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Film Review: Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Updated on January 1, 2018
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Review written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.

Background

In 2015, J. J. Abrams released Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the first installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy and the seventh film of the Star Wars franchise. Starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Domhnall Gleeson, the film has grossed $2.068 billion.

Synopsis

Following Emperor Palpatine’s defeat 32 years ago, a remnant called the First Order has risen, fought by veterans of the Rebel Alliance known as the Resistance. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker is missing and the forces clash over a map with the clue to his whereabouts with First Order deserter Finn and scavenger Rey caught in the middle.

Review

When it comes to a franchise like “Star Wars,” any new installment is going to be met with incredible hype and baited breath from fans. Though it’s not possible to appease every fan there is, director J. J. Abrams did well, making “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” a great film. It’s more of a straight transitional sequel rather than a continuation of “Return of the Jedi,” detailing what happened a number of years following Episode VI’s plot rather than delving into the immediate fallout. But this makes sense as Han, Luke and Leia’s story is over. While they’re in this film, they take a supporting role to Rey and Finn. They take over the main roles and will continue to be the heroes in the upcoming main films.

Now, as far as villains go, Kylo Ren is great. He has an idolatrous obsession with Darth Vader and desperately wants to be as villainous as he. But he doesn’t completely have a complete grasp on his darkness and isn’t as in tune with the dark side as Vader was. What results is a villain that can be, and is, as menacing, but is prone to violent fits of rage when his efforts go pear shaped. It perfectly shows that he’s going to have a villainous character development down the line. In fact, he’s everything Anakin should have been in his path to the dark side during the prequels.

The film is also done well on a technical level, not using Computer Generated Imaging (CGI) as a crutch like Lucas did with the prequels, even though there’s just as much digital effects. The film has a wonderful mix of CGI and practical effects, giving audiences beautifully built sets surrounded by beautiful scenery while using the CGI to fill in the blanks that the practical effects couldn’t. A very notable example is the Millennium Falcon. An actual set was built and used, giving it the same real feeling that came from looking at the ship in the original trilogy.

As with the other films in the franchise, there is humor to be had and it’s pulled off nicely in quite a few areas. Mainly from the droid BB-8, who interestingly provides a lot of emotion even though he’s practically a soccer ball with a head. At one point, Finn gives the droid a thumbs up. Lacking thumbs, BB-8 responds by holding up its welding torch.

But the film isn’t perfect. Abrams is well known in his love of the original trilogy and dislike of the prequels. Thus, he threw in a lot of references to the original trilogy. Many of them are done well, such as when Rey calls the Millennium Falcon “garbage” upon its reintroduction, harkening back to when Luke and Leia were both dismissive of the ship upon first glance in Episode IV. But sometimes the references go a little too far, like the final battle. During the Battle of Yavin in Episode IV, the rebels had 15 minutes to destroy the Death Star before it destroyed Yavin IV, clinching a victory in the final seconds. Though the locations of final battles are different, it’s essentially the same as the Resistance gets the same amount of time to destroy the new superweapon, with victory once again coming down to those last few seconds.

4 stars for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Awards & Recognitions

bold indicates reception of award/recognition

Academy Awards

  • Best Achievement in Film Editing
  • Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
  • Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
  • Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA - Saturn Awards

  • Best Science Fiction Film
  • Best Writing
  • Best Actor (Harrison Ford)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Adam Driver)
  • Best Music
  • Best Editing
  • Best Make-Up
  • Best Special Effects
  • Best Director (J. J. Abrams)
  • Best Actor (John Boyega)
  • Best Actress (Daisy Ridley)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Carrie Fisher)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o)
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Costume Design

AFI Awards

  • Movie of the Year

All Def Movie Awards

  • Best Black Survivor in a Movie

Alliance of Women Film Journalists

  • Best Female Action Star (Daisy Ridley)
  • Best Breakthrough Performance (Daisy Ridley)

American Cinema Editors, USA - Eddie Awards

  • Best Edited Feature Film - Dramatic

Art Directors Guild Awards

  • Excellence in Production Design Award - Fantasy Film

Association of Motion Picture Sound - Feature Film Awards

  • Excellence in Sound for a Fewture Film

Awards Circuit Community Awards

  • Best Motion Picture
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Sound
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Makeup & Hairstyling
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Cast Ensemble
  • Best Stunt Ensemble

Awards of the Japanese Academy

  • Best Foreign Film

BAFTA Awards

  • Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Original Music
  • Best Sound

BMI Film & TV Awards

  • Film Music Award

Bodil Awards

  • Best American Film

British Film Designers Guild Awards

  • Best Film

Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards

  • Best Picture

Casting Society of America, USA - Artios Awards

  • Outstanding Achievement in Casting - Big Budget Feature - Drama

Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards

  • Actor of the Year (Domhnall Gleeson)
  • Breakthrough Film Artist (Daisy Ridley)
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Picture

Cinema Audio Society Awards

  • Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Pictures - Live Action

Cinema Bloggers Awards, Portugal

  • Best Special Effects - International Competition
  • Best North American Film

Costume Designers Guild Awards

  • Excellence in Fantasy Film

Criticos de Cinema Online Portugueses Awards

  • Best Special Effects
  • Best Film

Davey Awards, US

  • Silver Award - Marketing Effectiveness

Denver Film Critics Society

  • Best Science-Fiction/Horror Film
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Original Score

Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Breakthrough Award - International (Daisy Ridley)
  • Best Film
  • Best Director (J. J. Abrams)

