I agree with you completely. Nice to see that another great mind thinks alike. 😉
Thanks. I realize above my post gives the impression that I’m arguing “off screen” stuff counts for explaining flaws (by omission) in a movie. I’ve long maintained actually that a movie should stand on its own merits, without requiring that you consume supplemental books, comics, games, etc. to have it make sense. Where it counts is that I will favor these explanations (especially material made at the same time by the original creators) over fan imaginations (or even later “canon” tie-ins) as to what was intended.
In the trajectory of the movies, Luke starts out with merely picking up a lightsaber and making a few practice swings (some say he nearly missed hitting Obi-Wan, who quickly sits down away from him). The next time we see him turn it on, he’s clearly been training at least for a little while on the Falcon with Ben. This is all within the first movie and the introduction of Luke to a lightsaber. This is already a much more believable transition from Luke not knowing what the Force is to being able to go “toe to toe” with Vader. We can then move on to ESB where Luke is trained (again, for an indefinite period of time) by Yoda, with the lightsaber action only shown in the “vision” of the cave and the rest in deleted scenes (made finally officially publicly available with the blu-ray “saga” release in 2011… though we knew these existed from the comics and novelization back in '80). When Luke DOES fight Vader, he’s clumsy, and its made clear that Vader was not actually trying to murder him in the fight. Luke was beat up before he scored a (lucky) shot on Vader, but then was swiftly beaten.
Obviously, TFA was copying ESB here (not merely ANH, as it did for most of the movie), but it always struck me as stupid. Sure, Kylo Ren killed the rest of the New Jedi, but its implied he basically wiped out a bunch of noobs with the help of some gang (we have no idea of their power levels or abilities). It could have all been some kind of trickery or deus ex machina, it’s never clearly explained in the movies. Apart from a neat trick with stopping blaster bolts (and freezing Rey at one point), Kylo seems clumsy and amateur compared to what we’ve seen Jedi do in the past (the prequels are still canon with these episodes). Rey demonstrates very little skill, she mostly does the same move over and over again (but Ren doesn’t seem able to really beat her). Yet she still beats a character that, in-movie, was trained for years by Masters. No other Jedi demonstrates this kind of “second wind.” Obi-Wan got lucky, and he still needed the emotional trauma of his master cut down in front of him as the motivation, just as Luke needed the thought of Leia being turned to the Dark Side for his “burst of anger.” Rey just “remembered” she had the Force, and that was that (but he survives due to another poorly edited deus ex machina).
Yes, Kylo was “wounded before the fight” (taking a “bowcastor” shot to the gut, a weapon that is shown to be more powerful than your average blaster in the same movie), and he does beat Finn, who has no force powers… but Finn scores a hit on him (a la Luke scoring on Vader) before getting beaten down (and implausibly surviving, though his survival was in doubt until the next movie). There is no good reason why this should have happened other than that Kylo in fact sucks. He has been training for decades (presumably) with this Snoke fellow, but I guess he has rested on his laurels and didn’t get to do much.
This all goes along with the “saber imparts magical skill to the user” trope though. Finn touching Anakin’s saber gives him some basic skills. Prior to this we could speculate that he trained in melee combat like the “shock prod trooper” he loses to earlier in the movie. This part was not that objectionable. It was that he did so well against this supposed “Master” that was goofy, and felt to me like they were trying to swerve us that Finn had the Force too.
What people always gloss over, is that Rey got thrown against a tree and knocked out before her “victory” over Kylo, but nobody uses that as an excuse. They were both wounded in the fight, and we don’t have any indication that Rey has the mutant force healing ability. In fact, it’s made to appear that she doesn’t even use the Force until Kylo utters the stupid villain line while their blades are locked up and closes her eyes.
I am not saying the Force is only around when somebody closes their eyes and the music plays, but I am also not one who wants to use the Force as a catch all magic wand to wave away any film making mistakes or writing conveniences. So the lightsaber is magic, Rey is special (somehow) and Kylo Ren sucks. These are kids playing with lightsabers in their back yard, not seasoned Jedi, and they have far less valid excuses than Luke did in the OT.
If this were a video game made in 2002, Kylo would have force pulled the saber out of Finn’s hand, and cut him down in seconds. He would have done the same to Rey unless she somehow blocked him or had outside help.
Lightsabers do in fact consistently “slice and dice” in all of the movies, except for ROTJ, and this scene. Finn should have been cut in half, and Kylo should have lost the top of his head. Why Count Dooku didn’t kill Obi-Wan outright in Episode II is tougher to explain but at least we can imagine a master of his caliber can pull his punches when he wants to. No such explanation really flies here.
The whole issue of Luke’s flight ability is a problem sure, but Episode I did try to deal with it, by saying the Droid autopiloting in these things is so good that even a little kid can pilot one (and he still did terrible until he “got lucky,” wunderkind style). But, that is an after the fact rationalization within the canon, no different than if somebody made a movie two decades from now that explained away the problems in TFA. We do know they have droids and computers to help the pilots, and that’s the extent of it in the actual movie.
The bottom line is that the main protagonist of this new trilogy is too perfect, and the main antagonist, despite being promoted as powerful, seems far too inept to be a worthy threat. I have no faith in Episode IX, and even if its a good thing that hack JJ Abrams is going to patch up the mess bigger hack Rian Johnson left for him, I don’t really care. It would be too little, too late. Unlike some other fans, I’m not going to say promise that “well if they get this wrong, I only plan to pay to see the next 10 movies and THEN I quit!!!” I was done after TLJ. I watched Solo for free on DVD from my library a year after release (and read all the spoilers ahead of time). I don’t plan to see “the rise of skywalker” in theaters (the trailer did nothing to get me excited, and the trailers are usually the best things about these movies) and I’ll only watch (at home) it if I get positive recommendations from people I trust not to let their fanboy tendencies get away with them. 😉
As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that matters with “critical scores” is the Rotten Tomatoes audience score, which it sounds like RT is trying to neuter for fear of upsetting the corporate overlords who give critics access as advertising promoters more than consumer informers. I prefer to trust people I know who have seen the movie and I know what their tastes are. I just don’t want to waste anymore of my time and money on bad movies (unless they are so danged hilarious that I’ll get enjoyment just out of their sheer ineptness, but even then I’m not paying full price!).