I hated TFA, but enjoyed TLJ. It wasn’t a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought it had much better pacing and didn’t repeat many of the mistakes of the TFA. I didn’t like that it was a bit over the top (they keep trying to go bigger and better and this is about the limit of what is somewhat believable).
I’ll go over your list and say what problems I think are and aren’t shared with TFA, and hopefully that helps you decide. I’ll keep it spoiler free (but spoiler free might mean something different to me than to you–at any rate, you won’t be able to figure out what the movie is about by reading my post).
Mjolnir Mark IV said:
Specifically why I don’t like it (The Force Awakens SPOILERS):
- Rey’s rapid mastery of the Force undermines the hard work that was put in to make Luke’s transition from novice to master a believable one in the original trilogy, and it diminishes his accomplishments.
- Rey learning the Force with little to no guidance undermines the purpose of having a mentor in both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy.
I agree completely. This is acknowledged but not really addressed or explained in TLJ.
- New Force abilities break continuity with the way the Force is portrayed in the original trilogy:
- Paralyzing a person.
- Freezing a blaster beam in mid-flight.
- Walking while using the Force.
- Reading the memories of an inanimate object.
Personally, this didn’t bother me because it has some precedent in the OT (the Emperor used force lightning in ROTJ, and that hadn’t been introduced before; I see no reason why we should have seen every force power used). If it bothers you though, you will be bothered again in TLJ.
- Lack of originality. The filmmakers played it far too safe by duplicating too many narrative elements from previous Star Wars films.
This was ridiculously overdone in TFA and is why I hated it the most. There are scenes in TLJ that are clearly modelled after scenes in the OT, but plot-wise I enjoyed it and it’s its own thing. Although it would be too strong to say that it’s completely original (at least the plot details it takes from other movies are not obviously rehashed).
- Having Han revert back to smuggling undermines all of the hard work that was done to develop his character in the original trilogy. I would have preferred to see him continue to evolve as a character rather than regress.
Very true. I think this is less of an issue in TLJ though.
- As a character, Kylo Ren is a weak villain. And the comic relief in his scenes doesn’t help.
This is acknowledged in TLJ, although I’m still not a fan of him.
- Rey is overpowered even if we pretend for a moment that the original trilogy doesn’t exist. As a novice with the Force, she is somehow able to overpower a trained Sith at telekinesis.
I don’t think Kylo Ren is supposed to be fully trained, but I definitely agree that this was a weak point, and it continues to be (less noticably, however).
- The shift in humor to a satirical sitcom style is out of place for Star Wars. It’s the kind of humor that makes me roll my eyes when it’s not in a sitcom like Friends.
Ugh, there’s some really cringey humour in TLJ. Not enough that it ruined the movie for me, but there were some moments I hated…
- The film feels incomplete because there are too many important narrative threads that remain unresolved by the end of it. Key words: “too many.” I’m fine with being given a puzzle to solve, but the problem is that we aren’t given enough of the jigsaw pieces—or that we are given ones that should have been saved for later. And anyway, Star Wars is supposed to be a space opera, not a mind-bender.
I don’t think there’s anything more left unresolved with TLJ than there was with ESB. ANH was nicely wrapped up because they weren’t sure if they would be able to make a sequel; the loose ends in ROTJ were tied up because it was the last movie. TLJ resolves some questions raised in TFA and doesn’t leave too much hanging (it’s clearly identifiable as the middle episode of a trilogy, however). It answers some things far more satisfactorily than I expected (though other people strongly disagree…personality differences maybe?).
- Luke’s part in the film isn’t right. It would be better if he intervenes in the fight at the end to save Rey and Finn (preferably against an uninjured Kylo Ren). But if it has to be Rey who defeats Kylo Ren, there should be no cameo with Luke at the end. It achieves nothing more than the creation of an offbeat ending. They should have saved that scene for the beginning of The Last Jedi. It’s like ending The Empire Strikes Back with R2-D2 and C-3PO arriving at Jabba’s palace—it just doesn’t make any sense in the episodic format of Star Wars (to compare, The Lord of the Rings is a single story split into three parts, as opposed to three episodes that make up a story). The only reason for Luke’s cameo that I can come up with is that Disney wanted to sell more tickets by having Mark Hamill’s name in the billing—and that’s an insidious incentive when it comes at the cost of the narrative.
I’m not a fan of the way they used Luke in TFA, but now that I’ve seen TLJ, I’m willing to forgive it, because TLJ couldn’t have worked as is if they treated him differently.
And that brings me to another point. There are too many decisions that appear to be made for the sake of making more money at the box office, but at the expense of the narrative: duplicating proven story elements from previous movies to play it safe, reverting Han’s character back to what it was in movies that have proven to be successful, and tacking on the appearance of Luke. Even Han’s death felt like it was tacked on to check the drama checkbox on the Star Wars checklist, rather than to tell a good story.
There’s some of this in TLJ, but not enough to bother me, and much, much less than in TFA.
- Changing the design of the lightsaber for Kylo Ren is fiddling with perfection. The original lighsaber beam is a perfect design, both visually and sonically. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And having cross-guard beams on a lightsaber is just stupid.
No improvement here, but thankfully no new lightsaber designs showed up…
- It was predictable, and I mean well beyond the fact that the good guys are going to blow up the “Deathstar.”
Much less predictable than the last one. About as predictable as ESB, I’d say, or less so.
- Kylo Ren doesn’t need a mask. Cosplaying villains aren’t intimidating.
This is acknowledged in TLJ.
- The hologram technology is too advanced.
Look at how much our cellphone technology has advanced in the past 30 years…I see no reason why holograms shouldn’t also be slightly more advanced in the ST. They aren’t really that much better anyway.
- There are gaps in the worldbuilding logic of the narrative, such as the storm trooper’s melee weapon, or Finn’s fencing skills.
I think there was plenty of that in the OT too. I think whether you take issue with similar things in TLJ depends on how you see Star Wars in general.
I didn’t address a couple of your points to avoid spoilers, but hopefully the above is helpful without giving anything away. I left TFA feeling very disappointed. I did not feel at all the same way about TLJ (perhaps in part because of lower expectations), but I also did not leave completely satisfied like I did with Rogue One. I say it’s worth a shot, but be prepared to strongly dislike some elements even if you might enjoy it overall.
If anyone thinks any of the above is spoilery, I’ll remove it.