HomeMoviesThe Force Awakens - Why It's Not As Good as You Think

The Force Awakens – Why It’s Not As Good as You Think


And yet, despite all this, I don’t think it is any of the characters nor the function of its action scenes that suffer the worst from The Force Awakens‘ problems. Ironically, the movie saves its worst offenses for its own title concept: the Force. Now, the Force was always a nebulous concept in the original trilogy; exactly what it did and how it worked were very unclear and often varied significantly according to the demands of the plot. There’s even a little moment in The Force Awakens that pokes fun at this tendency. After Rey has been kidnapped by Kylo Ren, Finn excitedly suggests they can track her down using the Force, only to be shut down by Han: “That’s not how the Force works.” It’s a funny moment, and it does correctly identify something in the original trilogy worthy of some affectionate mockery. But the existence of that rebuke naturally leads one to question: how does the Force work? What is it? What does it represent? And these are questions The Force Awakens simply has no interest in grappling with.

The original trilogy may have never quite answered how the Force works, but it was deeply interested in what it was and what it meant. In that trilogy, it wasn’t just a cool power Luke had or a useful plot device, although it certainly was those things. It was a philosophy, one that Luke had to master before he could complete his journey. Obi-Wan spoke to him of how the Force surrounds us, how it guides our actions at the same time as we control it. It was something Luke had to learn to trust, to let go and believe in. Yoda spoke of the inter-connectedness of all life, of patience and foresight, of letting go of our attachments, our fears, our aggressions. And Luke took all of this and, along with a deep compassion and love for his father, used it to overcome the Emperor’s manipulations (and his own inner failings) and finally save Vader from the Dark Side of the Force. As philosophical concepts go, these are fairly basic, a grab-bag of surface level teachings. But it provides a thematic significance to the Force that resonates with Luke’s struggles. And it also has a deep personal meaning to Luke himself. After all, he first learns about the Force from his mentor, Obi-Wan, and his desire to be a Jedi stems from the stories Obi-Wan tells him of his father. In that climactic scene in A New Hope, when Luke uses the Force to blow up the Death Star, he is following through on his teachings and his character growth while also forging an emotional connection to his dead mentor and the father he never knew. It is thematically and emotionally resonant, a climactic moment that draws on every element of Luke’s story and his character.

Compare that to when Rey first learns to use the Force. Trapped in Starkiller base, having just resisted Kylo Ren’s attempts to pry the information he needs from her brain, she makes repeated attempts to force a nearby Stormtrooper to let her go until it finally works. It’s a pretty slick scene, but what does it mean to her? Other than some awe at the stories about the fall of the Empire when she first meets Han, Rey never really spends any time talking about the Force or what it might mean to her. Unlike Luke, it provides her no connection to her mentor figure or her missing family, as no connection between them and the Force is ever drawn (whatever theories there may be about her past and parentage, the fact remains the movie contains none of this information, and therefore such a connection is not actually dramatized within the movie). And, perhaps scared by the negative reception of the garbled philosophies attached to the Force in the prequels, any thematic or philosophical meaning it might have has been thoroughly scrubbed clean from the movie. It merely exists, a concept everyone is already familiar with and feels no need to question, let alone explore. Ironically, that decision may mean that this is the one area where the abysmal prequels are better than The Force Awakens. Because in that moment, and in every moment, the Force is a cool power Rey has, and a useful plot device, but it is nothing else. One of the most interesting aspects of the Star Wars universe, the story representation of its core philosophies and themes, has been rendered as meaningless as everything else in the movie. And more than any other part of this, I think that’s a shame.

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Chris Diggins
Chris Digginshttps://alittleperspective.substack.com
"Lord" Chris Diggins, "Grand Prognosticator of ThePopBreak.com" is a staff writer and incorrigible layabout for The Pop Break. He usually reviews TV and movies, although he sometimes writes ludicrously long pieces of critical analysis and badgers the editors to publish it. He cannot be stopped.


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