Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

No Spoiler Review

The short answer is that the movie erases all of the concern over whether it would further tarnish the legacy of the original trilogy. In this reviewer’s assessment it was very nearly flawless, with the exception of a few plot holes which need to be filled at some point. The pacing was just-right and the action was a solid mix of the people-running-around-shooting-blasters and space-ships-zooming-around-blasting-each-other variety. There was plenty of catnip thrown in for the fanboys but if I had one complaint it would be that they went to that well a few too many times. It’s an easy way to score points with the fans, but it makes it a bit harder for the new characters to establish themselves among so many inside references and jokes. One final comment is that the CGI, which was more of a distraction than a help in Ep I-III, was so perfect in this movie that I had to remind myself it was in use. All in all, definitely worth seeing, maybe more than once.

Spoiler Review (You Have Been Warned)

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Assuming the readers have seen the movie and (mostly) agree on the above review, I’ll just use this to focus on my favorite moments and issue a few complaints.

  • The reveal of the Millennium Falcon was so out-of-nowhere and so awesome that I think it kind of floored the audience at my showing. Applause was delayed as we all took it in, but then everyone basically went bananas. Only in the Star Wars universe can the reveal of a spaceship do that.
  • I don’t think they did a good job of explaining the relationship between the New Republic and the ‘Resistance’. Hard to tell if this is an oversight or more details will come in Ep 8.
  • I used my nerd crystal ball and ended up correctly predicting Kylo Ren as Han and Leia’s son. Han called him Ben, which was actually the name of Luke’s son in the Expanded Universe. I was really wondering if Rey was their daughter, but it seems like Leia would have told her that after Han’s death.
  • Not the sendoff I would have liked for Han. It seemed designed to establish Kylo Ren as evil, however after his other behavior and getting his ass kicked by Rey, it really made him seem more like a teenager acting out.
  • Supreme Leader Snoke had a bit of a Wizard of Oz vibe for me. Interested to see how that plays out.
  • Wasn’t a fan of Han and Leia having been apart all these years, as it felt like a replay of the plot from Indiana Jones 4.
  • The humor in the movie was definitely 2015 but it worked.
  • I could probably have done without another death orb that needed to be destroyed.
  • I will certainly be spending the next several days thinking about this and speculating on Episode 8, so that seems like a solid compliment.

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31 thoughts on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

  1. I think it would be helpful here to have a Spoiler Warning on either the title of the post or in the intro text. I like the way it was presented in the post, but just as an added measure.

    Also, how can comments with spoilers get posted without the spoilers seen in the State of the Discussion?

    I’ve already seen the movie but I don’t want to ruin anything is all.

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  2. I too figured that Kylo Ren was Han and Leia’s son and, from the moment Han stepped out onto the bridge, I was figuring that Han was a goner. But I think Rey is going to turn out to be Luke’s daughter. From what mom? We don’t know yet but that’s probably okay. We know the Force is strong with her, strong enough to induce visions, strong enough that she successfully resisted Kylo Ren’s mind-probe, strong enough that she can do both the Jedi Mind Trick and telekinesis without ever having had a lick of training, strong enough that she won the climactic lightsaber duel against Kylo Ren, who has apparently been getting Sith training by Snoak for several years. Kylo Ren is strong in the Force because his grandfather was Darth Freakin’ Vader… so maybe Rey’s strong in the Force for the same reason.

    Now, here’s my three gripes: 1) Supreme Leader Snoke looks too much like Voldemort; I wish more imagination had gone in to his physical appearance. 2) Adam Driver doesn’t look much like either Carrie Fisher or Harrison Ford to me; Mr. Driver’s nose is too prominent and elongated to resemble either of them. And 3) You have a perfectly good, now-famous (thanks to Game of Thrones) Gwendoline Christie in a prominent, bad-ass role; let us see her face.

    The plot holes were trivial, IMO. I really enjoyed the new young cast and thought they turned in spot-on, credible, and emotionally engaging performances. Particularly compelling was Domhnall Gleeson, in my opinion: his performance as the Talented Young Fascist was thoroughly convincing and deliciously morally repellent, and it’s fun to see that the military guy has his act pretty much squared away while the Sith Apprentice clearly has a thing or two to learn before he masters his craft. This is an interesting transposition from Episode IV, which left an impression that Grand Moff Tarkin was a little bit past his best-used-by date (re hubris, blew up Alderaan just because he could) while Darth Vader was pretty much a BAMF for the whole original three-movie arc.

    Also, did you catch that Kylo Ren’s lightsaber blades, both the main blade and the crossguards, were kind of rough and flame-like around the edges? Not clean and controlled like the Skywalker family lightsaber. A touch, but a very cool one. Underlines that he’s not really in control of his skills yet. What am I saying, did you catch that. Of course you did. Same as the symbolism of his making his critical moral choice while standing party-way across a bridge.

