Star Wars: The Force Awakens (SPOILER HEAVY MOVIE REVIEW)

Star Wars as a film (and especially as a franchise) has transcended mere pop cultural significance. It goes beyond generational importance, as it’s now a multi-generational phenomenon. No other film franchise will ever make such an impact on the public consciousness. Never will there be a series more quoted, influential, or parodied. And if that love for the galaxy far, far away were ever in question, The Force Awakens will certainly silence all skeptics. Already making unfathomable Box Office records, it won’t stop until it breaks the rest. And best of all? Star Wars is never going away.

Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars could not have come at a more appropriate time. Original trilogy fans are now middle-aged or older. The prequel generation are now settling into adulthood. And then we have the kids who were raised on The Clone Wars and Rebels cartoon shows. The most important thing Disney’s new series of films could capture was the magic that brought fans to the franchise in the first place. Episode VII needed to be the film fans expected from the long-awaited sequel, but it also needed to bring something altogether new to the mix. And boy did it.

This review is geared towards those who have already seen the film. It is spoiler heavy, and if you haven’t watched it yet, I suggest you read my spoiler free version here.

Director J.J. Abrams nails it. Not without its faults (it is just a movie after all), The Force Awakens is a testament to the staying power of the franchise, and a reclamation of the movie magic that made the original trilogy so exceedingly brilliant. The ability to merge forgotten filmmaking techniques with modern digitalism is comparable to nothing before it. This film feels more like a Star Wars movie than half of George Lucas’ installments. And I’m not a prequel hater – but what Abrams has concocted is a thing of real, tangible beauty. The galaxy hasn’t felt this real for over 30 years.

As soon as ‘STAR WARS’ appears onscreen in all its avant-garde glory, flies off into space, and is quickly replaced by that all-too-familiar yellow crawl of text, you know you’re in for a wild ride. John Williams blaring music dominates your senses and you’re transported back to when you were a kid, and it feels like you’re watching Star Wars for the first time all over again.

We’re immediately thrown into the search for Luke Skywalker. All of a sudden we understand why we’ve seen next to nothing on the character in the marketing push for the film except for his glaring absence. Two parties are searching for him. The Resistance, who could use all the help they could muster, and the First Order who seek to destroy him and any remaining Jedi.

One thing that I forgot to expect from this new film was the humor inherent in Star Wars. From the very start there’s a layer of joy and humor amidst all the chaos the film has to throw at the audience. Not in the sense that you’ll find there’s a comic relief character present. Even BB-8 is too awesome to be relegated as just comic relief. No, Disney wants to steer clear of that. But it’s the simple irony of the differing agendas each character possesses, along with their unique personalities, that make scenes pop with levity.

Harrison Ford’s return to the character of Han Solo is seemless. The moment he walks onto the screen, it’s all smiles. He still has all the quips and swagger of a scruffy-looking nerf herder, but now he’s a far more mature, and devastated version. And of course, side by side with his faithful Wookiee copilot Chewbacca, the two appear to have been on many an adventure offscreen – just as we’d envision it. I’m not sure how they got ahold of that freighter (or how Finn confused it with a First Order ship), but I know I’m not alone in saying it was good seeing the two onscreen again.

Carrie Fisher’s Princess General Leia is a different story, however. Although it felt like the same character (as far as her evolution could presumably go), Carrie Fisher was playing a very different role in this film. More reserved, more level-headed. And I’m not sure I entirely buy the new her. I felt she was wooden at times. Still, it was wonderful seeing her back, and sporting some crazy hairdos. Alongside Solo is when her character shines best.

Abrams and script writer Lawrence Kasdan (who famously penned Episodes V & VI) chose to reach back to the series’ roots, not only stylistically, but thematically. In fact, they chose to take a route of such poetic symmetry with the original film that it seems to be an exact replica of the original outline. Were you to explain the major happenings of this story to someone else without using names and locations, it would sound very similar to A New Hope. BB-8 carries a vital message that needs to reach the right hand, similar to R2. Rey is swept away from her homeworld to learn that she is a Force user, similar to Luke. Han plays the role of the mentor who has to fall so that the hero can step up and become whom she needs to be, similar to Obi-Wan. Starkiller Base/Death Star. Maz Kanata’s castle/Mos Eisley cantina. Darth Vader/Kylo Ren. And so on. That said, it never once feels stunted by the similarities to the past, nor do I feel this is a criticism worth laying against the film. The events in this story pan out as they should organically, within the confines and history of the Star Wars legend we know and love.

