Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Review

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(this review is spoiler-free)

It's been more than a week now since I saw The Force Awakens on the 17th and I still don't have a yes or no answer to the question "did you like it?" I've known Star Wars all my life, as a kid my favorite movie was Return of the Jedi (because of that scene when Luke comes into Jaba's lair and rescues everyone), and more recently A New Hope. I don't remember a time when I didn't know Luke, Han and Leia; the original three Star Wars movies were practically the first movies I saw.

The Force Awakens is set three decades after the Rebel Alliance's defeat of the Galactic Empire. A new menace to the galaxy has arisen in the form of the First Order. Fighting the First Order are the Resistance and the heroes of the story.

I really enjoyed The Force Awakens. It's a beautiful movie. It's fun. I loved the new characters: Rey and Finn, Poe Dameron and BB8 and Maz. I loved Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, they were fantastic. There were generations of fans sitting in the theater and the moment the Star Wars logo came on with John Williams' music was an incredible feeling. When Harrison Ford as Han Solo made his first appearance we all cheered.

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I guess "did I like The Force Awakens?" is a hard question because what it's really asking is, was it Star Wars to me. J. J. Abrams generally makes solid movies, and I like those of his I've seen, though I'm not a fan of them. The Force Awakens is another solid movie. The only comment I have there is there's no single main character and plot's messy: the objective changed repeatedly, finally ending with the achievement of the first, which made the ending feel somewhat incomplete.

To me Star Wars is a world of strange creatures and planets with their own moons, geographies, languages, native animals. It's exotic crowded rooms, like where Luke first met Han Solo, or Jaba the Hut's palace. It's the Jedi with their light sabers, each handcrafted and unique, their simple brown costumes, deep wisdom, respect for life and peace, and knowledge of the Force gained through years of training. It's the fight between the democratic Rebel Alliance and dictatorial Galactic Empire, between freedom and the rule of power. It's John Williams music: the Force Theme and Imperial March. It's the Skywalkers, first Anakin's story in the prequels and then his son Luke's story in the originals. It's grand, distinct characters like Darth Vader, Obi-Wan, Han Solo, Yoda and the rest. You get the idea.

Looking forward to The Force Awakens I had an I love Star Wars this may be great but it's okay if it's not as good I'll enjoy it anyway yay Star Wars lemme go watch A New Hope again attitude. So I enjoyed it. My hesitation in saying yes to liking the movie is for two main reasons: I didn't like that one of the characters was able to use the Force with no training, it felt like throwing away the sense of acquired wisdom that was part of using it. The other thing is there's no given reason for antagonist to be evil, which wouldn't have been a problem if we didn't know their back story, but as we are given it, the omission took away from their presentation and made their actions, especially one history-making one, feel unjustified.

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The signature scene transitions are used, which, with the familiar music, did the most to make it feel like Star Wars. The humor is good. A side observation is the jokes sound modern and don't match the timeless feel of the older Star Wars movies. They made the story no longer feel like one that took place "long, long ago". But maybe the older Star Wars movies feel timeless to me because I've always known them. Kylo Ren's costume was awesome. Carrie Fisher's voice has deepened and it was hard to recognize and somewhat distracting. Though there is one scene with that crowded room feel, it would have felt more like Star Wars to have seen more alien creatures. Thinking back over the movie it seems packed with battles. But I've an idea those feelings would lessen with another viewing.

Star Wars Episode Seven is the familiar battle between freedom and tyranny, only this time it's not the Empire vs. the Rebels but the First Order vs. the Resistance. The Force Awakens references a lot of what is best loved about Star Wars, but the character of Maz was one of the things original to TFA that felt definitely like Star Wars. I don't remember my favorite quote of hers exactly but it was in the context of talking about the war between the First Order and Resistance. She was asked "what war?" and responded with something like, "the only one there's ever been, the war between good and dark".

I love Star Wars. The Force Awakens is a solid movie. I loved the characters. It's funny. Some of the views and scenes were gorgeous, particularly the last one and one in the gif above in snowy woods at night. I'll always love the original Star Wars movies best, and really, anything more than them is a bonus.

