So, can we talk about The Force Awakens yet?
Ok, if you're the kind of person who apparently can be bothered to follow a complete nerd like me, yet for some inexplicable reason haven't seen it yet, I guess you can just go ahead and mute this post. Go on, I'll wait.
Right. Now, while TFA is certainly not exempt from criticism, there are a couple of things that I've seen brought up repeatedly, that I sort of feel miss the point. So, since I don't have anything better to do right now (and people are wrong on the Internet), I'll take some time to address them.
Rey is such a total Mary Sue
Well, in a word: No. Sure, she's skilled as hell in a lot of areas, but here are two reasons for why it makes perfect sense for her to be as skilled and resourceful as she is.
1) She has to be, or she wouldn't still be alive by the time the movie starts. Basically, if she hadn't been really good at things, she never would have survived that long on her own on a galactic shithole like Jakku. It's the kind of place where you have to be exceptional in order to make it on your own. And some people just are exceptional, particularly in a setting like the Star Wars universe, where you have...
2) Force sensitive people. Rey is one of them, and it's been pretty well established in the SW canon that force sensitives tend to pick things up pretty quickly and have knacks for a variety of skills. Let's compare her to a kid who at the age of eight assembles robots out of spare parts, builds and races the equivalent of Formula 1 cars, and let's not get started on the whole flying into the droid control ship thing. Let's face it, the only area where Rey really excels over Anakin is in not being a whiny bitch all the time.
In fact, Luke seems to be the big slowpoke of the force sensitives we've seen so far, and even he's a pretty quick study once he gets his ass kicked into gear. He learns to parry blaster bolts in just a short session on board the Falcon, and his piloting ability goes from flying the equivalent of a crop duster, to piloting the long time ago and far far away equivalent of an F/A-18 in an attack on a heavily armed mobile battle station*
Now, I'll admit that it feels like a bit of a stretch that she picks up the jedi mind trick on her own so quickly, but at the same time it's a funny scene, so I'll let that pass.
The Empire never learns - why are their big doomsday machines always so vulnerable?
Well, they aren't, really. Sure, the first Death Star had that one glaring design flaw. But the second one? Well, we don't really know how well it was designed, but the rebels basically had to fly all the way to the centre of the damned thing in order to attack its most vulnerable point. And if you look at modern warship design, that's usually where you try to put the most vulnerable bits.
The big problem with the Death Star 2 was that it was unfinished. Who knows how difficult it would have been to deal with if it had actually been completed? But the Emperor insisted on using its vulnerability to lure in the rebels, and boy did that plan backfire on him.
As for Starkiller Base, again it's not really that vulnerable. For one thing, it's presumably only really vulnerable while it's fully charged for a shot after munching down on a star. Attacking it in the same manner while it was uncharged probably just would have rendered it inoperable until it could be repaired.
Secondly, it's not exactly unprotected. It's well enough shielded that a fighter attack normally would be unfeasible, and even when they manage to get through (only thanks to Han's suicidal tendencies) they don't do any significant damage. It's only through the combined actions of a couple of complete lunatics (Han and Poe) that they actually manage to do critical damage to the thermal oscillator, neither the air assault nor Han and Chewie's sabotage on their own are enough to do it.
Now, there are plenty of other silly things about Starkiller Base. For example, when a single shot knocks out five or six planetary bodies, why does it need to snack on an entire star to have enough juice to knock out a single one? (But then, we don't actually know what type or how many stars it had munched down before destroying the Hosnian system).
Also, while it's well-protected, it's not really well-defended, having just its shields and a detachment of fighters to defend it, and no fleet presence. But this might just be saying something about the general resource level of the First Order. One of the things that seems obvious is that neither the First Order nor the Resistance have anywhere near the level of resources of the Empire or Rebellion circa Battle of Endor.
One might wonder why the First Order puts so much of their limited resources into building a gargantuan superweapon, instead of just spending it on building a proper star fleet. The only explanation I can think of is that most of the sensible imperial officers surrendered during the period after Endor, and the First Order leadership is made up by a bunch of fanatic megalomaniacs.
It's completely improbable that Han & co can find Rey in Starkiller Base, that thing's huge
Well, the thing is, Starkiller Base is mostly just a deserted planet. We see three components that make up the actual war machine: The weapon itself, the thermal oscillator, and the garrison/control centre. Of these, the first two are certainly gargantuan, but they're also mostly unmanned. Most of the people seem to be in the garrison section, and that's just not that big. Certainly nowhere near the amount of internal volume as the Death Star, for instance.
Kylo Ren is a trained warrior, he should have wiped the floor with Finn and Rey
Again, two points:
1) Both Finn and Rey demonstrably have a fair bit of general melee combat ability: Finn from his stormtrooper training (although FN-2199 probably outscored him in that class), and Rey from just generally growing up on Jakku. Even though neither has any lightsaber training, the general skills of positioning, dodging and parrying still applies. Now, I'll admit it is a bit of a stretch (since a lightsaber presumably behaves more like a flashlight than a sword), but it's not that unreasonable.
2) Kylo Ren is seriously wounded. He takes a bowcaster shot to the lower abdomen, and as the movie rubs in our faces, he's bleeding quite profusely. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that he doesn't quite fight at the top of his ability.
And a bonus one courtesy of Samuel L. Jackson: Finn obviously also has some force ability, or he wouldn't be able to light the lightsaber
Sorry, mr. Jackson, but several of the other films (including some that you are in) show that this is wrong. Han uses Luke's lightsaber to cut open the tauntaun on Hoth. And in the prequels you have General Grievous, who wields four of them like some sort of murderous, cyborg olympic champion baton twirler.
* Which demonstrates that the old guy from Independence Day was obviously an undiscovered force user.