy who can stop blaster shots in mid air (granted he was injured at the time, but the film should have played that up and made him barely able to fight, then she can beat him realistically).

    I think it was implied that when Ren tried to use the Force to read her mind, he accidentally gave her a peek into his and she figured out a few basic Force tricks that way.

  45. Hj Hornbeck says

    We’re clear for spoilers? Good.

    Finn’s definitely the weakest link, plot-wise. Someone born and raised to be a killing machine suddenly gets a conscience and decides to skip out… except he’s not a soldier. But he just happens to know critical details about Death Star 3.0. He wants absolutely nothing to do with the First Order, despite training to be their loyal soldier (or not?), yet is so desperate to infiltrate into the heart of the First Order he’d mislead the Resistance because…. the power of boners?

    As for Rey, all I worry about is that she’s dangerously close to omnicompetence; in the mainline Star Wars universe, you’re either a hardware geek (Solo) or a touchy-feely Force user (Skywalker). The Law of Fiction Conversation suggests she’s in for a fall, lest she become a Mary Sue.

    And how can a goddamn General spend most of her screentime moping about with doe eyes? Not even a rousing speech. I’m still pissed off at that.

    Still, it was a Star Wars film: popcorn entertainment with ‘splosions and heroes and robots and pew-pew. Fun, most definitely, but not deep.

  46. Hj Hornbeck says

    Mmm, one last thing.

    The Star Wars films weren’t just splosions/heroes/pew-pew. They were a technological tour-de-force, with complicated special effects shots far in advance of contemporary work, plus innovations in practical effects, theatre gear and sound design.

    In contrast, much of The Force Awakens was shot on 35mm with 3D added in post. The CGI wasn’t a standout; quite competent, sure, but we’re in an age where the big improvements can only happen off-screen. The practical effects were nice, but amounted to little more than blink-and-you-miss-it background pieces. What should have been this generation’s Avatar was Generic Hollywood Blockbuster Based on Popular 80’s Franchise.

    Ah well, at least we got Avatar.

  47. says

    I mean, come on, the damn new weapon is practically a rehash of the “Star Forge” left ages ago by the Rakata, and finally found, and destroyed, in the days of bloody Revan…

    The new weapon is nothing like the Star Forge. The Star Forge was a factory, not a planet destroyer. If you’re going to pass up the obvious (Death Star) and reach into the EU, there are better comparisons. The Mass Shadow Generator, the Sun Crusher, Nihilus, and others.

    True.. Was thinking more in terms of it sucking up suns. Its kind of like everything else in the damn movie – they mashed together stuff from a dozen parts of the EU, which are totally unrelated, to produce the result. The new “emperor” figure is obviously (or looks a lot like) what Palpatine’s master was supposed to be. There is the whole, “You need to kill one of your family to really turn to the dark side completely.”, thing, but gave him some Pres. GW Bush version of, “I am going to finish what gramps started!”, nonsense, instead of the more plausible, if still rehash, or secret love, and their daughter being seen in a vision standing side by side with a new sith threat, etc. So the new death star isn’t an exact match to the Star forge. Nothing else is either. Its all been sent through a damn blender, and the most theatrical, uncomplicated, easy to make, and “fits in three movies” stuff that dribbled out seems to be what ended up in the movie.

    I can’t say I don’t want to see where they are going with it, since its bound to be.. ok, or even good, but.. its not even close to what I, or a lot of people, I suspect, dared hope.

  48. brett says

    I thought it was good, but not great. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on the characters – they all felt pretty good to me, with added depth once you thought about them more aside from Finn (who is a good character, but you don’t really feel the weight of his stormtrooper background in how he acts). It’s just everything else was only okay, so the film averages out to good.

    This might be a minor nitpick, but I’m annoyed that about 95% of the battles took place just above the ground on planets. It makes them seem so much smaller and less epic than space battles – I will take the Battle over Coruscant opening from Revenge of the Sith over the air battles in this movie anyday.

  49. llamaherder says

    Kagehi @53/54

    We still don’t fully understand Kylo Ren’s motivations, or what made him fall in the first place. It’s clear that he’s treating the strength of the Dark Side not as a path to power, but as an ideal to aspire to. Real world parallel: toxic masculinity. When he faces down Han, it’s not so much that he’s been given the explicit instruction, “kill your father to prove yourself.” It’s more along the lines of, “My father tempts me to be weak, and I must not allow myself to be weak.”

    We still don’t know why he feels that way, but I loved his twisted sense of idealism. It’s a much more believable portrayal of someone who’s fallen to the Dark Side than any character I’ve seen other than, perhaps, Darth Traya.

