Wow. First of all, let’s give a big round of applause to JJ Abrams, the writers and the entire cast and crew of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s films like these that further ignite my quest to become a master storyteller. As I discussed last week, Star Wars was probably THE defining creative influence in my early years, and The Force Awakens recaptured all of that magic.
Before we go on , here’s the obligatory SPOILER ALERT part. Everything you read after this point is written with the assumption that you have seen The Force Awakens or don’t care if it’s spoiled for you. If you want to get some general thoughts about it without the worry of any plot details being revealed, then check out this spoiler-free review by Mr. Chuck Wendig. (Who is also author of Star Wars Aftermath. Go buy that and read it, right — on second thought, read this first. But then definitely go read that.
One more time. SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT PASS GO DO NOT COLLECT SPOILS UNLESS YOU WANT THE MYSTERIES OF THE FORCE AWAKENS REVEALED TO YOU.
*Pauses for people to file out of the blog auditorium*
Okay, and we’re off! This review is going to be broken down into three categories. What I liked (lots), what I didn’t like (very little) and what’s going to drive me crazy waiting for Episode 8 to arrive.
What I liked
The short answer is pretty much everything! But, super fanboy aside, there’s a list of a few specific things that particularly impressed me.
- The almost seamless way the original trilogy blended into The Force Awakens. Reintroduction of the Millennium Falcon, numerous characters and the previous storyline was delivered in a seamless and natural way that didn’t distract from the story at hand.
- The new faces: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Isaac Oscar and Adam Driver were all excellent in their roles. I’m really looking forward to see how each character develops and grows.
- BB-8. Yes, the little orange and white droid gets its own bullet point. Because it’s just so dang lovable.
- The old faces: Returning cast members hit their characters out of the park. It felt like they’d been living in the Star War Universe the whole time, just waiting for us to rejoin them,
- Perfectly executed comedic relief. Unlike the prequel trilogy, filled with moments of over-the-top slapstick humor, The Force Awakens was, to sum it up in one word: witty. Comedic relief provided perfect balance to intense situations and kept things from getting too dark and dreary (although there were plenty of heartbreaking moments as well). A few of my favorites were Rey yelling at Fin for handing her the wrong tool and Han smooth-talking the two gangs on the barge.
- Chewie’s expanded role. The big guy got a couple of scenes to himself and also saw a greater role in action scenes after taking somewhat of a backseat in the original trilogy. His banter with Han was perfect as well. Good for you, Chewie.
- The parallelism between A New Hope and The Force Awakens. Say what you want about George Lucas, but when you take the time to notice, he did an excellent job striking similar chords between 1-3 and 4-6. JJ Abrams took this to another level — perhaps right to the verge of it being too much.Obi-Wan and Han as the old mentors, Starkiller Base and the Deathstar, the bad guys chasing after a droid with vital information to the good guys, going to chase down a female character after she’s been captured and interrogated, etc, etc. This was great for The Force Awakens (since it’s the launch pad for a new trilogy) but I also don’t want to watch modified versions of Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi for Episodes 8 and 9. I really hope this trilogy can come into it’s own.
- The last lightsaber fight. My, how far we’ve come since Obi-Wan squared off against Darth Vader in that Deathstar hangar. Each time a lightsaber was brought into play, it felt like the most realistic fights in the entire franchise, especially the last one. I loved the realistic, believable choreography of the final Kylo Ren, Finn and Rey fight and how — due to their inexperience — they could slice and dice one another. It was a nice change of pace from other saber fights where no swing ever struck home unless it was to dismember or land a killing blow. Also, the shots of Rey’s blue saber in the dark and the snow were as gorgeous as Ms. Daisy Ridley herself.
What I didn’t like
- The big parentage reveal: Discovering Han and Leia are Kylo Ren’s parents could have packed a huge, Starkiller Base-sized wallop had it been delivered a little later on and in less of an, oh-by-the-way-let’s-just-mention-this-in-an-offhand-conversation. This was the only real disappointment for me. It could’ve been done so much better. Imagine if we’d learned this at the bridge scene, instead of a half an hour earlier. It totally would’ve been the rebirth of the “Luke, I am your father scene.”
- The aftermath of Han’s death: You can’t just kill off a MAJOR character like that and give him no farewell. Personally, I think it would’ve been great to make the second-to-last scene a gigantic funeral, similar to the award ceremony at the end of A New Hope. For crying out loud, no one even gives poor Chewie a hug after he looses his best buddy. Han Solo was a living legend and everyone glossed over his passing. Damn shame.
- Finn’s motivations at the beginning: I loved Finn, but his whole initial conversion to leaving the First Order (at least as things stand right now) seemed a little weak, abrupt and convenient for Poe’s escape.
- All the telling and exposition: This didn’t bother me the first watch through, but during the second it became much more noticeable as my inner fan boy took a chill pill and I watched the film without the rose-colored lenses. I get that most of it was a necessary evil, but the scene where Han and Leia talk about their son really dripped with it. “Hey, remember how Luke started training new Jedi and our son was his student and then he betrayed them all after he was brainwashed by Snoke?”
- Captain Phasma’s lack of screen-time: She was supposed to be such a shiny, awesome bad-a and instead, she gets a handful of scenes and literally (although this was pretty funny) tossed into a garbage compactor. I hope she gets more love in the future.
- C-3PO’s red arm: It seemed to serve no purpose other than for merchandising and was replaced by the end of the movie.
- The breakneck pacing: This wasn’t all bad, but at times, The Force Awakens felt almost like we were continually jumping into hyperspace before we could really soak in or appreciate what just happened in the previous scene. I appreciate that JJ Abrams didn’t take the Peter Jackson approach with three hours of nothingness, but even another 20 minutes could’ve really added some quality meat to the bone.
- The fact that it’s 500+ days until Episode 8. Sure, Rogue Squadron will be awesome, but GAH!
What will keep me up at night
- The old man at the start that gives the map to Poe. This is driving me insane. I want to know who he is and what he was all about. I did some searching on Wookiepedia and found this: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Lor_San_Tekka. Interesting.
- Rey’s staff: It can’t just be some metal stick. Some people suggested its a relic belonging to Darth Plaguies, I dunno.
- Han’s death. I know it had to happen, but damn.
- Finn’s parentage and why we had to end with him in a coma. Okay, I get he was sliced up pretty bad, but come on!
- Rey’s mother. She’s got to be Luke’s daughter, right? But who is her mother and why’d she get dumped on Jakku? Was she like Leia and grew up with a foster family for the first five years of her life? If so, why? To hide her from Snoke would be my guess.
- The Knights of Ren. Snoke refers to them and we presumably see them during Rey’s Force vision after touching Anakin’s lightsaber. It looks like they’re just Kylo Ren’s entourage, but at the same time, his character seems kind of like a loner. Either way, there’s plenty of mystery surrounding this cult group.
- Who is Snoke and where’d he come from? Where did he come from? My didn’t Luke go beat him up?
- How did Maz get Anakin’s lightsaber? The First Order showed up just when we were about to find out.
What about you? I’d love to hear in the comments what you liked, didn’t like, if you agree/disagree with what I said, all that good stuff!