This is my one and only warning. Obviously I am going to stay as far away from spoilers as I can so as to honor JJ Abrams and the folks over at Disney who went so far out of their way to keep this film shrouded in secrecy. Any information I give pertaining to the plot will be based off the three main trailers that were released over the past year – and even they are scarce with spoilers. For the rest of the review, I’ll use my own discretion but this is your warning. If you are too paranoid that I am going to spoil anything, please leave now and read this after you’ve seen the movie if you please.
I can’t believe I’m writing this review right now. I can’t believe it because it means that I’ve seen this film and that all the hype and speculation is finally over and I can be at peace with myself and the internet for the next few years until Episode VIII comes out. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) takes place AFTER Return of the Jedi (1983) about thirty-ish years later, I wanna say. Like I said I’m gonna stick to the plot points to the trailer so there’s Finn, played by John Boyega, who is an ex Storm Trooper from the First Order. Then he meets Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, on the desert planet of Jakku, and they do things. Then there’s the main villain – Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, and he’s… well he’s a jerk. See? I’m keeping it vague. That’s all I’m going to give you for plot details.
First and foremost we’ll get the obvious out of the way. I LOVED THIS FILM. Sorry if this is a spoiler in any way; but you can’t really expect me NOT to love it, right? I mean director JJ Abrams REALLY has to screw up for me, a DIE HARD STAR WARS FAN FOR LITERALLY AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER, to not like this film. The action scenes are breathtaking and it doesn’t come as a surprise for someone like Abrams, who we’ve seen tackle grand sci-fi action sequences with his Star Trek films. The cinematography is great too. One of the things I love about the original Star Wars trilogy was that they can make something so massive in one shot seem so tiny in an instant (or vice versa). The sound work in this was remarkable as well. You hear lasers and engines that you’ve heard throughout your childhood, but with modern technology (and the help of Jordan’s Furniture’s IMAX theater) you feel every hit and explosion. You get the classic Tie Fighter noises, lightsabers being ignited, John Williams’ familiar score with a modern spin to it as well to make it its own. The film does indeed feel like a nostalgia bomb blew up right in your face. I can understand if people thought the nostalgia was too in-your-face but I personally embraced it. There’s humor here as well. Abrams can do humor the right way, we’ve seen it. It’s stuff that makes you laugh, but it’s still relevant to the Star Wars world and doesn’t take you out of the movie. More often than not, it aids to the plot as well. It’s similar to the humor seen in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) except it’s… Well… Funnier. However this wasn’t everything that made The Force Awakens hit all the right notes.
Actors John Boyega and Daisy Ridley have incredibly promising acting careers ahead of them. They give strength, heart, compassion, anger, everything. Boyega was in Attack the Block (2011), which gave him a little bit of recognition; but Daisy Ridley I had literally never seen in anything. She’s really only been in television shows and a few animated features as a voice actor. Ridley is not only a compelling example for female protagonists in modern film; but she is one of the most compelling characters in the past decade. Not to mention she is the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. I mean it, I’m in love with Daisy Ridley – or better yet her character, Rey. Adam Driver was great as Kylo Ren as well! I was afraid he was just gonna be a Darth Vader 2.0 and I was pleasantly surprised that he was a villain with layers and a backstory that made me fascinated to watch him on screen. He’s not this James Earl Jones-esque brooding voice with a black cloak. He’s got humanizing traits to him that make him a likable villain. I’m one of those people who thinks a hero is only as good as his/her villain, and Driver’s performance does not disappoint. Of course I can’t talk about these new characters without talking about one certain old character.
Harrison Ford as Han Solo is GREAT. I feared that Ford and other cast members from the originals would be shoehorned into this to “pass the torch” to a new generation and that would be it for them; but Han Solo is a CHARACTER in this movie, he has a purpose and is intricately involved in these new characters’ stories. Even Han and Leia have a great moment together. It could have just been a “Look at these two old characters on screen together again, but their conversation adds literally nothing to the plot!” However it’s a lot more than that. You can tell that thirty years have passed and these characters have done things and they are in different places than they were at the end of Return of the Jedi. Both Ford and Carrie Fisher indeed play their respective characters; but you can tell that these are those characters BUT THIRTY YEARS LATER! They’ve changed! It isn’t an old Harrison Ford playing a young Han Solo, it’s an old Harrison Ford playing an old Han Solo and it makes sense, that’s what we call character development! Lastly, Oscar Isaac’s character, Poe Dameron, was probably my favorite character in the movie because every scene he’s in I absolutely loved him; but I wanted more of him in the whole thing. I like that though, leave me wanting that little bit more! In his first scene I immediately gravitated towards him and wanted to hang out with him and grill or something, he’s a guy’s guy with nothing but a good heart.
The last act seems to hit a few familiar plot points with the likes of A New Hope (1977), and there’s no denying that; but this is all used to support the real finale of the movie which is the confrontation with Kylo Ren with an old fashioned lightsaber duel. It’s in the trailers, you know there’s a duel. It’s Star Wars. This was honestly my new favorite lightsaber duel in the entire saga. It’s messy, it’s rough, and you can tell that these characters have little training with these elegant weapons. I liked that though! It made the fight more real with characters hacking and slashing rather than spinning and twirling. It felt more real, IT MADE ME CARE MORE.
By the end of the movie, just about every question you have is answered, for sure; but those answers are followed by probably another five or six questions. People forget, this isn’t just a sequel to Star Wars, it’s the beginning of something new. There are characters in here that have smaller roles than you’d expect; but it’s because their story is just beginning and there is still so much more to tell. I like that intrigue, I love that I’m already strapped in for this new trilogy.
The most important thing I can say for this film is to go into it with level expectations. You can’t deify The Force Awakens and expect it to surpass your expectations. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment. There’s no denying this movie is a Hell of a good time and hits all the right notes, despite having a few minor flaws that are indeed noticeable. However it is trying to stand on the shoulders of a saga that is also a good time but with minor flaws that are noticeable!
Overall Rating: 9.5/10 – phenomenal
It’s a great movie with great characters, as well as exciting and heart pounding action. It serves as a continuation as well as an introduction to a new generation of Star Wars. It’s fun and it’s emotional, it has heart, it hits a lot of emotions. I welcome this new iteration of my favorite film series of all time and I cannot wait to see what’s next.
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