Since opening on Dec. 18, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has received overwhelmingly positive reviews en route to breaking box office records. However, not every reviewer walked away feeling impressed with J.J. Abrams’ first Star Wars film.
L’Osservatore Roman, the daily newspaper of the Vatican, which generally reports the daily activities of the Pope and other issues concerning the Catholic Church, weighed in on the film. A scathing review with no author byline concluded this week The Force Awakens doesn’t quite stack up to its predecessors, specifically in its depiction of new villains.
According to The Los Angeles Times, L’Osservatore Roman’s chief complaint is that the franchise’s new bad guys aren’t efficiently nefarious, so as to demonstrate a struggle between good and evil.
The review even seems to suggest the much-criticized prequel trilogy was more effective in representing the age-old conflict.
“The new director’s set-up fails most spectacularly in its representation of evil, meaning the negative characters,” an unsigned reviewer wrote. “Darth Vader and above all the Emperor Palpatine were two of the most efficient villains in that genre of American cinema.”
The anonymous reviewer also notes:
***Potential Spoilers Below***
The counterpart of Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, wears a mask merely to emulate his predecessor, while the character who needs to substitute the Emperor Palpatine as the incarnation of supreme evil represents the most serious defect of the film. Without revealing anything about the character, all we will say is that it is the clumsiest and tackiest result you can obtain from computer graphics.
L’Osservatore calls the film “more reboot than sequel,” but complains it is “not a classy reboot,” like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Instead, the seventh Star Wars movie is “an update twisted to suit today’s tastes and a public more accustomed to sitting in front of a computer than in a cinema.”
The Vatican-based publication also had harsh words for Abrams, who it says modeled The Force Awakens on “the sloppiest current action films derived from the world of videogames.”
The cutting analysis concluded: “The only merit of J.J. Abrams’ film is to show, by contrast, how the direction of the previous films was elegant, balanced and above all appropriate.”
According to The LA Times, L’Osservatore Romano has been in print since 1861, but only began reviewing films in 2007, when its editor was encouraged to liven things up a bit by then-Pope Benedict.