Let's get this out of the way now. I have been waiting for details of Star Wars: Force Awakens for a year. Anything, any little plot detail. So as I waited in bed waiting for that shit to happen, waiting to go on the 17th, I was frantically going through video reviews; not for plot spoilers, as it were, spoilers being CRITICAL moments of the film, but rather anything to do with the actual plot of the film and the story itself.
I heard a lot of the same shit in every single review. And here is what I found off base, or at least off putting, about a lot of it.
1. It's not very original! They fight a Death Star again!
Alright let's get this out of the way; the "Death Star" fight everyone is talking about is not only executed completely different than the other films, but it also isn't the focal point of the film. The First Order has a bad weapon, and we must stop it, yes. But the real point of the entire scene is to demonstrate Rey's ingenuity when left alone without her new pals. It also allows an opportunity for the interaction between Kylo Ren and the main characters, which I won't elaborate on much further here. Starkiller Base getting destroyed was an inevitability that the movie didn't even allude would not happen. A lot of the movie reflects on the past films. Whether it is funny moments such as Han relaying to Finn "That's not how the force works!" or the blatantly obvious but IMPORTANT metaphor of Starkiller Base sucking "the light" out of space, literally, forcing the heroes to "fight while there is still some light left" there is a constant contrast at play here, and much like the original films being not so subtle in their core themes, this one is obvious in its allusion to its Yin and Yang theme. I have read the dumbest responses to Starkiller Base; people who refuse to watch the movie because of it.
Good. Don't. I find your lack of faith disturbing.
2. It plays it too safe!
Now is NOT the time to NOT play it safe, I'm sorry. It plays it safe in terms of familiar beats and nostalgia, yes. And that's a good thing. But at the core of the film, which is a deeply emotional one, it builds up themes of family and friendship far greater than ANY singular Star Wars film before it. Characters speak through their actions and expressions. Kylo Ren is a startling villain due to his immaturity and instability, and the family dynamic at play present through him is heart wrenching. It is in these elements where the film shines. People often forget what is most important in plot; character. And it's the reason why all the flashy lightsabers and CG in the world couldn't save the prequel trilogy. It's the same reason why Empire is the best Star Wars film. People complaining about sword hilts and Death Stars are severely missing the point of Star Wars in general. This isn't Apocalypse Now; it's the beginning of the reinvention of a franchise based in a galaxy far, far away. Now is EXACTLY the time to feel familiar. It seems apparent that the lead in to Episode VIII is going to open more doors for the franchise, to allow the next film to flourish and be more original. But you need first to establish a basis, to show the franchise to a new generation, to reinvigorate it with an old one, and to do that, you need to stick to what WORKED in the first place.
The people complaining about this, in my opinion, are off base. And they are conveniently ignoring some of the more shocking moments of the film, as well as the distinct focus on new characters which could have failed entirely. This movie is a success because Rey, Finn, and Poe are all more interesting than the veterans who are present here; and that is essential in ensuring the success of the films to follow.
3. You only see Captain Phasma for a bit!
Hi kettle, meet Boba Fett.
Seriously, Boba Fett is one of the most celebrated characters in Star Wars. But why? As others have pointed out, he's a shitty bounty hunter. He tries to shoot people at close range. He saw his dad get his head chopped off by Samuel Jackson with a lightsaber and yet he still got in close proximity. To a guy. Who was pretty obviously proficient in using a fucking lightsaber. But none of that mattered because Han Solo sent him into a Sarlaac pit literally by accident.
But we loved Boba Fett, even though he did nothing. Phasma is Abrams obvious attempt to build a character through some mystique and a slow burn of trickled information. I'm not saying Phasma is guaranteed to be the next cool Boba Fett; I'm just saying, we don't need every character in this movie doing something awesome all the time. We need to build a new universe of characters. This is a new trilogy, a new set of movies seperated by thirty years. Because lets face it, the studios are barely acknowledging the existence of the prequels apart from a brief mention of a "clone army" to which General Hux replies "fuck that noise."
4. In review
This was a great film. All in all. It was not afraid to have FUN. It was a bit silly but that's OKAY. And it's very clear there is a plan here. Unlike Phantom which felt entirely disconnected from the sequels after it. They are in it for the long haul. And so am I.