So, not that I’m qualified to mind meld with Abrams, or Lucas, let alone the Imagineers of Disney, but here goes, my own take of the world class phenom that is this film.
First: really enjoyed it. Looked great. Felt great. Man, I love the new characters.
Second: read 75 thoughts, because this is neatly much of my experience in watching the movie. SPOILERS, seriously.
Third: While this is a good film, with class actors, and a great future for the franchise… I hope some of the things I expected from Star Wars find their way into the next two films (let alone the next 12 years or so of the franchise.) With a running time of over two hours, there were plenty of important things left out. More on that later.
In context, you may have already read folks slotting this film into the appreciation of SW films that have come before, (y’know, better than 1, 2, and 3, not as good as 4, 5, or 6. That kind of thing,) but I’m going to make the case that we’ve seen an adroit storyteller’s illusion in 7, setting us up for the whole future of the franchise, not really a film that was intended to give us a great stand alone story.
Movies and stories have changed a lot since the 70’s in no small part because of Star Wars.
Just think about the Lord of the Rings movies. No one much even thinks of them separately, as they know the story being told is too big for one movie. That’s what we just saw with this film. SW:TFA is not a story we can evaluate yet, as it just put the pieces on the board and a passel of questions to be answered. The next two films are intrinsic in really evaluating this film.
So if you accept that unusual premise, the rest hopefully follows. OK?
So my review in short is: good film, clunky plot. Great performances. I found Rey to be a riveting character, and the actress (Daisy Ridley) totally hooked me in every scene I can think of.
All that said, there are enough weaknesses in the film that jumped out at me in the showing that I don’t even want to entertain how long it will be picked apart before SW8 comes around. So I won’t really. I’ll just point out that the transitions between plot points were more awkward than they had to be and the film’s end doesn’t even qualify as an end. (As I pointed out above, it is a cliffhanger pointing to the next film.)
So why did we get a cliffhanger? And is it the right move?
Well, yes, I think it is. Not so much because the films up to now are structured that way but because audiences can handle cliffhangers like this due to other media exposures and more importantly, Disney decided to make the franchise films on a schedule that everyone thought was amazingly fast.
Point of fact, Abrams has now admitted that several plot outlines for this movie were discarded leading up to ‘go time’ and that the script they were going to film was discarded because the author did not have time to finish it. Last minute, literally, Abrams started from ‘scratch’ with Kasdan to script the film we saw.
So, polished story? Not so much. Which leads again to the idea of telling a bigger story across three films. This is something that Lucas could never have pulled off before SW came out.
What about turning the ‘no time’ problem into an opportunity?
My working premise right now is that they sat down at one point (Disney may have insisted on a Opportunity Assessment Session) and looked at all the places that George got himself into trouble with the Star Wars fans/franchise. Then they looked at the aggressive time schedule of shooting the films. And then they said, “Where the prequels introduced more details that contradicted the first three movies, we should be introducing more mystery so that we have time to really figure out how the next trilogy ends.”
If you look at SW:TFA as a movie that almost did not have a story ready, it is clear to me that they needed to give themselves ‘story slack’, and mysteries to solve in the next two unwritten scripts, and that they knew they would be smarter to give themselves holes to work with. I think they have ideas, but actually bet they chopped things out of this movie, to make things more ambiguous. Some of that could be cutting room floor and pacing, but I think much of it (omg, LUKE does not even have a line of dialog), is giving themselves another year to get a smarter sharper story line.
Not only that, but think about how many mysteries are in SW4. Even with exposition, there is a tremendous amount of story detail breezed past to spend time with characters. We don’t know about the Clone Wars, we don’t understand the Jedi, we don’t get a feeling for the Dark Side, we don’t know that Ben is only present to make sure Luke isn’t killed off, and etc.
This is the thing SW:TFA gets right for me: they spend time letting you love and discover these new characters. They don’t explain what the holes are there for.
They don’t know exactly what the holes mean yet. But unlike Lucas in the 70s, this is the opportunity to reveal a better story, a bigger story, that can take the franchise to a new level of cool.
Here’s some food for thought, because I’m a big fan of Ahsoka Tano. Wouldn’t you like to see the earliest parts of the timeline show up in the next future bits of story? Would it not be very cool if Qui-Gon Jinn was right? That Anakin was going to be essential in balancing the Force? Perhaps because his apprentice was going to be essential?
Would you not pay good money to see the Jedi get their shit together in the next two franchise movies? The Jedi Council failures of the past are obvious at this point. And SW: Return of the Jedi does not address those failures.
What if Luke’s journey off to find a better Jedi path crossed with Ahsoka’s own journey to find a better path? She teaches Luke some things and the next movies reveal a new path for the Jedi.
Hey, you read it here first.