After JJ Abrams had decimated the Star Trek universe, he ran afoul of the franchise’s merchandising department and thus turned his depredations elsewhere: Star Wars.
I thought he might be able to pull it off. Star Trek has always been intellectual science fiction. JJ totally mishandled that. But the action scenes looked great, so maybe his talents could be monopolised in science fantasy for Star Wars with The Force Awakens (2015).
By now, we were all familiar – and in some cases very familiar – with the Original Trilogy and Prequel Trilogy in that galaxy far, far away. This is important to keep in mind. When the Original Trilogy first emerged with A New Hope (1977) it could offer us absolute premises, like an evil Empire, a galaxy enslaved, and ready-made villains such as the Emperor, Darth Vader, and Grand Moff Tarkin.
But the Sequel Trilogy has six movies before it. It has established canon. So we can’t mirror the Original Trilogy and issue absolute premises. We need to know how and why things are the way they are, given we’re all familiar with the state of this universe when we left it.
JJ never seemed to understand that. He decided to treat the events of the Original Trilogy as if they’d ceded into legend, comparing it to Arthurian mythology. Of course, Arthurian legend sits fourteen centuries in our past, while the Original Trilogy sits only thirty years in the Sequel Trilogy’s past. All the same characters are still blundering around, too.
The moment JJ started using this comparison, they should’ve fired him.
An example of this stupidity is that Rey’s believes Luke Skywalker, the Jedi, and the deeds of the Rebellion are all just legend … despite the huge Star Destroyer crash-landed on her planet (surely that came with a story?) that she periodically strips. But she has heard of Han Solo the smuggler.
Sigh. It’s just a little point, but it hints at the the big ball of stupid coming our way.
So let’s look at The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, what it awakens doesn’t happen to be logic.
The Empire is overthrown in Return of the Jedi (1983). In the intervening years, as far as we know (it’s not like the movie builds any of this with any genuine coherence), Luke goes off to train Jedis, Leia establishes the New Republic, and Leia and Han grow estranged. Most importantly of all, C3PO gets a red arm.
But the driver of this story is that a new arch-villain, the Force-strong Snoke (Andy Serkis), comes along and relaunches the remnants of the Empire as the First Order. He oversees the construction of the Starkiller Base, and the abduction of young children from all around the galaxy to be brainwashed and trained to become Stormtroopers.
The Starkiller Base is built into a planet. That’s not an easy thing to construct. It would’ve taken a lot of time and resources. When it fires, it fires through “sub-hyperspace” – so the writers have had to invent tech to explain why it can shoot almost instantaneously and hit a planet in another system, when it’s established science that light takes time to travel, and it has been established in the Prequel and Original Trilogy that hyperspace-travel isn’t instantaneous, or anywhere near it.
From what we can see, it appears there are tens of thousands of Stormtroopers – at the very least. How could you abduct, brainwash, and train kids on such a scale? It’s not like this is done over a weekend. They’re abducting kids. The Stormtroopers are adults. It would take years to farm this many kids, and more than ten years to groom them. Where is this happening? It would surely take a force greater than the one you’re building to run this program. If the First Order still retains this sort of numbers, why do they need to steal kids? As far as armies go, surely clone armies are easier to cultivate. It’s not like the Stormtroopers that we do see in the Sequel Trilogy are any better than their predecessors, so why go to all that trouble?
Let’s also not forget that Snoke corrupts Ben Solo, turns him against Luke, and begins training him as a Sith. Ben has a fascination with his grandfather, Anakin, aka Darth Vader. Ben vows to finish what Vader began – presumably the domination of the galaxy.
How did Ben develop such a romanticism for Anakin? When he was growing up, would Han, Leia, and Luke tell him some good old tales about how Vader would Force-choke officers, and be the executor of the Emperor’s will?
Han: “Ah, Anakin, he was always such a kidder! He tortured me, you know? He froze me in carbonite.”
Leia: “He tortured me, too! And killed most of the crew on my freighter.”
Luke: “He slaughtered a Jedi school full of kids and cut off my hand.”
Ben: “Wow! I want to be just like him when I grow up!”
Who is romanticizing Vader to Ben? How can you romanticise this figure? And is Ben such an idiot that all these tales of slaughter and conquest move him to want to do the same? I appreciate that people do fall to worshiping monsters such as Hitler, but we’re never shown how or why this happens to Ben.
On top of all this, Leia can’t convince the New Republic (according to the novelization) that there’s a genuine threat out there, so she forms her own rag-tag group, the Resistance. This is while the baddies are building the Starkiller Base, abducting and training kids en masse to become Stormtroopers over a prolonged period (I guess not a single set of parents complained to the New Republic), attacking and massacring Luke’s Jedi pupils, establishing the First Order, rebuilding their fleet, and committing their everyday villainy – like slaughtering the village residents where they track down Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow).
You might be able to hide that one of these things is happening (but, um, not really), but all of them? You can’t even blame complacency. The First Order fleet is flying around out there doing their thing right in the open. You’d have to be stupid not to be wary after years of Imperial tyranny. And you’d would have to be stupider to not recognise the threat!
But the New Republic let all this happen without so much as a whimper.
This is indefensible.
How does any of this make sense?
It’s just JJ resetting the board to the political climate from the Original Trilogy, and putting no thought into how any of that came about.
To buy into this premise, it’s not a matter of turning off the logic centres in your brain, but turning off your brain.
Then sit back and enjoy the nostalgia, given all that The Force Awakens truly does is ape what you actually do love.