Why You Might Be Disappointed with The Force Awakens
This will be spoiler free, so it’s safe to read in case you haven’t seen The Force Awakens. However, I would recommend that you see it before reading. I’m speaking to the folks who’ve seen it, and have found themselves to be disappointed with the film.
Let me start off with a question: how old were you when you first saw Star Wars: A New Hope?
I actually don’t recall. I was a child, certainly, but I feel as though I’ve known the original trilogy my entire life, as though I was born having already watched the films. The Original Trilogy has been a constant companion, and, while I don’t watch them often, I still come back to them like an old friend. When I was young, I was mesmerized by the visuals and I adored the characters. The films were my introduction to the battle between good and evil and the story was simplistic enough for my young brain to comprehend. I accepted the plot without question, and, later in life, when I began to recognize the plot holes, they did not detract from the films. They just became another reason to love them. A little quirk that’s easy to look over or fondly joke about, like when an old married couple laughs about the things that irritate them about each other.
Chances are, you’ll relate to my experience. Many of us were young when we saw the original films. And if you were old enough to see the film in theaters, you were probably so blown away by such the special effects and the visuals that you couldn’t (or didn’t want to) look for the films’ flaws. In his review of A New Hope, critic Roger Ebert praised the film for its ability to tell a good story with a fully realized universe. There are creatures of all kinds, different languages, and a whole system of planets, and it all feels natural. We’re thrown into this universe with no introduction, and yet we do not feel like outsiders.
The Original Trilogy was special to all of us. They are what made us all Star Wars fans to begin with and influenced the entire Expanded Universe, which we created in books, video games, and other media because we were so starved for more of that universe. So when the prequels were announced, we were ecstatic. We would finally see how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. We’d get to watch the galaxy fall to the Empire.
And then we were disappointed.
The prequels had many flaws. Poor storytelling, actors who seemed uncomfortable with their characters, crude slapstick humor and characters that seemed to have no direction or purpose, to name a few. I was still young, only 10 years old, when The Phantom Menace was released, and I didn’t mind it at the time because, hey, it was Star Wars. Since then, I’ve only watched the prequels a few times, and I find them difficult to watch. Those films were like my middle school years: painfully awkward and, generally unfulfilling.
Because of the failure of the prequels, I cannot describe how much apprehension I felt for The Force Awakens. If I thought too much about it, I’d develop a knot in my stomach, full of worry. But one day, I realized The Force Awakens could never live up to the Original Trilogy, and it was silly of me to expect it to.
I think we’re shooting ourselves in the foot and setting ourselves up for disappointment if we try to measure how The Force Awakens stacks up against the Original Trilogy. Especially A New Hope. We all have so much personal attachment to the original films. We all have fond memories built around them – running around with sticks, pretending we were Jedi knights fighting Darth Vader, watching the films with our loved ones, introducing the films to our children and watching their eyes light up. There are so many emotions that are connected with the Original Trilogy, how could we possibly think that any additional Star Wars film could reach that place within us? Some of you are feeling disappointed in The Force Awakens because you’re thinking about it too much. You’re comparing it to the Original Trilogy. You’re expecting it to recreate the feelings you have for those films when such feelings were built up over time by a million other memories and experiences. I think the folks who have enjoyed it the most are the ones who allowed themselves to view The Force Awakens with the child-like wonder and awe that they had the first time they watched A New Hope. They allowed themselves to have fun. Because, really, that’s what the Original Trilogy was at its heart: fun.
“The Force, it’s calling to you… just let it in.”
This film is not A New Hope. It was never meant to be. Once you allow yourself to take pleasure in it, however, you’ll truly be able to enjoy it. Just like you first did, all those years ago.