Now that Star Wars The Force Awakens has been in theaters for a couple of weeks, it’s time to delve into the film fully and discuss everything that happened. While on the surface, the movie is solid and a lot of fun, for those of us die-hard fans there’s quite a bit to take in. So, without further ado here’s a SPOILER FULL look at The Force Awakens. If you haven’t seen the movie stop reading, go see the movie, then come back.
The best place to start is actually the crawl. The first line in the crawl sets up the base premise of the film and is probably the best opening line to any of the crawls in any other Star Wars movie. The line in question is simply “Luke Skywalker has vanished.” It’s so effective and kind of lets us know right out of the gate that we’re going to be looking for him. It’s even kind of hilarious when put into context with all those #WheresLuke hashtags going around before The Force Awakens was released.
Next, I have to say this is probably the best acted Star Wars film. Everyone all around turned in pretty strong performances, a credit to both the writing and direction from J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan. The newcomers, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver really stand out. As for the returning cast, it was clearly Harrison Ford’s movie and he absolutely embodied Han Solo in his return to the role after 30 years.
Ridley as the main protagonist, Rey, is outstanding and really carries the film. She really helps give us a sense early on that she is incredibly self-reliant, surviving basically on her own. That said, some of Ridley’s strongest scenes I felt were later in the movie when she first encounters Kylo Ren and Luke respectively. When she first encounters Kylo in the forest, the look on her face goes from pure horror as she backpedals firing at him before transitioning to almost a look of despair as he simply bats her attacks away. Then, at the end when she meets Luke and holds his old lightsaber out to him, both her and Mark Hamill show so much emotion in their eyes and that in conjunction with the score make the moment great.
Boyega as Finn was also wonderful and he really livened up the scenes he was in. He’s so naturally charismatic and that transitioned into his character perfectly as he brought a lot of energy to the movie. He played really well off Harrison Ford, and they have a lot of great back and forth in the movie. In fact, he really had great chemistry with everyone he shared the screen with. He develops a bit of a bond with Oscar Isaac’s character Poe Dameron as well as Rey in pretty short order.
Now for Adam Driver. He was outstanding as Kylo Ren, almost mesmerizing in some scenes. Personally, I felt he almost got too little screen time without the mask on actually. While he is wearing the mask he’s very good and intimidating and all that which is great, but he really excelled in the scenes in which we can see his face and see the internal conflict he is dealing with. This is especially true in the moment that he is confronted by Han Solo, his father. Driver is outstanding in that moment and it’s clear that he is internally torn.
Just on the subject of Kylo Ren as a character for a minute, I have to say he is a pretty unique villain in the Star Wars universe considering we meet him as a character trying to embrace the dark side while feeling the call to the light. We’ve always seen the inverse of this scenario with both Anakin and Luke trying to avoid succumbing to the dark side. He was so well written too, with the temper tantrums he throws at two different points in the movie. It gives him a certain volatility which makes him more dangerous in some ways.
Though they don’t get as much screen time as the other new cast members, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson also deserve mentions for their acting as well, as they were both strong in that limited screen time. Isaac helped set the tone immediately with his wise crack in the face of Kylo, and like Boyega, brings a certain swagger to his character that is a lot of fun. Gleeson was good in most of his scenes, but he got a chance to be great for a moment with the monologue he delivers as the First Order prepares to fire their superweapon at the Republic. Honestly, purely in terms of what we see in the movie, I tend to think of Hux as the most evil. Don’t get me wrong, I get that Snoke is the big bad villain pulling all the strings, but we don’t see him actually do anything. Kylo Ren is conflicted, he says as much, although killing Han gives him a big boost on the evil meter. But seriously, that speech Gleeson gives as Hux is pure evil. Here’s to hoping that both Isaac and Gleeson get some more screen time going forward.
Carrie Fisher also needs to be mentioned as I thought she did a very good job with her reprisal of Leia. I’ll be honest on the first viewing it felt off, but on subsequent viewings it feels like a natural progression from how we last saw her in Return of the Jedi. I felt like a lot of her lines were delivered with a similar sort of feeling and tone that she had when talking to Luke in Jedi right before he left to confront Vader.
