When I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens at an early Tuesday screening, I was overcome with a rush of emotions when the first note of the John Williams score erupted to open the iconic yellow Star Wars scroll. I couldn’t believe I was watching another Star Wars movie — I can still remember forever ago when the announcement of a new chapter broke — and here I was, actually watching Episode 7. I promise this review will not contain any plot details or spoilers about the film — I’m not that guy.
The past couple of days have been pretty “tough” for me not being able to say anything about the film, to discuss its secrets with anyone. It’s a cool and “elitist” feeling knowing that I’m one of the few hundreds of people around the world who has already seen this highly, highly anticipated film, when just days from now millions and millions will flock to theaters to consume the flick. But I need to talk to somebody about it, ok? I’m getting a bit stir crazy.
There are a lot of old faces that make this chapter feel like a welcome addition to the Star Wars franchise. Han and Chewbacca are back, as are Leia and Luke — but the best and most prominent characters in this film are the fresh faces. Daisy Ridley’s character Rey, John Boyega’s Finn and the adorable spherical droid BB-8 are the three new heroes seeking to escape the grasp of the latest well-funded evil enterprise in the universe, the First Order.
Both Rey and Finn are young, ambitious, somewhat flawed, but lovable characters who embody many of the qualities of the other Star Wars characters we love. These new faces will surely attract new demographics of fans considering Finn is a black male and Rey is a woman (not the norm of leading faces in tentpole blockbusters) — these choices are likely calculated for the above reason and to breathe some new life into the franchise that spun a bit off course when George Lucas steered the ship on his own for Episodes 1-3.
The best new piece of this puzzle is Adam Driver’s villain, Kylo Ren. Despite his limited screen time, every moment he appears, his character commands attention. This masked menace is full of mystery and is quite the contrast to villains we have seen in the past within this universe. My favorite thing about Ren is his voice, which fits his evil to perfection.
The Force Awakens is undoubtedly more of a team effort than what we saw in Lucas’ last Star Wars outing, with J.J. Abrams bringing on as much help to craft this tale as he could — this is a very crucial point to quality filmmaking: collaboration. He enlists the help of Return of the Jedi scribe Lawrence Kasdan to pen the script for Episode 7, a move that helps create a solid foundation for this film to stand. The script creates worthwhile characters, is smart, exciting, laced with humor and has plenty of quality action to keep your blood flowing.
Overall, the film has more great pieces than shortcomings — below in a spoiler section I discuss specifically what I didn’t like about the film, but since it’s a bit too revealing of details, I left that out of the general review. Come back and read that after seeing Episode 7.
The Force Awakens is a worthy addition to this universe and thankfully works much better than the three latest missteps (in my opinion) that Lucas crafted. There are new, exciting characters to carry the torch on and plenty of intrigue as to what comes next in “a galaxy far, far away.”
So, how long until 2018?
Spoiler Section (spoilers to follow, duh)
I’ll just jump right in — what really bothered me about The Force Awakens is how unoriginal it was in long stretches of the proceeding. It opens with a heroic member of the rebellion storing crucial data in a lovable droid that the “evil empire” desperately seeks to uncover. The details are different in some regard, but the premise is the same as Episode 4, A New Hope.
This film also brings in another Death Star type destructive weapon, the Starkiller, this time with a slightly different twist. I thought the concept of the weapon and how it steals energy from a nearby sun was cool, but I really disliked how the final sequence almost mirrored A New Hope (with some differences of course).
The heroes have to destroy a certain area of the Starkiller, which is pointed right at the planet that plays host to their Rebel base, to save themselves before the weapon is fully charged. The rebels are up against the clock, which is obnoxiously narrated in the control rooms of both the Rebel and First Order bases. Instead of having lots of drama like many other aspects of this film, this whole portion of the final action sequence is very predictable and dare I say, boring. Maybe boring isn’t the right word, but tired could be a better fit.
These opening and closing pieces are staples in the film’s bedrock, yet both are strikingly similar to A New Hope — there is a fine line between constructing an homage, a wink to a previous chapter, and ripping plot points and directly inserting them into the film.
One could argue that this is cyclical, the universe coming full circle — but I’m still convinced they could have done a better job at crafting a more original storyline in these crucial parts while still nodding to the older films. I’m sure many will beg to differ and welcome the similarities because it “feels like home,” but I just thought for a project filled with original pieces, they could have done better than “find that droid” and “we have to destroy the weapon before it destroys us.”
Photos courtesy of: Disney