Chances are if you are alive and human, you’ve done one of three things: seen the new Star Wars movie, are planning on seeing it within the next few days, or know it came out but have absolutely no interest in it (as hard as that is to believe). As of the time of this post, the most recent figures show The Force Awakens has an 8.7/10 rating on IMDb, 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 81% on Metacritic. In less than a week, it has made more than $300 million dollars in the U.S. alone and $689 million globally. Without a doubt, the Force did awaken stronger than ever. I’m here to provide a review of the movie without spoilers to either urge you to see it or discuss it if you’ve already seen it. As with my Inside Out review, I will not claim I am a professional critic or have any grounds to judge a film on, but I am a consumer and I know what I like and don’t like. So let’s get going.
Let’s start with the pros.
- Original Trilogy Characters– All the original main cast are back for this trilogy. Even though I don’t particularly find the original trilogy to be very exciting, seeing these iconic characters like Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Leia return to the big screen is in a word triumphant. This new movie does a good job of incorporating them all into the plot while not making them steal the show from newer arrivals, which leads me to point number two.
- New Heroes– The story brings in three new main characters: Finn, Rey, and BB-8. Without saying too much about their stories, these characters (even though I don’t feel either which way about Finn) are used splendidly. The actors did a marvelous job of capturing the characters, but all credit to the writers here. Introducing new characters into a movie of television show can be tricky if they’re added alongside legendary veteran characters like Han Solo. But the story really revolves around these three and Kylo Ren, which leads me to point number three.
- Villains– Boy do these villains show up in spades. Built out of the ashes of the Empire, the new First Order is like the Empire, but their troopers can actually seem to hit things in this movie. But we don’t want to hear about the troopers as much as we want to hear about Kylo Ren, the mysterious, masked villain with the now iconic three bladed lightsaber. Contrary to the Sith villains of The Phantom Menace or A New Hope, Kylo Ren is far more involved and central to the plot. Beyond him getting more screen time, Ren is genuinely terrifying. Maul was terrifying, but he was in hiding most of the movie; Vader was terrifying, but he sat in his spaceship telling people what to do most of the time. Ren commands his troops from the field. Plus, Ren’s voice and mask are bomb as hell.
- Visuals– One thing that always draws me to the prequel trilogy over the original trilogy is the stunning effects the prequels has. Force Awakens delivers with stunning scenery, great effects, and actual lightsaber battles (one thing I can’t forgive the original trilogy for). I can’t name specifics because of spoilers, but lets just say that these visuals are totally bangin’.
- Plot– This is an interesting thing to bring up because this is the first time I’ve seen a Star Wars movie in theaters. It’s also the first time I’ve seen a Star Wars movie where I can’t watch the rest of the movies or read the books to find out what happens. I’m completely in the dark here with where the series will go in Episodes VIII and IX. That being said, this movie has a driving force behind every single persons’ actions. Every character is fighting for the same thing and has a clear goal in mind. This is one fault of The Phantom Menace. Without the other movies, it’s unclear from just watching TPM how it’ll connect into the rest of the trilogy. Force Awakens manages both. It works as a standalone movie and presents a picture of where the future movies could go.
- Pacing– Despite being a pretty long movie, this movie keeps the action going almost the entire time. TPH and ANH are both rather lacking in action save for a few scenes. In Force Awakens, the characters are constantly in danger and have to keep on their toes. There’s very rarely a lull in the combat or excitement.
So now that the pros are out of the way, lets look at some of the failures (in my opinion):
- Kylo Ren’s Alter Ego– Much like Darth Vader, Kylo Ren is a different person when he’s not wearing the mask. Dark Vader is Anakin Skywalker, and Kylo Ren is – well I won’t say. Either way, a common criticism I hear of the original trilogy is Anakin’s teen angst and whiney demeanor. To me, Kylo switches between badass villain and meek wimp when he takes his mask off. I can’t talk more about this without giving anything away, but I found Kylo Ren to be inconsistently badass, when I think he could’ve been badass the entire time.
- Time Gap– Perhaps this will be solved as more movies come out, but this movie raises a lot of questions about exactly what happened between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens. There’s the summary at the beginning and hints dropped along the way, but overall I felt very confused about certain things that were happening and why they were happening, such as Luke Skywalker (which will undoubtedly be explored in further movies) and the Han/Leia relationship, but also The First Order. How and why did that thing arise? We were just expected to accept that this new enemy had come about, but they don’t really explain where it came from, though there is some stuff in the movies that might point to the answer in later movies.
That’s actually all I can think of really. The movie really was excellent minus Kylo Ren’s alter ego for me. I strongly recommend you go see this movie if you haven’t already because there’s only so much grace period left before everyone wants to openly talk about the events without being ousted for spoilers. I prefer the prequel trilogy to the original trilogy, but with this strong an opening, the prequels might have to take a bow to the third trilogy. I’m very impressed with this movie.