The internet consensus at the moment appears as a climate of positivity surrounding the new trailer for the seventh installment in the Star Wars franchise: The Force Awakens. While JJ Abrams created a visual masterpiece, and there are bound to be scenes that – shot for shot – drive your heart out of your chest, it’s for these very reasons the movie has set itself up to disappoint. Here’s a few reasons we’ve compiled as to why.
- It’s Oversold:
To point out the obvious immediately, The Force Awakens has entered the hype train too fast and too hard- it is an inevitability that what we receive will not meet wild expectations. Abrams doesn’t have to work that hard to deliver a film that redeems the franchise from the likes of the prequels. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Episode VII will live up to its predecessors, which arguably set the standard for what makes a Star Wars film great. Much like Age Of Ultron (an arguably critical disappointment of a hotly anticipated blockbuster) Star Wars is going to find itself constantly working to grab the attention of its audience- both the younger viewers who were born into this era and older fans who’ve been with it from its inception. That means, lots of flashy effects and caddy jokes with just a dash of nostalgia and fan service to distract older audience members from the fact that it’s a movie for children.
- The IMAX Experience Is An Achilles Heel:
The Force Awakens will (not might, mind you) suffer the same problems that beset Star Trek and Gravity; outside of an IMAX-quality screening, the film’s visual and auditory appeal falls flat. Let’s not pretend for a moment that Star Wars has always been primarily about the story- that trope belongs more honestly to the Star Trek series. Star Wars has always drawn heavily from epic space battles, lightsaber duels, and to much extent, the largeness of scale that Abrams has become known for in recent years. Outside of a screening room that is capable of encapsulating the feeling, power and precision of these elements (already prevalently displayed in the trailer) Episode VII will need to stand on a compelling story by itself. In addition to the reasons already mentioned in the first argument as to why this wouldn’t matter, one has to argue that the opening sequence of Revenge Of The Sith is much more exciting when viewed in a setting capable of rendering us speechless rather than, say, your iPhone 6+ screen.
- People Are Already Nitpicking:
From the moment Kylo Ren (our discount Darth Vader) stepped onto the screen, people already had a problem; his lightsaber. “It’s slightly different than what we’ve come to understand are the principal designs of the weapon. Childhood ruined. Everything ruined.” If this is the attitude that true fans have from just the teasers, they’re going to be extremely disappointed when they find out that Abrams is, in fact, not the original creator of the series who has his own ideas and creative innovations to add to the franchise. Speaking of which…
- No George Lucas Or EU Canon:
Say what you will about Jar Jar Binks and the collective disappointment of the prequel trilogy, Star Wars is George Lucas. Removing the creator’s ideas and the innovations brought to life in the expanded universe gave Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt (the writers behind the sequel no one needed/asked for) permission to do whatever they wanted with it. While this is, in some light, a good thing, they’ve effectively torn out the heart and soul of this story while leaving behind its biggest selling point: Han, Leia, Chewie and Luke; without these four principle characters, you’re not going to have a great film. Abrams and Disney know this, but in the end, Episode VII is a new installment that seeks to leave behind Lucas and the past. This reconstruction, as it were, seeks to attract a younger audience for the millennial era, not live up to the expectations we had twenty or thirty years ago; while not all die hard fans will be crushed by that revelation, there are bound to be a few Twitter users with unsavory criticism as the film series progresses.
- Art Is Dead:
Maybe we should unpack this slowly; art is, in fact, not dead. Just to clear the air, let’s understand why this point is made this way. The original film Star Wars could have ended as a standalone science fiction flick with no sequel if it didn’t happen to be as successful as it was. It ends perfectly with the deus ex machina of a lifetime via the Millennium Falcon, Vader is flung into deep space, Luke, Han and Chewie are celebrated heroes and the Death Star is destroyed. Film ends, everyone’s satisfied with that conclusion. Thankfully, we were treated three years later to The Empire Strikes Back, which went on to be called one of the greatest films of all time (and you’ll find no argument to contest that in this post).
While Return Of The Jedi was itself an incredible film, it had a lot more to do with marketing the franchise than the previous movies did. For example the only reason we even know the word Ewok is because it was plastered everywhere on the toys that were sold in mass to support the film, and it’s difficult to argue the first two films in the prequels didn’t share a similar motivation. Only Revenge Of The Sith really served to actually reveal some major exposition of the story and set us up to understand the rest of the series. Seriously, you can skip two-thirds of the prequels and still understand what’s going on in the third film without much effort.
The fact that BB-8 toy advertisements appear at the bottom of every article talking about leaks, theories and garnering fans for the hype train just further reinforces this point; we live in an era of mass pop culture. While Episode VII will almost certainly do well in the box office, and no one who values their readers is going to pen a negative review after leaving the theater, there’s a lot we can say alone about the sophisticated editing techniques which have become commonplace (creating flashier, more bombastic scenes to hold our attention between the exposition and crucial plot developments) in film making that indicate Episode VII might end up being a forgettable thrill ride rather than a timeless addition to a beloved story.
At the end of the day, The Force Awakens will be quite the movie to go see this holiday, but when we look back twenty or thirty years from now- it may not have the same connotation as the prequels have received, but for most, the story of a hero’s journey from the merciless desert, to the depths of depravity and corruption, to the light of redemption, set in a galaxy far far away, ended a long long time ago.