Movie Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens (Spoiler* Free)
Yeah, while I promise I won't be telling you any of the twists, or really much of the plot itself, I'm still warning the reader. There are no hard spoilers, but there might be bits I discuss that spoil the experience. By that, I mean a character's portrayal may not be what you're expecting and might be better or worse. You might expect something differently than what you might be.
However, I do plan on writing a full discussion-friendly review for those who might have seen the film or those who really don't care if I spoil things. There's a great amount I'd like to freely discuss, but this isn't the page for it. Here's my page full of wonderful spoilers to discuss.
Um, yes? I'll admit, I greatly enjoyed it. I went in trying to have open expectations and left feeling fairly pleased. I'd see it again in theaters if there was a group willing to go (not on my own, though). And while I'm praising it, I'll admit it's not perfect (there's more than a few things I don't really care for but I'm not getting into specifics) but I enjoyed more than 90% of it.
If you're a skeptic of Star Wars because you're one of those people who love to rag on Episodes 1-3, you're certainly going to enjoy this film. For those who enjoyed J.J. Abram's first Star Trek film, you'll be heavily entertained. And if you're just a Star Wars fan in general, well, you'll be ecstatic.
Also, while some people were skeptical of a 7th film after Disney bought out Lucasfilms, I'd argue you can't even tell. It's just as dark and violent as previous films, and even very infrequent cursing. It's being handled exactly like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and so many other properties that Disney owns (I feel that most people have no clue just how much material Disney owns that doesn't support princesses or mouse-people).
Without giving much away at all, I'll paraphrase things. It's been maybe forty-ish years since Episode 6 and Luke Skywalker has gone missing. Both this new Resistance (which is just a new word for Rebels, let's be honest) and the First Order (which for all intents and purposes is the Empire) are looking for him. A majority of the characters that are introduced are new, while you'll get more than a handful of old favorites returning. There are twists you won't see coming, and some you will. You'll have the same kind of emotional highs you had when enjoying your standard tale of the Hero's Journey.
The plot is good and fine and all but it is the spectacle you bear witness to rather than how good and/or original the plot may be. I'm slightly bothered simply by retooling the names of the Rebellion and the Empire (now the Resistance and the First Order respectively) simply to usher in a new age is a little cheap, especially since many of the old characters reside in their old roles and X-Wings and Tie Fighters still make up the space battles. It's a minor complaint, but the Resistance's name is inferior to the Rebellion (you can't say 'Rebel scum' or 'Rebel Assault' anymore).
Casting and Performance
First off, Oscar Isaac now plays my favorite character Poe Dameron as he owns the screen the short time he shares it (he also plays a huge part in my favorite film of Summer 2015 Ex Machina). That's all I'm allowed to say.
John Boyega (who plays Finn) does a fantastic job in delivering lines and facial expression. He's easily sympathizable, given his character's background and actions. And while he's advertised as one of the main heroes, he's easily flawed but his character is just as enjoyable. Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) makes a winning performance as another of the main heroes, winning me over with her pluck and tenacity. They both look and play youths very convincingly, a very clear direction of passing the torch.
Adam Driver plays Kylo Ren, but his performance is a bit more of downer. Not that any of it is particuarly his fault though, more that the script for his character seemed very narrow and straight forward. And of course, all returning cast members do a great job.
Ohmygoshbestpart! Lightsabers were cool in the original trilogy and were easily the best parts of the prequels (lightsaber staff, violet lightsabers, dual wielding, etc). In this film though, while yes there is the crossguard lightsaber, lightsabers are used to a fantastic degree. Every time Kylo Ren's weapon ignites, it's a forceful, loud sound, enough to jolt you in your seat. This happens successfully every time he draws his weapon again. When he swings it, there's a palpable weight that carries through the theatre. It's the most effective lightsaber seen on screen yet.
The film also proves that it can create some new tricks to the universe that fits in nicely. There are plenty of new aliens and droids that have the same lifelike take on them that the first audience members experienced back with A New Hope. It's exactly what you've come to expect from Star Wars, Disney, and J.J. Abrams.
A Disappointing Villain
I can go into more of this in my future open discussion post about the film (the one with major spoilers), but you'll have to settle for this for now. The main villain is introduced in a massive way, full of terror and fury. It's fantastic. But every time after that, the character seems to waste away just a bit. You get to see his face without adornments, and it's underwhelming. His reaction to several events is detrimental to his character. There's a character arc in place for this villain, but it flows as somewhat more cliche without any real weight added to it. As the header says, I found the villain to be disappointing, even if I did greatly enjoy the film otherwise.
There's a little bit of blood and someone says 'Dammit!' Otherwise, it's your traditional Star Wars fest of violence.
As a film, it's fantastic. As a Star Wars film, it's just as good. If you're hopeful, you'll get exactly what you expect from this film. It's not perfect (nor were any of the preceding Star Wars film) but it's wonderful popcorn fare that's actually worth seeing in theaters more than once. I don't think I've said that before, actually.
At times it panders a little to the original trilogy (just to make sure the formula is still good) but that honestly might be my biggest complaint about it.
- A film worthy of the Star Wars name
- Great new cast of actors with great performances from previous ones
- The Lightsaber is at its best
- Disappointing villain
- Recycled plot elements of previous films
- Worth watching at least once in theaters (probably more)