6 Ways The Force Awakens is a Worse Star Wars Movie Than Phantom Menace
FAIR WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!
6. Where the Fuck Are All the Jedi?
Yes, I get that the plot answers this question. There’s barely any Jedi left because that’s what happened the first time, when this movie was called Star Wars: A New Hope. In the original, Obi-Wan is the last remaining Jedi and spends the film passing on his teaching to Luke. But in this shitty new remake, the last remaining Jedi is Luke Skywalker, who doesn’t even show up for his own movie except for 30 stupid seconds at the very end. But why not? Why start the new trilogy here if nothing cool and Jedi-like is going to happen anytime soon? Why would you make a Star Wars movie that’s not about Jedis? What the fuck is wrong with you, J.J. Abrams?? This is about as “Jedi” as VII gets:
Episode I does do a terrible job of all this, but at least it does it. Phantom Menace didn't know shit about developing plot or characters. But it knew to give them magic Force powers and have them come Force-jumping right out of the awful scrolling-word intro, lightsabers blazing. It gave its bad guy awesome alien make-up, a double lightsaber and made him actually good at fighting. Two Jedi could barely take him down, and one of them died. There were Jedi everywhere, Force-Pushing, Force-Jumping, Force-Flipping, Force-Speeding. Episode I's midi-chlorian mumbo-jumbo and Jedi training that sounds like a bickering old married couple were grating and idiotic, but at least they successfully kept Jedi and the Force the central idea that the movie is built upon. In VII, it seems like J.J. Abrams wanted it to have as little to do with Jedi and the Force as possible. In fact, at this point, I'm assuming J.J. Abrams is secretly one of those Trekkies who hates Star Wars and took over the title to turn it into an entirely different kind of movie and/or ruin it completely.
And, oh boy, did he ever. It wasn’t just the Jedi he took out, Abrams somehow took the Star Wars out of Star Wars. In VII, I can't quite put my finger on it, but it just doesn't feel like Star Wars at all to me. In fact, it all just feels not real. It might be that it looks too much like J.J. Abrams and not enough like George Lucas. Or it could be that it's a shameless rip-off and the fakest story about the fakest characters anyone's ever seen. It's probably that one. The scene at Maz's castle is pretty much the only scene in the whole movie where things are going on in the background, like it's a real place with real people working and eating and stuff. That happens almost nowhere else in the movie. There's hardly any aliens, or alien-looking locations, just a bunch of normal-looking places and a bunch of white guys running around. The Force Awakens doesn't take place in a galaxy far, far away, it takes place in a movie studio, somewhere in North America. Not to mention, again, no Jedi, barely any Force or lightsabers, and no catching up with the original trilogy characters at all. The universe of VII has no history, as if nothing has happened in it in 30 years, because nothing has happened, because it's just a story someone rashly threw together to make money whoring Star Wars to dum-dums who fall for it. Remember, people were raving about how awesome Episode I was when it first came out. They know better now. It's not awesome. It's poo-poo. But it's still better than this new crap.
Phantom Menace had some very silly looking aliens, like those Asian/Italian fish puppet guys. And it added way too much color, which actually, kind of ended up making sense when the Empire took over in Episode III and drabbed up the place. However, between that and the silly action, it all still felt like home, the Star Wars home we know and love. Diverse alien species, alien laws and traditions and communities. Tatooine still looked like Tatooine and all the new stuff still looked very Star Wars, even with the changes. (I don't know if you've noticed this, but the aliens in the original trilogy were pretty silly-looking, too. Remember the polyester elephant plush playing the keyboards at Jabba's in Return of the Jedi?) Phantom Menace is, without question, a pretty awful film. But it still feels like an awful Star Wars film.
Ep. I looks like a fantasy because it's supposed to. Because that’s what Star Wars is. VII looks like a Call of Duty game, but the (strangely video-gamey) realistic look they were going for was shattered anyway by it’s nonsense plot and nonexistent character development. Even the music in VII was wrong. All other Star Wars movies treat the score like an actual, added character: the Instrumental Narrator. Along those lines, Phantom Menace gave us “Duel of the Fates,” the awesome song they fight Darth Maul to. VII had no new themes that I noticed, and the music it did have was so subtle, I didn’t notice it either. It just sounded like generic, forgettable background music. All of these things were obviously just too “Star Wars” (like Jedi), and J.J. clearly wanted to make this movie his own. Or he’s just an idiot. Or both.
And as that seems a pretty appropriate note to end on, let’s do so before I think of any more reasons to regret living to see this day.