Title: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Release Date: December 18th
Director: J.J. Abrams
Release Form: Theatrical
It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since our last Star Wars film, but somehow it is finally here. A movie shrouded in so much secrecy it puts the Illuminati to shame and is quite possibly the most hyped film in the past few years. Going into the film I knew very little and was not sure exactly what to expect from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but I am happy to report the beloved space epic has finally returned to form. Just to reiterate I will not be discussing any major plot points, sequences, and character developments in this review; if you wish to hear my more in depth thoughts tune in next week to read my spoiler filled thoughts on this film. None of us want the movie spoiled for us so out of respect, I will not be disclosing anything major. Thankfully the film only suffers from some minor issues throughout, but the overall package is one I highly enjoyed.
The story itself follows the story of former, disenfranchised Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and the mysterious junk salvager Rey (Daisy Ridley) as they discover their fates and place between warring factions. (Again keeping this brief.) The plot itself is paced far slower than one might expect but spares us the long monologing sequences that plagued the prequel films. Director J.J. Abrams clearly takes the time to establish the principle characters and their motives, inner demons, and desires in such a way that keeps the rest of the movie from dragging on. Boyega gives a fantastic performance as Finn, offering some of the most interesting emotional moments throughout the story. Ridley also does a commendable job keeping us invested in Rey’s story, while still giving us some fun and entertaining moments. The main cast all give top notch performances, but it’s actually Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren that stands out among them all. I was skeptical that Ren would just be a Vader copy. but Driver’s acting and the character’s development are incredibly intriguing. While it’s clear that more is being saved for the next movie, it’s his story above all others I truly want to see explored in more depth. Sadly, some of the side characters such as the chromed out Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), cartoonishly evil General Hux (Dombnall Gleeson), and ace Rebel pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) are underdeveloped and feel more pushed aside for the larger story.
Ahhh but I am sure everyone is curious about how Han, Leia and Luke fit into the larger picture. Without giving anything away, let me note that these are more than just cameos. Abrams doesn’t just trot the old cast out for simple fan service, as they feel just as invested in the events transpiring. There is an obvious passing of the torch between the two generations, but it never felt ham-fisted or pushed on the audience. There’s a mutual respect, but all of the cast members play their parts to perfection. Harrison Ford’s being the obvious standout as he isn’t just an old man playing Han Solo again, but a man who has clearly aged and grown. You feel the history and weight he has had to bare from all of previous films events and it’s really interesting to watch explored in a deeper way. Within the story itself, the original cast are in it long enough to not feel like just a blip, but also not overstay their welcome either. This story is clearly about the new boys and girls.
Speaking of story, the actual narrative of the film feels familiar in both good and bad ways. It’s clear Abrams has taken a lot of inspiration from Lucas’ original trilogy, so a lot of the ground covered may be too recognizable. While this does make the plot terribly predictable, it hardly stopped any of the emotional moments from truly hitting their mark. I found myself choked up during a few key scenes, which only help by the remarkable performances I mentioned before. Though you may see a few of the scenes coming a mile away, the impact isn’t damped by this. You can chock this up to Abrams own style of cinematography and the clear investment both characters and audience have. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve witnessed an audience of people so emotionally invested in the story that audible gasps, cheers, claps, and laughter never felt out of place. Speaking of laughter, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is probably going to be funnier than you expected as witty retorts and clever jokes make their way in. The franchise has never been without humor, but always off the more slapstick variety. Thankfully this is far from that and a lot of the humor comes from the new droid BB-8. While you cannot understand a single beep, the personality of this little droid is incredibly clear and funny. He/she/it offers some of the best laughs in the entire movie and is a successful replacement to the beloved R2-D2.
The cinematography is also some of the best the entire series, yes the whole series, has ever had. For those worried about lens flares popping up everywhere, fear not! Abrams clearly understands that has no place in this films and the actual shooting leaves nothing to be questioned. Offering big sweeping shots of the action, beautiful sets, and a lovely score; this is the best looking Star Wars to date. It should be noted that a fair amount of this film is not just CGI, as there are clear and well made practical effects throughout. This lends another sense of familiarity that Star Wars: The Force Awakens capitalizes on. The score itself is one I was torn on at first, but it quickly won me over once more; as it doesn’t just trot out the same songs we’ve heard to death. Beautifully placed and timed exactly right, the familiar music cues enhance the scenes further, without distracting or feeling out of place.
Listen I could and will talk more about the story and characters of this film, but that would be doing you a major disservice. Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t perfect, as some grievances are a bit too noticeable at times. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the wait in line, enduring what seems a million previews and having to deal with that one teenager who clearly doesn’t understand what turn his phone off means. No, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had a movie theater to date. It made me feel like a kid again, wide-eyed and with a stupid smile slapped across my face. Go see this movie fellow readers and may the force be with you.
- Acting: The cast gives fantastic performances all around, with both Driver and Boyega clearly the standouts among them.
- Cinematography: Abrams shows off his style, with some of the best-looking shots in the entire series. You won’t miss a single bit of the action as the roaring Tie-Fighters and sounds of blasters consume you from all sides. It’s truly a treat.
- Story: Strong narrative and emotional moments drive this plot home, but you may feel the story is far too familiar. Certain scenes can be called a mile away, but thanks to the performances and fantastic writing it doesn’t make them stale.
- Characters: Kylo Ren may be the single most compelling villain the live action series has ever put on screen. Both new and old feel as if they truly inhabit this world, yet some of lesser characters just feel like one note versions of what they could be.
- Great Leading Cast
- Kylo Ren
- Cinematography is the Best in the Series
- Emotional Beats Hit Perfectly
- Overall Plot Too Familiar
- Some Potentially Interesting Characters Sidelined
A recent graduate of Arcadia University, Collin MacGregor is a freelance video editor and writer. He covers video games, television, and film for The Nerd Stash. Collin currently is the head film/television reviewer for the site.