The new threat takes root with the First Order, an extremist offshoot of the Galactic Empire of old. Led by Supreme Leader Snoke, a character we still know very little about, they get up to some serious galactic evil with their Starkiller Base. This Starkiller Base is essentially Death Star 3.0, supercharged with more firepower. They are capable of leveling whole star systems, as we see with the Hosnian System where the New Republic ran their tasks. The Resistance is up to the challenge, however daunting. They must destroy the Base before it readies another shot that would cripple them.

The new cast of heroes is one I truly, overwhelmingly, look forward to seeing grow. Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey, instantly joins the ranks as one of the most fantastic characters of the Star Wars saga. She’s strong, independent, competent, and always up to the challenge. She is the primary protagonist of the film, and kicks some serious butt. It’s incredible seeing her grow as a character as her Force abilities awaken. Never have we seen a character grow so swiftly into their Force abilities as she does, and it begs the question as to how she is adapting so rapidly. She doesn’t know where she comes from, but others appear to. When Kylo Ren hears about a girl helping BB-8 and Finn escape, he freaks out as if he knows something. When Maz Kanata asks Han who she is, the scene cuts before he can answer. And it gave us more than enough hints as far as what her lineage was. She tried to dream of an island in the middle of an ocean at night, which was no doubt the Force pulling her to her family. She was drawn to Luke’s saber, which he lost in Cloud City (which also happens to be Anakin’s lightsaber in RotS). I’m surprised that her origin is still ambiguous by the end of the film.

Finn, played by the energetic John Boyega, is a defecting stormtrooper, who leaves after he witnesses firsthand the atrocities the First Order is willing to commit. He’s a lovable character, who’s a treat to follow along. His motives, however, leave much to be desired. For the sake of the story and viewing, he’s a good person, but he seems undeterred later when he has to face off against his longtime First Order comrades. We know he was raised from a baby in the First Order, so one would assume it’d be very difficult to see his friends die. I mean, he has one of those moments in the beginning of the film when Poe kills one of his friends, but after that his assumedly brainwashed mind doesn’t even register who’s behind the trooper armor. We can say for a certainty that after he meets Rey, his loyalty is with her. But beyond that and his initial defection, I don’t really get his motivation.

Poe Dameron, who claims to be the best pilot in the Resistance, is an extremely likable fellow. I was most surprised that he was so funny. He’s essentially the Han Solo of the new cast. Sadly, he gets sidelined for most of the film.

BB-8. What an incredible new addition. Not only the kids will love him, YOU will too. He steals every scene he’s in. The amount of personality they are capable of putting into a droid like him is remarkable. And, aside from some animated effects here and there, the soccer ball-like droid is a real, fully functioning thing. And that’s just too cool.

But the real standout star for this film was Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. He’s not a Sith. Nor is he a Jedi. He is, however, a worthy replacement to the Dark Side void left by Darth Vader. But he’s also a very complicated character, full of anger and rage, and probably more than a tinge of sorrow. Interestingly, he was being seduced by the Light Side of the Force, something we’ve never seen. He appears to be particularly adept at an all new Force stop ability, which he uses to awesome affect. Scenes where he is wearing his mask, he’s a truly menacing threat. But the character steals your curiosity and attention when his mask is off, and you see the war raging inside him. What a performance.

It was no huge surprise discovering that Ren was the son of Han and Leia, but it was a fun reveal. I was half expecting the character to be named Jacen (which is what his name is in the now non-canonical Expanded Universe), but was totally surprised they named him after Ben Kenobi. I feel that is a mistake, as Ben was close to neither Leia, nor Han, that we know of. That said, Kylo Ren’s murder of his father was tragic, beautifully done, and an appropriate end to a character we’ve loved all these years. I teared up, even though I knew it was bound to happen.

