The Force Awakens

Movie Review

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Released December 18, 2015

THIS POST CONTAINS LOTS AND LOTS OF SPOILERS.

Where to even begin.

Okay, how about with this: Like everyone else, I really liked it.

I have seen very little negative commentary about the film. It was not perfect, but it was what we all hoped it would be: a fun, epic, new story in the spirit of the original trilogy.

EDIT: I have noticed the negative commentary increase in the last couple of weeks. A lot of disappointment seems to be surfacing in regards to the predictability of the film now that the hype and initial excitement has died down. ngm 1/5/16

Shared mythology and nostalgia has a lot to do with why this series is so popular. People jumping in late in the game often don’t “get it” because it does, after all, have plenty to critique. I can see how it would seem silly to someone who didn’t grow up loving it, but I grew up loving it. My dad saw the originals as a kid and shared them with us when we were kids. I saw the prequels in the theater with my dad. Now there are new chapters to share with my kids. The generational tradition and excitement continues!

My husband and I went to see the movie as a group with his family (10 of us in total) and the excitement and giddiness was tangible. We all buzzed with excitement, sang along to the score, whispered reactions and then discussed the mysteries and questions in detail as soon as the credits rolled. It was an experience.

I had pretty high expectations. Maybe too high.

I was excited that J.J. Abrams signed on to direct because he did an excellent job with the new Star Trek movies. I also knew that these movies would be going back to the spirit of the original trilogy with a good plot and new characters. Unlike Episodes I-III, which focused too much on effects and not enough on story (but I mean hey, background information I guess) and were not completely consistent with the IV-VI story; I knew from early reviews that this trilogy would combine the best of both (great effects and a great story).

I wasn’t disappointed, but it wasn’t as flawless as I expected either.

I want to acknowledge some things about the film that were less than perfect.

First, as with ALL Star Wars films, the dialogue was a bit cheesy at times, but not nearly to the level of Episodes I-III and honestly, a little hokeyness is to be expected. Similarly expected (one might even say consistent) is the fact that most of the science doesn’t really “work.” I don’t think that it really needs to since we can suspend our disbelief (for the most part) in favor of the world building taking place. It’s important to remember that this is considered a space opera so it’s not as much about the science as it is about the mythology and the quest. Operas are traditionally more concerned with the music and otherworldliness. They are frequently full of plot holes but incredibly effective at evoking emotion.

Second, while the acting was much better than the prequels overall, John Boyega’s acting bordered on bad. It wasn’t so bad that it ruined the movie and he had some points where he was a very intriguing, interesting, even funny character, but overall the performance was not great. On the other hand, I thought Daisy Ridley was fantastic and most of the performances were either decent or quite good.

Then there is the plot. I found it fairly predictable (it was basically New Hope the next generation) and I wish the ‘Han Solo’s son is the new bad guy’ reveal had come later or been a bit more subtle. But again, it was good enough. (EDIT: I think the reason they were upfront about Kylo Ren’s parentage was to avoid copying the famous Luke/Darth father/son reveal exactly—but they are getting flack for how similar it is none the less). In the end I’ve more or less decided that, hey, this is only the first of three films, we’re just setting the stage at this point. They left us with so many questions that I think have the potential for being very interesting in the next two installments.

Finally, lets talk about the new bad guys: Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren. They are the Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader of the new series. Snoke is kept mysterious much in the same way that Emperor Palpatine was, so time will tell on how powerful and intimidating he is (and just who he is). Meanwhile, Kylo Ren starts out seeming like a pretty bad ass new villain, but he is not nearly as menacing by the end. He’s a little too human to be feared. I believe that this is something many people actually like about his character. He’s already proving to be complicated and interesting. However, for me, it came too soon. In contrast, Darth Vader also had an extremely interesting origins story with lots of shocking revelations along the way. But he was always scary. Complex enough to wonder what the heck happened to him to make him so evil and to be less than shocked when he becomes the catalyst for the climax of the trilogy—but he was mysterious and scary up until the very last seconds. The unknown is almost always more terrifying than reality. Such is the case with Kylo Ren. Removing the mask and seeing the boy underneath (insecurities and conflict and all) makes him far less scary than Vader was and even a bit weak seeming. For instance, if he’s so powerful, how on earth did an untrained girl kick his ass?

