I appear to be in a very slight minority of people who were not OMG'd by the latest Star Wars film. There is no denying (to me, at least), that The Force Awakens has some great characters. Rey is probably my new favorite hero in the Star Wars universe. Finn and Poe are cool. And even Kylo Ren is a compelling villain. There is also no denying that the "practical" special effects are outstanding. I won't even contest the whole vaunted "Star Wars feel, man!" that many people squeal in their social media mini-reviews of the film. All of that is true, in my eyes, and very good.
So what the hell's my problem? I'm not going to get into specifics because I do want to keep this blog spoiler-free, so I'll just say this: Episode VII, when you look past all the things mentioned in the previous paragraph, tells a weak story. Too weak, for my liking.
Originality is not the beef here; it's delivery. Can you define the plot of the Force Awakens in one sentence? Um..."Freedom fighters desperately try to stop a mega-weapon from being unleashed on the universe?" Is that really fair to the best parts of TFA? Hell; that synopsis isn't even fair to the TITLE. Does a story need to be summarized in one sentence to be good? That's a whole 'nuther can of worms, but the short answer is "yes." Yes, it does.
"They've got to set up the next trilogy!" No, they don't. "Setting up future films" is not a story. It's an excuse.
"It's supposed to be cyclical; that's a theme in Star Wars?" Stop deluding yourself. There are plenty of movies that illustrate the cyclical nature of the human experience that actually, you know, DO IT, and not just throw it out there like putting a rug over a stain on the floor. City of God is a brilliant, powerful movie about the cyclical nature of violence. But there are no cool action figures for City of God, so, you know, it's just a movie.
"Good stories are all about character!" No. I'm so sick and tired of hearing this. Good stories are NOT good characters. The only thing that's a good story is a good story.
Is it fair to put TFA on blast for something so few stories can get right? Probably not...and I don't give a shit. The Star Wars franchise is orders of magnitude larger than virtually any other intellectual property out there. It has nearly unlimited resources. Therefore, I have set the very highest bar for it, and I'm disappointed to say, it failed to deliver. I'm glad all the kids and fanboys and families enjoyed it, and I certainly don't mean to disrespect any of them (or you, Dear Reader, if you're one of them), but we deserve better. For all that money, for all that hype, we deserve better. If Pixar can crank out movies like Toy Story and Up that are both entertaining and powerfully moving, then Star Wars can do the same.