"The Light - it's always been there. It'll guide you." (Maz)

Content: there is some mild profanity (as in the other Star Wars movies) and several intense scenes. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sci-fi action violence.


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What are your thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

Spoiler-ly stuff (highlight to read): Did it seem out of character to anyone else that Luke ran away after Ben killed the other students? Also, why was Ben/Kylo Ren "praying" to Darth Vader - he turned to the good side in the end?

6 comments:

  1. I really liked your review. And I have several thoughts on this movie as well, but it's hard to get my thoughts together and really write them out coherently. I'm not the biggest die-hard Star Wars fan, but I really did enjoy watching this movie, and my hesitations over Disney taking over the movies has disappeared. I'm very excited to see what they do with it from here. I did think it had a lot of similarities with IV, but I decided to excuse it since it had enough other original stuff to add to it. I was very impressed with the acting, and Harrison Ford will be forever awesome (our theater cheered when he came on as well). I did not really care for Carrie Fisher much, though, her acting seemed kinda dry, but I understand it's hard to pick up a character you haven't played in a long time.

    Anywho, long monster comment, but yeah. Great review! May the force be with you ;)

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    1. I basically agree with this whole comment! I really enjoyed it (esp the humour an the reappearance of Han Solo, my favourite character from the original three) and my doubts about Disney are all gone. Can't wait to see where they go next!

      Happy New Year!

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  2. AT LAST, someone else agrees that there was no main character. One of my main struggles I had watching it the first time; I couldn't tell if Finn was leading or if Rey was. It's bugged me that no one else seemed to have a problem with that. So thank you! Yay! I'm not insane! XD And I agree with your two other big problems. I felt that one character who started using the force became nearly overpowered very quickly. And sadly after two viewings, it still doesn't really feel like Star Wars to me.

    But at the same time, I didn't hate it or anything! It was definitely a good movie! It was very entertaining to watch; had some great lines that already feel iconic--"that's not how the Force works!" ROFL. XD I ADORED FINN TO DEATH OMG. I wish Poe hadn't been sidelined so much--he had potential and there seemed to be some sort of new "big three" going on with him and Finn and Rey, but he was barely there. Han Solo seemed like good old Han to me which was awesome. Dang, I should really write up a post with my thoughts on this. XD But excellent review, I was extremely happy to read it and not feel alone in some of my issues of it. I was starting to. XD

    ~Jamie

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  3. What a great review! A lot of my friends loved this movie so it's definitely on my list :)

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  4. Great review, Sarah! I'm so glad you liked it, even if not as much as you do the originals. That totally makes sense -- the have a lot of value that these new one just can't have. Though I did think J.J. did a good job of capturing the right tone that the originals had. I absolutely loved it! I agree it's not perfect and there are definitely some flaws and holes, but I found that those things didn't effect my enjoyment at all. The characters are just the best. I actually really liked that there wasn't a clear main character. Finn and Rey splitting the job really worked for me... not sure exactly why. Poe's my favorite. Poe's the best. Poe should have been in it more! I hope we go deeper into Kylo Ren's reason for being on the dark side too, cause I agree, it's seems very arbitrary right now. But we don't know the details yet. (Spoilers) I figured that the reason Kylo idolized Darth Vader was because Luke never told anyone that he had turned to the light. But why? I hope we get to find out.

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  5. This sounds a lot like me after my first viewing and before the second. That second viewing really helped me deal with some of my issues with the plot and characters and figure out how the whole thing fit together as a whole.

    I actually liked that it wasn't "Here's the main character" because for me, Star Wars has always been an ensemble piece, so I was happy to find that again. I'm skewed, though, because Han Solo is my favorite and he wasn't The Hero of the original trilogy, but in my mind and heart he and Leia are just as important as Luke in the story as a whole, so I always feel like there's a trio of main characters, it's not The Luke Skywalker Show. So I dug that Rey and Finn kind of got equal time.

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