Star Wars: The Force Awakens – A review

It lived up to the hype.

I get too excited thinking about this movie to come up with any sort of real introduction. All you need to know is that The Force Awakens delivered big time and is going to send you home feeling like a little kid.

I have never felt like this after a movie, and I’m saying this after seeing it multiple times. I have no idea what to tell you about this film. It was quite possibly the most satisfying experience I’ve ever had at the movies. The Force Awakens is fun as fuck and everything you could possibly want out of Star Wars.

This is a hard review because I want to avoid discussing any more of the story than what was revealed in the advertisements (so not much), and I really don’t know how to put this experience into words. And when you’re talking about the biggest, most hyped up movie of all time, that has already been met with critical acclaim and tons of fan love, what can I say that you haven’t heard?

If you were hoping for an explanation as to why Finn is sweaty in all the previews, don't get your hopes up
If you were hoping for an explanation as to why Finn is sweaty in all the previews, don’t get your hopes up

Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things, but they are key ingredients to making a Star Wars movie great. Fortunately for us, The Force Awakens has them in spades. The sense of wonder and excitement that the prequels lacked is back big time, making this movie an incredible addition to the series and worthy successor to the storied originals.

Big ups to Disney. Getting that Star Wars license was essentially getting a license to print money. They could’ve taken advantage of the fans and the fact this movie would shatter records regardless and been like, “Uwe Boll is directing and it will be great!” Disney could’ve thrown any steaming pile of shit up there and people would’ve gotten sucked in by the hype and it would’ve been a money train.

But they didn’t do it like that.

They made a real Star Wars movie, for the fans by a huge fan. JJ Abrams (and Empire and Jedi writer Lawrence Kasdan) did a wonderful job bringing this franchise to a whole new generation while also honoring what came before. A lot of people have said it felt like an Abrams movie, but that wasn’t my big takeaway. It felt like a seamless addition to the series. When it was all said and done, I felt like I had seen the next logical progression in Star Wars.

BB-8 is surprisingly awesome
BB-8 is surprisingly awesome

Before diving into the movie, the experience of seeing a new Star Wars movie was incredible. I saw the first regular showing at 7:30 on Thursday. I had an even bigger crew than I did for the Millennium Falcon excursion, and we were the first ones in line. It was surreal standing there, local news taping all of the action. The mall was packed with generations of fans. There was a merchandise table set up in the theater lobby like a concert. People were lining up for showings 5-7 hours in advance. It was crazy. If there were any doubts about this being the biggest franchise ever and a cultural landmark, being there for the opening would silence them immediately.

When we got into the theater and the trailers started rolling, Disney did the most meta thing I’ve ever seen. When you have to watch 20 minutes of previews before the biggest, most anticipated movie ever, people start groaning and getting antsy when each new ad starts. The final trailer was for an animated flick called Zootopia. It was a perfectly timed and fitting test of patience for the nerds.

Captain Phasma. This image may or may not account for 80% of her screen time. Guess you'll have to just see the movie and find out for yourself.
Captain Phasma. This image may or may not account for 80% of her screen time. Guess you’ll have to just see the movie and find out for yourself.

When the lights went down and that famous “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” came up, my friend Jeff reached over, smacked me on the chest and tugged on my shirt as if to say, “Holy shit I can’t believe this is happening.” He wasn’t wrong. I felt like a kid again.

That isn’t to say this is some big nostalgia fest that gets a free pass because of the originals. The Force Awakens is a very good, fun movie. You’re going to like it more and have even more fun if you’re a big fan of the originals, but if you have a soul you’ll like it either way.

That’s mainly thanks to the new characters. They freaking rock. I’ve soured on droids after watching R2D2 in the prequels again, so I fully anticipated hating BB-8. Turns out BB-8 is awesome. I was blown away by how versatile a character the little ball droid was. He could show so much emotion and provided some great comic relief.

Poe, Rey and Finn. One day I hope everybody will appreciate that Oscar Isaac looks '70s as fuck.
Poe, Rey and Finn. One day I hope everybody will appreciate that Oscar Isaac looks ’70s as fuck.

Rey was amazing. I had high hopes for her character going in, but I was a little worried since this is basically the first thing Daisy Ridley has done. Coming from obscurity to star in what will likely be the biggest movie of all time is a pretty tall order, but she completely crushed it. This was a star-making performance if we’ve ever seen one. She was the highlight of the movie, acting as the avatar for the audience as she goes from solitary life in the desert to getting sucked into a battle of good versus evil.

