Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Review
Stormtroopers Still Can't Shoot
38 years after the first Star Wars hit theaters, Episode 7 has finally arrived! So far I've seen it twice, and it is already becoming one of my favorite movies.
I'll keep this review spoiler free, but I have to say that the plot in The Force Awakens is an emotional rollercoaster. Great character reveals, fantastic set pieces, and a story that sets us up for a very intriguing Episode 8. Director J.J. Abrams (Jar jar Abrams?) has managed to re create the space opera wonder that George Lucas first captured in 1978. The plot is very reminiscent of A New Hope, setting up the Palpatine - Vader dynamic in a new era with Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren. It's an intriguing set up, one that brings a familiarity to the plot, but never holds it back. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega both have great chemistry as Rey and Finn, and they fit into the huge universe easily, as if they've always been there. The ending raises many questions as well. Who is Rey? Who is Finn? What is Luke up to? The Force Awakens serves as a great way to reintroduce our beloved characters back into the mainstream, as well as the newcomers. This means that The Force Awaken's stakes aren't quite as high as previous films in the series, but it certainly sets us up for a truly fantastic sequel. In that regard, The Force Awakens is a necessary roadblock director J.J. Abrams must get through before he can show us what he can really do with Star Wars.
Daisy Ridley is the obvious new star of the Star Wars franchise, but other newcomers like Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron and John Boyega as Finn bring a much needed fun to the film, always with a good joke or a well timed blaster shot to lighten the mood and remind us that this really is a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Daisy Ridley as Rey is a delight, bringing back many shades of early Luke Skywalker, as well as an interesting personality. Returning cast members like Han Solo, General Lea, Chewbacca, and others are all great reminders of the years of the past, with Han Solo being the clear star. Harrison Ford manages to recreate the wit and slickness of Solo, without feeling like he is trying to be as agile as he was many years before. Adam Driver is an absolute standout as Kylo Ren, bringing a great ferocity to the role, as well as being more than just a scary mask. He is a developed, emotional character, who truly feels the pull of the force inside him. I was also happily surprised on more than one occasion of an old character I had forgotten's return. However, the real question on everyone's minds is; is BB-8 as great as he is in the trailers? The answer is an absolute yes, as he brings the most charm and originality to the film, as well as serving a real purpose in the film, not just a cute ball of comic relief. Inevitably, in a movie so packed with returning characters, some of the new ones feel sidelined. Captain Phasma and Supreme Leader Snoke are the most noticeable, clearly being saved for later sequels.
The Force Awakens takes place largely between three planets, Jakku, Starkiller Base, and the Resistance base. While there is no mention of any previous planets (Hoth, Tattione, etc.), I found I didn't really notice. Partially because the story takes place in a world where those places have already been seen and explored, but also because the new environments are so well realized and bursting with originality. Starkiller Base, for example, could have easily come across as a copy of the Death Star (which it is referred to many times as being a direct copy of), its frozen atmosphere and epic space battles make it seem like a much more sinister planet, a birthing place for a new evil. Jakku in particular stands out, as it is the resting place of many Imperial Star Destroyers, among other Imperial technologies. This implied familiarity is part of the reason The Force Awakens can succeed with long times fans without shoving old characters and locations in their faces, simply by continuing the story that we are all so anxiously along the ride for.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a triumph for director J.J. Abrams, and is absolutely the movie we were promised. While some of its best characters seem to be being saved for later sequels, it is still a great way to reintroduce Star Wars back into the mainstream, where it belongs.
Pros- Great new characters, returning characters, new locations
Cons- Some characters sidelined for later sequels