Movie Review: ‘The Force Awakens’January 1, 2016 at 9:17 am | Posted in Episode VII, Movies, Reviews, Star Wars | Leave a comment
There’s been plenty of time to see the movie, now it’s time to dive into our full spoiler review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Last warning, major spoilers below.
J.J. Abrams was tasked to re-launch the Star Wars film saga into a new era. The first in what is being called the sequel trilogy, The Force Awakens was burdened with the weight of a 4 billion dollar investment with the purchase by Disney from George Lucas. The question was: could Disney make a movie without George? Thankfully, the gamble with J.J. paid off.
Visually The Force Awakens is a splendor to behold. The new look of the Empire with the First Order brings a much needed upgrade to the fearsome stormtroopers. Now they look more than ever like grinning skulls. Then there’s the stunning dogfights in atmosphere, something we’ve never seen before in a Star Wars movie. Be it the famous Millennium Falcon or a squadron of X-wings shooting down TIE fighters, the action is faster and more intense than ever. Even the scenery is gorgeous with lush green landscapes and wintery forests, both providing fertile ground for lightsaber fights. The lighting, the CGI, the practical effects, the sets, the landscapes, and the shots themselves all merge together to create a wonderfully rich visual experience.
Then there is the acting. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver were unknown quantities to most when it was revealed they would be in the film. Yet each of them played their parts above and beyond expectations. They sold their characters to the viewers completely. There’s no sign of the stilted characters so often pointed out in the prequel trilogy. These aren’t stoic, emotionless Jedi. Rather, this is a film full of emotional beings the viewing audience can relate to. There’s the nobody escaping their desolate existence, the deserter abandoning a life they were forced into, and the deceptive face of someone embracing evil. Whether it’s the main characters like Rey and Han, or the stand out performances from minor characters like Maz Kanata or Chewbacca, the acting is exceptional.
Yet the acting can only go so far without a good script, and when it comes to dialog, The Force Awakens gets an ‘A’. But it’s not just the dialog of the script that earns The Force Awakens such merit. One of the best aspects of the film is the humor. When Guardians of the Galaxy made a big splash with audiences, it was because of the fun characters and the comedy. The Force Awakens rekindles the humor of the original trilogy and kicks it up a notch. There’s none of the childish fart or poop jokes from the prequels, but it also doesn’t exclude younger audiences. When BB-8 flicks up a lighter in an imitation of a thumb’s up, everyone laughed. It aimed for genuine humor over cheap humor and the result is quite evident. This is a movie everyone can enjoy without any age group feeling excluded. It captures the magic of Star Wars.
On the downside, there are a lot of familiar story elements. A desert planet home to a Force strong youth in need of a teacher. A new Death Star like superweapon. A droid smuggling data from an offshoot of the Empire. A villain following in the footsteps of Darth Vader. Even the climatic battle is a rerun of of past events with the heroes taking down the shields on the ground and using starfighters to fly inside and blow it up. It’s all the same…but different. That difference is the key.
Yes, we’ve seen this before, but Star Wars is the hero’s journey. It’s monomyth. Of course we’ve seen it before. History repeats itself. It’s not about seeing completely new things, it’s about seeing the familiar with a new twist. With anything, you take the same ingredients, mix them up, and create something new. And The Force Awakens is new. When you’re working with a franchise that already has six films (not counting two Ewok movies and the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars film), four animated television shows, and over 200 books and countless comics, doing something that’s never been done before is a tall order. But when have we seen the Falcon fly through a Star Destroyer on a planet? When have we seen an X-wing dart around the sky and shoot ten TIE fighters down in one amazing sweep? When have we seen stormtroopers poor out of D-Day style landing craft to annihilate a Rebel outpost complete with heavy weapons, flamethrowers, and a chrome armored commander? And when have we seen someone freeze people with the Force including their blaster bolts? There’s new things to be had, and they’re mixed with elements of the past. It’s only fitting for a story that takes place a long time ago.
For me, The Force Awakens was perfect. It exceeded my expectations and has held up to repeated viewings. It also fits in beautifully with the rest of the saga. While it may be more original trilogy than prequel trilogy, The Force Awakens still captures the magic of Star Wars, and in my book, earns a five out of five metal bikinis.