Okay, it's time to talk about this. I've seen it twice now and enough time has passed to put the movie into a little bit of perspective. After seeing it the first time, I was torn. The second time worked better for me, but I'm still kind of ambivalent about the story.
This isn't going to be any kind of in-depth analysis, but just a bunch of thoughts I had during and after seeing it.
(Note that I'm going to refer to the movie as "TFA" below because it's easier.)
SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE YET AND DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED.
What I liked about the movie:
- TFA felt like a real Star Wars film. The prequels had an artificial, CGI aspect, which didn't quite seem like traditional Star Wars. TFA did. J.J. Abrams didn't fill the film with his traditional lens flare and lots of chaotic noise, but emulated the tone and pacing of the original films. Well done.
- I loved almost all the new characters and having the two leads be a woman and a black man was a great choice. What's more, the actors performing these roles were great.
- The action scenes were mostly easy to follow and exciting.
- Han Solo and Chewbacca were well used.
- The pacing of the film was excellent.
- The reveal of the Millennium Falcon was one of the best movie moments I've had in years. Really funny and surprising.
What I didn't like about the movie:
- The opening shot of A New Hope was awe-inspiring and iconic. The opening shot of ATF was muddled and dark. I thought the bulb in the projector had been turned down.
- A New Hope, Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace all climax with a fighter attack on a giant ship/space station in order to save our heroes. Why the hell did this movie have to do the same thing yet again? "Hey, I know what we should do! Those first two Death Stars were awesome. Let's build a new one, but this time, even bigger and with an even more obvious fatal flaw." Urgh.
- In fact, TFA mimics the structure of A New Hope to a large degree. The Empire Strikes Back didn't do that and is the best of the films. Coincidence? I think not.
- While the Prequels overdid the political discussion, I would have loved at least a few sentences about the political situation in the galaxy. It's really unclear what's going on with the New Republic, the Resistance and the First Order. It seems that 30 years after the destruction of the Empire, nothing much has been accomplished.
- Why the hell wasn't Leia trained as a Jedi and why don't they even address that?
- Apparently training Jedi has a very high chance of producing a Sith or other Dark Side follower like Kylo Ren. You think they'd figure out a less failure-prone method.
- And why the heck does anyone switch to the Dark Side if it de facto means you have to kill a bunch of innocent people? Doesn't that mean that Ben Solo was a sociopath to begin with?
- Finn's change of heart about being a Stormtrooper was not developed at all. It's presented as a fait accompli in his first scene, and he talks a little bit about it, but there really wasn't any arc to his changing sides or any second thoughts, even when he's killing his former troop mates.
- If you have a map to a portion of your galaxy and all the systems of the galaxy had been mapped previously, it would be very simple to figure out where the portion of the map goes.
- Captain Phasma (the cool-looking, female, silver stormtrooper captain) was a complete letdown.
- I can't decide if I like emo Darth Vader Jr. wannabe or not. He doesn't seem to understand that Darth Vader repudiated the Dark Side before he died. Dumbass.
- And on top of that, Kylo Ren is actually wounded in a lightsaber duel by a non-Jedi and beaten by someone who's been studying the Force for about ten minutes. That tended to undercut his supposed awesomeness.
- J.J. Abrams has no sense of the scale of space. The "Starkiller" planet appears to be in a different star system than the unnamed planets it blows up late in the movie. A beam fired at the speed of light from a different star system would take years to hit the target. And if Starkiller is in the same star system as its targets, then just sucking up the sun to power the super gun would be enough to kill all the planets in the system, including the ones our heroes stood on to watch the other planets get blown up. Firing the gun at that point would be unnecessary.
- A small planet couldn't possibly soak up the mass of a sun and not rip itself apart (not to mention flattening anyone on that planet). That was REALLY STUPID "science".
- And finally, due to Luke Skywalker's "failure" at training Jedi, one of them became a Dark Lord, or whatever, and killed the rest of the Jedi-in-training. Luke, the only person around who might be able to stop this new Dark Lord, then vanishes for unknown reasons, leaving everyone to the mercy of this new terror. Thanks a lot, dick.
I would love some discussion in the comments.