I know, I know, this film and franchise has been spoken of to death. However, now that the backlash and conflict has died down after the divisive film that was The Rise of Skywalker (2019), I think it is worth looking back on some red flags presented much earlier on.
The Force Awakens (2015) was a guaranteed success pretty much due to hype, much of the new and returning cast being praised for their performances but particularly Adam Driver and John Boyega as Kylo Ren and Finn respectively being commended in particular. That is not to say that the film was without criticism upon release; many pointed out the similarities with Star Wars (1977), and the lack of character development in protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley) not helping with the Luke comparisons. However, I argue that problems for the trilogy as a whole began right here. I believe this because at the time, we all believed in a plan.
Who cared if Rey was a bit ambiguous and sort of a Mary Sue? This was obviously going to be explored in the next two films, in a way that perfectly and satisfyingly explained why she could hold her own in a lightsaber duel against someone trained and converted to the Dark Side. Also, the answers to more tidbits such as the exploration of her parents, Finn’s ability to hold his own as well in a duel and General Snoke’s origins felt just around the corner. However, this is when Rian Johnson took over and indirectly fuelled the fire for an even more toxic Star Wars fandom.
Even aspects like Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn’s friendship were shortly but entertainingly explored in the first film and then abandoned. Many wanted more, and the possibilities for a romance between these two was not an impossible but rather totally believable route to take (Oscar Isaac himself backed this relationship), however it very much felt like J.J. Abrams and the other makers behind this film were terrified of the massive waves of criticism, praise and reception in general they were undoubtedly going to receive regardless of the route they took. At least The Last Jedi (2017) went all out; The Force Awakens is about as safe as it can get.
In hindsight, all of these dropped questions and hastily thrown up answers leave a sour taste in the mouth for many fans when revisiting The Force Awakens. However, it must be acknowledged that alone the film was fairly basic, formulaic and didn’t dare to escape its comfort zone; like the amazing trailer many still regard as the best ever created, the promise of more was not fulfilled not only by the franchise’s trilogy arc but right off the bat with its first installment, we just didn’t know it (or want to know it) yet.