Star Wars: The Force Awakens released in the U.S. on December 18, 2015 to a great deal of fanfare and acclaim. It quickly beat box office records by becoming the “highest grossing film in North America”, and the “third highest grossing film of all time” (en.wikipedia.org). And yet–in the glow of all this acclaim–the movie is wrought with problems and inconsistencies that make it less than what it could’ve been.
The issues begin with the opening crawl when it states that the “First Order has risen from the ashes of the Empire” (screencrush.com). This portion of the sentence implies that the Empire is dead, gone, ground to dust–all things it is not. While the Rebellion dealt the Empire a crushing defeat with the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of Palpatine, it was never fully conquered.
It became a galactic entity, going through a succession of leaders while occasionally acting as either ally or adversary to the New Republic (see Truce at Bakura, Darksaber, and the Legacy of the Force series). It is one thing to bring in new opposition rather than relying on the old–an act for which I applaud–but simply wiping the Empire off of the galactic map clashes with the established Star Wars fiction. And it’s not the only one.
The next inconsistency–also in the opening crawl–is when they call Luke Skywalker the “last Jedi”(screencrush.com). While this was certainly true at the end of Return of the Jedi, it didn’t stay that way in the books. Within about five years of Episode VI Luke had gathered a group of apprentices and was training them on Yavin 4 (see The Jedi Academy Trilogy). Luke even had a wayward apprentice who was seduced to the dark side by a Sith Lord. Sound familiar?
Then there’s the Resistance of which there is no need. As I’ve already mentioned, upon defeating the Empire, the Rebellion rebuilt the government which had preceded their foe, calling themselves the New Republic. This government has its own standing army and has no need of a ‘Resistance’, especially when they’re under attack.
The rest of the inconsistencies are ones that are truly hard to ignore. Not just because they conflict with the established fiction, but because most–if not all–could’ve been resolved by simply moving the time period at which the movie occurs.
The Force Awakens is set some “30 years” ( en.wikipedia.org) after Episodes IV, V, and VI, placing it in the middle of the New Jedi Order series and thus the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. The Yuuzhan Vong are a race with a penchant for self mutilation, terraforming of planets, and killing everything in sight. Placing The Force Awakens in the midst of a decade long conflict makes little sense, especially when it’s not acknowledge in the movie. It also creates several character conflicts, the first of which is Chewbacca.
Chewbacca is probably one of the most iconic characters from the original trilogy and–undoubtably–one of the reasons that he had to be included in The Force Awakens. But the movies placement creates a problem. He’s dead. Remember the decade long Yuuzhan Vong invasion? Chewbacca dies on one of the first planets that the invaders destroy (see Vector Prime) and thus couldn’t be in the movie unless the events were set prior to the New Jedi Order series.
Kylo Rend (a.k.a. Ben Solo) presents another character issue. How? His real identity doesn’t exist. In the Star Wars fiction–as it’s established–Leia and Han have three children; twins Jaina and Jacen (see Star Wars: Volume 3-The last Command) and Anakin Solo (see comic series Dark Empire II). Now, there is a Ben other than Obi-Wan and that’s Ben Skywalker, Luke Skywalker’s son who’s born during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, but no such person exists in the Solo family.
Jacen could’ve been cast as Kylo Ren as he does later go to the dark side (see Legacy of the Force series). Jaina would have also fit the role. Anankin would’ve been even better as he did worry about following in his grandfather’s footsteps and Kylo Ren is obsessed with being just like Vader. But none of this was done which creates a particularly strong wrinkle, all the more so because it was so easily rectified.
Another timeline conflict is the death of Han Solo. While J.J. Abrams sighted Han’s death as being “not just the evolution of a hero, but a villain” (cinemablend.com), the death comes at the wrong time. Not only does it take place during the Yuuzhan Vong crisis of which he is active, but conflicts with The Dark Nest Trilogy, Legacy of the Force series, and Fate of the Jedi series–in all of which Solo is very much alive. This could’ve been corrected had the movie been pushed forward–resolving the character issues save for Chewbacca–but it wasn’t.
The last inconsistency–and one that was created unnecessarily–is the destruction of Coruscant. The galactic seat of the Old Republic, the Empire, and the New Republic, it has been central to the Star Wars fiction. THe issue with its destruction in The Force Awakens is much like Han Solo’s death–it continues to exist after it’s destroyed (see Legacy of the Force, Fate of the Jedi, Legacy comic series). Since the focus of the movie is supposed to be on finding Luke Skywalker, its destruction is pointless. The fact that it is destroyed by Starkiller Base leads to my final criticism–the movie is a re-skinned version of A New Hope.
I can hear people screaming now. A copy? Inconceivable. They’d probably tell me that I’m a psycho obsessed Star Wars Lady all the while insisting that The Force Awakens is a brand new installment. While the former is probably true, the latter is not. And I have ten ways to prove it. Look below:
As you can see, the major plot point of The Force Awakens are identical to A New Hope. For a movie touted as a “once-in-a-generation event” (ibtimes.com) it bears to many similarities to its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong, there are many thing that the movie did well. Excellent Force displays, top notch acting, and the most brilliantly crafted cliff hanger ending I’ve seen are just some of them, but this alone can’t make The Force Awakens different. It’s one thing to make carefully orchestrated nods to a classic upon which you are building, it’s another thing to give that classic a coat of paint and call it a new movie.
More Star Wars is on the horizon with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story slated for 12/16/16 and Episode VIII slated for 12/15/17. May the Force be with whomever is working on those scripts, because if they continue to ignore the established Star Wars fiction, they’re going to need it.