Star Wars – The Force Awakens – film review

"Star Wars - The Force Awakens" theatrical teaser poster.
“Star Wars – The Force Awakens” theatrical teaser poster.
Fans (including me!) have been waiting for this film for a long time. After the general disappointment of the three prequel films, I was a little leery of anything else George Lucas planned to do, so I was excited to hear he really didn’t have much to do with the production of Star Wars – The Force Awakens. Sorry, George.

Thirty years after the events in Return of the Jedi, the First Order has taken the place of the Empire and is trying to crush the new Republic and the Resistance. Kylo Ren, an apparent Sith (after all, he wields a lightsaber and is bad), is on a quest to find Luke Skywalker, who disappeared. I won’t go into any more plot since I want you experience it without anything beyond what’s in the trailers being explained beforehand. No spoilers here.

As expected, John Williams did a great job with the music. It felt like a return to home the way the various scenes were arranged and scored. Never once did the music feel out of place. Instead, it fit The Force Awakens like a tailored glove, giving just the right fit in all the right places. It was, simply, awesome. The snappy dialogue is back, too!

The general feel of the film hearkened back to the days of the original trilogy. Instead of grand pompous fluff, J.J. Abrams gave us what the trailers promised: an old universe that felt lived in and had a long, long history. The clothing worn by the characters went beyond costumes. Everything looked useful and practical, like the clothing everyone actually wears for everyday life. It was real.

And it really worked. Abrams showed us that there were 30 years of events experienced by the returning characters which led up to The Force Awakens. There was a story outside of what was being shown, which made it feel much more real and not simply staged for the story. Abrams gave us a a single book, but showed us the library of possibilities.

One of the most important things that happened, though, was making us care about the new characters. These were fully fleshed-out people with minds of their own, who just happened to be part of this story. There was no one obnoxious, no one there just for the laughs. Even BB-8, while providing plenty of fun moments, had a serious side and played an important role. He was intelligent, and that mattered to the main characters.

If there was one drawback to the film, it was that one of the plot points was pretty obvious. However, there were plenty of obvious bits in the original trilogy, and—just like in those films—everything worked despite the flaws. In fact, I think having a few obvious bits made the story feel more real.

In the end, I really, really liked The Force Awakens. I can’t think of anything that would have made the film better. I love the new characters, and I loved seeing the old characters. The story is interesting, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. If you loved the original trilogy, you will enjoy this film. To quote a friend, “Star Wars – The Force Awakens is what a Star Wars movie should be.”

Release Date: December 18, 2015 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Language: English

MySF Rating: Five point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 100%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 0
Language: 1 (very brief and mild)
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 0
Violence: 1 (gunfights, space battles, murder, death)

5 thoughts on “Star Wars – The Force Awakens – film review

  1. *Spolier alert*

    I respectfully disagree with your analysis, for an abundance of reasons. While the special effects, aliens, and score were superb (as always), the script was trying to simultaneously be too much like and too different from the original trilogy (4-6).

    Let’s start with Kylo Ren. His lightsaber’s cross-guard aside (a nice touch that he actually utilized it in combat!), he just wasn’t… menacing. Not even intimidating! Darth Maul is definitely still at the top of that list, followed by Vader, Sidious / Palpatine, Greivous, Boba Fett, Ventress, the rancor, and the wampa. Then Kylo Ren. Then, there’s his personality. The prequel trilogy has its weaknesses, but you could really SEE Anakin’s inner struggle with the Dark Side. His final fall was way too abrupt, and his romance with Padme in AOTC forced, but the struggle was real. And once he DID fall, when he flew into a rage, everyone knew it. Kylo Ren came across as a pimply teenager throwing a tantrum – “Gimme the lightsaber! Gimme, gimme, gimme!” (Slashes a few consoles or trees.) Please. Lame! I saw the murder coming a mile away.

    The superweapon was much like the original Death Star (right down to the trench run combined with interior sabotage and interior bombing run of the second), though they clearly borrowed the concept from the post-saga Sun Crusher. My main issues with it are the logistics. For instance, once you’ve used up one star, how do you power it up again? Does it have a hyperdrive to move on to a new system? (They never address this, not once…) The multiple targets aspect was a nice touch, but unless the energy blast travels through hyperspace, wouldn’t it take YEARS to reach the target (assuming it travels at lightspeed), even if it’s only a few systems away? Come on, let’s get internally consistent with the “science” part of “science fiction”.

    The new heroes are all likable and believable. Po could have used a little more development… he came off too much as a fighter-flying Captain America. His return was entirely predictable, but I know they had to get him out of the way for Finn to grow. Finn was VERY well scripted and played… but let’s face it, if Ren wasn’t already wounded, Finn would be dead 10 times over.

