Originally Posted by jeahrens
I agree that the setup for the conflict for this trilogy is starting out very similar to the original. But on the other hand, what exactly would you want? More movies about politics? A formed Jedi order acting as a Galactic peace keeping force? That is essentially what you would be left with if the "happy ending" that Ep 6 hinted at came to be. We've seen that storyline too. Even the Thrawn books, which were probably the most popular of the EU, followed much the same template. Yes I know it's not canon, but it is an indicator that this framework is a successful one for creating a compelling and enjoyable arc. You have to have a big bad enemy that requires the heroes to unite. It's very likely to be a light vs. dark conflict at the heart of it. Focusing on how they were the same shortchanges what was added.
I'll start by briefly mentioning the Thrawn books. I bought them, tried to read them, but they never captured my imagination. Just like TFA, it was a story with Star Wars trappings, but it didn't feel like Star Wars. It became too much of a chore to read, and I have up about 3/4 of the way through the first book.
Now, on to your main point. My happy ending comment wasn't directed at the state of the galaxy, it was about the personal success of our heroes. Luke became a true Jedi Master by reaching through to his father and finding a way to redeem him, all while battling against temptation to turn to the dark side in order to defeat an immediate adversary. Han had finally found a place of leadership for himself, truly turning into a selfless hero. And Leia was able to move past her tough chick persona, realize that she had found the love of her life, while strengthening her position of authority in the Rebellion. That those three heroes (and those around them) were able to crack the iron-clad hold of the Empire was icing on the cake, but it was their individual successes that the audiences most identified with. After all, through those movies, they had become like friends to us.
Looking at the bigger picture, it's not unexpected or illogical that the galaxy would have fallen into chaos after the fall of the Empire. Various factions would likely spring up, some growing out of Imperial remnants, some from the idealistic Rebels and Old Republic, the Huts and other criminal elements would also see an opening to expand their influence, and you could even have other new factions vying for power. There's a fresh bed for all kinds of infighting, sabotage, espionage, and conflict. And behind all of that you can still have your light side struggling against the dark side. That's certainly expected and necessary in a Star Wars movie.
And that may actually exist, we just didn't see it in this movie. Even the opening crawl or some toss-away lines could have been used to address it. Kind of like in Empire where Han mentions the bounty hunter they ran into on Ord Mantell. Just that one phrase opened up a host of scenarios in the minds of the viewers, and is an example of how the scope of the movie expanded in a sequel with just a single sentence.
So, let's imagine a galaxy either in flux or still in chaos. And let's think of our heroes as heroes, and how they may have influenced the outcomes and grown themselves over those 30 years. Perhaps at least some of them could have developed into successful mentor roles. It seemed like they had that idea in store for Luke, but even with the knowledge of what befell his father, he still failed miserably. Maybe there's a really good story there, but we just don't know it yet. Han and Leia both regress, and their ideal love ends up failing. That's what I meant about the betrayal of the happy ending. There's no reason that they should have had easy sailing, after all conflict adds interest, but is it too much to ask for at least one of them to not be a loser?
And maybe this was one of the mistakes of the film. They might have been better off just relegating the original cast to a cameo, or killing them all off in the first half of the movie, a la Obi-Wan.
Originally Posted by jeahrens
Could they have setup the conflict a bit differently? Sure. But you would still have a light side/dark side angle. The films have always been about the Skywalker family, so something with the descendants will figure into it. If you do a small character driven arc you'd have the fans complaining about the lack of grandeur. You go big and you essentially have what we got. 2 forces aligned behind the dark/light vying for the fate of the galaxy.
Again it's not a perfect movie. But looking at all the great character moments from the new and old cast added onto the new locations and you have something that, while not wholly original, has enough heart to satisfy. At least for me.
I agree with you here. But I'll go back to the example you had in your earlier post. Jakuu is isolated, and a good place to hide someone. But why create a planet that is identical to Tatooine? There are a ton of different planet types that could also be sparsely populated: Mountains, Oceanside, islands, caves, savannahs, tropical, or even something more otherworldly. But instead they go back to what we've seen before. As if the parallels between Luke and aren't already clear enough. How much effort would it have taken to do something just a little more original? Or heck, why not just go back to Tatooine?
Now, that's just a planet, and planets are not the heart and soul of Star Wars. But symptomatic of the same lack of vision that can be applied to virtually every element of the movie. Maybe they can turn this all around with the next film, and I'm hoping that they do. But it turns out that J.J. just didn't have it in him to make a worthy Star Wars movie, despite the superfluous window dressing.