    Speaking of lightsabers, the pleasingly ambiguous ending with Rey offering Luke his old lightsaber back and Luke just staring back at her. This speaks to me of Luke telling her, “That lightsaber belongs to you now,” which reinforces my own belief that Rey is his daughter.

    Because I already can barely bear to wait for Episode VIII now, I’ll just have to go back and see Episode VII again soon.

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  3. Completely agree about your point 2. I spent a few minutes trying to puzzle out why the official government would have an arm called “The Resistance”, and finally just decided to ignore the whole thing.

    Also agreed about your point 8, but it gave Harrison Ford the chance to say that there’s always a way to blow those things up, which was the funniest line in the movie.

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  4. The one thing that bothered me above all: Abrams doing that thing he did in Star Trek where someone on the surface of a planet sees another planet destroyed with the naked eye. THAT’S NOT HOW DISTANCE WORKS, EVEN IN STAR WARS. Have Rey sense it in the force and Han get a call confirming it, or something.

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    • Yeah, that bugged me too. I also felt that they should have done more to make us care about these nameless destroyed planets. In A New Hope, you get Leia pleading about Alderaan; here there’s nothing about them except for a shot of people looking terrified on the surface.

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      • Yeah, I feel like it’s just one more example in the modern day quest to needlessly put 9/11 style destruction of random extras on the big screen, ramped up to 11 by making it an entire system of planets. That’s the one part of the movie that really left me cold.

        It is to Lucas’s credit that we never even see Alderaan up close in the original. All we get is to see the destruction as experienced by the characters we care about, especially Leia and Ben. And the movie is much stronger for it.

        Frankly, I think the movie would have worked better for me without the weapon ever being fired. I think the reactions of the characters to the destruction this time around didn’t sell me on the tragedy at all. I don’t think it did anything to illustrate the threat or raise the stakes. And the fact that a hundred billion people were killed and the on-screen characters treat it like their team lost a football game just killed all the immersion for me. The only good to come out of that sequence was the fascist speech before the weapon was fired–and they could have done that without the light-show.

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        • Agreed. I’m not sure what exactly the connection is in my brain, but I’d associate that with another quibble: the big bad guy really left me cold. He reminded me of the villains from Guardians of the Galaxy, who were easily the weakest part about that movie. I’d much prefer a recognizably human Grand Moff Tarkin to a giant Gollum hologram that just kind of wants to be evil for evil’s sake.

          The flip side of this is that I think Kylo Ren was a good approach. They were very, very unlikely to make a villain as menacing as Vader in this one, so making a villain who is obviously insecure and not totally in control of himself or the situation was a good workaround.

          Oh, and speaking of 9/11 imagery, the theater I watched it in played a trailer for the new terrible-looking Superman v. Batman movie, in which apparently 9/11 happens again to DC-world on top of the super-duper 9/11 that was the climactic fight in Man of Steel. Ugh.

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      • I think it worked as far as they took it, they just didn’t take it far enough. The view from the planet’s surface would have worked excellently had any of the characters in the Resistance base actually acted like something happened. As says above, it just wasn’t treated as a serious loss.

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  5. One thing I would have liked to see more of: a jedi who doesn’t use a lightsaber, and a regular guy who does. I understand why they did what they did, and I’m not sure how exactly I would have liked the final fight to go (Finn losing to the injured-but-trained Kylo Ren was good, Rey kicking his ass only for him to be saved by a convenient chasm opening was less so), but I really like the idea that the saber is not what makes the jedi. Similarly, I’m not a huge fan of the stormtrooper with the electro-mace-thingy that Finn had to fight earlier in the movie. The original film was fine with characters not trained in the use of lightsabers using other weapons when they could; why not let Finn grab a blaster when he’s in a gunfight?

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    • Chasms are fine — look at Belle and Sebastian.
      But, you gotta actually establish “ground shaky, dance lightly” before you have chasms opening under people’s feet.

      That’s NOT something you get to simply drop on the audience.

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    • I would have preferred that only Rey messed with the lightsaber, but it’s not that big of a deal. I heard some podcasters complaining about how good she was right out of the gate, but I think her proficiency with her staff makes it explainable. Plus, I think they are also really trying to indicate that Kylo Ren is only partially trained.

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    • Huh?

      We saw Finn, who I really hope is a regular guy and not a jedi, use a lightsaber. And pretty well. I think the scene where he fights the stormtrooper with the electro-mace was important to establish that he was actually competent with the saber so that it didn’t come out of left field when he used in in the final fight. And the trooper using the electro-mace established why Finn was competent with the saber–these stormtroopers have training in hand-to-hand combat.

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