For a movie everyone at least likes, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has been pretty divisive. You might think it doesn’t bring anything new to the party but simply imitates the original trilogy (that is, episodes four through six). You might also believe that that’s, you know, fine. The same is what the massive and ever-swelling fanbase wanted, and it’s what they (OK, we) didn’t get from the prequels, which not only expanded upon the universe George Lucas created but took it in a different, stiffer, talkier, C-SPAN-ier direction.
The anti- side has good points. J.J. Abrams is nobody’s idea of an original thinker, and often simply repurposes other people’s works, such as doing his best imitation of ’70s and ’80s Spielberg with “Super 8.” (For the record, he was fairly unfaithful with “Star Trek,” which he dumbed down and roided up for mass consumption.) “The Force Awakens” amounts to noble plagiarism, copying the cinematic language of the originals to make it feel like it was 1977 through 1983 all over again.
The backlash against “Awakens” hasn’t been fierce; even something as thoughtful and unmerciful as Eric Hynes’ terrific Reverse Shot review acknowledges the author basically had fun. And it has resulted in some defending Lucas and the prequels in a manner that isn’t simply clickbait. Whatever their many, many (many, many, many) faults, Lucas’ own attempts at returning to his saga were trying something new rather than placating the heads. They were righteous failures, whereas Abrams is just a kid who bought all the “Star Wars” toys and played with them on a $200 million movie set, rather than in his basement.