Star Wars: The Force Awakens never had a chance to be a great movie. It’s not controversial, it’s just a fact. J.J. Abrams and his creative team had too big a task, with too many moving parts, too many things to accomplish, for this movie to ever be great.
This is a movie that had to introduce a new generation of characters, reintroduce and reconnect audiences with 30-year-old characters, that had to re-establish credibility with Star Wars fans who felt burnt by the sins of the prequels, that had to remind audiences why they love Star Wars in the first place. Plus, it had to compete with people’s nostalgia, and a long-forgotten childhood is hard to compete with. And people expected this movie to be great, too? The fact that it even holds together as well as it does is really an achievement!
Sure, The Force Awakens plays things safe. There’s a lot of tread-upon territories returned to here, not a lot of risktaking. But ultimately, for a film to lay as much groundwork it does as competently as it is is something to be recognized even if the movie isn’t a great cinematic achievement.
I liken it to making a series of a TV show – and after all, what is the Star Wars saga if not a TV show, set against the most epic of scales, told in hundred-million-dollar mega-length episodes?
Not every episode of a great TV show can be great, simply by virtue of how a TV series is structured. Sometimes, you have to just connect the dots, lay a foundation, and know that it’s the hard work that will never be recognized. I’m honestly glad that Disney is rewarding J.J. Abrams’ hard work by letting him direct Episode 9 – it’s a chance for him to show what he can do when he’s not forced to check quite as many boxes.