    Kylo Ren really resonated for me, but I’m pretty sure I’m the exception on that one.

    There’s a lot of EU out there, so it’s inevitable that everyone would miss chunks of it. I got the Sun Crusher from some YA novels when I was a teenager. I’ve got mixed feelings about them throwing out the EU material (which was never canon, but it was close enough in the absence of an actual canon). There are a lot of interesting and long-running characters who just got blinked out of existence, but it just wouldn’t have been possible for them to create an original story otherwise. Necessary evil.

  50. llamaherder says

    It’s clear that they’ve taken bits they liked from the EU, though. Jacen Solo — Han and Leia’s FS son — falls and becomes Darth Caedus in the books. They changed his name to Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, but it’s the same deal.

    It’ll be interesting to see if they keep Mara Jade in some form or another, especially since it seems likely that Rey is Luke’s daughter.

  51. Adam James says

    Grumpy curmudgeon rains on parade, news at 11.

    But seriously, I didn’t need much from TFA. I just wanted to see that Star Wars still had a pulse. Leave it to the next two episodes to take bigger risks and shake up the familiar plot lines. With this cast, especially Daisy Ridley (who I am admittedly smitten with at the moment), I couldn’t be more excited for the future of the franchise.

  52. Athywren - Frustration Familiarity Panda says

    @Marc Abian, 49

    5. Taking the climax of the ROTJ and making it meaningless by having a rebranded empire which seems just as powerful.

    To be fair, the idea that winning one battle – even if it’s a battle that involves the elimination of the enemy leadership – would lead to the collapse of the empire is kind of absurd. Create a power vacuum, sure, but the empire still had a lot of resources, and there were plenty of people in positions of authority who could’ve filled that vacuum; even if many of them were really just the tea boy who, by virtue of dead men’s shoes promotions under the Vader administration, had found themselves promoted beyond their competence or experience level, someone would step up.
    What that final scene of ROTJ doesn’t show you is the fleets of Star Destroyers turning up on the doorstep of every world that’s celebrating the emperor’s death with an aim to crush the revellers as they party, and double down on their campaign of subjugation and oppression.

  53. says

    German church hosts galactic service to celebrate Star Wars release

    Children carried toy lightsabers to a church in Berlin and some of the congregation dressed up as Darth Vader on Sunday to mark the release of the new Star Wars movie with a service on Sunday.

    At the terracotta-brick Zion Church, an organist played the movie series’ theme and Ulrike Garve, a vicar in training, opened the Protestant service with the words “The wait is over – the Force has awakened!”

    A screen set up next to the altar showed a clip from a Star Wars movie in which Luke Skywalker fights off Darth Vader and declares to The Emperor that he will never turn to the Dark Side.

    Garve and fellow vicar in training Lucas Ludewig, fans of the seven-part epic space movie series, said Skywalker’s actions showed it was important to eschew violence.

    Speaking to a packed church with capacity for 500 people, they said this was also a message found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, in which some passages refer to overcoming evil with good.

  54. says

    To be sure there were some big plot holes. They could have shown a three or four version and there still might be questions.

    Although I didn’t care for the New Hope retread I did appreciate the beats. I give them the benefit of the doubt for now because I know more episodes are coming. I just hope the next one isn’t an Empire Strikes Back retread.

    I really liked all the women in story and Daisy Ridley does a great job even better than Mark Hamill in New Hope. It seemed to me that Finn and Rey hit it off because she is so use to being used as basically a slave that someone being nice to her for what seemed altruistic reasons interested her. Finn I think saw BB-8 and assumed that Rey could help him escape from the First Order.

    Luke in The Force Awakens was the MacGuffin so we know nothing about what his problem is until the next film. I’m okay with that.

  55. David Eriksen says

    Re: Athywren @59 and Marc Albion @49

    The movie clearly showed that the Empire did not die with Palpatine. The star destroyer and AT-AT hulks on Jakku were kind of a big hint. Star Wars: Battlefront has the Battle of Jakku occurring just over a year after the Battle of Endor. In the EU, Palpatine didn’t really die in the second Death Star.

  56. laurentweppe says

    they all felt pretty good to me, with added depth once you thought about them more aside from Finn (who is a good character, but you don’t really feel the weight of his stormtrooper background in how he acts)

    Well, Finn was a garbage boy recently promoted to front-line duty who then realized that the stormtrooper career wasn’t for him.
    The movie pretty much states that the First Order steal infants from their parents and then mold them into obedient killers, with Finn himself being an outlier who shakes off the indoctrination process once ordered to kill non-combatants.

