So yeah, I watched Ep. VII last night and... well, lets just say I wasn't as blown away as I was hoping to be. It's better than Ep. I, II and III in my mind, but it still felt lacking.
For those who saw it, or don't care for spoilers, go ahead and read the spoiler tag. Otherwise skip it.
If anyone recalls, Ford had suggested during the shooting of Ep. VI - Return of the Jedi that Han Solo should die. Well, he finally does...
Another thing was the decision regarding the starfighters. First, the design. TIE Fighters and X-Wings... Sure, they're iconic, but why? The TIE Interceptor looked far more menacing than the Fighter and was vastly superior in every way. The X-Wings, sure, they were used pretty much throughout the entirety of the (legends) novels, so they're pretty iconic but the whole "half engine" design.
Okay, so maybe they weren't turbines per se, but still, I have to agree with the spirit of that comic if not the wording.
Going back to the new TIE Fighters for a moment, another thing that bugs me about them was one aspect of their design that served purely as a plot element: during the escape, Poe and FN jack a TIE Fighter, Poe piloting it and FN manning the gunner station. So, it's a two-seater now, okay, no big deal. FN uses the TIE's guns to take out some turrets and destroy a missile chasing them, implying that the guns on the TIE could pivot around and take out targets behind them. So why is this purely a plot element you ask? Because in the other scenes when the TIEs are being attacked by X-Wings, not a single one used the rear guns to even take a shot at the X-Wings chasing them. Maybe there's two different TIE Fighter designs but they all look pretty much the same to me. Maybe chalk it up to the idea that the good guys, once again, need to win because that's what cinema is all about...
Then there's the lack of variety in the ships, or just a lack in the number of ships. No epic space battles. Really, the only capital ships we see, aside from the crashed vintage Star Destroyers on that desert planet, was the one used by the First Order, Death (Planet) Star 3.0 not withstanding. In fact, this movie had a lot of call backs to Ep. VI - A New Hope...
Desert planet? Check. Droid searching for someone while being searched for? Check. Destruction of seemingly random world at the hands of a planetoid sized weapon of mass destruction? Check. Infiltrating/Escaping form aforementioned planet sized superweapon? Check. Death of pivotal person in cast? Check. Destruction of superweapon by a small, crack team of Rebelestance pilots just in the nick of time before it destroyed the rebel base? Check. The list could go on, but I'd like to think I got my point across by now. Honestly, when I reflect back on the movie some more, there's a lot of parallels or outright copies from the plot of A New Hope.
Then there's the other thing I'm struggling with for Ep. VII: Context. It's no secret that I suck at reading in-between the lines but I feel this movie needed more context. Who is the First Order? Why does the Resistance exist if the Republic is in power and rules the galaxy? Does the Republic not have it's own military or does it approve of, what is essentially, vigilantism? Why is it so important to find Luke, which happens at the tail end of the movie, if the big superweapon is gone? Perhaps this struggle is due to the fact that I didn't invest the money in the new novels that were to serve as the tie in between Ep. VI and VII. Maybe they would have explained a lot, such as why so many Star Destroyers were wrecked on that desert world? It feels like a cheap cash grab by Disney to further recoup their investment in the shortest time possible... I feel things could have been elaborated on more. Maybe not the Star Destroyer graveyard but the whole thing behind the First Order, why there Resistance exists if the Republic has been reestablished, etc. etc.
Speaking of Luke and the Force... here's my next complaint: how the eff does a teenager get to pull off a Jedi Mind Trick on her third try, after never having used the Force, ever, before?!?! And, on the subject of that, how is it that people who have never before touched a lightsabre, are able to wield it with enough skill to 1) not chop off their own limbs and 2) actually best more practiced melee fighters? When I saw FN wield the lightsaber, I pretty much dismissed everything after that point and sighed heavily. Then seeing that First Order Stormtrooper use that- for wont of a better term- electrically charged mace which actually deflected the lightsaber blows without being sliced in half made me both a little happy (that maybe there's a way to give people a measure of protection against OP Jedi/Sith) and sad (that it was probably done for the sake of creating tension in the scene rather than hold true to the notion of what lightsabers are capable of).
Then there's the superweapon. Again, I know it's for plot reasons, but you'd think, after 2 previous failed efforts, that the solution to the issue isn't simply to build something even bigger!!! Personally, I think a better bet would be to mount a torpedo launcher to an ESD that fires those sun crusher torpedoes. Modify the torps so they can be fired through hyperspace so when the sun goes supernova, the ESD isn't anywhere near enough to suffer the consequences. How hard is that?!? Maybe not as much fun and tension building as a death star the size of a small world.
That said, I did find the technology of the new superweapon intriguing. Suck up a sun and then shot it out at other worlds. How did they manage to get the beams to split up like that though?
... Wait... sucking up a sun... OMG! That's what they should have called the weapon! The "Nostril of Palpatine"!!! I've been waiting for years to use that one!!! Yes, seriously...
Anyways, such a weapon was either very nifty or very stupid. Could the Death Star 3.0 suck up a star and then travel somewhere else to fire it at a world or cluster of worlds or did it have to suck up the star in the same solar system before it could turn around and fire it? If it's the latter, if you've already sucked up the star, why bother shooting the worlds with it? They're going to die when they freeze over. If its the former... WHY THE HELL DID THEY NOT SUCK UP A STAR FAR AWAY FROM THE REBEL BASE AND THEN HYPERSPACE TO IT AND FIRE IT IMMEDIATELY!?!?!
And, on that very topic, is it just me or did that 15 minutes seem like the looooooooooongest 15 minutes of anyone's life? Seriously, it took 15 minutes to charge the superweapon and in that time, Solo traveled to the planet, blew up the shields, the Rebels were then able to scramble, travel through hyperspace to reach the world and then finally destroy it. I know, I know, plot, tension, yadda, yadda... But seriously, all that in 15 minutes?
All those coincidences too. Just happened to find Solo's ship. Solo just happened to retrieve his ship just as the fugitives were escaping in his ship. Finding Luke's lightsaber on that seemingly random world. The Swiss Cheese theory has nothing on this movie...
Regardless, while the movie wasn't horrible or even bad, I just found myself unable to really get into it. I feel like I basically watched Ep. IV but through the lens of a different generation who didn't grow up on Ep. IV. I really feel this was A Newer New Hope or something like that... Not quite what I had hoped for but maybe I shouldn't be surprised?
So, after all that, what's my final take? The TL;DR version: Ep. VII, while nowhere near as bad as Ep. I in my mind, really just felt like Ep. IV 2.0. I wasn't wowed by this movie, though at the same time, maybe I've become far too jaded to have really been able to appreciate what I watched.
EDIT - Maybe, after reading only the spoiler free version of my post, I too fell into the same trap that Ep. VII fell into in my mind: lacking context. Still, trying to provide a spoiler free synopsis isn't as easy as I'd like and you all know how I tend to ramble on and on.
EDIT 2 -