“The Force Awakens” doesn’t live up to the hype

Emily Doran

Like much of the population, I went to see the highly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” movie over winter break. Unlike much of the population, however, I was, in many ways, largely unimpressed and disappointed.

This first sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy rudely reminded me that, not so long ago, in a galaxy not so far, far away, I and many like-minded Star Wars fans were outraged when Disney acquired Lucasfilm and announced the impending production of several more Star Wars movies. Generally speaking, people were disappointed that Lucasfilm had sold out and were worried that Disney was going to trample over and desecrate the classic franchise in a frenzied cash grab.

We wondered why Star Wars couldn’t just be left alone, citing the poorly made prequels of the late 1990s and early 2000s as an ominous example. Soon enough, though, we were all back on the bandwagon when the first teaser trailer—which inevitably piqued our curiosity and preyed upon our nostalgic feelings—was released.

The movie itself followed suit, for the most part: It tried desperately to be reminiscent of the original trilogy (and, in the eyes of most viewers, it succeeded), even to the point that it established parallel burning questions and unknowns which will undoubtedly plague fans until the next movies, much like those of the original trilogy. Because of this (and other) blatant mirroring, I couldn’t help but think of the movie as a poor and unnecessary remake of A New Hope, at least at first.

The heavily employed nostalgia factor worked well in some instances, and not so well in others. The upsurge of familiar themes from John Williams’ original scores was one of the highlights of the movie, reminding me that I was watching a Star Wars film and not just a pretty good, unrelated action flick. Sadly, though, they were far and few between.

Other attempts to spark my sense of nostalgia were less effective, though, particularly Harrison Ford’s and Carrie Fisher’s reprisals of their old roles. I felt pained watching them. When I complained of my disappointment to my sister, she accused me of ageism. I countered that all good things must come to an end and that just because something was once good doesn’t mean that it is anymore, in which case it probably shouldn’t be resuscitated.

The movie did blaze new ground in other areas, with mixed results. I appreciated that the protagonist was a strong woman, although I was disappointed that her character seemed to fall, to some degree or another, into the mire of stereotypes which all-too-frequently swallows up the likeability and effectiveness of the 21st century female heroine. For example, the bit where she refuses to hold the hand of a man trying to save her reeked of overdone feminine aversion to male assistance. Perhaps I was struck by this segment more strongly than I should have been, though, as I seemed to be the only one in the theater who sighed while everyone else around me laughed.

I will add that my initial disappointment in the movie softened a bit when I had a chance to see it again, although much of my original critiques remain intact, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree. The first time around, the movie just didn’t seem like Star Wars to me, and I was of the opinion that we skeptics had been right all along: Disney was resurrecting and tainting a franchise which should have been left in peace.

The second time, though, I relaxed a little and tried to enjoy it for what it was. I still have a hard time accepting this movie as being part of the Star Wars canon, although it makes for a reasonably decent action flick on its own. Here’s to hoping that the next movie is more effective in blending nostalgia and innovation.