I don’t think there is a film out there that generated as much hype, hope and wasted potential as Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). Released a whopping 32 years after the end of the original trilogy with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983), and 10 years after the penultimate film of the prequel trilogy Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005), it sparked a reboot era of Star Wars that boasts two prequels, a new trilogy, and a new live-action TV series, revitalising the Star Wars universe after the disappointment of the prequel series (bar Ewan McGregor of course).
The Force Awakens followed a plot we’re all very familiar with, something suspiciously similar to Episode IV: A New Hope (1977); a young, restless hero at the edge of the galaxy with massive powers is suddenly thrust into a world of war, prophecy, and epic space battle, with a couple of funny, brave and infatuated buddies along for the ride. The new trilogy follows Rey, a young woman out of place in her tiny world, Finn, a reformed stormtrooper, and Poe, a wise-cracking pilot (sound familiar?). It’s a formula we all know, but it’s a formula that works.
The Force Awakens arrived with so much promise and excitement. A conclusion to the ‘Skywalker Saga’, that at this point had been over 40 years in the making, millions flocked to see it worldwide, breaking huge records. I’m not going to lie, seeing it for the first time at a midnight screening and hearing that classic tune and running yellow text of opening titles, after having grown up with Star Wars never even expecting to get the chance to see one of the films in theatres, got me really emotional. It was a momentous occasion for fans of Star Wars and film alike.
The Force Awakens, however, in my opinion, was the rise and fall of the potential of the newest Star Wars trilogy. It simply set up way too much expectation; there was no way that the rest of the series could live up to the fantastic that TFA offered. The character development of Finn especially following Episode VII was tossed aside, clearly to appease racist fans of the franchise who couldn’t bear to see a black man take centre stage of their favourite series. TFA was and is a great film by itself, but it doomed the new trilogy from the very start; many fans and critics alike would find that the wonder of it, its snappy characters, easy space-opera plot, could never be recaptured in the two films that followed, The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019).