As expectorated: Cardboard characters, plugged into a recycle of the first film, with brief and implausible “plot exposition” speeches to cover decades in which a few key events must have happened but during which nobody changed or learned anything. No explanation as to why Han & Leia’s son went to the Dark Side, but perhaps a future out-of-sequence “episode” will concoct motivation-free coverage of that.
It sure is handy that a Star Wars sequel can tell any space-opera story it likes, anywhere or anywhen it wants, and the only requirements are a few pre-defined cameos and a mention of the Dark Side. Oh, and of course start with the trademark perspective crawl—a block of text outlining all the episode continuity the writers didn’t have to bother putting into the movie. The franchise is not really a series—it’s a collection of vignettes, each with a backstory that purports to justify that vignette’s story arc. The only problem with this is that there’s no momentum from a Grand story arc, and the individual film arcs are so brief they work more like hyphens.
JJ appears to be a better action director than Lucas, but he didn’t have much to work with, since the franchise doesn’t allow room for content, character, continuity, or depth. In the end, it’s an elaborate shoot-em-up — 2.25 hours of running, ducking, shooting, and a little Flash Gordon swordplay. The space-ship swooping was nicely up-to-date, and mercifully brief. Dialog is mostly “Hurry!” and “Quick!” and such, apart from the snippets of plot summary glue. The scenic design was the best part, with several memorable visions of exotic landscapes and aging space ship wreckage. Also some nicely realized interior and exterior architectural work.
The best character was the sound designer for Chewing Tobacco’s whiny grunts, and the most memorable moment was when somebody gave the spherical S3E3 a thumbs-up and it responded by extending a lit cigarette lighter. This reinforced a nagging feeling that arose during the opening plot summary crawl—perhaps I’m about to watch a satire. The satire theory was also supported by a few comments about Leia’s hair, whose cinnamon buns had migrated to the top of her head. But it was contradicted by the semi-permanent look of embarrassed disapproval on Han’s face.
Admittedly, the franchise was built for 11-year-olds, and for the 11-year-old in all of us, with all the attendant irresistibe stuff-toy and action figure merchandising opportunities. So it’s not surprising that #7 is essentially just like #1..#6 (with more deft directing). It reminded me of being 11, lying on the living room floor with toy soldiers, putting them through umpteen permutations of the same basic maneuver: bang, bang, run, run, fall down, repeat.
As of January 2017, Star Wars Ep. 7 has grossed just over $2,000,000,000.00 world wide.