What wasn’t appropriate? Leia and Chewie’s lament of their longtime friend, or lack thereof. When the Resistance got back from Starkiller Base, instead of consoling each other, they ignore each other, and Leia went to console Rey (a character she has yet to interact with in the film – but likely knows more about than meets the eye). Why would Han’s two closest friends in all the galaxy not mourn with each other the first chance they get? And better yet, why would we be robbed of that scene? Leia is given so little to work with in the film already, and this was a huge mistake on the writer’s part.

The worldbuilding is exceptional though. The team did such a good job with the worldbuilding that you don’t even realize it’s there. You’re thrown onto these remote worlds with realistic, beautiful landscapes, inhabited by alien and humanoid persons alike. Never once do you question the reality of it. In fact, the team did too good of a job. Many characters they’ve created didn’t even make it into the finished film. Most notable here is Constable Zuvio, who was actually among the first characters to get an action figure.

However great the practical effects and believable prosthetic puppeteering is in the film, it is counterpointed by the extremely obvious computer generated imagery. Some of it was seemless, but not all of it. Our eyes are sensitive to things that don’t look real, and some scenes take you out of that magic, if only briefly.

Composer John Williams has crafted yet another exceptional score. Rey’s theme is whimsical, full of wanderlust, soaring innocence, and hope. And on the other extreme, Kylo Ren’s theme is harsh, swift, and powerful. This, mixed with the music we know and love, makes for some great atmosphere and adventure. The last track before the credits, The Jedi Steps, is the best example of this.

Captain Phasma only has a minor role in this film, and that’s a shame. That is one of my only nitpicks for the entire movie, but a minor one.

The biggest mistake the movie makes is with R2-D2. He only appears as a cameo appearance… Until the plot necessitates his return. He wakes up from “low power mode,” and conveniently has the missing portion of the map to find Luke Skywalker. Who was the genius who split up these coordinates in the first place? Why did no one think to search Luke Skywalker’s droid’s memory for the map years ago? It was such a poorly explained (or rather, simply unexplained) plot development it was infuriating to the extreme.

But what a way to end a film in which the primary goal was to find Luke Skywalker! That scene will go down as one of the best in the entire Star Wars saga. The amount of tension, emotion, and feeling in that one 45 second scene by Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley is heart stopping. I want the next film to start right back up there, because that’s such a great cliffhanger of a moment.

Overall, this is perhaps the most fun I’ve had while seeing a film in theaters for several years. Star Wars is back, and long may it continue to be so. I see a lot of potential stories spanning from this one film. Now all I want is to find out how we got to this point, so I’ll be eagerly reading the books and comics that come along that help bridge that gap. From here on out we’ll be seeing a Star Wars film drop every year, with the episodic ones showing up every two years. It’s never been such a good time to be a fan.

26 thoughts on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens (SPOILER HEAVY MOVIE REVIEW)

  1. Hey so totally meant to mention this the other day… but don’t you think Rey is probably the girl they mentioned that Luke was training at the same time as he was training Ren? I mean they said he was training a boy and a girl and that one of his students turned on him back when they were trying to hide the fact that the boy was their son… it would explain why everyone knew her and perhaps why the lightsaber chose her and was trying to show her memories so she would remember… because they never explained what happened to the girl when Luke went all AWOL or when Ren turned on them what they might have done with her… so just saying… that’s my theory…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought they spoke of a girl he trained too, but after a few viewings, and after reading the book, I can say firmly they do not mention him training a girl. Just that he was training a new ‘generation of jedi’


