Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Reviewed by Mitch Burns

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Lupita Nyong’o, Max Von Sydow, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Andy Serkis, and Mark Hamill


*Spoiler warning: The following review will contain spoilers*

I really can’t say anymore that the masses haven’t already said, and I won’t be adding anything to the conversation besides my own view. That said, Star Wars was a big part of my early life. I was shown the original trilogy, on VHS, sometime in the late 90’s, as I wasn’t even born until 7 years after Return of the Jedi was in theaters. I saw every prequel trilogy in the theater, and 9, 12 and 15 year old me enjoyed them, and I don’t really hate them today. Star Wars returning is… well… pretty huge for me and a lot of people, and I would like to say my peace during this historical moment.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens begins 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the Empire still exists now called the New Order. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is thought to be alive but missing, the Resistance is led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher), and is said to have the “Support” of the Republic. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is a pilot for The Resistance, he obtains a map on the planet Jakku that will assist The Resistance in finding Luke, he gives the map to his droid BB-8, Poe is then captured and BB-8 escapes.

Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger on the planet Jakku, finds BB-8 and forms a connection with the droid. Poe, now captured by the New Order, escapes with the help of a traitorous Stormtrooper, who Poe names Finn (John Boyega). Finn and Poe return to Jakku in the hopes of finding BB-8 before the New Order does.

J.J. Abrams would not have been my first choice to direct The Force Awakens, although he did a terrific job with the Star Trek reboot (not so much its sequel), so why not. I’m happy to say Abrams deserves a pat on the back, a thumbs up, and a “Good job”, but I’d really rather him not direct/write another.

Before I make myself sound negative in anyway, I’ll state immediately that I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It could even make it on my top ten list for 2015, although I still have a lot to see. I only want to pick at The Force Awakens the way a Pilot Fish picks away at the parasites on a shark. Myself, movie critics and others should pick away at Star Wars, in hopes that it will continue to stay good and healthy like the Original trilogy, and not be plagued by parasites like the prequel trilogy. Did that make sense?

The story does work, although it does leave many questions without an answer, but that is typical of a J.J. Abrams production. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is the most interesting character by far, a character that I am crying for more of, same goes for Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The inclusion of the original cast members does not feel as forced as I foolishly assumed they would be, in fact they are incredibly central to the story and I would have a hard time thinking of this movie sans Solo, Luke and Leia.

The Force Awakens does seem to take a lot from the original trilogy, for example: A new (round) ship, The Starkiller Base, that destroys planets, and somehow The Resistance destroys, sounds an awful lot like a certain Death Star (or two). A droid containing key information that will assist The resistance happens to fall in the hands of Rey, a girl who later finds out she has the force, sounds a bit like R2-D2 and Luke in A New Hope. Those right there are two major similarities plucked right from the other scripts.

This new entry into the franchise may have a few too many similarities with its predecessors, some irritating questions left unanswered and other minor annoyances (which I will get to later), but The Force Awakens is one of the more entertaining blockbusters we’ve had in a while (excluding Mad Max: Fury Road). The characters are deep, rich and interesting, the worlds are awe inspiring, the aliens, droids, and ships are fresh, creative and imaginative. The kid inside of me was smiling and entertained, as was the adult on the outside.

The visual effects are spectacularly brilliant, it is a visually stunning film, you feel the very fine attention to detail in every scene. The motion capture effects used to capture Lupita Nyong’o’s character Maz Kanata is very nice. The times they do use practical effects, puppets and costumes works well also, Chewbacca is just a guy in a costume and we all seem to forget that. John Williams’ score works, on a nostalgic level, I only really noticed it when it used portions of the score I love so much.

Now if you haven’t seen the film and you haven’t left yet, here be spoilers. The film has heart and many emotions flowing through it and most of that heart revolves around Kylo Ren. Having Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and General Leia’s son (Darth Vaders Grandson) be the main villain makes for a terrific character in Kylo Ren. His parents are such good people, his Grandfather was so evil, his inner struggle is wonderfully portrayed by Adam Driver. The decision to reveal Kylo Rens heritage earlier on, and not keep it for later in the film (or a separate film) was a smart move, a wise difference from the original trilogy.

