Saw it. Twice. I’ll see it at least once more in theaters (to take my son, who couldn’t see it until I vetted it, and also because I’ve not yet seen it in IMAX).

It’s good. Yes, yes, it’s good. Lawrence Kasdan wrote it—and it shows.

But it’s not brilliant.

Some things are. The production certainly is. The performances are. The dialogue is. The throwbacks. The characters (some). The casting.

The lens flairs (thanks, JJ).

But not… the plot, the story integrity, attention to detail, characters (some others).


It’s not a sequel. It’s a reboot. A remake. Episode IV all over again:

• A big superweapon: let’s destroy it.

• The messiah as a “too old” teen yokel on a backwater desert planet.

• An evil emperor controlling a masked psychopath who “there’s still light in”.

• A lot more.

Only, from a story standpoint, Episode IV was better.

And there are problems.

Where did Supreme Leader Snoke come from? This is, what, 38 years since Episode IV (judging by Han and Leia)? So 30-odd years since the death of the Emperor? Is that enough time for an Emperor II to emerge—a (darkly) wise, grizzled, mysterious old puppet master, with long experience in the ways of the Force? Ehhhh…

Imagine how much better this would be:

There is no Emperor II. The First Order is led, instead, by a charismatic and (sure, fascist—let’s keep that) secular-military leader. (General) Hux would fit the bill, though a tad older couldn’t hurt. And here’s the good part: Kylo Ren found his own way to the Dark Side, and is stumbling his way to mastery… much as Luke had to do with the Light. He IS the re-emergent incarnation of the Dark (and not some recycled protege of Emperors All The Way Down). And let’s not have any talk of “there’s still light in him”. Maybe there is, but let’s leave it unsaid, shall we? (And eventually: no, there is not still light in him. This is not a redemption tale. So far as Ren goes, it’s a corruption tale. This is the full force of Yang re-asserting itself against Yin.)

And think of this: if Ren were self-made, brilliant but untaught, there’d be a reason for that stupid crossbar on his saber.

(UPDATE: There’re some pretty compelling ideas floating around about the genesis and identity of Snoke. We’ll see. I still like mine better.)

Other gripes:

• R2D2 as Deus Ex Machina, and the problem of The Map.

R2 goes to sleep for (10?) years, but they keep him around in the “rebellion” control room anyway. Then at just the right moment, he wakes up to reveal a treasure map leading to Luke Skywalker—or at least, all but the last bit that was squirreled away with an unremarkable old man on a desert backwater planet.

Uh… really? So… what did Luke do? Leave it mostly with R2, then blow a thumb drive out his x-wing down to Jakku… on his WAY to search for the First Jedi Temple… which by-the-way he hadn’t found yet?

I think I saw that on Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

• Little things like Maz’s “Watering Hole” (I loved Maz, though). It’s a thriving waypoint buried in an ancient temple. Inside, there are renegades and runaways from all over the galaxy, coming, going, relaxing, negotiating, recruiting. Only… there’s no spaceport. The planet is all but abandoned. There wasn’t even a landing pad for the Falcon, and the path leading to the grand entrance was a barely-beaten dirt track. So, what… the wine’s just that good? And they all use transporters?

• Coruscant gets destroyed with barely a comment. Woah. WOAH, there. What now?? What implications does that have on governance, economics, everything else? I mean, I know we’re all weary of trade negotiations, but this deserves a liiiittle exposition.

(UPDATE: Ok, so it wasn’t Coruscant. My point still holds. It was the seat of power for the Senate, after all.)

• Yes, I know this isn’t sci-fi, it’s space wizards. But… a superweapon built into a planet, that can hold the power of a sun, and shoot it faster than light to the other side of the GALAXY with enough remaining force to destroy a planet in seconds? (And it’s not even a straight line—it can bend.) My belief isn’t managing suspension.

• And, why didn’t the rebels destroy this thing earlier? We know they have EXCELLENT intelligence—their guy on the inside gave them architectural schematics, and was in such constant contact that they knew the precise moment it would be charged and ready to fire. Given their experience with the previous 2 Death Stars, why wouldn’t they nip this thing in the bud, smother it in the cradle?

• Why is Luke standing at the top of a big rock with his hood on, staring out at the ocean? Is that all he does all day? Rey might want to go looking for Yoda. Just sayin’.

Yeah, I loved it. For the way it makes me feel, for the memories it stirs, for what it does to my imagination. All of those have everything to do with the franchise and much less to do with this particular installment. I’ll see it again. And again. But… we are all letting SO much slide, here, loving it in spite of itself. Dare I say it—just like we did with Episode I.

Great writing is hard to achieve. But bad writing is easy to avoid. Getting a solid script is the least expensive part of any project this size. Kasdan and Abrams are both proven. So… what happened, here? Why the slop?

But it’ll earn a billion dollars. And I want it to, so there will be more.

So that one day, there’ll be another Star Wars film as good as Empire Strikes Back.