Aside from a vocal minority, it appears that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has received a largely positive response from fans and critics alike. Even so, the film — just like the original trilogy before it — is not perfect and features its fair share of disappointments. Here are five of the most unsatisfying elements of the new film that let audiences down. For the record, we’re looking only at the new film on its own and not excusing any of the below issues due to explanations in other media or in interviews with the creative team. Likewise, some of these problems could be remedied with further development in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and beyond.
1. Lack of strong villains, minus Kylo Ren
In The Force Awakens, Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is portrayed as the tempestuous, Vader-idolizing primary villain for this new trilogy. Although he has a mysterious and complex backstory to draw upon, he is also the only villain in the film to really stand out. Thus far, the theories behind Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) are far more fascinating than the character himself, who looks far more cartoonish than nearly everything else in the film. Likewise, Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) has little to do and fails to deliver on pre-release hype. Even General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) proves to be little more than a space Nazi lacking the gravitas of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin. Here’s hoping these gifted actors are given more juicy material in the sequels, as the characters themselves hold great promise.
2. Starkiller Base = third Death Star
One of the biggest criticisms against The Force Awakens has been the complaint that the film sticks too closely to the template of the original trilogy, especially A New Hope. Although thematic references and brief callbacks are to be expected, the addition of Starkiller Base is fairly inexcusable. For all intents and purposes, it marks the appearance of a third Death Star, and in a film already brimming with exciting new material, memorable new characters, and plenty of stakes, the fact that its third act so closely resembles that of the original film is a lazy move and major letdown.
3. Destiny stretched to the point of convenience
Destiny has always been a major theme of the Star Wars saga, and if Rey’s rumored parentage is accurate, it does make some measure of sense that she has untapped Force potential. However, The Force Awakens relies on a few too many unexplained conveniences, from R2-D2’s sudden reawakening to the fact that Maz Kanata just so happens to have Luke’s original lightsaber. Of course, some of this could be explained away in sequels, but as it stands, the film does have quite a few minor plot holes to plug up.
4. A murky status quo in the galaxy
To be clear, no one went into The Force Awakens hoping to see more taxation disputes and Senate meetings. That being said, the film is preceded by a 30-year gap — the largest between any two films in the series to date — and is sorely missing necessary context with regards to the ongoing struggle between the Resistance, the First Order, and the New Republic. Although it’s clear that the scenario is meant to be a blend of the political circumstances in the previous two trilogies, the film doesn’t give viewers definitive answers about how it all works. Even a line or two in the opening crawl would have sufficed, but with the Republic seemingly eradicated, there’s little chance this will be explained in the next film. Oh, well.
5. Where’s Luke?
While it’s unfair to penalize the film for not featuring more Mark Hamill (after all, his character was never said to be prominently featured), his all-too-brief appearance in the final moments of The Force Awakens could make some viewers feel gypped out of the essential next steps for both Luke and Rey. Undoubtedly, this tale will be a major focus of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, and Abrams makes a bold artistic choice in refraining from revealing all the answers here. Still, the next film really needs to deliver on the mystery surrounding Luke’s exile and the fall of his fledgling New Jedi Order. Here’s hoping the wait is worth it.
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