Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

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It was great! It had all of the old characters and the Millennium Falcon and the new characters were so cool and awesome and really funny! The actions scenes were brilliant and had me at the edge of my seat the whole time! This is the movie we deserved back in 1999! It was so cool and suspenseful and riveting and bombastic and thrilling and… and… I’m putting on an act.

Truth be told, I went into this film wanting to love it. I wanted this to be the Star Wars film to exceed all Star Wars films, now that we had an established director and the modern technical features in place. Even Disney had a good track record. The hype was enormous and everything felt right. There was just one problem:

It’s A New Hope.

A New Hope opened the gates of Star Wars mania. It transcended what could be done with special effects in cinema and the scale at which stories can take place, serving almost like a modern epic tale. It’s not surprising that this film, or its sequel The Empire Strikes Back, is the film that most fans agree to as the pinnacle of Star Wars’ shining achievement.

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I remember back when The Hangover came out, and everyone was flabbergasted at the quality entertainment they were given. The reviews were great, the actors became hit stars, and the movie was a huge success at the box office. This, in turn, prompted a sequel: The Hangover Part II. Critics weren’t so keen on this entry, citing that the movie was almost a carbon copy of its original. It didn’t quite match the financial profit of the first, but was an overall success in that department, which gave way to a third and final movie. However, the point of this is that critics were far harsher with scores of the second film because it took too much from the first film. My question is: why didn’t they do this with The Force Awakens?

(There are actually a few critics who cite its numerous similarities as a flaw, while most others see it as “paying homage.”)

It’s simply too much for me to take. Force Awakens uses far too much material from A New Hope for me to feel that it’s innovative or even immersive. Much like with The Good Dinosaur, this film suffers greatly from, for lack of a better term, “clichés” that make the film predictable, therefore dissipating a lot of emotional turmoil or build-up that may come from the scenes occurring. Only three scenes from the entire movie had me struggling to control my heart rate, in the course of a two hour movie.

To add onto this, the only characters I had any affection or care towards were the old characters. I’ll discuss the new characters later on, but for the time being, part of the reason I already cared for them is because they were old heroes from previous movies; characters that have already been developed and fleshed out. It seems rather cheap to me to have established and already developed characters show up in a later movie along with new and currently developing characters. It stunts the new characters’ growth and makes them seem like they’re fighting for the spotlight, which also hinders my enjoyment of that aspect. This can also be said for the prequel trilogy, but that’s for another date.

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I could discuss the story in detail, but again, the story is very, very similar to A New Hope. It’s not enough to say that they’re basically carbon copies, but it’s enough to say that what made A New Hope’s story great makes The Force Awaken’s story great, and vice versa. They aren’t the same, but they’re parallel, in a sense; with new characters, new settings, and old plot devices. In a way, the story of The Force Awakens really does seem like they’re paying homage to the original story. Does that make it bad? Without the context, not really. But since A New Hope exists and has a lasting legacy in a franchise as huge as Star Wars, it only makes the director and/or writer seem lazy. Why try and invent anything new when the old narrative was fine as it is? Don’t fix what isn’t broken, right?

Did Pixar write this movie?

We’ve finally come to the part of the review that doesn’t focus too much on the film’s identity crisis: the characters. Like I mentioned above, the only characters I felt an attachment to in this movie were the old characters: Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca; those guys. But they aren’t the entire movie, as we have a new cast of characters present as well. I only remembered three of their names: Finn, Ren, and Rey. There was an ace pilot guy… excuse me while I look up his and his droid’s names. Poe and BB-8! That’s it. Those guys. These four humans and one droid make up the major character section of the new cast. And, to be completely honest, none of them hold a candle to Solo and crew.

I feel as though the movie catered too much to the old cast. Sure, Solo helped develop the characters some and their conversations were decently amusing, but part of me feels like the movie would’ve been better off without the old characters. Not from an emotional standpoint, but from a “help better the development of the new cast in future episodes” standpoint. Like I said before, it felt like the old and the new were fighting far too much for the spotlight. Is this a new Star Wars film? Or an homage to the old ones? The film can’t seem to pick a side.

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Now for some more individual notes on the characters:

Rey: One of three new main characters. Her development seemed the most apparent of the bunch and I found her relatively likable by the end, if not a little stereotypical at first. Her relationship with Finn seems a little quick to blossom and her sense of justice borders on the line of “shounen male hero syndrome.”

Finn: Another one of three main new characters. His development is less than Rey’s but still moderately decent. His solution to most things early on is to run. But then later on he becomes brave. Didn’t much care for him. Also has an acute case of “shounen male hero syndrome.”

Ren: The final of the three main new characters. He is the central(?) antagonist of the movie and seeks to destroy every last living jedi. He has dark secrets surrounding him (which another antagonist blurts out like nothing. Great foreshadowing, guys) and his development has yet to be really seen, but has great potential. Basically, a better done Anakin Skywalker in Episode III.

Poe: Has about 25 minutes of screentime and has no development whatsoever, yet is considered “important.” Token sarcastic broski. Didn’t care.

BB-8: Comic relief mascot character. Fuck him. Or it. Or whatever droids identify with.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the visuals were phenomenal. Looking at this movie is like a diabetic man eating a tub of ice cream. It’s like a handicapped man walking for the first time in years. It fills you with such joy and wonderment that it may not even be real. And it’s not. It’s just a movie. Nevertheless, everything felt real and the atmosphere was potent all throughout. It really helped with feeling for the plight of the old characters. Not so much for the new ones, though.

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I was also a little leery of how quickly the characters latched onto supposed “advanced technical machinery.” Never flying a ship before and they magically know exactly how it works and what to do, with little or no leeway. By the way, did I mention that Finn used to be a stormtrooper? Therefore he knows all about the bases, their layouts, and their secrets? I don’t want to say this feels like a cheap way of explaining how the rebels know everything… but it’s suspicious.

Overall, it’s hard to really score this film and decide its worth. Is it a whole new movie or a heap of fan service for the masses to throw money at? Are the old characters a blessing on the emotional aspect of the film or do they hurt the development and importance of the new characters? Also are they bait for nostalgia lovers? I could go as far as giving this movie a nine or as low as giving this movie a three. It had a lot of good build-up (thanks to old plotlines and characters) and it looked absolutely spectacular. It had that same magic that made Star Wars great; that “us against the world,” or “universe,” in this case, vibe. It was wholly enjoyable in almost a guilty way. However, throwing in old characters and using old storylines in no way allows it to escape from the flaws that take root in the form of its new characters and debatably lazy writing. I’ll take the neutral road and score it right in between.

Final Score: 6/10