By Sean Ray | a&e editor
The latest entry in the “Star Wars” series is only three weeks old and has already made $1.5 billion. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has shattered several box office records and looks to be on its way to toppling “Avatar” as the highest grossing movie of all time, not adjusted for inflation. It’s on its way to grossing more than any film of all time, but don’t waste your time with this unimaginative and unoriginal sequel.
Taking place 30 years after the end of “Return of the Jedi,” the film follows Finn, a defector from the famous Stormtroopers; Rey, a Force sensitive scavenger from the desert planet Jakku; and BB-8, a droid that looks like someone put the head of R2-D2 on a soccer ball. These three heroes battle against the First Order, an organization made up of remnants of the empire, and Kylo Ren, a lightsaber-wielding worshipper of Darth Vader.
Along the way, the group encounters Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia and other returning characters from the old movies. Indeed, “The Force Awakens” pays homage to the original trilogy in many ways, and perhaps one too many.
“The Force Awakens” is, in effect, a remake of “A New Hope,” the original “Star Wars” movie. The First Order is exactly like the Empire, down to having a mysterious and ancient Force-sensitive leader; the plot deals with the bad guys constructing a planet destroying super weapon, just like the Death Star; Rey is a carbon copy of Luke Skywalker, being a poor youth from a desert planet; and entire scenes are lifted from the original trilogy and copied over to the sequel.
The film presents audiences with nothing new. There are no new star ships, only repainted X-wings and TIE Fighters; the planets all look similar to ones featured before like Tatooine and Yavin; the villains are still using Stormtroopers, who have received only a slight change in their armor design; and main villain Kylo Ren is literally trying to emulate Darth Vader in everything he does.
Frankly speaking, “The Force Awakens” copying problem comes off as a major disappointment, as the moments when the movie does try to be original, it really shines. Kylo is given much more development as a villain than Vader ever got; Finn’s story of betraying the First Order, while not developed to its fullest potential, is entertaining to watch; and the chemistry between Han Solo and Chewbaca remains strong as ever while giving the two fresh material to act on.
While the prequel trilogy is often something people would like to forget about “Star Wars,” “The Force Awakens” fails to take the good aspects of the prequels. The lightsaber duels are a step back from the fast and frenetic ones from the prequels, battles are back to being between 20 people instead of the grand clash of armies Episodes I, II and III delivered and despite having John Williams doing the score, the music in the film is incredibly unmemorable and forgettable compared to both previous trilogies.
At the end of the day, there are three words to describe “The Force Awakens:” soulless, safe and phoned in. The movie has no vision of its own, only doing things because they were done before. There are remakes that managed to be more original than this film. While it is certainly entertaining, one would be better off just rewatching “A New Hope.” “The Force Awakens” may make a lot of money, but if the sequel trilogy wants to be anywhere near as memorable as the original trilogy, or indeed even the prequels, it is going to need to find its own direction and not piggy back on the “Star Wars” name alone.