Just wanted to preface this review with some info in regards to my Star Wars history and experience.
I first saw the original trilogy in the mid 90s, probably around 93 or 94, on VHS. I was about 5 or 6 years old at the time. It was my grandmother’s copy of the film, from when she originally bought all three of the original trilogy in the 80s.
Just a few years later, my grandmother took me to the theater to watch all three of the original films on the big screen when the Special Editions came out. And just another few short years later, there came the release of The Phantom Menace when I was at the age of 11.
While I wasn’t old enough to be one of those who saw the original trilogy in the theaters in ’77, ’80, and ’83; the entire saga has been a huge part of my life since a very young and impressionable age, especially the Original Trilogy. I would rate the Star Wars franchise as probably the most defining in my life, with it and Warcraft taking the top 2 spots in terms of favorites.
I have since seen every Star Wars film on opening night – The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005); and most recently The Force Awakens (2015). And I don’t plan on changing that in the future.
The following review contains NO spoilers! It’s more of my feelings and experience with the film.
The Force Awakens.
Going into this film, I was both super hyped, because Star Wars, but also hesitant. I’m one of the few that enjoys both the original trilogy and the prequels. Yes, I admit the prequels definitely had their problems, but I also grew up with the prequels (after an establishment built with the original trilogy).
That said, I’m not even a huge fan of the Galactic Civil War (I-VI) anymore, my favorite stories within the Star Wars universe come from the now non-canon Old Republic era of media; particularly, Knights of the Old Republic, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, and The Old Republic (MMO). Point being, I held my breath because I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. One one side, I love that Star Wars is back, and on another, I’m scared that it could be as bad as the prequels.
Excitement and fear were one until about half-way through the film. It was around that time when I started to get the feeling that, “Yea, this is a Star Wars movie.” It just felt right. It felt so eerily similar to the original trilogy, specifically A New Hope, almost as if it was a direct remake; but it wasn’t.
It feels like it follows the same thematic elements throughout; a gunslinger, a jedi apprentice, an experienced mentor, droids. The battles felt like they did in the OT, with that weird sense of dread for the heroes, but excitement for action, and the scent of blood if you’re a fan of the “bad guys.” It was certainly well choreographed, weapons look and sound amazing, nothing felt hokey about the combat scenes, except maybe (following scene was shown in trailers) that scene with Finn using the lightsaber to fight the Stormtrooper who deflected it with his electrostaff tonfa thing. A throwback to General Grievous’ Magna Guards perhaps?
It’s also hard to overlook this, even in a spoiler-free version; but the humor. Oh man, the humor. It wasn’t cheesy like bad acting of the 70s and 80s, and while plentiful, it was paced throughout just right. It was well delivered, with many scenes I expect to become memes once the film is available for home consumption.
While we’re on the topic of acting; I feel like every character was well casted. Not counting the actors reprising their roles from the original trilogy, John Boyega as Finn was an amazing choice, Daisy Ridley as Rey was phenomenal, and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren was mysterious and menacing. Each character delivered the right amount of emotions for the situations they were placed into, no one felt out of place; nor did any emotion feel forced, whether it was anger, love, sadness, joy, or fear.
I don’t think I can say much more without moving into spoilers, so I’ll end it here. Overall, the film felt like a nostalgia trip back to A New Hope, with little bits of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi thrown into the mix. I’ve always held Return of the Jedi as my favorite, followed by Empire Strikes Back; and I think I’d have to place The Force Awakens in between those two.
The following review contains LOTS of Spoilers! If you have not seen the movie, DO NOT READ BELOW!
As I mentioned in the spoiler-free review; I was both super hyped, but also very hesitant with this film. I didn’t know how to feel in regards to the film’s delivery until I saw it with my own eyes. Then again, I’m sure every Star Wars fan felt like this after the prequel trilogy, and I say that as someone who enjoyed the prequels, despite growing up with the original trilogy. I saw the OT well before the PT, and I enjoy both greatly, but I do still hold the OT at a higher standard.
Going hand-in-hand with my spoiler-free review, I’m not going to go over what was already discussed in that one. Instead, here, I’m going to focus entirely on plot elements, story, and lots of spoilers. If you have not seen the movie, turn back now or forever be spoiled at your own will. You have been warned, and I am not responsible for your stupidity should you continue to read on. That said, let’s begin.
The movie felt great. It had the nostalgia I wanted of the original trilogy, wrapped up into a nice, new package that felt like it had that polish of the prequels in recent years, but without the weak feeling that the prequels gave. But, that isn’t to say that the plot wasn’t without it’s problems. It felt like a Star Wars movie, and a great way to return the franchise to the greatness that every fan has wanted for years. That said, at times, it felt it took it’s throwbacks a little too far, with so many of them so often that it was almost as if we were watching a literal remake of A New Hope.
