There are spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
It took a while, but there are finally some negative reviews regarding “The Force Awakens”.
Admit it: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ stinks — and here’s why • 2015 Dec 28 • Michael Hiltzik • Los Angeles Times
Critics are going too easy on Star Wars: The Force Awakens • 2015 Dec 26 • David Roberts • Vox
I have now watched the movie twice, and, yeah, the parallels to the original “Star Wars” are brazenly obvious, and yet they don’t make me sick the way “The Phantom Menace” made me sick.
Some of that has to do with the fact that “The Force Awakens” is a true sequel. For some reason, the Arrow of Time makes allusions back to “Star Wars” more palatable than allusions forward to “Star Wars”. Perhaps the latter requires too much breakage of the Fourth Wall. Like David Roberts complains, “The Phantom Menace” requires you to think about and criticize the films as films, rather than simply experience and enjoy them.
I also think the continuity lent by Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill playing Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker respectively in “The Force Awakens” makes the parallels less jarring.
Also, the Arrow of Time makes it easier to care about the new characters in a way that it was harder to really care about Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi or Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. You already know where they end up. It was less important to see where they’ve been.
Like, I was thinking about the light saber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren. Because we know that Kylo Ren is Han and Leia’s son (and therefore Vader’s grandson) and because we suspect that Rey is somehow tightly bound to Luke and Obi-Wan, it totally capitalizes on the pathos of the original light saber showdown between Obi-Wan and Vader in “Star Wars”, where the one who was the student bests the one who was the master.
Whereas who really cared about Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan taking on Darth Maul? There was nothing there other than the fact that it was a light saber battle. No echoes. No emotional tie-in. Nothing. They just killed him because he was the boss character, really.
While the whole Star Wars franchise has run with the trope of a planet-destroying weapon with a single point of failure repeatedly, the Resistance (which I think is kind of a ridiculous name—but that’s another rant entirely) having to destroy the Starkiller Base is less ludicrous than Anakin Skywalker single-handedly destroying the Trade Federation’s Droid Control Ship.
I will have to ruminate more about why I like “The Force Awakens” a hell of a lot more than “The Phantom Menace”.