I want to get this out of the way right now. The Force Awakens is a very good (if not great) Star Wars movie. I enjoyed watching it, especially a couple weeks after release where I had the theater more or less to myself.
I have nothing but respect for J. J. Abrams, and feel he did a masterful job with a setting and style that is right in his wheelhouse.
I think the characters are brilliant (Harrison Ford stepped so effortlessly back into the shoes of Han Solo that I’m starting to think he’s just been method acting the character for the last 35 years). I think it is brilliant having a woman and a minority as lead characters (if for no reason than to see the GamerGater racist pricks cry bitter tears of betrayal).
Kylo Ren is everything that Anakin Skywalker was supposed to be in the prequel trilogy.
The call backs and parallels between Episode 7 and Episode 4 are well done. The people who made this movie know exactly what makes a Star Wars movie, and they nail pretty much every single point to perfection.
The problem, for me, is that I don’t think Star Wars movies are really my thing anymore.
The Force Awakens does absolutely nothing to challenge the Star Wars mythos. Which is a shame, because that’s what I really wanted to see.
Emotions = rage = chaos = evil. That’s the dark side in a nutshell posed in the movies and the books. It doesn’t have to be, and in my opinion shouldn’t be, so conveniently easy to suss out, but it is. Rather than challenge that statement, The Force Awakens reinforces it. Kylo Ren is clearly an out of control emotional mess, for reasons that are not wholly clear yet. Snoke is clearly manipulative evil, seeking nothing but death and destruction for death and destruction’s sake… because he can, and because he can, he will.
The Star Wars mythos offers no room for complexity, a complexity that I feel it desperately needs at this point. It doesn’t have to be the way it is. The canon has the ability to be more than that. It would be amazing to have a Sith antagonist that actually follows the Sith Code rather than give it lip service while turning into something barely above an animal in terms of spiritual and emotional development.
Imagine an antagonist that can actually challenge the Jedi way with more than brute force. One that can demonstrate how logic, serenity, and mercy has its problems too. Picture Jedi struggling not just with the dark side, but with living evidence that the jedi code is also incomplete (because, guess what, it is… dreadfully).
Bioware’s efforts with Knights of the Old Republic come so very close to this, even as it falters in the end. Malak becomes the traditional dark side villain, and Revan either follows that path or converts to a traditional Jedi protagonist (depending on the path you choose). But in that game (and its sequel), I see what the Star Wars universe could be, and I like that idea.
Shame that The Force Awakens is merely a very good Star Wars movie.