Movie Review - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

We've arrived guys. This moment has been two years in the pragmatic making and arguably decades more if you're among the ranks of those who refuse to acknowledge the Prequels. We've already expressed our fears, misgivings, and erstwhile rage fodder as they relate to or potentially stem from this film. The hype has been blasted at us full force for months on end, swathed in a marketing blitz so comprehensive that it's almost difficult to find a product line that doesn't have an Officially Licensed offering. It's been a long, dizzying ride, but we're finally here.


If you've been an even occasional visitor to this site, you may have gleaned that I might have a modicum of emotional investment in this franchise and, as a result, that I'm not going to be an unbiased reviewer of this movie. That being said, I went into a showing this past Saturday with a melange of both dire expectations and barely constrained glee that arguably only fellow Star Wars fans who had their hearts broken by the Prequels can appreciate.

Name of the Maker...I can't wait anymore! How was it?

The very first line spoken in the film is, "This will begin to make things right."

That is entirely, wholly accurate.


I know!

That reality is, in itself, a source of considerable relief. In all honesty the film just had to not be actively terrible; the fact that it was so deeply enjoyable was a phenomenal surprise that I hadn't dared to anticipate.

Fangirl gushing aside, Episode VII certainly isn't a perfect film (we'll get to exactly why that is in a minute), but it is an excellent tool with which new fans can be cultivated and long-jaded aficionados can be drawn back into the franchise fold. In short, a great way to open a new trilogy.

**The following contains some references that may be considered mild spoilers, but no explicit mention of major reveals**

The actual plot will feel incredibly familiar to anyone who has seen Episode IV. There's a profoundly talented orphan eking out sustenance on a barren desert world, a lovable droid bearing secret plans key to the success of a rebellious faction, a wise-cracking foil to the straight-laced orphan, a totalitarian regime bent on dominating the galaxy, a mask-wearing villain and his nefarious master, a wizened character with extensive knowledge of the Skywalker lineage, an underdog organization attempting to counter the totalitarian regime, a massive superweapon, and many, many mentions of the Force.

That...that's pretty much Episode, all of it.

Yes. If I had to point to the single biggest shortcoming of The Force Awakens it would be that Abrams adhered to the original a bit too closely. There are several instances where the pastiche/homage to nostalgia crosses over into self-congratulatory carbon copy territory. The pacing of the film is also disjointed at times, as is typical of just about all instances of Abrams' work. However, these are assuredly minor quibbles that did not detract overly much from the overarching experience.

The Force Awakens is boldly honest about the fact that it is purely a fan film. If you are a person for whom the rest of the franchise elicited nothing but meh, then you can expect more of the same from this installment. I cannot, for the life of me, begin to imagine what watching this movie would be like for either someone who had no experience with or even actively dislikes Star Wars.

For those of us who have spent countless hours of our lives with the characters, ships, planets, and concepts of the Star Wars universe, there is a substantial non-zero chance that The Force Awakens may cause you to weep happy tears. Seriously...I know this because of...a friend. Ok, I totally cried happy tears #noregrets.

The non-originality of the narrative aside, the film does an incredible job of blending old elements with new ones and, more importantly, causing you to be emotionally invested in the latter. The new characters, Rey (the orphan), Finn (the comic foil), and Poe Dameron (a hotshot Resistance pilot) fit seamlessly into the Star Wars universe and are so well rendered by the respective actors that play those characters that you will find yourself caring deeply about them mere minutes after they are introduced. They are each extremely capable in their own ways and, with the possible exception of Poe, reasonably well-rounded. You want to find out what's next and you want them to come out of this experience okay.

Abrams accomplishes this primarily via the manner in which he feeds the audience information. We find out various bits of history and pertinent personal information often in the same moment that the characters do. This simultaneously draws us in and leaves us wanting so, so much more. The events that take place in the 30 year post-Episode VI gap are mentioned in fits and starts, but never in any real detail. There's just enough there that we can understand where the masked villain came from and why the characters from the original trilogy are situated as they are in The Force Awakens.

The other tactic that Abrams employs is the setup of a very large number of key shots. These deliberately bear a strong resemblance to those used in Episodes IV and VI and create an instant familiarity with Episode VII. That being said, there are other, less overt inclusions that will make fans extremely happy. Specifically, there are a handful of references to items that were cut from Episode IV as well as a few key bits of the Expanded Universe. If the care with which those inclusions were made doesn't win you over to Episode VII I'm not sure what will.

Add to all this some extremely thrilling action sequences (thankfully done with a tactful blend of CGI and practical effects) and some solid comedic timing and you have an excellent way to pass two hours and fifteen minutes. The film stands well on its own, but also ends in such a way that you may rush to find a countdown to the release of Episode VIII. Warning: a single viewing may not prove sufficient to sate your fandom needs.

It will make you cheer, laugh, cry, and, above all, love Star Wars again.

Embrace the changes to our beloved universe, for they are phenomenal and everything we've been waiting for.

1 comment :

  1. AnonymousJanuary 26, 2016 at 5:00 PM

    I like your review. I agree that it was like episode IV but in a sense was different.