A couple of other really well done aspects of the movie were the effects and the sound design and score, neither of which should come as a surprise in a Star Wars film. Director J.J. Abrams’ focus on practical effects and sets shows and kind of gives the film more of a sense of reality. The sound effects were on point as usual, and John Williams’ score was also very, very good though nothing in it is as instantly iconic as some of the previous work he’s done for all of the Star Wars films. As far as effects go, the lightsaber lighting effects have to be mentioned. By that I don’t mean the sabers themselves, but the light they cast on the objects around them and the people wielding them because they were fantastic. Especially during the fight on Starkiller base at the end between Kylo Ren and Finn and Rey. The effect they get of the purple light being cast on the characters when the red and blue lightsabers clash is beautiful.
There were also a lot of smaller details that, as a Star Wars fan, I really loved. For instance, in the aforementioned fight between Kylo, Rey and Finn at the end. Kylo had already been wounded and the way that he pounded on his wound to inflict pain on himself totally falls in line with someone trying to envelope themselves in the dark side of the Force. Or the way the Millenium Falcon was first revealed as Finn and Ray are running from the First Order on Jakku, it was a moment that people cheered in numerous shows I’ve been to. Really, there were quite a few moments like that, maybe none bigger than that moment when Rey calls the lightsaber to her hand and the music swells up as she’s about to face off with Kylo.
Overall there’s a lot to really like and enjoy in the film whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, but as much as I’d love to say it was perfect, it wasn’t. There are some issues in the film, some larger than others. On the small side, there’s a minor continuity error during the aerial battle over Starkiller base. When the resistance attacks 12 X-Wings are shown flying in to attack. During the battle 2 are lost in quick succession and there’s a cut back to the Resistance base in which one of the officers says that half of their fleet has been destroyed. Obviously that would be 6 left. From this point we see one, maybe two more X-Wings go down yet at the end as they fly off victorious, there are more than 6 X-Wings leaving the system with the Falcon. Obviously this is a SUPER small thing that took me multiple viewings to notice but I simply point it out to show that the movie has flaws.
More importantly though, the story overall hits too many familiar story beats from the original trilogy. Now, the story isn’t weak per se, but it would have been nice to see something a little more original. I mean, there are parallels all the way throughout the movie. In the beginning vital information is stowed in BB-8 and eventually comes to be in the hands of our primary hero, Rey. Similar to the way Leia hides the Death Star plans in R2-D2 in Star Wars only to end up in the hands of Luke. Both of these events occur on desert planets as well. Poe and Finn escaping the First Order is similar to our heroes escaping the Death Star in Star Wars as well, even in the way that Finn takes his helmet off and tells Poe he’s rescuing him, it’s very similar to Luke first meeting Leia.
Continuing with the parallels, the second act of the film sees our heroes meet Maz Kanata who I think is a parallel to Yoda in Empire. Similar to the way that Luke found a weird little alien named Yoda that taught him the ways of the Force in the second act of Empire, Maz Kanata acts as Rey’s first teacher in a way. Though she’s not a Jedi and she says as much, she knows the Force as Rey takes her very first steps.
Most notably though, is the parallel between Starkiller base and the Death Star, with the only real difference being the size of it and that Starkiller base is capable of destroying entire systems, and not just a single planet. In any case, the end of the movie is a kind of amalgam of the third acts of Star Wars and Return of the Jedi as they have to disable the planetary shield, and blow up the base and there’s a pretty obvious trench run. Not to mention that the duel takes place during this which is similar to Luke and Vader dueling during the Battle of Endor.
The last disappointment I have with the film, if I can really call it that, is the under use of Gwendoline Christie’s character Captain Phasma. She was built up a good deal before the film and was essentially a non-factor in The Force Awakens. In a way, it’s tough to be too disappointed as they did liken her to being the new Boba Fett, and he wasn’t even in the original release of Star Wars and was only retroactively added to the special edition release of A New Hope in 1997. Perhaps she’ll play a larger role in the next 2 films.
With all of that said, while the story leaves a little to be desired in the sense that it’s a retread of familiar elements from previous films, the movie on a whole is a lot of fun and should, for the most part, please hardcore fans as well as those that more casual fans. I definitely recommend seeing it in theaters before the theatrical run ends, not to worry though, you still have plenty of time as The Force Awakens is going to continue to have a strong presence in theaters for a while.
So what did you think of the movie? Did you have any issues with the movie yourself? Let us know in the comments section!
For more Star Wars The Force Awakens coverage, check out our piece on all the cameos in the film. While you’re here be sure to check out some of our other content like our look at the newly released Ghostbusters character posters that were released or our coverage of the mid-season Walking Dead trailer!