  57. Marie the Bookwyrm says

    Gregory Greenwood @19–Andy Serkis had a small role in Avengers: Age of Ultron in which he played an arms dealer; a regular human, no CGI involved. :)

    Also, I read that Captain Phasma will have a larger role in the next movie. I would have like to see more of her in this one, though.

    And I thought TFA was a blast! Can I think of faults in it? Yep, but it was still a blast!
    Oh, & I was 21 when I saw the first Star Wars in 1977. *sticks out tongue at those who blather on about people re-living their childhood love of Star Wars*

  58. Marc Abian says

    While the destruction of the second death star would not have wiped out the empire, I find the fact that nothing has changed…disturbing. The death star was going to be the ultimate power in the universe, and fear of it was going to keep the local systems in line. It seemed like such a significant blow, and yet here we are, 30 years latter with another empire that seems as powerful with an even more powerful superweapon.


    I think it was implied that when Ren tried to use the Force to read her mind, he accidentally gave her a peek into his and she figured out a few basic Force tricks that way.

    TIRED of having to do literally YEARS of training to MASTER THE FORCE? Realise your powers IN MINUTES with this ONE WEIRD TRICK Jedi masters DON’T want YOU TO KNOW!!! Works on contingency? No, money down!

    For your explanation to work, Ren would have accidentally discovered a much more efficient way to teach force powers at just the right time to allow everything to proceed the way the plot wants. I hope they can explain it somehow, and her getting Jedi training at a young age and having her mind wiped would be the best I think, it’s still quite unsatisfying. It has a very deus ex machina feel to it.

  59. microraptor says

    @65: Well, Ren seemed like he was fairly bad at mind probing. And I’m 80% sure that Ree is his cousin anyway.

    Also, I agree with you about how well off the Empire seems to be. The Battle of Endor didn’t just cost them the Emperor and the second Death Star, it cost them Vader, the Super Star Destroyer, a large chunk of their fleet, and a large number of senior officers. For them to now be in a position to simply kidnap and (badly) indoctrinate children to make Stormtroopers and almost casually build a much bigger and more powerful superweapon (that has no apparent means of actually aiming at its targets) it means that the Rebels apparently did a remarkably bad job of fighting the last 30 years.

  60. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    It was a fun movie, but…
    (music industry has similar works called “remix”, where they take a popular work and mash it all up, snippets here and there, and make a new production with the prefix (or suffix) “remix).
    Seems Episode VII was a remix of Episode IV. It was fun if one did not know all the references it was reprisng. EG, Han’s reaction to Fin saying he was a garbageman of the fleet. Han says “… trash compactor?” Referring to the scene where he and co were trapped in a trash compactor room.
    Fin was clearly a remix of Han Solo. Han was outlaw smuggler, Fin AWOL trooper. Han reluctantly adopted Luke as an reluctant apprentice, given Luke’s undeveloped Force within, Fin latches onto Rei as a buddy, probly due to Rei’s undeveloped Force potentials. Rei herself was kindof a mashup of Luke and Leia, being the budding Jedi(Luke) and the romantic interest(Leia) of Fin(Han).
    Han and Leia’s son took an extreme version of youthful rebellion by turning fully darkside against his parent’s anti-darkside.
    ugh, I could keep going on and on (i’ll spare you a little of this rant…
    One scene that I thought was completely gratuitous, and would not have damaged the movie by being eliminated, was the fausHitler scene, speeching at the masses of StrormTroopers(ala SS) and announcing the “final solution” for the “master race” to rule, etc. etc.
    Completely pointless and gratuitous. Yeah we know the Darkside is bad and the wannabe DarthVader is no good. Must JJ really beat us over the head with it?

    Other than one anamolous scene, it was a fun movie, a worthy, modern remix of the original of the Star Wars franchise. episode VII is really episode IV(v2.0).

  61. David Eriksen says

    re: slithey tove @67

    I completely agree with you on the space Nazi rally scene. It was way too over the top for me.

    On the other hand, I saw Finn as the love interest of Rey. She seems to be the more important character. She is (probably) a Skywalker, after all. If Ben Skywalker can merge with Jacen Solo, there’s no reason Jaina Solo can’t become Rey Skywalker. While we’re talking about kids, Lando was the only black guy in the original series. Would the creators of the new series be so crass as to make Finn his kidnapped son? I think they would.

    Some people here have commented on the oddity of a janitor being such a skilled marksman and cool under fire when not shooting at civilians. In supplementary material to the movie, it was explained that he was going through training to be a trooper and was excelling against potential Republic targets. CPT Phasma was said to have remarked that he had more potential than any trooper she had seen before. However, she thought he showed too much empathy.