THE FORCE AWAKENS GETS EVERYTHING RIGHT THAT THE PREQUELS GOT WRONG
Star Wars: The Force Awakens gets pretty much everything right. JJ Abrams was able to tap into what made the original trilogy so great… the characters and the story. Below is my attempt to point out why I loved this movie in a mostly spoiler free manner, and why it made me even more upset about the prequels.
It starts with the droids. I read that when Lucas decided to tell his space opera he chose to do it from the point of view of the two droids because they were the seemingly lowest, least important contributors to the war. When he gave us the prequels, he missed the mark on what we loved about Star Wars. We loved the interactions between the characters. R2D2 and C3PO worked because of how out of place they were in the setting and it was funny. In the prequels we got an unlikable, bumbling, idiot who trips his way into the senate. It never felt right. They also gave us huge armies of droids, but none of them had any personality beyond “Roger, Roger”. In The Force Awakens Abrams has us following a droid with secret information again, and it is a natural fit. He isn’t talking, well at least not anymore than R2D2 did, but he still has more personality then any of the prequel robots.
Now lets talk princesses, queens, and scavengers. Padmé tries her best to have that same spunk that made Princess Leia so great, but she never quite gets there. They tried having her shooting bad guys in the first episode and battling in the area with the boys in Clone Wars, but it still never felt quite so good as Leia blasting her way into the garbage chute. Then Padmé spent the whole of episode 3 either crying… or dying… of a broken heart. On the other hand Abrams skips out on the royalty aspect for Rey (at least so far) and gives us a great character. She is tough, competent, and somehow an amazing pilot. She is the best parts of both Luke and Leia as well as an amazing addition to the Star Wars universe.
Now to look at the bad boys. Kylo Ren is a good character, he has tons of potential… but he is no Darth Vader. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is hard to be Vader. Part of the genius of Ren is that he is trying, literally. He is attempting to follow in Darth Vader’s footsteps… wether that means destroying the Jedi or the mysterious Snoke has yet to be determined. While we all loved Darth Maul in episode 1, he was never much of a character. He came, he fought, he killed, he died. He was a bad ass, but completely one note. None of the other evil doers in the prequels really stood out. Count Dooku, had a nice moment but he was one note. General Grievous was alright in the cartoons, but as a sick mostly robotic jedi killer he again doesn’t stand out. The problem with both Dooku and Grievous is they spend their time running away. They come across as more of a nuisance then anything… On the other hand the Emperor spends his time quietly manipulating things from the shadows only to turn into some maniacal joker when he finally reviles himself.
The best comparison is probably between Ren and Anikin Skywalker. We don’t get to really see Ren’s turning, but his tempter tantrums play better then any of Anikin’s emotional outbursts. The problem with Anakin is that his turn to the dark side took place over two movies and it still seemed sudden and unconvincing. He goes from arguing with the jedi council to murdering kids in the course of an afternoon. In The Force Awakens we get to see Ren struggling with his convictions.
The First Order come across as real villains. When we first meet them they are burning villages and blowing up planets. They steel kids and brainwash them. In the prequels we have trade blockades, underhanded senate dealings, and droids that spout “Roger, Roger.”
Let’s hear it for the boys. First we had Luke, Han, Ben, and Chewbacca. We loved them. They worked well together. They were a good mix of optimism and humor. Han was always a little cocky, but he played it well and we loved him for it. In the prequels we got Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Anakin. They never really came across as hopeful. They were mostly just cocky. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan played ok together, but the were in the worst written story of the three prequels… and often accompanied by Jar Jar.
In The Force Awakens we get two new guys… and they are great. Poe is the best pilot in the rebellion. He is missing through a large portion of the movie, but is great in the scenes he is in. The other new man is Finn. Next to Rey, he is the best of the new characters. Like Kylo Ren, Finn is also conflicted, but he is a storm trooper moving towards the light. He is genuinely funny. He is hopeful. He is part Han Solo, part Luke Skywalker.
The biggest bright spot in The Force Awakens is the story itself. Its fast paced. We meet characters, get a sense of their personality, then they are into the action. Everything that happens moves the story along. There are no 20 minute pod racing scenes bogging down the story, JJ Abrams respects your time. There are major plot points in this movie… more so then in the total of the prequels. My biggest complaints with the prequels were how long it took for so little to happen and that they could have been such better movies. Instead of some random order they could have devoted a movie to hunting down the jedi, having Anakin get beat by Obi-Wan after wiping out most of the other members of the order. They could have invented a real reason for Luke and Leia’s mother to have been killed… other than a broken heart. Roger, Roger.
The Force Awakens is the one of the best movies I have seen in quite some time. I loved every minute of it. When it was over I wanted to turn right around and go see it again. It is the kind of movie that sticks with you. Days later my wife and I are still talking about it.