Big Spoilers Ahead.
In a lot of ways The Force Awakens is very similar to Star Trek Into Darkness. Both are obviously JJ Abrams productions. Both are also reliant on mixing in a major element from a previous film that just didn’t need to be there. Where Into Darkness has Khan, The Force Awakens has the dreadful Deathstar rehash, the Starkiller.
I think we all readily admit that Into Darkness would have been a better film if Khan had just been some disgruntled Starfleet guy instead of a whitewashed version of Kirk’s old nemesis. It’s not a surprise. It adds nothing to who he is. It really doesn’t matter a drop. It just makes you cover your face in shame. Without Khan, Kirk saving the ship in place of Spock looks less like a rehash and more like a twist. Stuff that was an obvious callback becomes fresh because you’re not pointing back to the source. The smartest way to steal something and get away with it is to not tell us where you stole it from.
The same thing can be said of the Starkiller. The Force Awakens’ most critical fault is that it seems like a point-for-point remake of A New Hope. In a lot of ways that’s true. But nowhere else is it more apparent than with the countdown to death against a super weapon that’s about to blow the heroes up. The very idea that the Empire would build an even bigger megaweapon with a single vulnerable spot is ridiculous in the extreme. That it would remain secret from, not a small rebellion, but a major galactic government like the New Republic is even harder to swallow. Having the Starkiller reminds us this is a remake. All the other stuff was just different enough but the Starkiller is a Deathstar, period. They even compare the two in the mission briefing.
But the Starkiller’s biggest sin is that it interrupts the flow of the film. Like ANH, TFA is a chase film with two sides after the same important bit of information. But in ANH the chase ends with a “boom”. In TFA the chase is interrupted by a “boom”. Big difference. TFA can be summed up most easily as “Find Luke, Find Luke, Find Luke, Find Luke, Find Luke, Stop the Starkiller, Find Luke”. Where destroying the Deathstar had everything to do with ANH’s chase, destroying the Starkiller had nothing to do with it at all. The plan to destroy it is so quick and handwavey it seems like an afterthought. Removing it from the film fixes so many glaring problems.
There are probably a million ways the search for Luke could have put Kylo Ren, Finn, Rey, and Han all in the same spot to duke it out if the writers had wanted to go a less worn-out route. Unfortunately, they chose the one that climaxed, not one, but two other movies, and without fully understanding why it worked so well in the first place. It also reminds a lot of us that everything we saw in the previous two hours was less original than we thought.