Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie Review
I finally got to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on New Year’s Eve with my sister who is visiting. I promised that I would wait to see it with her because we saw Episodes 1, 2, and 3 together in the movie theater. It was nice to go to the movie with a bunch of friends as well. There were seven of us Star Wars fans in a mostly empty theater; because it was New Year’s Eve, no one here could imagine why we would be going to see a movie at the theater instead of partying or going to a club. “Ideal timing!” is what we thought. We wanted to be able to see the movie as a group so that we could enjoy, laugh, and discuss the new Star Wars, and boy did we enjoy, laugh, and discuss after the movie was over.
What I enjoyed about Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Hands down the movie was enjoyable.
People called the look of the movie “retro,” but I don’t know how much I agree with using that terminology. I felt that the CGI used in the movie were used in all the right places. I loved that the places chosen for the various worlds looked real, like you could step into the screen into a real place. That was the most enjoyable part of the movie. I understand the need for the digital realm in many cases in Star Wars, but here I found a very good blend of CGI and real props. Or perhaps people called the movie “retro” because of the fact that it as highly reminiscent of the original Star Wars: A New Hope in the look and story progression. Either way it felt like Star Wars: A New Hope, which had its plusses and minuses. It was good for those who wanted to be reminded of the original Star Wars trilogy and not so good from a storytelling perspective. The continual references to the original trilogy made the storytelling feel a bit contrived.
The acting of the lead characters was actually really good. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega were fantastic in their leading roles and did a great job of carrying the movie during the parts where the audience had to make a lot of assumptions about what was really going on. They also had a very nice chemistry that makes you wonder what is going to happen between Ray and Finn in future stories.
The one thing I did enjoy about the idea of steeling from the original trilogy was revisiting my favorite characters.
The scruffy looking smuggler is back and just as funny and cocky as ever, though a bit wiser in years. It was pretty obvious that Harrison Ford had a hay day returning as Han Solo and he finally got his wish, which I actually think was kind of cool for him.
Seeing the new relationship the writers decided to implement between Han and Leia was compelling and certainly felt realistic to the way relationships seem to be heading in the modern age. It was sad for me to think that the two had drifted apart, but it certainly made me wonder what lead up to that separation.
From a story perspective, Finn’s character had the most promise. Finn (or FN-2187) wakes up from his stormtrooper brainwashing and decides to get the hell away from the First Order. The struggles that he goes through are the most tangible and realistic of our new leads.
Rey Part 1
I enjoyed Rey as an example of a leading female Jedi. Before Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars all of the Jedi seen in action were male. I liked the fact that Rey is self reliant, smart, kind, and open to the ways of the force. It’s also nice to see a more technical minded female in a leading role too, not just a lead female who is a queen or a princess. She’s a nice role model for those girls who want to play in the dirt and build things — and oh yeah, be a Jedi.
Questions at the End
Normally having unanswered questions at the end of a story is a bad thing for me, but the question that everyone was supposed to ask at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens are good ones. What will happen to Rey next? Who are Rey’s parents? What role will Rylo Ren play in the future after what has happened? At lease it makes you want to see the next film to find the answers.
What I found disappointing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Here are my four biggest irritants about Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
Relentless Writer Brain
I wanted so desperately to just loose myself in the story of Star Wars and that totally didn’t happen. The worst part of watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens is that I could not just sit down and enjoy the movie; my writer brain would not shut up.
A prime example of this was when Han Solo takes Chewbacca’s bowcaster and fires it, apparently for the first time. “Seriously? Han and Chewie have known each other for like 40+ years and Han as never fired Chewie’s weapon before? That’s totally unbelievable. Ok. I realize that was supposed to be funny, but really? Totally unbelievable.” That’s just one of many examples of where my brain went during the movie.
Even my husband was taken aback during the fight between Finn and the riot control stormtrooper with the darksaber like weapon. He leaned over and whispered to me, “I thought a lightsaber was supposed to cut through anything.” I kept my comments to myself thinking, “If you never saw Star Wars: The Clone Wars you’d never know a weapon like that even existed.”
I was constantly taken out of the story by the plot holes I saw or the parts that were too vague for me to just assume I knew what was going on. Or people would just do things that they shouldn’t be able to do but I’m just supposed to accept it because it’s Star Wars (more on that next). Oh, you know it’s really corny that the star killer base looks exactly like the trenches of the Death Star — felt too contrived and lazy.
Sigh. It was very sad.
