Saturday, December 19, 2015

Movie Review: Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun story, characters old and new, effects, laughs
Cons: Story not as fresh as it could have been
The Bottom Line:
Star Wars returns and
Fans will flock to return.  They’ll
Be happy they did

Fun if Not Perfect Return to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

I’m the right generation to have gone to see at least some of the original Star Wars movies when they were originally in the theater, but I actually came quite late to the franchise.  I might not be quite as obsessed with the movies as some people are, but I still got quite swept up into the excitement for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  So much so that I went to see it at one of the early shows on the Thursday night before the official release day.  I think fans are going to be quite happy with it.

If you want to go into this blind, I will be spoiler free, I promise.  In fact, I’m not going to say much beyond the opening scroll.

In order to do that, I’m going to be very light on plot teaser.  While the Empire may have been defeated, there is always a new threat.  This time, the threat come from the First Order.  Under leaders such as Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), they are plotting to overthrow the Republic.  Only a small Resistance is truly able to fight against them, a resistance led by General Leia (Carrie Fischer).

But to truly have a chance, they need a Jedi, and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone into hiding.  When the Resistance’s best pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) gets his hands on a map for Luke’s location, the First Order is hot on his trail.  Very quickly, two more people, Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley), are caught up in the fight.  Will anyone be able to find Luke?  Or will this map fall into the hands of the First Order?

And while I didn’t mention them above, yes, we do also see Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).

In fact, like many in the theater, I was there more to connect with old friends than I was to see the story of the new characters.  I must say, the reveal of each new returning character was wonderful.  This is a great bridge between the old familiar (if older) faces and the new faces that will be taking over the franchise.  Like many other movies we’ve seen recently, this knows it is balance nostalgia with forwarding a franchise, and it walks that line well.

And it gets the tone absolutely right.  This looks and feels like a Star Wars film.  The aliens, the planets, the visuals, the tone….  In so many ways, this movie gets it right.  Star Wars fans will feel right at home in this universe.  New writer/producer/director J. J. Abrams has very lovingly crafted his new story to fit in the world we all love so much.

Unfortunately, I must say the story is the only real weakness.  No, it’s not a pacing issue because something new and exciting was always happening.  It just felt too familiar overall.  And that’s all I will say for fear of going into spoiler territory.

The acting was great.  The old cast is able to slip into their roles again with ease.  The new actors jump into the film and make these characters their own.  They will definitely be able to carry the franchise successfully as these movies move forward.  Plus watch for the cameo from J. J.’s friend Greg Grunberg.

Of course, the effects were great.  They were there to support the story and weren’t driving the story.  Having said that, there were a ton of them, but they were completely believable.

The movie also had plenty of laughs.  A few poked fun at the franchise itself, but most of them came from some truly fun dialog.

While I don’t think this quite reaches the level of the original movies, it is certainly many steps above the prequel trilogy.  (And maybe I’m looking at the originals with rose colored glasses when I try to compare.)

Of course, what I say or don’t say isn’t going to change your mind.  You’re going to go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens this weekend anyway.  And truly, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at all.


  1. Ok-SPOILER ALERT! I was a huge fan of the book series. It took up the story after the original trilogy, and went as far as 40 years after Return of the Jedi. Now, I really do understand why they had to make their own story-it would be IMPOSSIBLE to blend the new movie with the book series. But I expected a story at least as original as the books! In the books, the Empire eventually surrendered and was left with a pittance territory. New, extragalatic invaders were the villians who fought against the New Republic. In other words, time moved on.

    Picture this-if our world was fantasy. In the 1940s Nazi Germany took over most of Europe and was a real threat. If that were a movie, would you think it original if the neo-Nazis (the New Order) had Europe in its sway in the 1970s? If anything, the Empire should be the resistance (or terrorist group) and Leia and the New Republic needs to deal with them. That would make much more sense.

    And overall, POINT FOR POINT, this new movie was a remake of ep IV (A New Hope) (From a droid crossing a desert world with secret plans, to Obi-Wan's death copied in Han's, to ANOTHER death star, to SO much more! Arrrggghhh!

    That said, I will see Ep VIII and so on, but to me, the "magic" is gone

    1. I'm hoping the magic will come back with the next movie - that it goes into some unexpected directions.

      I read the first Zahn books, but those are all, so I don't have that history and love, but I certainly understand where you are coming from.