    Rey as the new Jedi was a good touch, but when will we get a canon female Sith / Dark Jedi? (Ventress and Mara Jade don’t count, sadly…) Her awakening force powers came WAY too quickly, though. Her physical fitness and mechanical skills were believable, but flying the Falcon right away when she hasn’t been off-planet since she was 6-ish? Please. I’ll chalk up her mental resistance to sheer grit from her tough life alone, but mind control so soon? Sheesh… it took Luke YEARS to even force-choke a Gamorrean, and HE had Obi-Wan (briefly) and Yoda to train him! Rey’s over-poweredness was probably the least reasonable aspect of the film. Sorry, but one Force vision does not a Jedi make. I would like to know who the “family” who abandoned her was… if they take it a certain way, it would make more sense.

    BB-8 is a satisfying substitute for R2… similar, but with his own quirks. The unique body plan was obviously necessary for travel in the various locales. (and they finally fixed the flaw with loading them into X-wings…) But how does Rey (a loner) understand him immediately when Luke couldn’t understand R2 despite being around droids all his life?

    Chewie was the same awesome dude as always, but they were too obvious in playing up the power of his bowcaster (and Kylo thumping his side to remind us he was injured) to make the evening of the odds in the lightsaber duel more believable. Han was showing his age, as was Leia – but I really expected a few sparks to fly there, even with age and time mellowing their relationship. It’s sad when the most memorable moment between them is C-3PO’s inevitable interruption.

    Finally, I’d really like to know how someone got Anakin’s lightsaber out of the core of a gas giant planet… and how the saber even survived the crushing pressure… glad to see it back, even so. They’re definitely setting up a dynamic of Vader’s mask v. Anakin’s saber.

    Overall, Episode 7 is about as good as the prequel trilogy – better in some aspects, worse in others. But it does NOT, in my book, stand up to the original.

    1. Thanks for your comments and your own analysis of the film. You certainly have an abundance of reason, as you said. You also show your deep knowledge of the films and the Expanded Universe. I’ll let readers decide for themselves, though.

    2. After letting your comments run about in my brain for a few days, I’m going to respond to a few of them:

      I think Kylo Ren was certainly menacing, especially in the beginning of the film. Once he removed his helmet, he was a little baby-faced, but he still had a desperateness about him that made him menacing despite that. He was supposed to be a confused, frustrated, partially-trained, whiny kid, and that’s how he came across. Whether or not he was as menacing as other Sith (and whether or not he would be considered a Sith) is a matter of opinion, neither here nor there, and a discussion for another time.

      Regarding the Star Killer base, it is hinted at a couple times that it can move, but it is never clearly stated. However, this is the first film in the trilogy, so they can’t go answering all the questions right away. As for its vulnerabilities, this one was much harder to destroy, in my opinion.

      Yes, many parts of the film were predictable, but then so were many parts of the original trilogy. Predictable can make films bad (as in the prequel trilogy), but it really depends on how the final film is put together. In this case, even though most people could figure out where everything was going (at least for the big things), the whole film worked well, flowed well, and was an incredibly fun ride. That makes up for any issues with predictability, at least in my book.

      I really don’t care if there is a female Sith or Dark Jedi. If there happens to be one at some point in all the many planned future films, that’s fine. If not, that’s fine, too. And that really has nothing to do with this film.

      I found Rey’s progress in recognizing and controlling the force to be entirely believable. It was shown and mentioned that she had some innate abilities. She’s been on her own since she was small, and has done well enough to be reasonably respected by people around here (with the occasional idiots still trying to accost her, and she promptly beats the crap out of those guys in the film). She has excellent control over her staff weapon, which can translate pretty easily and quickly into handling a sword. It’s all about balance for both.

      As for mastering the Force, several indicators are hinted at throughout the film to clue us in about her innate abilities there. It’s already been established in other films that the ability to handle and use the Force varies greatly, even among trained Jedi, and I see this as no different. And nowhere does it state she is a Jedi by the end of the film. If anything, it shows she is just starting her training, if Luke will accept the lightsaber from her.

      I imagine that droids like R2 and BB-8 speak using a standardized language. That’s what my mind determined based on various things in this and the other films. With all the junk collecting she’s done, it’s very likely she encountered similar droids and learned to understand their speech.

      Kylo Ren wasn’t thumping his side to remind the audience he was injured. He was purposely inflicting pain on himself to clear his mind. When you have a serious injury, it clouds your thinking and focus, and inflicting additional, different pain is one way to draw your mind’s attention away from the really bad pain. Unless you have experienced excruciating pain, you may not understand this.

      Finally, regarding Luke’s (Anakin’s) lightsaber from The Empire Strikes Back, it is only shown dropping down into the inside of the Cloud City, not falling out into the clouds of Bespin. When Luke fell down there, he is clearly shown falling out through an exhaust chute which opened when he stopped on top of it. The lightsaber could have easily fallen in such a way as to not be on the opening of an exhaust chute. Also, it has a magnet for attaching it to a utility belt, so it very well might have become attached to something down in the bottom of the city somewhere. So, there are two logical possibilities.

      Thank you again for your comments. It’s fun to hear from the readers.

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