Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

Note: This is the second entry in a series of reviews covering the first seven Star Wars films. Hopefully I’ll finish this series before the next movie comes out haha

I don’t care if Disney purchased Lucasfilm as a purely financial move–this is what happens when you take the rights to Star Wars off of Lucas’ hands. J. J. Abrams has crafted a great Star Wars film (finally).

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NO JAR JAR BINKS, THANK GOODNESS.

This is the first of many spoilers to be found in this review. Although, none of them should be. Especially this one. Seriously. If you haven't seen this thing, do it! And then afterwards, come back to this review :)

This is the first of many spoilers to be found in this review. Although, none of them should be. Especially this one. Seriously. If you haven’t seen this thing, do it! And then afterwards, come back to this review 🙂

Moving on.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens represents an important landmark in the series–it’s the first step forward in a long, long time. It gets just about everything right that the original trilogy did, filled with beloved character reappearances alongside a bunch of new ones mixed in. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher reprise their roles as Han Solo and Princess Leia, though Leia is now referred to as “general.” The real highlight of the show, however, has to be newcomers Rey and Finn as played by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. Oh, and don’t forget our new droid, BB-8.

What a cutie.

What a cutie.

I absolutely loved what Abrams did with these characters. Finn starts off as a stormtrooper who awakens in the very first action sequence of the film. Acting strangely by tending to a fellow stormtrooper who has been shot, his helmet gets marked with blood. Shortly thereafter he plans an escape with Poe, the best pilot of the Resistance. Rey is… holy cow, Rey is attractive.

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I think Daisy Ridley was ideal casting for the role. Relatively unknown, she has traditional beauty while being fit enough to assume the role as this trilogy’s main Jedi. And the fact that she is female is freakin’ awesome and refreshing. I think a lot of girls will look up to her and associate her beauty with intelligence, courage, and strength. This is a film that is surely more unisex-friendly than any Star Wars film has been in the past.

On top of that, Finn is black! Whoa, talk about diversity. I think both these issues were criticisms launched at Lucas for his films, and I’m glad Abrams is amending them. The great thing is that neither of these characters are defined by their sex or ethnicity. Finn does not carry an accent nor is he ever the butt of any black jokes. He’s just a normal dude who just happens to be black. And I love that.

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And the fact that these two might be having a romance going on between them?!? But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Finn and Rey both become tangled into the intergalactic mess of trying to secure a map of Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts. The Rebel Alliance is now called the Resistance and the Galactic Empire is now called the First Order, and the First Order does not want the map to fall into the hands of the Resistance. The new Galactic Empire is led by Supreme Leader Snoke and his apprentice, Kylo Ren. AKA Ben, the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia. And this guy kills his father. Kylo Ren kills Han Solo.

:O

This is unfortunately where the problems start for me.

KyloRen

What does this guy even want? I mean, he says he wants to finish what Darth Vader started, but… there’s clearly more here. Unless, the reason why he wants to get the map himself (and not destroy it, as Snoke commands) is simply to wipe out Luke Skywalker, which (sadly) wouldn’t be completely out of the question…

Problem #1: Kylo Ren is reckless and ruthless for almost no good reason
Kylo Ren, despite having some dimension to his character, is ultimately an undefined character as of now. This is okay as The Force Awakens is the first of three films, but I expect this issue to be addressed quickly in Abram’s sequel.

Let’s think about this. Kylo Ren is established as a character deeply tied to his grandfather, Darth Vader. From his mask that modifies his voice to his black suit and cape, he even physically resembles him. Rey is able to probe into Kylo Ren’s thoughts using the Force, and she reveals that he is worried he will never be as strong as Darth Vader. So naturally, he kills Han Solo. Okay, so maybe this guy is searching for strength. Then, an injured Kylo Ren ON AN EXPLODING PLANET attacks Finn and Rey because… apparently the lightsaber belongs to him. So he wants a freakin’ lightsaber? No. This guy is a baby. He throws temper tantrums, disobeys orders from his master for largely unexplained reasons, kills people cause he can, makes highly emotional decisions, and worst of all, is afraid of getting his self-ego hurt. Oh boo hoo. Just grow up already. I’m surprised he didn’t go after Chewbacca, the person who actually shot at him.

Problem #2: Grandfather, I have killed my father. Now I am as strong as you. Oh crap, you never killed your son? You turned to the light side? Maybe I should get a new role-model...

Problem #2: Grandfather, I have killed my father. Now I am as strong as you. Oh crap, you never killed your son? You turned to the light side? Maybe I should get a new role-model…

So of course Han Solo dies! This is what happens when you give a whiny, immature brat a freakin’ lightsaber and approach him defenseless. Someone needed more time-out in kindergarten. Heading into the sequel, he’s lost all bite to his roar and needs to have a clearly defined purpose to gain any of my respect for him. And to stop killing/disobeying people for the sake of it (AKA stop being a stupid psychopath).