Empire Awards, UK

  • Best Male Newcomer (John Boyega)
  • Best Female Newcomer (Daisy Ridley)
  • Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy
  • Best Director (J. J. Abrams)
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Film
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Makeup and Hair Styling
  • Best Production Design

Florida Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Pauline Kael Breakout Award (Daisy Ridley)
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Score

Georgia Film Critics Association Awards

  • Breakthrough Award (Daisy Ridley)
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Ensemble

Gold Derby Awards

  • Motion Picture
  • Original Score
  • Production Design
  • Film Editing
  • Makeup/Hair
  • Sound
  • Visual Effects

Golden Schmoes Awards

  • Best DVD/Blu-Ray of the Year
  • Best Sci-Fi Movie of the Year
  • Breakthrough Performance of the Year (Daisy Ridley)
  • Favorite Movie Poster of the Year
  • Best Trailer of the Year
  • Most Memorable Scene in a Movie (Kylo Ren kills his father)
  • Favorite Movie of the Year
  • Best Director of the Year (J. J. Abrams)
  • Most Overrated Movie of the Year
  • Best Actress of the Year (Daisy Ridley)
  • Breakthrough Performance of the Year (John Boyega)
  • Coolest Character of the Year (Han Solo)
  • Coolest Character of the Year (Kylo Ren)
  • Coolest Character of the Year (Rey)
  • Best Music in a Movie
  • Best Action Sequence of the Year (Final Battle at Starkiller Base)
  • Best Line of the Year ("Chewie. We're home.")

Golden Trailer Awards

  • Best Fantasy Adventure
  • Best Action Poster
  • Best of Show
  • Best Music
  • Best Fantasy/Adventure TV Spot
  • Best Billboard
  • Best Fantasy/Adventure Poster
  • Best Wildposts

Grammy Awards

  • Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media

Guinness World Record Award

  • Most Viewed Movie Trailer on YouTube in 24 Hours

Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards - Artisan Awards

  • Best Special Makeup Effects - Feature Motion Picture

Hollywood Post Alliance, US Awards

  • Outstanding Visual Effects - Feature Film

Hugo Awards

  • Best Dramatic Presentation - Long Form

IGN Summer Movie Awards

  • People's Choice Award - Best Sci-Fi Movie
  • Best Sci-Fi Movie

International 3D & Advanced Imaging Society's Creative Arts Awards

  • Outstanding Use of 2D to 3D Conversion
  • 3D Feature - Live Action

International Film Music Critics Awards

  • Film Score of the Year
  • Film Music Composition of the Year (for the composition track "The Jedi Steps and Finale")
  • Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film

International Online Cinema Awards

  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Second Place - Best Visual Effects

Jupiter Awards

  • Best International Film

Kids' Choice Awards, USA - Blimp Awards

  • Favorite Movie
  • Favorite Movie Actress (Dailsy Ridley)
  • Favorite Movie Actor (John Boyega)

Kinema Junpo Awards

  • Readers' Choice Award - Best Foreign Language Film

Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA - Golden Reel Awards

  • Best Sound Editing - Music in a Feature Film
  • Best Sound Editing - Dialogue and ADR in a Feature Film
  • Best Sound Editing - Sound Effects and Foley in a Feature Film

MTV Movie Awards

  • Movie of the Year
  • Breakthrough Performance (Daisy Ridley)
  • Best Villain (Adam Driver)
  • Best Female Performance (Daisy Ridley)
  • Breakthrough Performance (John Boyega)
  • Best Action Performance (John Boyega)
  • Best Hero (Daisy Ridley)
  • Best Virtual Performance (Andy Serkis)
  • Best Virtual Performance (Lupita Nyong'o)
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Best Fight (Rey, Daisy Ridley, vs. Kylo Ren, Adam Driver)

Online Film & Television Association - Film Awards

  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Movie Trailer
  • Best Breakthrough Performance: Male (John Boyega)
  • Best Breakthrough Performance: Female (Daisy Ridley)
  • Best Voice-Over Performance (Lupita Nyong'o, as the voice of "Maz Kanata")
  • Best Ensemble
  • Best Music, Original Score
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Sound Effects Editing
  • Best Stunt Coordination
  • Best Movie Poster

Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards

  • Rondo Statuette - Best Movie

Santa Barbara International Film Festival

  • Artisan Award - Patrick Tubach (visual effects)

Screen Nation Film and Television Awards

  • Male Performance in Film (John Boyega)

Screenwriters Choice Awards, Online - Screenplay Competition

  • Best Adapted Screenplay

Seattle Film Critics Awards

  • Best Production Design
  • Best Sound Design
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Music, Original Score

Society of Camera Operators Awards

  • Camera Operator of the Year Award - Feature Film

Teen Choice Awards

  • Choice Movie: Villain (Adam Driver)
  • Choice Movie: Breakout Star (Daisy Ridley)
  • Choice Movie: Breakout Star (John Boyega)
  • Choice Movie: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
  • Choice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Daisy Ridley)
  • Choice Movie: Chemistry (Daisy Ridley & John Boyega)
  • Choice Movie: Hissy Fit (Adam Driver)

Visual Effects Society Awards

  • Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature
  • Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature (Falcon Chase/Graveyard)
  • Outstanding Virtual Cinematography in a Photoreal Project (Falcon Chase/Graveyard)
  • Outstanding Models in a Photoreal or Animated Project (BB-8)
  • Outstanding Animated Performance in a Photoreal Feature (Maz)
  • Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Feature
  • Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature (Starkiller Base)

W3 Awards

  • Silver Award - Marketing Effectiveness

World Soundtrack Awards

  • Public Choice Awards (John Williams)
  • Film Composer of the Year

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