The Dark Side: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”


Zane Fletcher

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a bad movie.

There, I said it.

Despite the hype, I tried to approach Star Wars as just another movie. I am a second-generation fan of the series – one who ascribes to the school of thought naming the original trilogy as the best, and the second as burdensome, derivative and unnecessary. When it was announced that Disney purchased the franchise and was planning to make more, I was optimistic. Nothing could be worse than “Attack of the Clones,” I thought. And while “The Force Awakens” wasn’t as bad as the former, it was by no means a good movie.

The movie, as has been noticed by most viewers, was nearly a shot-for-shot remake of “A New Hope,” the first installment of the original trilogy (later relegated to Episode IV following the second trilogy). It is the story of a no-name young adult (Luke Skywalker/Rey) from a desert planet (Tatooine/Jakku) who discovers their true potential on the path to destroying a planet-sized weapon (Death Star/First Order’s planet) under the control of evildoers ((Darth Vader/Kylo Ren). Additionally, droids (R2-D2/ BB-8) carry important messages to the resisting forces, enabling the resistance movements of each movie to further their objectives.

Remaking “A New Hope” makes a good deal of sense – fans of the series would enjoy a return to the format of the original trilogy, and a familiar story line made for a familiar viewing experience. Yet it failed in this aspect, and felt imitative and uninspired. Each of the characters seemed to be a shadow of their predecessors, perhaps highlighted best by Kylo Ren.

Ren, characterized as the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, grandson of Darth Vader and a former pupil of his uncle Luke Skywalker, could possibly be the worst villain I have ever seen on the silver screen. He repeatedly demonstrates subpar Force acumen, despite years of training with Luke Skywalker, and also appears to be unsure of his place on the spectrum of the Force. He is shown talking to the helmet of Vader, his grandfather, and admitting that he still feels the light side inside of him.

Whereas internally conflicted villains are far from unique in cinema, it is the overall demeanor of Ren that complicates his role. In-stead of the pure evil, chaos-loving countenances of such Star Wars villains as Emperor Palpatine, Vader, General Grievous and the like, Kylo Ren is depicted as an angst-ridden 30-something with abandonment issues, who can’t quite get over himself. He seems to be waging war against himself more than against the Resistance, something that dulls his edge as the symbol of evil for the First Order.

Additionally, the de-masking of Ren in the middle of the movie ruined his early position as a ruthless antagonist. In recent memory, there is a very limited number of villains who willingly revealed themselves mid-film. Generally, the shadowed identity of the malefactor lends to an aura of fear – knowing who their hidden identity tends to humanize them. In Ren’s case, it only took Rey asking for him to remove his helmet in order for him to do so – a very non-villainous move.

Deriving so much from a plot that relies heavily on one of the most iconic super villains of all time, for Ren to be such a disappointment detracted so heavily from the plot that it was difficult to enjoy the rest of the movie. Ren not-withstanding, the film featured many prominent plot holes.

One such hole that leapt out to me surrounded the Millenium Falcon. The Falcon, a freighter ship (akin to a cargo plane) was somehow able to outrun many different Imperial fighters in the original movies (similarly akin to fighter planes). While this premise is ridiculous enough, 30 years in the future, with the Falcon rusting in a junkyard and technology presum-ably advancing for the rest of the galaxy, the Falcon is still somehow able to outrun these ships. For an earth equivalent, it would be like a cargo plane from the 1980s outrunning an F-22 Raptor…ridiculous.