So the day has come… Back in January of this year, I made a list of the most anticipated video games and movies. This movie was obviously number one. The fervor that has followed into the opening day of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been nothing short of awe inspiring. It is truly wonderful to see fans of new and old come together to enjoy the seventh installment of one of the greatest film franchises in the history of existence. Star Wars is a wonderful space epic that has spanned close to six decades! Our parents love it, our grandparents love it, and we love it.
For me personally, I grew up watching Star Wars. I remember owning the black box of the entire trilogy as a kid. I remember watching the remakes with my family. I remember seeing the prequels in theaters as well. I have been a fan of Star Wars since I was a child and have fond memories of pretending to be a cool Jedi with some of those plastic lightsabers. This movie, just like it is for countless others, is my childhood. With the being said, this movie had me worried as it did for everyone who went into this film. This is the first movie that is out of the hands of George Lucas. This is the first film after the prequel trilogy that has been the derision of Star Wars fans and critics the world over. This movie, leading up to this week, was shrouded in complete and total uncertainty. We all shrieked with joy when we heard about Episode 7 and as soon as we shrieked, we collectively shrunk down in our seats, wondering if we were about to experience another Phantom Menace. After seeing the movie, I can say with absolute certainty that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the revitalization of a film franchise that will keep going for decades to come.
PAY ATTENTION TO THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH
Before I go any further into this review, I do feel I need to warn some of you that SPOILERS have been known to happen on this site. It is how I write. I promise to those who do not want the film spoiled in any way that I will keep my typical style of writing to a minimum… However, if you would like to be kept completely in the dark about the plot, development, and so forth. Then I suggest that you skip down to the conclusion for a synopsis of the review, my recommendation, and the final score. With that being said, I will continue my review with a synopsis of the film and so on.
It has been thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi and the Jedi have once again been wiped out which had lead me to the conclusion that the universe just cannot have nice things. After a second genocide at the hands of a new Sith/Dark Jedi (I’m not sure which) named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the successor to the Empire known as the First Order and the Resistence lead by Leia Organa-Solo (Carrie Fisher) scour the galaxy looking for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). The movie begins on the planet Jekku where the First Order has tracked a Resistance pilot named Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs) who is collecting a map to Luke Skywalker. The Empire captures Dameron, however the map is placed safely in the hands of his robot, BB-8. BB-8 Eventually makes its way into the hands of our protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley). Poe, with the help of a stormtrooper intent on betraying the New Order named Finn (John Boyega) escape to Jekku on a stolen tie fighter. The fighter crashes and Poe disappears. Finn eventually finds his way to Rey and BB-8. Together, the group stow away on the Millennium Falcon and run into good ole Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca. Together, they attempt to get BB-8 back into the hands of the Resistance so they can track down Luke Skywalker.
Excellent New Characters and Actors
Somewhat spoiler warning
I’m giving massive praise to the writing team as well as actors Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaacs, and Adam Driver for making such new, lovable, and relatable characters. Each one of them creates a character that fits the archetype of the Star Wars formula while making characters that are completely their own.
Daisy Ridley is the excellent blend of headstrong, collected, and brash young woman who is meant to take on the roll of the unsung hero. John Boyega creates a character that is protective, carrying, and ashamed of his past actions. Oscar Isaacs is the great brash and cocky pilot that we do not need to go through some amazing transformation. He is good, he is cocky, and he feels like a real person. Adam Driver is a great villain. I love what they did with Driver. While Anakin Skywalker is very much a character that was meant to be a man slowly turning to the dark side, but came across as a spoiled and annoying twat who throws temper tantrums, this movie steers right into the skid and purposely makes Kylo Ren a spoiled little twat that throws temper tantrums. While Hayden Christensen plays a character struggling with good and evil as an annoying little shit. Adam Driver is able to display it in a much more humanistic light. You can see the struggle within him and the desire to be good and how his anger gets the better of him.
All around, these new characters are just wonderful. Everything about them is wonderful, the way they are portrayed, the way they are written, and the way that the movie treats their trials and tribulations. It is a display of excellent acting on the part of the actors and excellent writing on the part of Kasdan, Abrams, and Arndt.
That Classic Star Wars Feel
One of the biggest complaints about the Star Wars prequels is that they didn’t feel enough like Star Wars. People want to see cool fighting and lovable characters. Not so much the intricacy of trade law agreement and senatorial debates. Fans do love their camp, but they do not want to be pestered with annoying characters. This movie, from the start, establishes that this is going to be like the original trilogy, only with a new and darker tone.
The first thing that I noticed about this movie was that it was substantially darker than any of the other Star Wars movies, which I do get. In this current age of cinema, we want our movies to be on the darker and more realistic side with a splash of humor thrown in for good measure. This movie is definitely a product of the 2010’s… However, it is still a Star Wars film! This movie has the humor, it has the characters, it has the space battles, and it has the force. It is the classic story of good vs. evil and also the blending of those two lines and the inner conflict within each and every one of us. This movie is smart, it knows what it is and it doesn’t try to hide it. This is a 2015 Star Wars movie through and through and I love every single second of it.
