I have lately gotten away from writing a lot of film reviews, but The Force Awakens is kind of a big deal, and since Star Wars does lay some claim to my heart (being the first “fandom” I was ever a part of) I decided I couldn’t help but write something about it. It was a family affair the day all seven of us went to see it the Friday it came out. My ten-year-old brother clutched my hand in the seat next to me as soon as we heard the epic opening of the prologue music, and it felt unreal. The logo STAR WARS was there just as I’ve seen it millions of times, only there were new words underneath in the prologue. How weird and surreal was that? I didn’t cry, but I might have blinked a lot at that particular point. (I get strangely sentimental over certain things, all right?)
I wanted to wait a little while for this post until a good many people got the chance to watch it, since I am not going to avoid spoilers in this review. I will be somewhat discreet with them, but well, you can draw your own conclusions. Also, a warning: this is not going to be a complete gushing of, “this movie was perfect in every way,” but it’s not going to be a complete bashing, either. I really did like this movie, but unlike most of the Star Wars fans I’ve been around, there were some things that I distinctly didn’t care for.
First, the good: there was a lot to love about The Force Awakens, most highly on the list being how “real” it felt. Unlike the prequel trilogy, which was oddly clean and filled with CGI (of which I’m not much of a fan) you could tell that TFA used a lot more sets and real explosions; it had more of the original trilogy “feel” to it and I greatly appreciated that.
I also loved the new main characters. Another thing I never cared for in the prequels was the lack of likable characters (except for my beloved Obi-Wan, who was the only one with any sense in those movies) but Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8 were likable and easy to root for. It’s been a long time since I immediately latched on to new movie characters like this, but I can honestly say I think they have enough potential to become just as loved as the original three. Rey was a great heroine who was tough but vulnerable, Finn was hilarious and lovable, and while Poe doesn’t get as much development time, what I have seen of him I really like. BB-8 was also much more likable than I was expecting…and yes, I like him more than R2-D2. Sue me ;)
The humor of the movie could be a little cheesy at times, but it was still really funny, and it has a lot of great, quotable lines. Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that made me laugh so easily.
But then we come to the plot, which is where I have a few (*cough, cough*) problems. I will say that I loved the first half of the movie. Sure, there were a few rehashes of some of the plot devices of the original trilogy but honestly, I don’t think I really mind that. I was sitting in the theater thinking, “YEEESSS, this is exactly what I ever wanted.” However, as the movie progressed I started feeling less and less satisfied. While there were about two times during the rest of the movie I could put a name to my dissatisfaction, my thoughts remained rather nebulous until I began talking it over with the family (My parents were rather disappointed with the entire thing, and while I think I liked it more than they did, several of the flaws they mentioned clicked in my mind with why I wasn't as happy with the movie as I wanted to be.)
For me, there were a lot of “coincidences” that just made a lot of the plot seem too easy. (For instance, one of the two points I mentioned while watching the film was the scene where they got Captain Phasma to shut down the shields of the base. It just seemed kind of like a let-down, like, “Wait- that’s all? This is a serious organization we’re talking about that is literally in the process of DESTROYING AN ENTIRE PLANET. It shouldn’t be that easy to break into.”) There was an awful lot of things going on in that last half, and they didn’t always mesh together very well and sometimes they had a complete disregard to what is physically possible to do within a certain period of time. It just wasn’t as well put-together as the original trilogy. The originals have had some plot holes too, but they just aren’t as noticeable to me. (Although I admit bias: I've grown up with the originals, so I don't look at them very objectively.)
Then, the villain.
I am not a huge fan of Kylo Ren. It’s not that I don’t understand what they were trying to do with him, but it was hard to take him seriously after a certain point. It really fell apart during his lightsaber battle with Rey. I will say that the battle itself was a good one- well choreographed and exciting to watch. But if Kylo is a sith (my brother calls him a “sith walk-on”) how can this untrained girl beat him? I mean, yes, I think the idea is that he’s not nearly as good as he thinks he is. (and as several people have since pointed out to me, he was also wounded) But it’s hard to respect a villain like him- why does The First Order even put up with him? I certainly wouldn’t. He’s a tantrum-throwing child. Maybe that’s the point, and I do have hopes that his character will be better developed in the later films, but I just felt really lackluster and disappointed in regards to him. Plus, there was The Thing that He Did that I will never recover from. It’s not so much that The Thing happened, but *how* it happened…it wasn’t fully satisfying to me. (I was really emotionally exhausted after this movie, ya’ll. I just had to lie face-down on the bed for a few minutes afterward and I still can’t look at a picture of that Certain Beautiful Favorite Person without feeling…depressed.) It's not even the actor's portrayal that I really have a problem with; it's more of the actual writing of his character. I don't know; maybe
if when I see it again I'll feel differently.
Rey’s use of the force was also a little baffling. Given her staff-swinging skills, it could be argued that the lightsaber battle made some sense, but not the Jedi mind tricks. All things considered, she really shouldn’t have been able to use the force to the extent that she did. She’s an awesome character and I love her, but she hasn’t had any Jedi training, which makes it a bit unbelievable and sort of cheapens both the originals and the prequels, which focus so much on learning to use the force correctly. Perhaps we will learn something later about her backstory that explains this ability, so I’m trying to hold off judgement, but if the lightsaber experience scene is all we’ve got, then I’m going to be disappointed.
It’s also difficult when you have a story that’s been around for as long as Star Wars has been, because I know I’m not the only one who has “headcanons” of what happens to the characters afterward, and then when actual canon events happen that don’t correlate to that…it can be kind of disappointing. I’m not necessarily blaming the movie for that, since it’s not like I expect J.J. Abrams to see inside my head and follow my own personal, unprofessional ideas, but it does take some time to get used to. Anyway, I could name some other, smaller inconsistencies, but I know a lot of people adore this movie and I don’t want to be a complete Johnny Raincloud and ruin it for everybody.
Besides, aside from the “too-easy-ness” of the some of the points (and some plot rehashing) I do have hopes that some of my issues will be resolved in Episode viii, because despite all of my problems with The Force Awakens, it was an enjoyable experience. There are a lot of unanswered questions and who knows: maybe some of the “plot holes” will be revealed to not be plot holes at all. Maybe more about Kylo Ren will make sense. (Although I can’t say I’m rooting for a redemption arc. With the things that have happened in The Force Awakens, I don't think that one would make sense, even aside from the fact that its would just seem like Darth Vadar all over again) I certainly am curious about Rey’s backstory. The Force Awakens was exciting, it had some truly great scenes that rivaled some of the best in the other movies, and it made me laugh.
But to sum it all up, I’ll repeat the first words I said to my mother after exiting the theater: “I enjoyed it, but I’m not happy about it.”
P.S. - I totally recommend checking out IMDB's cast list for The Force Awakens, because there are so many familiar actors who got bit parts or cameos. It's like a treasure hunt. Can you spot Fanny Dashwood? Edmund Sparkler? Ferb?