Old school fans of the George Lucas created saga really didn't begin pointing out that it wasn't until Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017) in which things began to look (cough cough) creatively bankrupt for that galaxy far, far away. But, for me, it was as plain as the nose on my face when The Force Awakens stirred such feelings. Like sensing a tremor in the Force, I felt that things were amiss -- that characters and circumstances of the J.J. Abrams flick were a bit too derivative, maybe even a bit too familiar to what had come before -- and that the entire Intellectual Property was on a path from which the franchise's most ardent fans couldn't follow. No, no, and no: it wasn't like a thousand voices crying out in the darkness were suddenly silenced, but regardless the sensation was there: this beloved set of adventures known as the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy would always stand proud and tall when stacked up against JJ and Kathleen Kennedy's Sequel Trilogy, as inferior a concoction as was the second Death Star.
And I know what many of you are thinking. You're cogitating on the fact that I wasn't more vocal and/or more outspoken at the time, and you're probably even mustering the courage to throw the old " hindsight is 20/20" blurb back in my face. That's alright. As someone who is only occasionally right in his rare prognostications, I can deal with your lack of faith (though a Jedi Master might insist he finds it a bit disturbing). My point isn't to say "I told you so" (but I did) or "We should all expect better" (said that, too) but rather merely to suggest that current creative minds under the stewardship of the corporate studio system were likely unable to recapture lightning in a bottle. That rarely -- RARELY -- if ever happens, and the resounding reality that so very much of The Force Awakens felt like a rehash of blue milk should've sent shock waves across fandom at the onset. It didn't -- perhaps nostalgia for a trip to the Outer Rim was stronger -- and, alas, we are today where we are today.
Again, I didn't dislike The Force Awakens. I think my observations -- much like those attributed to The Last Jedi -- were that it felt a bit too much like a carnival ride, like a cheap and inferior knock-off that only tried to recapture the Force Ghost's spirit of the original; and no studio mill system has proven up to the task since 1977. Sure, there have been obvious copycats -- and some of those copycats have even been entertaining -- but nothing has both culturally impacted our way of lives and also inspired like-minded storytellers to follow in its footsteps in the way Star Wars has ... so let that be a lesson to us all. George Lucas's films remain the peak -- the very summit -- of Space Fantasy on the silver screen; and everything else -- no matter how big and bold -- remains a distant second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth place. The Force was strong with those stories. They DID where others TRIED.
But, sure, like all of you, I was glad to see that someone was interested in continuing the saga; I was just disappointed that it was all so creatively bankrupt as has been a great deal of what emerges from the mind of JJ Abrams. The man's affinity for puzzle boxes shows he isn't so much fascinated with what's inside of them as he is with making them into something worth being dangled in front of the audience's collective face. He knew full well that he had one big rabbit that hadn't eaten in years, so his was a bit easier challenge than perhaps we -- fandom -- realized. Instead of giving us an all-new adventure, he copied what worked the first time and slapped some new faces on already established archetypes, never really giving it the depth, character, or imagination that flows -- like the Force -- through Lucas's originals. I don't fault the man -- few in Hollywood have demonstrated the understanding of mythology ol' George has -- and, yet, it is what it is.
So ... if you can ... still go out and find away to celebrate today. Yes, yes, and yes: I saw it as an end to All Good Things ... but that doesn't make it any less phantasmagoric.
Happy Birthday, The Force Awakens!
Now ... go back to sleep.