Now that I have that one SEVERELY overlooked aspect of the movie out of the way…

This movie is beautiful.

As Dan from Earn This rightfully comments in his thoughts about The Force Awakens: “The visuals aren’t just impressive, they’re beautiful.” In fact, I would say the cinematography and artistry in this is the best of the Star Wars films thus far–the one aspect that probably kept The Empire Strikes Back out of my Favorite Movies list. This is abundantly clear during the revamped flight sequences (the Millennium Falcon is glorious), but even the lightsaber duels are made more exciting, though it could be due to improvements in choreography and stunt-work more than camera-work.

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The humor is funny again! Even though R2-D2 doesn’t really make an appearance until late in the movie, Chewbacca, Han Solo, and BB-8 more than compensates and help maintain the family adventure tone of the original Star Wars films.

But perhaps more important than the visual wonder, humor, and set pieces of this film is the fact that Abrams introduced a cast of wonderful new heroes and sidekicks to a generation of adults who loved the old ones. There are kids who think the prequels are better than the original probably because of the effects, but now that the effects are in place–with the proper story and character elements–they will finally understand why we complained so much about the dog piss that were Lucas’ prequels.

Abrams had the nearly impossible task of pleasing the die-hard Star Wars fans and revitalization the franchise to a mass audience that may be more detached from the 1970s and 1980s films. I watched this with someone who wasn’t as familiar with the Star Wars lore as me, and we both walked out talking about the movie the entire car ride back home, making her INTERESTED in the old films. That’s special. That’s unique. And as a Star Wars fan, I’d call that an unprecedented success. Thank you J. J. Abrams, for one of the most exhilarating theater experiences I’ve had in a while.

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Final Grade: A- (91%)–Kylo Ren is no Darth Vader, but newcomers Rey and Finn are sure to please hard-core Star Wars fans while The Force Awakens delivers classic Star Wars plot and characters to a new generation of fans.

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11 thoughts on “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

  1. Great review! You really summed up what made the film work and what didn’t. I particularly agree that the decision to have a central female character and a central black character is quite progressive for this film series.

  2. Just watched it last night. I didn’t have time to see any of the previous movies beforehand, sadly, but I enjoyed it a lot nonetheless.

    I do have to say that one of the most unintentionally funny things about the film (and my brother, who watched it with me, agreed with me on this) is how every time Kylo Ren took off his mask he stopped being a threatening, mysterious pseudo-Sith and turned into a bratty little kid straight out of a boy band xD

    • Yeah, I’m not a big fan of Kylo Ren, in case my review didn’t make that clear. But everything else about the movie was pretty great! Glad you found some humor in even the bad bits.

  3. Nice review!
    In regards to Kylo though, I think there’s still a lot for us to learn about him, and what drives him in his directions. Keep in mind this is only the 1st movie in a new series. We were only meant to be introduced to Kylo Ren, not fully explore him. He seems to be convinced of something, and we can only guess that Snoke is poisoning his mind, and that’s the explanation for him being naive and irrational. I think you might look back on this movie and become a bigger fan of his character after you see how he develops through the rest. Don’t forget about how even Darth Vader had almost nothing too him in Episode IV, until we learned more about him in V and VI.
    I like the set up of your blog a lot, and I look forward to reading more of your stuff! Keep up the awesome work! 🙂

    • Thanks Dave for the encouraging words! I’ll make sure to head over to your review and post my comments there.

      Episode IV is not the strongest film largely because of Darth Vader’s intimidating but not interesting presence. Episode V and VI definitely make him the iconic villain he is now, and one can only hope this is what will happen with Kylo Ren. I think if you look at this film alone, you will have to admit he is simply not a good villain, although one could argue he isn’t a BAD one so to say.

      • To be completely honest, I walked out thinking Kylo was a fantastic villain, and feeling that there are many cool directions they could take him for the future. I thought he was interesting because of how split and chaotic he was. He felt like a bomb waiting to go off most times.

      • I’ll agree with you that he was a bomb waiting to go off–but even someone as chaotic as, let’s say, Heath Ledger’s Joker had intention and motive (as messed up as they may have been).

  4. Hey Kevin, have you seen Zootopia yet? If not, you have to see it! It might be the best movie of Disney’s “Revival Era” yet!

    • Hey Nat! I had the pleasure of seeing Zootopia last week, and even got to do a podcast on it with Dan from Earn This, though it’s not published it. I’ll make sure to write my thoughts on it sometime soon and I hope you’ll come back to comment!

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