As a huge Star Wars fan, who’s read 100+ Star Wars books and loved the movies since I first saw them, I have to say I loved The Force Awakens. I also know I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Hence, consider yourself SPOILER WARNED. Yes, I consider just about any new information about a film a spoiler, and I don’t want to be the one to spoil it for you. So you have been warned, there are SPOILERS in this review.
I, like just about everyone else I know, have been waiting breathlessly for the new Star Wars movie. Would it be good? Would Disney ruin it? Actually, I never had the thought of “Will Disney ruin it” because I figured the prequel trilogy was already not so great, so it didn’t matter much if Disney did ruin it. I could just pretend they were apocryphal imitations of the Star Wars I knew and loved.
Let’s just get it out of the way: I do not think this movie was ruined. I absolutely loved it. Is some of that the nostalgia they played upon? Absolutely. But does the film have genuine Star Wars feel? Totally.
The Force Awakens is filled with nods to the original trilogy in particular. Some might not like this, but for me it was needed and welcomed. It is like Disney was giving us one big Wookie hug, reassuring viewers that yes, this is Star Wars, and it is back. Along with these nods came some meta-jokes and references to both the Expanded Universe and concepts that were never included or changed in the original movies. I appreciated this kind of fan service, but what I appreciated more was that they never took over the film.
There was a stunning sense of newness intermingled with the sense of nostalgia here. Rey and Finn were fascinating characters (particularly Rey, who is totally awesome) with enough details of their backstories teased to get me quite interested in them in upcoming films. Other characters were tantalizing (like the First Order informant’s at Mox’s place, and Mox herself of course) enough to make me want to come back again and see some books based on them. Could we have a new Expanded Universe, please?
The use of models and real sets (and real-looking ones) made this feel much more like the original trilogy than the prequels. The whole film was clearly Star Wars.
The plot was also quite enjoyable, with the mystery surrounding Luke and Kylo Ren driving the plot. Kylo Ren was not nearly as scary/powerful as he could have been. To be fair, part of this might be because they are clearly building him up. One scene featured him looking at the helmet of Vader and apologizing for feeling like he was tempted by the Light. His choice to kill his father was not unexpected in the flow of the movie, and could lead to him gaining more of a Vader-like persona in the rest of the trilogy. I loved the ending with Rey approaching Luke. Luke Skywalker has pretty much always been my favorite Star Wars character. My son’s name is Luke (in part because it is also my favorite Gospel).
The music was good, though at times I barely noticed it. I think part of this was because unlike watching and re-watching the previous films, I had to pay attention to the plot the whole time. Every time I noticed the music, I enjoyed it immensely.
I loved The Force Awakens and cannot wait to see where the series goes next. Sign me up for the rest of the movies immediately.
+Star Wars feel through and through
+Good use of characters old and new
+Star Wars is back
-Kylo Ren not as intimidating as he should be
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Great review! I think I need to re-watch the movie before making any final judgments, but overall I was disappointed. I probably set my expectations too high, though.
+ The acting was excellent. Based on the trailers, I was afraid Rey and Finn would be poorly acted, but I was pleasantly surprised. They were good.
+ Also liked the comic relief. Clever but not slapstick, for the most part. Consistent with what we saw in episodes IV-VI.
+ Cinematography was good.
– Not a fan of the plot. It was more a re-make of episode IV than a true sequel. Honestly this is the 3rd Death-Star-like object we’ve exploded in the last 4 movies (IV-VII). It felt cliche. Also don’t like how the entire Resistance strategy was conceived in a 30 second meeting with some generals in front of a hologram. At least in the originals, they left something to the imagination by telling us about Bothan spies, etc. to imply that lots of planning and sacrifice had gone into things.
– Going off the previous point, I got the sense that “since this is a sequel, the stakes need to be even higher!”. Instead of blowing up planets, this super-weapon can blow up entire star systems! I’m worried episode VIII will feature a bigger, badder super-weapon capable of exploding entire galaxies (but no worries…if we shut down the shield generator and then fire some rockets with our x-wings, it will just blow up). It would have been refreshing, in my opinion, to tone things down and focus on storyline, character development, family dynamics, etc. The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite Star Wars film, and it basically just revolved around Luke training with Yoda, then going off on a reckless mission to save his friends from Vader. No super-weapons necessary.
– Would have liked to see more C3PO. He stole the show imho.
– I thought the pacing was way too fast. Felt like we were racing from one action sequence to the next, at the expense of plot and character development. They crammed at least two movies worth of fight scenes and shootouts into one movie. Best example I think was the introduction of Han and Chewie. Alright! We get to learn about what they’ve been doing for the last 30 years! Sweet! Nope. Ship just got boarded by a gang of debt-collectors. Nope. TWO gangs of debt-collectors…the Asian crew is on board too! Gonna have a stand-off! But wait! Let’s unleash a couple of squid monsters! Then let’s have a sweet battle and another escape scene (the third escape scene in 30 minutes of screen time). By the time we got to the squid monsters, my head was in my hands.
– As soon as Han approached Kylo, I was 100% certain he was going to die. Why? Because the movie trailers showed us scenes of a Kylo-Finn lightsaber battle. Which we hadn’t gotten to in the movie yet. The father/son scene would have been really suspenseful (well-acted, and genuinely looked like Kylo might come back to the light)…had I not watched the movie trailers. Ugh.
– As you mentioned, Kylo was kind of weak. None of the gravitas that Vader had in episode IV. Just another emo kid with daddy issues.
– The Snoke character looked absurd. Like a poorly rendered CGI cartoon. Nothing scary or ominous or mysterious…just another comic book villain with a half-melted face. I think he might be distantly related to the forgettable CGI orc villain from the new Hobbit movie (you know, What’s-His-Name). Boring. The CGI pirate lady was better, but it would have been great to learn how/why she ended up with Luke’s lightsaber. No time for that, though. We have another shootout to get to.
I could keep going, but overall I didn’t think this felt like a Star Wars movie so much as a mass market superhero movie…plenty of style, but not much substance. I walked out feeling like I’d just seen yet another Marvel/Avengers/Spiderman/Transformers film, with plenty of explosions and CGI and one-liners, but a plot that fades from memory by the next day.
Yeah I see a lot of what you’re saying here. However, I also have some answers that work for me to some of them. The 3rd death star like thing was done in the Expanded Universe and done well. I think it was done fine here as well. I didn’t mind it that much, but I see how it would bug some people. But realistically, that wasn’t the plot, really. The plot was Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. What happened to the Master?
Anyway, yeah I see your points for sure. I still loved it.
[…] Poe Dameron is a very likable (semi-)rogue, and I truly hope we get to see and discover more about him in the rest of the trilogy and/or the anthology films. Same goes for the rest of his squadron. (Great to see Greg Grunberg in the mix!) Some parts of the fighter battles were reminiscent of those from the original trilogy — intentionally so, I’d wager — but different enough to not feel like rip-offs. More generally, there were indeed parallels and homages to the previous films, from character backgrounds to dialogue to plot-points. Too many? Maybe. But, I have to admit, I didn’t mind them. As my friend J.W. said in his own review: […]
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