The Torch Has Been Passed
One of the main themes of this movie is attracting the old fans with the nostalgia of old films and introducing the new characters that we are going to follow. There is an excellent blend of old and new characters and the film does a great job of ‘passing the torch’ on to the next generation. Sure, Leia, Luke, and Han are in the film and Darth Vader’s head makes a cameo, but they are secondary characters to the real main characters of Rey, Poe, and Finn and the new villain, Kylo Ren. This is exactly the type of movie that needs to be made in order to introduce the audience to the new character, let the fans know that the old ones are going to be there supporting them every step of the way, and that we are going to love these new guys just as much as we loved the old ones. I, personally, cannot wait to see Episode 8 and see the adventures that these new characters get into. I want to see them succeed and want to see our old favorites play the wise mentor to their challenges.
All the Nostalgia
Oh boy, you all better get ready for it, because it is relentless throughout the entire series. From the reappearance of old favorite characters like Han Solo, Chewbacca, and R2-D2 to the game of chess that Luke and Chewie play in A New Hope, this movie is about 60% plot and 40% nostalgia. They even drag back out Admiral Ackbar of all people! There will be very few scenes that come up in this series that will not elicit a nostalgia cheer for someone.
I put it as ‘meh’ just for the fact that it is so relentless that a lot of the movie is founded upon dragging up old stuff from the past and putting it on display to get fans all riled and a lot of faces will go amiss of kids and people who are new to the series. However, since it does not become too invasive to the character development and the overall plot, it isn’t a problem.
The New Hope Script Was Recycled
THIS IS WHERE A LOT OF SPOILERS SHOW UP IN THIS SECTION! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
I do believe one of my friends said it best, if this wasn’t a Star Wars movie, then Star Wars could sue this movie for making a near shot to shot remake of A New Hope. I mean, there is making an homage… And then there is recycling the entire premise. So to recap, we start on a dessert planet where we meet our hero leading a normal life. Suddenly responsibility is thrust upon them when a droid carrying vital information falls into their lap. They escape the planet on a space ship only to find themselves caught up in a struggle between a good rebel group trying to eliminate an evil dictatorial regime. The group has to get this information to the good guys and stop the bad guys from using a planet destroying super weapon and forever crushing all resistance to their regime. The group attacks the super weapon and the ‘father figure’ of the main character is eliminated by the evil bad guy. The group eventually manage to eliminate the giant super weapon and save the day. Albeit with an ambiguous ending to set up the rest of the trilogy.
Does that sound at all familiar to you? It should, because it is the same plot! I can understand what they are going for. They are bringing back the series, cool. You definitely want to milk that nostalgia for all it is worth. But all things considered, to copy that much of the original script shows a lack of originality. Granted, it is a good movie and they did recycle another great movie… But I really hope that the future movies in the trilogy do not recycle those scripts as well and we get some original product.
The JJ Abrams Aesthetic
If color were humans then the colors blue, silver, and black would have a restraining order on JJ Abrams at this point. I have made it no secret that I do not like JJ Abrams. Whenever I heard he was directing this movie, this was the first moment that made me cringe, because I did not know what I was going to get. But since it comes from JJ Abrams… I know that I am at least going to dislike parts of it and that certainly proved accurate.
I freely admit, the majority of my criticism in this section is largely based around the fact that I do not like the way that Abrams directs, I do not like his aesthetic, and I do admit that I am a little biased. However, I do not think that Abrams aesthetic fit well with the story of Star Wars. Everything looks so dark, brooding, and covered with neon blue signs that is so invasive that I feel like I’m walking down the street of a group of Adult Shops. Everything is just too dirty, the battles are too destructive with the inclusion of soldiers being blown into the sky, and the use of blood for my taste. I have never seen Star Wars to be a series that needs excessive amounts of realism in that department so to see it in there is just another Abrams aesthetic that I do not like.
I will state again that this is a minor nitpick, brought on mainly from my dislike of the director chosen… And now I have to admit that there is a JJ Abrams movie that I do like and would watch over and over again. So I guess I have to come to terms with that today.
This movie is wonderful. It is that right blend of nostalgia and new material that will make new fans and old fans positively giddy with excitement. This is the type of movie that the Star Wars fans needed. The cons of this movie are minor compared to the strong writing, superb acting, and an wonderful introduction to a new 2010’s version of Star Wars.
I encourage everyone, whether you are a fan of the old movies or not, to go and watch this film. This is the must see movie of this holiday season. Bring your family and experience the wonder!
Final Score 4.5/5
Thank you for reading! This is nowhere near the end of the Star Wars stuff I have to talk about. In fact, I have two podcasts on the way with a variety of nerds to discuss the subject so keep checking back for those!