Movie Review - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Don’t read this, just go.
Sigh. Okay, you’re still here…so you want a review. Fine. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a significant other, maybe you’ve been separated for a while, like say over a fight…anyway, the last time you saw each other, it wasn’t good…but then you see them again, look them in the eyes and remember why you fell in love in the first place? And then fall again, just as hard as you did that first time?
Welcome to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Or maybe it’s like when someone loses their faith or religion and after many years of bitterness sees the light once more. Regardless, it’s back. Or, to quote from the movie…”It’s true. All of it.” Every good review you’ve read…it’s true.
Now, yeah, I’m gonna be like everyone else and be spoiler free…but I also want to give you some background…because, honestly, the state of that galaxy far, far away…as it was explained to me, was confusing as sin. Here’s what you need to know. The Rebellion, post-Return of the Jedi, has indeed formed a Republic, but the Imperials are still out there…it wasn’t the total victory that the end of Jedi alluded to and certainly not the New Republic that the expanded universe was founded on. It felt to me that this was a galaxy divided in half…ish. The Empire, now under Supreme Leader Snoke, has been rebranded as The First Order. Within the worlds ruled by this First Order, there is a Resistance…and, as you’d expect, the Republic is aiding it when it can. It kinda felt like Cold War Europe to me, the Soviets and Warsaw Pact countries on one side, NATO on the other with folks behind the Iron Curtain wanting nothing more than to bring it down.
What about the characters? Leia is a general in the Resistance, doing what she does best. Han is back to smuggling with Chewie at his side. Once a scoundrel, always a scoundrel…and honestly, I applaud the writers for taking the position that sure, the war against the Empire brought Han and Leia together, but it couldn’t keep them together. Sure, this is all space fantasy and escapism, but just a little dash of that poignant reality makes it all the sweeter. And Luke? Well…that would be telling!
Our new trio, Finn, Rey and Poe are fantastic, charismatic and, well, everything that Padme, Anakin and Obi-Wan weren’t…and everything Han, Leia and Luke were. There’s a magic between the three and I certainly can’t wait to see more of them. The new Big-Bad, Kylo Ren? Look, no one’s going to replace Vader, but give the kid points for trying. He has his own fall and in some ways, it’d be something worthwhile to find out about…but then again, maybe it’s best left alone. We know enough…and what we do know makes the movies ahead worth looking forward to. And BB-8. You know, when a certain character is marketed and you’re told you’re going to love it…well, we know how well that turned out last time, don’t we? But it’s true. BB-8 is lovable as heck.
The nuts and bolts of the film, well, it goes a LONG way when you have practical elements and not just acting to a green screen. This film feels completely natural, not forced like the prequels. [Forced? Really? And I thought I’d be able to sit out this review. – Ed.] There are actual Stormtroopers in this film (and we even learn how they build and keep their ranks)! John Williams returns to show us once again what movie soundtracks are supposed to sound like…not this BRAAAAM…BRAAAAAAM…BRAAAAAAAAAM shit that Hans Zimmer and his followers have been perpetuating for the past 10 years (at least). It’s SOOOOO refreshing not to come out of the theater with a goddamn headache.
Still, it’s not a perfect movie. I don’t know what it is with the bad guys in this galaxy and giant planet shaped superweapons…but seriously guys…THEY DON’T WORK…TRY SOMETHING ELSE!!! To The First Order’s credit though, the ‘thermal converter’ was pretty thoroughly guarded and armed. Still…thermal converter vs. a thermal exhaust port on the Death Star? Sigh. Also, this movie utilizes the ‘echoes’ that Lucas had hoped to achieve in the prequels…you know, what happened to Luke also happened to his father Anakin…in some way…ish. While JJ’s are more effective, it’s still the third time around for some of these events…and it does kind of give legitimacy to reviews that make accusations of the story being derivative. Still, so long as Avatar exists in the world, NOTHING can be as derivative as that (except for Calculus – The Movie).
When the prequel trilogy finished, I’d speculated that maybe the best thing for Star Wars was to remove George from controlling it. Sure, Star Wars was his baby, but he stepped away from both Empire and Jedi, serving up story ideas and having final approval, but the act of creation was left to others. And those films became the “Holy Trilogy” that we know and love. When the Clone Wars cartoon came out, it was similar: George had final say but the day to day creation fell to others. And it too was amazing. Now, with JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens, the theory is proven. George was the problem when it came to Star Wars. But he’s gone now.
So go. Go and see The Force Awakens…and be reminded of why you fell in love with Star Wars in the first place...and be prepared to fall in love all over again. When you leave, maybe you’ll find yourself saying the same thing I did: “Prequels? What Prequels?”