While I maintain that they should have kept his identity more mysterious longer, despite the weaknesses on display from the get-go, in general I do believe he’s powerful and that this perceived weakness is intentional. Keeping in mind that he is not fully trained himself, he did essentially undo all of Luke’s hard work with training new Jedi and run Luke off into hiding. I think all that the final fight scene is meant to imply is that Rey is extremely powerful and special in some way, not that Kylo Ren is weak. They are likely setting us all up. This is as much Kylo Ren’s origin story as Reys. Killing his father is the action that likely turns him more definitively to the dark side where perhaps he will flourish.

Lastly, taking down the new, erm, Death Star 2.0, so quickly seems incredibly unlikely so early on. How on earth does the Empire keep building these mega weapons with such fatal flaws? I mean, c’mon.

But while I acknowledge all the above possible critiques, it was still good.

Overall, the music, the mythology, the effects, the story—it was all what you want in a Star Wars film.

My favorite thing about the movie is probably the character of Rey. Not only because she’s a woman, but because her character was by far the most interesting and compelling. They have set her up to be the protagonist of the new trilogy. It is her hero-quest and she is awesome.

It was nice that they incorporated the old characters to tie the old trilogy to this new chapter, but I fully expected them to die off quickly so that the younger generations story could unfold on it’s own. That was Luke’s story, this is Reys.

Don’t get me wrong, Han Solo is my favorite character in the franchise and I wish he could be in every movie—but I expected him to die even before the plot so clearly pointed in that direction. I suspect Luke and Leia will go soon enough as well.

So the questions remain. Who is Snoke? Is he Darth Plagueis? or Darth Sidious? Is he related to Maz Kanata and how important will she be? Is Rey Luke’s daughter? Hans? Is she a Kanobi? What lies in the mysterious Jedi temple?

One thing is for certain—this is a true saga in a very big galaxy (far far away).

 

 

One thought on “The Force Awakens

  1. You didn’t like John Boyega’s acting? I thought he carried much of the movement of the film on his shoulders. His line delivery and timing were well executed and I often found myself smiling at the things he did. Daisy was fantastic as well. I think she started to shine more in the later half of the film as was probably intended. The combo of Finn, Rey, and BB-8 made for a delightful trio and I hope we see them reunite in the next film.

    I agree, the Starkiller base seems to be woefully deficient in design if a rag tag group of resistance fighters can just come in and blow it up much like its predecessor. But, I imagine when you are making planet/planetoid sized machines there are bound to be areas of weakness that even the best engineers can’t deal with. There is always that chink in the armor or loose scale in the dragons hide. The story demands it.

    As for who Rey and Snoke are, I don’t want Rey to be anyone other than Rey. She doesn’t need to be someone’s daughter or grand daughter. She can just be a gifted force user and nothing more. Snoke, on the other hand, I wouldn’t mind him being some sort of character they pulled up from the depths of Star Wars lore. He looks ancient and frail. I think that the holo projection is an overcompensation and in reality the character may be very diminutive. Think dark side Yoda.

    I think what we saw at the end with Kylo Ren was his own transformation into the monster he wanted to become. By finally killing his father he was able to cast away the remnants of the light side that was in him. I anticipate we will see a much more sinister Kylo Ren in the next film and I am expecting a confrontation between Kylo and Luke. I even expect for Luke to be cut down in the fight, leaving Rey to be the last of the Jedi. This will create that imbalance in the force that the universe doesn’t seem to like. The odds will swing back in the favor of Rey who will take down Snoke and ultimately confront Kylo Ren in the third movie. These are, of course, just my speculations.

    Like

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