Good morning my friends, the shoe has dropped and as you know, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is crushing it at the box office. How can they not when they are supported by a billion dollar marketing genius like Disney? Nearly 40 years after the release of the original, did J.J. Abrams awaken a sleeping tiger or nudge awake a napping mouse?
I don’t feel the need to reiterate how much I love Star Wars. I grew up watching it, I got to see it in movie theaters (in ’97 the Special Edition was released in January, February, and March, and most kids born after ’92 probably haven’t seen anything except the prequels in theaters), so I don’t feel the need to express how excited I was seeing the movie. I will do a detailed, spoiler-rich review posting soon, but today is just some overall thoughts – there are no spoilers here.
First, major kudos to J.J. Abrams for even tackling another Star Wars sequel. Given how much hyper-criticality this thing is going to receive, I wouldn’t have touched it with a 30 foot pole! Super high level opinion: he made a fun movie, very true to the Star Wars vein and ideologies, that neither took risks nor did anything outlandishly uncouth. It was a predictable, enjoyable, safe ride that created more questions than it answered… worth seeing in theaters. Probably not worth watching 25+ times (like the originals).
Story – One major criticism for The Force Awakens – they did NOTHING new. The entire 2 hours and 16 minutes I was sitting there, I couldn’t help but think that I’ve been on this journey before. That isn’t always a bad thing when the same general themes appear (good vs. evil, finding oneself, family, etc.) but when even some of the details ring bells, we’ve got a problem. It was like they recycled so many elements of a previous, well-worn story. Disappointing to say the least. I was hoping they wouldn’t use Episodes IV, V, and VI as a crutch. My only hope is that the Force Awakens will be the last movie to really reach out to its roots in that way. It’s time to create some new material.
Villain – Our new villain, Kylo Ren, is completely and totally awesome. I think he is right up there with Darth Maul, plus he has a phenomenally wicked lightsaber! A lightsaber in the form of a large, skull-crushing claymore is intimidation enough… then add the Mask of Death and he looks like a Ringwraith Jedi to boot! One of my favorite moments from the movie comes when he effortlessly freezes a lightning fast, crackling blue laser in midair – that’s some serious force power! In my opinion, he’s far more menacing leaving his mask in place, but I’ll leave that for you to decide…
New Heroes – Rey and Finn provide some sorely needed life to an aging cast of characters. They are fun and relate-able, and fit nicely into the Star Wars theme of things. I have about 17,000 questions involving their stories, but it will be interesting to see them each come into their own.
Old Heroes – The old heroes make a return, though each in their own way. They have good dialog, grand entrances, although of our three heroes from yesteryear, I was most satisfied with Luke’s part in the film. That’s all I can say about that until you have the chance to see it. Our favorite walking carpet also makes a wonderful reappearance, and was my favorite of all the old school characters.
Droids – Our new droid companion, BB-8, absolutely steals the show! He’s fun, lovable, and an integral part of the humor in the movie. C3PO and R2-D2 also reprise their roles, but on the smaller side of things. They really nailed how BB-8 fits in and relates to characters, and it was so nice NOT seeing a CGI version rolling around.
Pacing – I don’t know what is going on, but I feel like the entire movie was a race to the finish – a classic tale of hurry up and wait. I immensely enjoyed the timing of the first half – here’s the characters, here’s the action, and here’s what they’re trying to accomplish. The second half of the movie seems to have lost itself trying to do too much. Another of my favorite scenes was a thrilling escape from a hangar bay :D Classic Star Wars at its best.
Soundtrack – I didn’t really bond with the soundtrack like I have with the other movies, dare I say, even the prequels. I own all six soundtracks, but this is one that I just don’t need to pick up. There were no new sweeping themes or character mosaics that bring you deeper and closer into the story. Frankly, they regurgitated a lot of the old stuff, which is great, but I was hoping for something new to really suck me into the Star Wars universe.
Dogfights – The new X-Wings and Tie Fighters are badass! That said, the dogfights are very weak, especially compared to those in the original movies. The personal element is removed – you really have no understanding with nor do you care about the fate of the pilots – and the fights are mostly viewed from the ground. Seriously, there is nothing that compares to the goodness of the Return of the Jedi space battle…or the attack on the first Death Star for that matter. There were also no capital ship battles. I really wanted to see some cruiser-sized ships pummeling each other with turbo lasers and heavy cannons. Even just some Star Destroyer action, please!
In summary, the new set of movies have potential. They’ve opened some interesting doors and leave a lot to the imagination, but I don’t feel that the movie took enough risks. Star Wars was Star Wars because no one was doing anything like it. This just felt like a slightly reskinned version of an old movie. They did a rock solid job with nostalgic throwbacks, keeping Star Wars themes and elements in line, and doing a nice tie-in to the old movies… but was it too much? I think so. My inner 10 year old is fulfilled. As for me, I’m a bit on the letdown side :(
The Force Awakens needs to carve out territory of its own, not necessarily send praises back to the glory days. It’s a chance to pump some vigor into a franchise that is so well known and so beloved that nearly everyone has an opinion. Just ask any kid on the street about Han Solo, BB-8, or Kylo Ren. I actually thought that the 2009 Star Trek reboot did a better job invigorating life back into its respective franchise than The Force Awakens did. The plus side is that we now have Star Wars movies being released annually until 2019, and a whole universe of options to explore. Which side will you choose?
Verdict: 7.8/10. Go see it in theaters and judge for yourself!