Star Wars: The Force Awakens is easily the most anticipated film of the year, the long-awaited sequel to the original trilogy that will restore balance to The Force and right all the wrongs of the prequel trilogy in one fell swoop. Or will it? While the film’s heavy marketing campaign undoubtedly paints a picture that everyone wants to see, it’s still a very real possibility that underneath all the trailers, merchandise, and adorable BB-8 toys beats the heart of a merely okay or even a —dare I say it — bad movie. Make no mistake about it; I’m going to be sitting in theaters opening night like everyone else who was lucky enough to snag an advanced ticket and will probably see it multiple times after. That being said, cautious optimism is arguably the best way to approach Star Wars: The Force Awakens because even though the trailers give the impression that it’s going to live up to all of our ridiculously high expectations, the reality could very well be much different.
7. Most Of The New Leads Are Unproven
One of the most intriguing aspects of The Force Awakens is the film’s figurative passing of the torch from the first generation of Star Wars to the new, with returning cast members Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher (among others) appearing alongside new characters played by young actors such as Daisy Ridley (Rey) Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) and John Boyega (Finn). While there’s no reason to think that any of these actors are not equipped to shoulder a large chunk of the film’s focus and dramatic weight, they are all still relative unknowns and could possibly come up short in the film’s more dramatic moments.
Boyega is mostly known for the 2011 indie sci-fi flick Attack the Block and other than some TV work, The Force Awakens is Ridley’s first major acting role. Driver has proven himself to be a highly charismatic comedic actor thanks to his role on HBO’s Girls, but it remains to be seen whether he has the dramatic chops to play a major villain. Of course, the main cast of the original Star Wars were all relative newcomers and did a fine job, so it’s likely that the same will hold true for Boyega, Driver, and Ridley. Still, the pressure of starring in one of the most hotly-anticipated films ever made could be more than these young actors can handle, so there’s still the remote possibility that they won’t quite deliver.
6. The Beginning Of Star Wars Overload
It’s no secret that Disney is framing The Force Awakens as a set-up for an outright blitz of new Star Wars films, with multiple new installments already in the works and set for release in the next few years. The company has been enjoying major success with similar tactics when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it makes sense that they would want to do the same with Star Wars. However, the prospect of having a new Star Wars film every year is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Disney has proven that they know how to handle a huge interconnected franchise with Marvel, as those films not only continue to make money but earn mostly glowing reviews from critics, which is an impressive feat for a blockbuster franchise. On the other hand, there is a significant danger of the Star Wars brand becoming heavily diluted. One may argue that this has been going on for decades thanks to multimedia expansions and merchandising, but there have only been a handful of honest-to-goodness Star Wars movies and the prospect of doubling that number in just a few short years is a potentially slippery slope. Especially when you consider that…
5. Most Of Star Wars Isn’t Actually That Good
Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back are two of the greatest films ever made and anyone who tells you different is a dirty liar that should never be trusted. If you put those two films aside and look at the rest of Star Wars though, it isn’t exactly a pretty picture. I love Return of the Jedi and think it’s an integral component of the original trilogy, but even I’ll admit that it’s deeply-flawed and suffers from a number of outright bizarre creative choices. Other than those three movies and a handful of TV shows and video games based on the property, there are mountains of crap that have tarnished the Star Wars brand for a long time now and I’m not just talking about the prequels. Thankfully, a lot of that unfortunate content was jettisoned when the decision was made to scrap the majority of the Extended Universe from the official canon, but when you look at the entirety of Star Wars as a property, The Force Awakens arguably has a higher chance of being bad than it does being any good.
4. It Might Play Things Too Safe
Reinvigorating an entire franchise after three legitimately awful films is no small matter, which is why so much of the hype for The Force Awakens has been built around the many ways in which it will stay true to the spirit of the original trilogy. Bringing back the old cast and tempering the CGI with props and other practical effects is indeed something to be celebrated and will surely go a long way in aligning The Force Awakens much more closely with the look and feel of the Star Wars we all know and love. Still, there’s a chance that the film will be too preoccupied with navel gazing and not push the franchise forward in a meaningful way.At the end of the day, this is still a launching pad for a whole new batch of Star Wars films, so nobody involved will want to shake things up too much. Sure, there are still going to be a number of surprises (we still have no idea what’s going on with Luke, after all), but it seems unlikely that The Force Awakens will dare to rock the boat when so much is riding on it. Then again, one of the biggest rumors is that Han Solo bites it at the end, so I could (hopefully) be way off the mark.
3. Too Focused On Nostalgia
Star Wars is a franchise practically constructed out of nostalgia, as so much of our attachment to it has to do with how we experienced it when we were younger and how it changed our lives. Disney has cleverly recognized this, as I can hardly get through watching one of the trailers for The Force Awakens without getting a little choked up. There is no doubt that the film itself is going to play up the nostalgia factor for maximum effectiveness, but once the dust settles and we gain control of our bodily functions again, will there be enough of an emotionally satisfying movie underneath all of those nostalgic elements to sustain the film over the long term and attract a new audience? The magic of the original trilogy largely stemmed from the fact that nothing like it had ever been done before; The Force Awakens does not have that advantage. Instead, it’s coming into a world where Star Wars is a figurative (and occasionally literal) religion for some people and this new film has been built up as the salvation of the entire franchise. That’s way too much expectation for one film to live up to, even if it is loaded with callbacks to some of the greatest films ever made.
2. J.J. Abrams Hasn’t Made A Truly Great Movie Yet
J.J. Abrams may be the luckiest sci-fi nerd to have ever lived, being entrusted with directing films in both the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises. Abrams is clearly a passionate filmmaker with an eye for visual storytelling and is an unabashed Star Wars lover at heart, but he still hasn’t made a movie that rivals the likes of some of his heroes, such as George Lucas himself or Steven Spielberg. Each one of Abrams’ feature films have had the makings of the great, classic films that inspire him, but none of them can justifiably be considered all-time greats. Abrams came close with his Star Trek reboot, which was an enjoyable reinterpretation of that particular franchise, but he dropped the ball hard with Star Trek: Into Darkness, which in retrospect feels more like an audition reel for the Star Wars job than a film that can stand on its own. Thankfully, Abrams actually has some capable scriptwriters this time out (something that wasn’t true for Into Darkness, which suffered under the plothole-happy antics of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) and The Force Awakens is probably his best shot at finally making a career-defining picture. Still, there’s an outside chance that Abrams won’t be able to pull the whole thing off, as he has been unable to knock it out of the park up to this point in his career.
1. The Previous Movies Were Awful
The proverbial elephant in the room, the prequel trilogy remains a blight on the entire Star Wars brand, one that it’s still trying to recover from. While there are loads of apologists out there that have fooled themselves into thinking those movies are not only good but better than the originals (yes, these people actually exist), for the majority of Star Wars fans, the prequels hurt and they hurt bad. There’s every reason to believe that The Force Awakens will be leagues better than any of those films, but it’s worth remembering that the trailers for 1999’s The Phantom Menace also presented a fantastic looking film and look how that turned out. I don’t think anyone involved with The Force Awakens is keen to repeat those mistakes, but building up a movie we haven’t even seen yet as “the greatest thing ever” is a good way to have your expectations thoroughly thrashed when it doesn’t live up to the film you’ve imagined in your head.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is probably going to be great and come December 18th, you’ll probably be able to disregard this list as the musings of a fool (unless you’ve already branded it as such, to which I can only say — thanks for reading this far!). Still, we’ve been burned before by Star Wars and we would all do well to temper our optimism because there’s always the chance it will happen again.