I thought The Force Awakens was a lot of fun, with superb new characters and interesting conflicts and arcs. It looked good, sounded good and felt like Star Wars.
I suspect the main criticism of The Force Awakens in the years to come will be this: it’s a rip-off of A New Hope. It’s kinda tricky to argue against that at a story level. It’s about a young, orphaned, force-sensitive protagonist stranded on a desert world who finds a droid with a mcguffin inside it. They then go on a journey across the galaxy, resulting in a huge X-wing TIE fighter battle over a Death Star (which is then destroyed) and an old man dies at the hands of a bad man in black.
Yet, personally, I only found the deja vu kicked in during the third act. The Starkiller Base I think is the culprit. I also suspect that many of the problems with the second half of the film (too much like A New Hope, the anti-climactic third act battle, how weird it was no one mentioned an entire star system was wiped out, the focus on characters superseded by a predictable, obligatory action scene) would be extracted just by removing this storyline.
The characters - old and new - are by far the best thing about this movie, and focusing on them throughout would have served the film better. It would set The Force Awakens apart from A New Hope instead of relying on another fricking Death Star to give the film stakes.
This is coming over way more negative than I actually feel about it. I enjoyed it massively and can’t wait to see it again. And that’s what excites me about fanedits of this movie, as distinct from The Phantom Menace et al. Underneath the flawed, irrational, nonsensical plotting of the prequels there were no interesting and lovable characters - just blank avatars. But with Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren this film has some great, great characters. The heroes are all likeable/lovable, and Kylo Ren is a much more complex and interesting character than I was expecting.
So I feel this is potentially exciting for Star Wars faneditors. If we nip and tuck The Force Awakens, and maybe add some deleted scenes to calm the frantic pace down a touch, then I feel this movie could be special.
Plus, for me at least, the x-wing battle in the middle of the film was superior anyway in terms of suspense and spectacle - and without the inevitable sequence of events that leads to a Death Star being all blowed up again.
The only question mark I can think of: was that Coruscant destroyed? If so, clearly that’s too important a plot point to cut out.
A few other changes:
Cut back on the callbacks. The 12 Parsecs routine and trash compactor was meta, which has no place in Star Wars. I love Joss Whedon, but thank goodness he didn’t direct this.
I’d like to end it one shot earlier as well. The final scene had slightly awkward editing all round, but surely you end on Luke’s face, given the whole film has led to that moment.
I’d also look to re-edit the fight between Kylo Ren and Rey so that Rey doesn’t beat him, but maybe just hangs on in there. I made this comment at fanedit.org, but if Luke had picked up Obi-Wan’s lightsaber and then fought Darth Vader on the Death Star it would have a) undermined Darth Vader, b) skipped Luke too far down his arc for a first movie in a trilogy.
I know that’s not a fair comparison given that Vader hadn’t just been wounded by Chewie after killing his dad, but how the scene plays out undermines Kylo Ren’s power, and stretches credibility.
Add your ideas below…