Now, in my opinion, knowing that Mark Hamill is in the film playing Luke Skywalker is a spoiler. Basically, the main goal of The Force Awakens is to find Luke Skywalker, and knowing he makes an appearance… but I digress as I know I can be quite fastidious about these things. I’ve heard talk of his appearance in the film to be lackluster, I wholeheartedly disagree, maybe not wholeheartedly as I dislike the Cliffhanger-esque ending. That look and that moment between Luke and Rey as she holds up his lightsaber, without a word spoken, I found to be incredibly powerful.

Luke Skywalkers absence is also acceptable to me because this movie was Han Solo’s show to steal, and Han Solo stole the show and then he died. So while Rey, Finn and Poe were great, The Force Awakens is arguably Han Solo’s movie. Harrison Ford actually pulls it off too, his acting hasn’t resonated with me in recent years but his return to Solo resonated with me. Han Solo’s death in the film was shocking and disheartening but it didn’t feel wrong, forced, or used as a gimmick to pull at audiences heartstrings, it worked on every level. My heart did not go out to General Leia as much as it did to Chewie.

I was worried Chewbacca wouldn’t work in a movie filled with CGI, but his humor and heart made him one of the better characters in the movie. BB-8 is as cute and funny as I assumed he’d be, and his engineering and maneuvering are interesting. BB-8 basically takes R2-D2’s spot, but like Luke, he was a welcoming presence and made the ending a bit more interesting. C-3PO felt awkward in his very brief moments, but it was honestly just nice to see him, maybe in a larger role I’ll warm back up to him. It really felt like Carrie Fisher was a bit awkward returning as General/Princess Leia, her presence is needed and I wouldn’t want anyone else playing her, but the acting left me wanting more.

The new faces in The Force Awakens definitely make there impression, especially Daisy Ridley. Whoever found Daisy Ridley and cast her deserves a million dollars right now, she is a beautiful and terrific actor, I hope to see her in many more films. I’ve already stated that I thought Adam Driver was terrific, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. Domhnall Gleeson who is always great, no surprise here, is great as smarmy General Hux. Poe Dameron is a fun character, his enthusiasm was refreshing, and I’m not sure I’ve seen Oscar Isaac play such a cheerful character before.

Last but not least, Boyega; I’m just fine with Boyega, but I’m not completely sold yet on Finn, and I can’t quite tell if it is the acting or character that I can’t fully embrace. Finn just seemed to be very aggressive, I felt as if he was too boisterous, rammy and talkative. I didn’t hate Finn, but I think I need more time to really adjust to his character and love him a little more. I really hate speaking negatively about the character of Finn in anyway, because Boyega seems like a genuinely great person.

I’m going to point out a few of my problems with the film, again think of the Pilot fish and the shark and don’t be aggressive with me. I’ll bullet point my issues and then provide a link to an article on /Film that actually helped me get over some of the issues.

  • R2D2 isn’t working one moment, but then suddenly works again?
  • Poe Dameron is just missing, thought to be dead, and then is completely fine? Feels forced to me.
  • Why couldn’t we get some basic knowledge on this Supreme Leader Snoke? Why keep it a secret and lead us along? It hinders more than it helps.
  • Is Maz Kanata alive? is Kylo Ren alive? Is General Hux alive? Is Captain Phasma alive? I’m just assuming yes, but it’ll be pretty dissapointing if any are dead.
  • Why does Maz Kanata have Luke Skywalkers Lightsaber?
  • Why the differences in power between Rey and Kylo Ren? Rey just learns she has the force and at one point overpowers Kylo Ren even though he has been using the force since he was a boy?
  • Why does Kylo Ren have Darth Vaders helmet? While I enjoyed that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder.
  • C-3POs arm?
  • How did Han Solo and Chewie find The Millennium Falcon?
  • Which planet did the Starkiller base destroy? Does it matter? I know it was more emotional when Alderaan was destroyed in A New Hope because it was Leia’s home planet, but a planet was destroyed in A Force Awakens and it didn’t seem like a huge deal, to anyone.
  • Who was Max Von Sydow’s character, the older man at the beginning of the film?

I’m sure a lot of these questions may be easily answerable to someone very wise in the ways of the force, I mean Star Wars, or will be answered in the future but they are a few things that I left the theater questioning.

Grade: A

Thanks for Reading!

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