Movie/TV Reviews

Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

SCORE: 9/10

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Some would argue that Star wars as a film series lies in the heart of American pop culture.  The films changed science fiction in a way other sci fi works couldn’t have.  What made Star Wars so great was that though it was a sci fi spectacle with spaceships and aliens, it was more importantly a complex story of family and the rise, fall, and redemption of the Skywalker family name.  The three original Star Wars films transcended boundaries of filmmaking and storytelling, creating a fan base that is still unparalleled.  Many of these fans (including me) were elated with what they had with the six films and countless games, books, and toys.  However, all that changed in 2012 when Disney bought Lucasfilm for four billion dollars.  Suddenly, Star Wars Episode VII was going to happen.  Fast forward two years and the anticipation was on the rise.  People freaked out when they saw the first teaser and fans eagerly waited in anticipation for the movie until December 18, 2015 when the movie that was said to be the most anticipated movie of all time was released.  It broke many domestic and worldwide box office records on its opening weekend, but that was expected.  Though Star Wars: The Force Awakens made an incredible amount of money, was it any good?  I mean the prequels weren’t that great and those came out just over a decade ago so how was this new one?  The Week is here to give our review.  Enjoy!

Prior to watching this movie, I watched all the other movies again and came to the conclusion that I really only found two of them to be truly amazing (like 10/10 amazing) despite that a lot of people claim that Star Wars is perfect.  These two movies were Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back (the first two that were released).  I am happy to say that now there are three!  Director J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: the Force Awakens was everything I wanted it to be and more!

Let’s talk about why the movie is what it is.  Character wise, the combination of fresh and familiar faces creates an atmosphere that is both nostalgic and nuanced.  Though The Force Awakens takes elements from the previous films, it plays these old features incredibly well.  For example, the original trilogy had a trio of main characters: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.  Now it’s Rey, Finn, and Poe.  Rey is like the new Luke in that she is the main character in the movie.  If you have seen the movie (if you haven’t stop reading now), you know that she is a jedi, but I’ll go into that later.  Finn’s character is handled perfectly: rather than being a hero, he is a former stormtrooper.  The idea of making one of the main characters a stormtrooper is truly genius because it shows that for the first time, stormtroopers are real people with real feelings!  Finn is a person haunted by his past and tries to escape his fate as an evildoer, but eventually becomes tangled in a grand adventure.  Poe is pretty much the new Han Solo: he’s an x-wing pilot who is the best pilot on the Resistance (the new version of the Rebels), a group designed to overthrow the First Order (the new version of the Empire).  Those three main characters are great and all, but what made them distinct from the previous films is that each character had his/her own developed arc.  Rey went from being a loner to being a part of an important team.  Finn went from trying to escape his past to facing it full on.  Poe went from being a captured prisoner to a war hero.  However, none of these arcs from the “good guys” matched that of Han Solo.  To put this into perspective, when the Star Wars logo popped up on the screen in the theater that I went to, everyone clapped.  People didn’t clap with that much excitement until two more occasions: the Millennium Falcon reveal and Han Solo’s reveal.  When Han Solo popped up on screen, that wasn’t Harrison Ford in Han’s clothes.  That was Han Solo!  In this movie, Han Solo went from the lovable wisecrack to the lovable, wisecrack  Obi-Wan Kenobi role and it was amazing!  I’ll talk a little more about him later… I think you know what I mean…(SPOILER WARNING)

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In my opinion, Kylo Ren, the villain of this movie, was the best character.  I think that he was handled with such care by J.J. Abrams to make Ren the greatest Star Wars villain to date.  There I said it – move over Darth Vader.  Kylo Ren was so multilayered in this movie that he was more of a realistic character than Vader was in all of the previous six movies.  Kylo Ren was not just another black and white villain; he was a conflicted tragedy who had to deal with being a member of the Skywalker family.  As Ben Solo, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, Kylo was one of Luke Skywalker’s padawans and was supposedly held back.  He eventually became Kylo Ren after murdering many of Luke’s other padawans out of rage.  According to Han and Leia, though Ben Solo was consumed by the dark side to become Kylo Ren, Leia senses that there is still good in her son and sends Han to bring Ben back home.  From here, Ren becomes much more realized as a character.  He becomes much more conflicted with himself.  Is he truly evil or can he change to go back to his parents?  If he goes back to his parents, he would leave his power over an entire army of followers, but if he stays, he could dominate the galaxy and be a worthy successor to his grandfather, Darth Vader.  This conflict drives Kylo insane and when Kylo and his father finally meet, the confrontation ends with Kylo killing his own father.