Miss Use of the Force
Miss use of the Force has to be my biggest pet peeve with this movie. Let me explain. Just because someone is strong with the Force doesn’t mean that they *magically* know how to do something that they’ve never done before. It just doesn’t work that way!
Luke already knew how to fly and shoot guns that’s how he was able to “use the Force” to not get killed during the battle of Yavinn and destroy the Death Star. Luke started to strain with a lightsaber with Obi Wan Kenobi and presumably practiced after his teacher’s death.
In Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker showed the audience that he had preexisting piloting skills that were reinforced by his unconscious use of the Force. Even he didn’t just magically know how to do stuff.
Sure it was cool that Finn and Rey never flew a Corellian YT-1300 light freighter and managed to not kill themselves, but the Force reinforces knowledge that you already have and there was nothing that happened in this movie to give me the feeling that either Finn or Rey had any previous experience to allow me to believe that they would pull off flying the Millennium Falcon without crashing. Ok Finn could fire a gun, that wasn’t too far of a stretch, but Rey’s ability to fly something, anything, was not at all established. It’s like trying to convince me that driving a motorcycle is the same as flying a plane. I think not. And don’t even get me started on how both Finn and Rey miraculously know how to use an extremely deadly weapon called a lightsaber without injuring themselves as if anyone could pickup a sword and use it effective without any training what so ever.
Perhaps all of this miraculous control of the force and knowledge of how to use Jedi type weapons will be explained in future movies. Perhaps Rey learned to do all these things at a very young age and forgot? But why should I have to wait for another movie to understand these things her miraculous control should have been explained to the audience here to justify how these things were possible. That is what good storytelling is.
In my opinion, this is the biggest example of how Star Wars has been Disneyfied (remember senseless death is not the Disney way). Ok, so Kylo Ren is no Sith Lord, but talk about a petulant child. I laughed every time he got angry and threw a fit with his lightsaber. He’s certainly no Darth Vader scale villain. With Darth Vader, if someone made the most minor of infraction he was dead; piss him off, you’re dead. Kylo Ren just throws a fit and destroys machinery. Don’t get me wrong, this is a much better use of anger management, but he comes across as a child who’s throwing a fit when things don’t go his way instead of a villain who should be feared. (For sure a lot of peole felt this way about Anakin in Episode 2, but he was apparently supposed to be acting like a petulant child.) And poor Kylo Ren, he even looked like a petulant child every time he takes his mask off. I don’t know if that’s the look that was meant, but that’s what came across. For sure there’s supposed to be some kind of inner conflict that he’s going through to squelch the light that’s inside him, but it all comes off as contrived instead of real. It’s really too bad.
Rey Part 2
As much as I love Rey; she’s too perfect. She’s so self reliant that she doesn’t need anyone else, not even a teacher to teach her how to use the Force. Her only flaw is that she has abandonment issues, which isn’t a lot to go by when it comes to character development. Unfortunately, I feel that Rey has fallen into the category of Hollywood’s typical “strong female,” which basically means that this female kicks ass and really doesn’t need anyone else than you very much. The problem with that is that she turns into a stereotype of a character instead of a real young woman who has to overcome her weaknesses to achieve her goals. I wanted to see her struggle more. It just seemed like things came a little too easily.
Episodes 1-3 compared to Episode 7
Many of the people I’ve talked to say that they liked it more than Episodes 1-3, but to be honest I agree and disagree. I actually find Anakin Skywalker’s story to be extremely compelling, the problem was the execution wasn’t the best, primarily because of the poor performance of Hayden Christensen and to a certain degree the overuse of CGI in the movies. But Star Wars: The Force Awakens had the opposite qualities: great acting, real feel, but poor story.
Conclusions about Star Wars: The Force Awakens
To be honest, I don’t believe that this movie would have done so well if it hadn’t been a Star Wars movie. There were way too many plot holes and the audience was forced into a lot more assumptions that should be permitted. There was a lot of action and fun tech, but the story lacked in so many ways that I found it surprising considering that Lawrence Kasdan co-wrote the movie. For those of you who don’t know he co-wrote Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, all amazing movies.
Obviously everyone has their own opinions about the merit of this film and that was my two cents.
But to the chagrin of my husband, I have to admit that I will probably still buy the movie when it is released on DVD or at least purchase a digital copy.
What are your thoughts about Star Wars: The Force Awakens? What did you find the most enjoyable? What vexed you most?
May the Force be with you!