      1. really? Man now I feel like I need to watch it again… I could’ve sworn they said that… now that’s gonna bug me forever… oh well back to the theater…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Finally got to see it, and I’ll admit I’m not a Star Wars fan. I saw the first 6 one time 8 years ago and that was that. They were cool and all, but it wasn’t really anything that drew me in like I really wanted another, or ever really cared to see them again. I mean my husband grew up on them and his whole family was about it, while mine never mentioned them once. I’m not even sure if either of my parents ever even saw them. But this movie was amazing. Finn was so hilarious, I loved him, and every scene he was in he made better. And of course BB-8 is the coolest. I love robots that are robots, not like human like androids you know, like C3PO, even though he is cool too. But for something like BB-8 which we can’t understand, and has no facial expressions to still convey emotions and to get you all attached like that, that always makes a movie for me. I want one for myself, even if it’s just a tiny toy that’ll sit on my desk. But I get what you’re saying about R2D2, of course BB-8 did try and turn him on before to get the rest of the map but everyone was like no he wouldn’t have it, but maybe R2D2 didn’t want to admit he had it when there was a chance the bad guys could get it. Like he gave it at the end when it was safe too and when Rey was there to follow it. I think that might be why, because I’m all about Rey maybe being Luke’s kid. Just saying. But I feel so bad that Luke didn’t even get a line, he didn’t even get to do anything. And I can’t help it, as soon as I saw him I was like The Trickster!!! lol… seriously they could’ve at least let him use the force to get his light saber from her. But that’s just my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh hey! I’m glad you liked it! BB-8 is one of my favs also. I’m actually okay with how Luke literally has no lines. If you think about it, anything he could’ve said would have broken that moment. And honestly people would overanalyze, overcriticize, anything he would say or do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. you’re probably right, but I just think you know, here it is been years since he really had a big role in anything since the last Star Wars he was in, and then they’re like okay you’re going to stand here for like a minute and stare at this girl, and done!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree with many points. 🙂
      I read somewhere (maybe in a review of the novelisation?) that R2D2 was supposed to start waking up s-l-o-w-l-y after BB-8 poked him. So slowly that we’d see, I don’t know, a little flashing light that in the background that wasn’t paid attention to, gradually getting brighter, until >BAM< that scene at the end where he does wake up. Pity that was cut.
      I really really liked Rey (I agree about her being Luke's daughter, but I was thinking she was either Jaina or Allana before that, so who knows?)
      I agree, Kylo Ren being Ben rather than Jacen or some other name is a bit odd. But still cool.
      Argh. Can't wait until next time!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic review. It answered a lot of questions for me, because I was feeling a little frustrated that Rey knew so much about how to use the force with so little training. It makes sense that she could have been already trained in a way. I really enjoyed reading this, and really looking forward to the next Star Wars films.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really hope R2-D2 will have a more major role in the rest of the trilogy. BB8 couldn’t replace him in my opinion. He was a nice addition, but I still like R2 more. Very nice and well organized review!

    One off-topic question: I saw the falling snow on Jenneral Geek as well. How do you do that? I’d like to give my blog a little Christmas spirit, but I don’t know how to make it snow.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, go into your site settings. It’s in your WordPress backpage (or Admin page), and the option for “Settings” is right at the bottom of the list on the side. There should be a box that says “Holiday Snow” which you can check, and then save. All done!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The movie only makes sense if Rey is Luke’s daughter. Rey is on a nothing planet like Jakku… but so is Max Von Sydow’s character, whose name is never uttered on screen, but whom we know to be an old friend of Leia (hence his referring to her as “Royalty”). And HE’s the one holding the key to Luke’s whereabouts. There’s no reason, other than plot contrivance, for both Von Sydow and Rey to be living near each other on the same meaningless planet… unless he was there, Obi-Wan style, to keep an eye on her and give her the coordinates when she came of age. Let’s hope that turns out to be the answer!

    The cameos were a bit puzzling. It’s a great gag having Daniel Craig as the stormtrooper Jedi-mind-tricked by Rey… but you’d never know it’s him from just the movie + credits itself. And if a motion-capture character with an unrecognizable voice in just two scenes turns out to have been modeled by Simon Pegg, can it really be said to be a Simon Pegg character? I also like that Abrams named a Rebel pilot after a Beastie Boys album… but, again, I needed to dig deep into the Internet to find that out.

    The movie was much less successful for me on second viewing than on first. Hopefully Episode VIII fills in a lot of the much-needed background and fulfills the promise of Episode VII.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was actually a little unsure of the movie the first time round and had the opposite affect the second showing. Weird. I agree with Rey. And I don’t think that the cameos are necessarily for the audiences sake – I think it’s simply a “sure, I can find you a Stormtrooper outfit to where. Oh, you want some lines? Sure, let’s try…” I don’t think the Simon Pegg character was motion capture? We saw him in full costume in behind the scenes stuff.


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