The major culprit that gives The Force Awakens that feeling of it being so similar to A New Hope that it could almost be a remake? A third Death Star, “But this one’s bigger!” Seriously, it’s a planet-sized Death Star. Instead of creating a planet around a giant cannon, they made a giant cannon in the planet. Also, unlike the Death Star and it’s ability to only destroy a single planet at once, this one has the capability to destroy multiple at once. The original theories floating around the interwebs involved the canon firing into a star and overloading it to the point that it goes supernova and engulfs it’s nearby systems when it dies. Well, they weren’t far off, but they weren’t quite on the mark either; instead, Starkiller Base (as we don’t have an official name for the planet just yet) absorbs the energy from a nearby star, sucks it into it’s energy storage thing, and then fires it through a massive amount of kyber crystals (the crystals inside of lightsabers) to create multiple, massive cannon shots that travel across the stars to their targets to destroy multiple planets at once. The targets in this case, seem to be the centers of politics and commerce within the New Republic.
Speaking of the New Republic, let’s briefly talk about the political climate within The Force Awakens, which is never quite explained throughout the film, and leaves someone like me who loves to know the lore of things (the who, what, when, where, how, and why), trying to figure out these backstories in addition to the story that’s being unfolded during the film. There’s no explanation as to the creation of the First Order, or why General Leia’s leading a “resistance” if the Galactic Empire surrendered to the New Republic following their defeat at the hands of the Rebel Alliance at Endor and shortly thereafter at Jakku. In addition, there’s no explanation as to who’s leading the New Republic, where the Republic fleet/army is, where Leia and her forces fall within the Republic military and politics. What happened to the Empire? Did they straight up surrender and assimilate many of their organizations into the Alliance? Maintaining certain infrastructure-based organizations might’ve been a good idea for the Republic to maintain when the Empire fell. Or did they just arrest every Imperial officer, official, and stormtrooper for war crimes? Who is Kylo Ren, or Supreme Leader Snoke? And what connections do they have, if any, to the Empire? Were they Imperials? Or did they just somehow stumble upon something magical and create their own endless army similar to the Star Forge in Knights of the Old Republic? There’s just so many questions regarding the political climate of The Force Awakens, that it’s almost jarring since one of the biggest questions that the film was supposed to answer after telling us what happened to the characters individually, was basically overlooked within the film, in favor of other filler media such as novels, comics, etc.
And what about the characters? Well, we definitely get to see the original cast, but everyone knew that going into it. What happened to Luke, Leia, and Han after RotJ? Well, Leia and Han got it on, and had a son named Ben, who trained as a Jedi under Luke. Eventually, Ben learned of his ancestry and his connection to the darkside (via grandpa Vader), and somehow, in yet another unexplained plot point, turned to the dark side himself, and became Kylo Ren. Luke became disillusioned in training future Jedi because of his apparent failure at training his nephew in the ways of the Jedi, and went into hiding. So much so that he literally broke apart the map that could lead people to his location and scattered it around the galaxy. Ben, now Kylo, formed the Knights of Ren, and began to follow the being known as Snoke. At this point, we’re not sure if Snoke was already the supreme leader of the First Order, or if he founded it upon taking Ren under his wing. With the loss of Ben, or at least him disappearing since turning to the dark side, Leia and Han coped with their loss by doing what they do best. Han went back to his old smuggling ways, making deals he can’t keep and stealing wherever he can get away with it, or not. Leia went back to the Republic military, taking up her old position as an officer; now a general, leading the Resistance, a paramilitary organization that acts without official sanctions of the Republic. What about Chewy, R2, and 3PO? Well, Chewy’s still running with Han, like always. R2, seemingly put himself into a “low-power” state after Luke disappeared, and hasn’t been active in many, many years. 3PO is still the annoying protocol droid we all know, but why he has a red left arm is not explained, and he’s been sticking around with Leia all these years. R2 has also been with Leia at her base, just sitting around under a sheet in her base.
But, but, what about Luke? We haven’t seen him at all in the trailers, what’s his story? Well, that’s because he’s barely in this film. Aside from that 3 second shot where he places his mechanical hand on R2 as seen in the trailer, he doesn’t show up until the final 2 minutes; as one of the major plot points of the film was both the Resistance (lead by Leia), and the First Order (led by Kylo Ren, General Hux, and Supreme Leader Snoke) trying to find Luke for their own reasons, feuding over the only clue that could lead to his location, the final portion of the map galactic map.
At this point, I’m not sure what else I could say. Even though this is the spoiler-filled version of the review, I didn’t want to give exact details, just general and broad scopes that happened to have spoiler elements within it. If you want actual spoilers beyond this, more detailed shit, go have a gander at reddit, tumblr, facebook, or twitter. Or just read the Wikipedia page. Overall, I loved the movie. I felt like there were issues with it, for sure, it’s by no means perfect, but it definitely felt like a Star Wars film, and a great return to form after the prequels. If it’s any indication on the future of the franchise in regards to Episode VIII, IX, and the Anthology films (Rogue One, Han Solo, Boba Fett), then we’re off to an amazing start; and I can’t wait for more.