Her chemistry with co-star John Boyega is one of the film’s greatest strengths. Boyega plays Finn, a Stormtrooper turned reluctant hero. Again, another excellent new character. If I were a little kid, I would’ve walked out of the theater wanting to be him. He was so funny and cool. He also had great chemistry with Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, but you can’t help but wish Finn and Poe did more together. It would have been nice to have more Poe in general. The new crop of good guys were all so great and fit right in with classic characters, but these movies always come down to the villain.

Kylo Ren - Kind of an asshole
Kylo Ren – Kind of an asshole

Villain worship is big when it comes to Star Wars fans, so it is good to see Kylo Ren is such a beast. After Episode I, there’s always that fear that the new villain could be another Darth Maul – looking cool but ultimately lame as shit. That wasn’t the case. Kylo Ren is menacing, but not in the way Darth Vader was. He’s more of an unpredictable, temperamental little shit – like Anakin in the prequels, but not lame. This is a bold statement, but he has an even cooler voice than Bane. The title of being the best character here is very close between Kylo Ren and Rey.

As for the older characters, Harrison Ford was excellent as Han Solo once again, but that may be because Ford is a miserable old man so it wasn’t hard to play. Chewbacca has aged gracefully and was wonderful. The only older cast member who disappointed was Carrie Fisher as Leia. To be fair, she didn’t have a lot to work with, but she seemed awkward. Her mouth doesn’t really move after plastic surgery, so it’s weird when she talks. But we can take the loss on Leia because C3PO is still the king and that’s all that matters.

People talk about how great Harrison Ford looks, but Chewbacca aged considerably better
People talk about how great Harrison Ford looks, but Chewbacca aged considerably better

I won’t say anything about the story, but this movie seriously ruled. If you like fun in your life, you will really like it. This would have turned my brains to shit as a kid. Like with A New Hope, you’re whisked away to all these new places, discovering so much about the galaxy. It is the exact type of fast-paced adventure the series needed, especially after the plodding prequels. But I should stop fellating this movie for a minute and talk about some of the flaws.

Since we live in the internet age, when people try to crap all over whatever is big, you know you’re going to see the Youtube videos like “150 things wrong with The Force Awakens” to make the movie seem like it wasn’t a maelstrom of  perpetual awesomeness.

"We got Death Star, we got Death Star, we got Death Star"
“We got Death Star, we got Death Star, we got Death Star”

The story did lift things from A New Hope, right down to a Death Star. This time it is bigger and badder. There was enough exposition to make Christopher Nolan cream his pants. The story moved fast and won’t all come together until we see the rest of the series, which I don’t see as a problem considering we know it’s a trilogy.

People will likely be dissatisfied with so many unanswered questions and unexplained plot threads. These people must have never watched A New Hope before the prequels came out, since the same thing happened there. Clone Wars? What Senate? It is amazing how little George Lucas actually explained. Abrams took that same approach here, and there are two movies left to explain a whole lot. But to be fair, there is one thing that happens that you’d think would be a pretty major event, but the characters don’t really talk about it.

The Force Awakens rises high above any of its flaws, though. If you’re a fan of action/adventure movies with good humor, you’re going to absolutely love this. If you’re a fan of life and happiness, you’re going to love it. If you’re a Star Wars fan, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for. It is such a fun, funny movie with so much heart and excitement, there’s no way you don’t walk out of there with a smile.

I really hope the sudden fame doesn't cause Daisy Ridley to lose her mind and go off the deep end and totally derail this series. Same with BB-8. It would be a shame to lose that little dude.
I really hope the sudden fame doesn’t cause Daisy Ridley to lose her mind and go off the deep end and totally derail this series. Same with BB-8. It would be a shame to lose that little dude.

And that ending. No, I’m not going to spoil it. The final shot of this movie is incredible. It was just so well-done. You know that bit they used in the trailer when Han goes, “Chewie, we’re home”? That’s how I felt when this movie ended and the credits hit. I was speechless.

Star Wars is back.

P.S. No, it wasn’t better than Mad Max: Fury Road.

P.P.S. And there was really not enough Captain Phasma to justify buying that ornament for the Christmas tree…

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