The Star Wars franchise and its love of the ticking clock


If it’s on the poster, it’s not a spoiler.

If you’ve not familiar with the term, a ticking clock movie is when the heroes need to do X before the bad guys do Y because if they don’t, the good guys lose, and what fun is that?  A good example of a ticking clock movie would be Speed, Back to the Future, Star Wars… Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and now Star Wars:  The Force Awakens.  I can see how this is both a good and bad thing. 


The question is, how many times should a franchise re-use not only the same ticking clock plot device but how many times should they reuse the same clock?  You can call it whatever you like, but Starkiller Base from The Force Awakens is a Death Star.  Sure, it’s bigger and badder, but let’s a call a giant super weapon that shoots a laser what it is – a giant super weapon that shoots a laser.  At least The Phantom Menace used a different device (destroy the control ship before the droids kill the good guys) instead of the same old doomsday weapon.


What we really got with The Force Awakens is a soft reboot – it’s the Star Warsist Star Wars movie that ever Star Warsed.  While it mostly leans on A New Hope (the wise old mentor, a great young pilot from a backwater village, a ticking clock premise via the same old super weapon…) there’s other touches from Empire and Jedi, so I have to stand by my original sentiment that this movie doesn’t have much new to offer to the franchise.

But is this a bad thing?

It’s kind of a bad thing, yeah.  When I was in my teens, I begin to hear from older Star Wars fans about how bad Return of the Jedi sucked, and I was having NONE OF IT.  Their complaints ranged from “stupid teddy bears” and other toy based kid pandering to the total lack of ingenuity by the Imperial military what with their second Death Star and all.  As I’ve gotten older, I have, in some ways come around to this point of view:  I would have much prefered something new, but in the end, I’ve always been a big fan of the interplay between Luke and Darth Vader, which is more than enough to carry the movie for me.  At this point (especially after The Empire Strikes Back), I’m invested in the story because of the characters, so the overall plot isn’t so much of a problem for me.

Here in The Force Awakens, I’m looking at a lot of things I’ve seen before, and I’m still getting to know these characters, so I’m not as invested as I would be later in the story…  but I do like these new characters (especially Rey) for the most part, and there is great promise for the future, yet I can’t help but think that this isn’t the most satisfying of movies.

I guess what I’m really pondering now is how I rank the Star Wars movies extent.  I think it’ll go thusly:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Star Wars (A New Hope)Here’s where it gets tricky…
  3. Return of the Jedi
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. The Phantom Menace
  6. Revenge of the Sith
  7. Attack of the Clones

“I liked this movie better the first time I saw it when it was called Return of the Jedi.”

But that’s not an insult – I still enjoy watching Return of the Jedi.  It’s badass.  I’m just hoping for something new from Episode 8 – join me back here in MAY OF 2017 to see if I’ve quit my complaining.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on January 4, 2016, in movie review and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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