Star Wars Film Festival: The Force Awakens (2015)


In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Here’s my review of The Force Awakens, originally published February 20, 2016.

TitleStar Wars: The Force Awakens
Release Date: 2015
Director: J.J. Abrams
Summary/Review:

I was probably among the last people in the Star Wars-loving universe to see this movie, but it was worth the wait.  The Star Wars franchise is back in good standing with this movie that, yes, has great special effects and action sequences, but more importantly it has a good story, terrific acting, and heart.  While it was great that old favorites such as Han, Chewie, and Leia play an important role, I’m impressed with how the new characters Rey, Finn, and Poe slide so seamlessly into the Star Wars saga and the lead roles of the film.  And I’m really amazed by the acting ability of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega,  and Oscar Issac.  The future of Star Wars is in good hands and I look forward to the upcoming sequels and side projects.  While The Force Awakens isn’t quite good enough to unseat The Empire Strikes Back as the best Star Wars movie, I think it sits comfortable beside the original Star Wars in a tie for second.
Rating: ****1/2

Some Stray Post-Rewatch Thoughts:

  • The major criticism of The Force Awakens, repeated so often that its trite, is that it is a rehash of the first Star Wars film. People of made lists of similarities as proof, but I think that they miss the forest for the trees in their criticism, and thus the unique aspects of this movie including:
    • Rey is like Luke in that she is a young protagonist entering into a new world of galactic war and the use of the force. But unlike Luke who had a family support system, she is an orphan, abandoned as a child. She’s had to teach herself to work, fight, and survive and as a result is a more skilled and capable person than Luke. I think the “Rey is just Luke as a girl” argument misses the many fascinating details of her character.
    • Finn is unlike any character we’ve seen before. Stormtroopers in previous movies are literally faceless as we never see one remove their helmet in the original trilogy and they are clones in the prequel trilogy.  In Finn we have a character forced as a child to be a soldier choosing to leave that life behind because of its immorality.
    • People are disappointed that Han Solo has reverted to his youthful life as a smuggler seemingly negating the growth of the character in the original trilogy.  While it’s not overtly mentioned,it’s pretty obvious to me that Han is desperately looking for his best friend and brother-in-law, Luke, and using his skills as a smuggler as a means to that end.  And how anyone watch Harrison Ford’s performance in this film and deny the growth of the character, both in the original trilogy and in the intervening years offscreen, is beyond me.
    • The point of Star Wars (and in many ways Rogue One) is to destroy the Death Star.  Starkiller Base is a similar weapon to the Death Star and demonstrates how the First Order has come to rely on more firepower to compensate for the loss of the Empire’s widespread forces.  And yet it’s destruction is a minor subplot in the film, something so run of the mill that Han jokes “How do we blow it up?”  The real purpose of Starkiller Base is to add tension to our heroes duels with Kylo Ren and the question of how they will escape in time.

 

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