Yes, Han Solo, one of my favorite movie characters died.  Yes, I felt sad, but I was at the same time happy because the film was so memorable because of this one scene.  There was an intense buildup to the scene and J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan really wrote the script so that the audience members who grew up with Han Solo could say their final goodbyes.  Han’s death ultimately leads to Kylo growing his insanity to new heights.  If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Han and Rey became very close as Han treated Rey almost like the child he never had.

Also, the lightsaber duel was really cool.  It didn’t feel stylized and choreographed – it actually felt like a real struggle between opponents.  This battle felt primitive and that made sense considering the fact that Kylo, Finn, and Rey were untrained.

Okay, that’s it for characters and story because if you’ve seen the movie, you know all that.  If ignored the past three spoiler warnings and have not seen The Force Awakens, congratulations because you just spoiled major plot points for yourself.  Next let’s talk about the performances.  I think that Daisy Ridley as Rey was one of the best casting choices for Star Wars.  This is saying a lot considering that Star Wars served as a launching point for many famous actors like Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Natalie Portman.  Though Ridley is a relative newcomer to acting, she acted really well and really embodied the multiple sides to Rey’s character.  John Boyega as Finn was also a revelation as he, like Ridley, is a relative newcomer to acting.  Oscar Isaac performance as Poe Dameron was really fun to watch as the audience could see that he was having a lot of fun.  As I mentioned before, when Harrison Ford was on the screen, that wasn’t Harrison Ford – that was Han Solo.  Adam Driver’s performance as Kylo Ren was extremely well acted.  Driver brought layers to the character, something that many of the Star Wars prequels’ performances didn’t bring.  

Both the visual and practical effects were phenomenal.  I believe that the best VFX heavy movies show effects that are mixes of visual and practical effects.  For example, when the Millennium Falcon was flying, that was done with CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), but sometimes the Falcon that was shown in the film was actually a real model.  Apparently that inflatable bread thing in the beginning was also real.  A major problem with the Star Wars prequels that I have is that it used too much CGI.  Almost everything in the prequels didn’t feel real whereas pretty much everything in the original trilogy was real (including the Death Star trench run) so those movies feel real today.  Because of the overdose of CGI in the prequels, those effects have aged poorly.  However, effects in The Force Awakens will surely age well because they combined CGI and real models.  

Another huge Star Wars staple in Episode VII was John William’s score.  I will say that originally, I was kind of disappointed by the score.  However, the score grew on me and I really like it now.  The score definitely builds off of what came before, but it adds new elements that fit really well with the scores of the previous six films.  For example, the song “The Jedi Steps and Finale” was pretty much the force theme, but it had this emotional layer to it that made the movie all the more moving.  Rey’s theme was also an excellent piece of music that added a mysterious layer to that character.

Also from a technical aspect, I have to give a huge shoutout to the prop, costume, and set designers.  These designers worked double time to achieve what they did in this movie.  The very unique feel of the creatures combined with the way this movie was shot made the whole Star Wars galaxy feel like it really did exist a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.

However, none of this would have worked so well if it wasn’t for J.J. Abrams, the man who was tasked with bringing Star Wars back to life and lifting it from the pit that was the prequels.  Given the pressure that Mr. Abrams had, many people thought he couldn’t handle the project.  However, that was not the case and Abrams continues his win streak of great directorial efforts.  The way Abrams told the story was riveting and game-changing for the Star Wars mythos.

Overall, Star Wars: The Force Awakens gets a 9 out of 10 from me.  I took off one point because of the reuse of plot elements from A New Hope and the obvious macguffin that was R2-D2, but these still made the movie coherent.  Another thing that was kind of weird was that whole Rathar scene with Han Solo – it worked, but it just felt off for some reason.  Also, I would have liked to see more of Captain Phasma, but I’m sure that her character will be expanded on in Episodes VIII and IX.  Hopefully, this was the review you were looking for!

NOTE: This post is simply about what I thought of the movie.  This is an opinion – it is neither right nor wrong.  However, this post opens up the discussion to you.  It has been months since the film’s release and many people can now look back and truly analyze the film.  What did you think about the film?  Has your opinion about The Force Awakens changed over time?  Feel free to let us know!

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @MohitPuvvala

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Categories: Movie/TV Reviews

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