My uneven relationship with this mega-franchise continues. After reasonably enjoying the first three installments (episodes IV, V, VI), I was totally turned off by the first of the prequel trilogy (episode I) and swore off the next two. When the series was rebooted, I heard good things about episode VII The Force Awakens and found it reasonably enjoyable, although it seemed to be simply a remake of the original episode IV. Last night I watched the most recent episode and it was really awful.
The film made no sense at all, with plotlines that went nowhere and characters appearing and disappearing in different places with little explanation of how they got there or why and plenty of unexplained character behavior. As an example, there is a new character named Rose who is introduced as a lowly security guard but suddenly in a climactic scene becomes a fighter pilot. In these films one has to suspend belief in many fundamental laws of physics but in this film they went well into supernatural territory and threw in a lot of quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo. One of the biggest weaknesses is the villain. Kylo Ren looks weak and ineffectual, lacking the menacing gravitas of Darth Vader, and Snoke’s obsession with getting Ren to bring Rey into his presence seems unnecessary since he seemed to have the ability to project himself and extend his power everywhere.
The film had little humor and the scenes that were supposed to be tense and dramatic (usually involving Luke Skywalker, Rey, and Kylo Ren) had such clunky dialogue and were so poorly acted that very often I was tempted to laugh out loud and sometimes did so, which was fine since I was watching at home. The whole film seemed like a series of action sequences patched together. There were extended sequences that could have been omitted with no loss of continuity. The action scenes were boring since they involved the usual aerial dogfights and light saber duels and once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. They sprinkled in some cute animals and a gratuitous animal race. The film was so bad that my mind started speculating on random things, such as whether the actors Daisy Ridley, Keira Knightley, and Natalie Portman were secretly sisters, they look so much alike.
What surprised me is that this film was well received critically, with a 91% rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes though the fan rating was only 47%. Metacritic gave it an 85% rating. The last time I was so out of step with other critics was with Phantom Thread which again the critics loved and I hated. That discrepancy I put down to my lack of appreciation of High Art but the Star Wars franchise cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered in that category. It is catering unabashedly to the popcorn eaters. So it is clear that I am never going to be accepted by the community of professional film critics. (It appears that Mark Hamill is not a big fan of the recent films.)
Here’s the trailer.