Sunday, January 3, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

     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?


Zoë said...

I like your thoughts on this movie. Perhaps because they're similar to mine. ;]
To add to your list, I felt the ending seemed a bit rushed... like it should have been developed in it's own movie, or at least as a main theme of Episode VII. Ah well. It was a good movie nonetheless.

Phoebe said...

The thing is, I've never seen any Star Wars movies or episodes whatsoever, so I'm wondering if I can watch this new movie all by itself, or do I have to go back and watch all the older movies first, and in what order? Because several of my friends have seen this movie and I get different stories from each of them. Some say The Force Awakens can stand on its own, some say I should watch the others first. What say you?
Great review, by the way!

Hayden said...

I totally agree. In fact, had they divided this movie into two separate films, I have a feeling most of the problem scenes would have gotten fixed. But yes, I still enjoyed it:)

Hayden said...

Oooh. Well, I prefer watching them in the order they were made- first the originals (4, 5,& 6) then the prequels (1, 2, & 3) and then The Force Awakens; however, I once heard someone recommending them in order from 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6, and then 7, and that might be even better, although if you're completely unfamiliar with Star Wars I'd recommend the first way due to some spoiler reasons. Rather famous spoilers, but spoilers nonetheless.

Even though I know a few people who watched TFA when they hadn't seen the others and they still loved the movie, I think saving it for last makes more sense, and you'll have more background knowledge of the characters and the Star Wars world. Either way, I hope you enjoy them! :)

Phoebe said...

Ok, well I was going to watch 1 tonight, so I'll just see how that goes. I've heard that some people start with 4...but I don't know. I figured the safest way is to go in order of the numbers. Thanks a lot!

Savannah Perran said...

I've only watched Star Wars 4 and 5. My siblings and I didn't end up watching 6 (I don't why that was. I still want to), but we ended up finding out ALL the spoilers for 6 anyways, so I think the excitement for it tapered a bit :).

proverbs31teen said...

I have to admit, this is the first Star Wars movie I watched, although I've seen most of 1/2 (of the prequels), and I liked it a lot. Mostly because I tend to ignore all the plot holes and such unless I hate a movie. :P While I haven't watched the other movies, I have a bit of knowledge about them, and The Terrible Thing made me sad. I predicted it, though. :P

Lois Johnson said...

Whoa!?!?! I saw Fanny Dashwood but totally missed Sparkler and Ferb! I'll have to look more closely when I watch it next time!

Hamlette said...

I've seen quite a few people mentioning the "Rey learns to use the Force way too easily" thing, so I've been mulling that for a few days. I have two thoughts on why this works for me:

1. She's super-powerful with the Force. Since you've seen the prequels, think of Anakin in Episode 1. Just innate understanding of how it works once the person is told the Force exists and how to access it. (This is why I theorize that she is Luke's daughter, that the Skywalker bloodline has this strength.)

2. I think that when Kylo Ren invades her mind, information gets shared both ways. The first time, while he's mucking around finding sad little details about her life, she's absorbing as much information about the Force and how to use it as she can. And she might not be doing it consciously so much as just his learning is pouring into her. That gives her the initial understanding that helps her escape. Then during the lightsaber battle, they meld minds again, and you can see understanding and awareness and confidence dawn on her face -- she's figuring out how to use the Force from what he knows.

Does that make sense? Have you gotten to see this again? I know your post is a few days old now... I'm still catching up after the holidays. I know that I had some reservations and confusion going on after my first viewing, but the second one really helped me figure stuff out and accept it more.

Hayden said...

Hamlette: hmmm...Well, I have only seen it once (I've really been wanting to see it again, to see if I can catch more things that I missed the first time) and I guess that does sort of make sense, in a way. I didn't have so much of a problem with the door opening both ways- that sort of made sense, but I didn't think about her absorbing his knowledge. I guess I sort of figured if the force worked that way they other Jedis would have known about it and utilized it? Of course, I guess if Rey is particularly force-sensitive (I agree; that's the #1 reason I think she could be a Skywalker) maybe its not something *every* Jedi could do? I don't know...I'm just hoping we get a lot more answers in the upcoming movies. I mean, despite my complaints, I did enjoy it a lot.

Natalie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natalie said...

I too was very sentimentally emotional during the beginning. Well...throughout the whole thing, really. :)

I agree with so much that you said! I love all the new characters and the new movie is so fun, and yet...those plot holes. Especially Rey's use of the force and the sun-gun super weapon. It just felt so cliche. You'd think after TWO times of these super weapons being destroyed, the First Order would have learned something. If anything, at least how to build a better "super weapon". My brother mentioned he thought it would have been a better idea if the weapon was NOT destroyed. He thinks drawing out the moment of destroying it till the next film would have been a little more plausible.

There's so much more I could say (especially about that "Certain Beautiful Favorite Person "! -sob-) but all in all I really liked your review! :)

Jenelle Leanne said...

I'm so excited I found your blog again! I know you posted where it would be on your other blog, but I neglected to write it down and then you made it private and I couldn't find you! Of course, um... it's not like the address would have been that hard to figure out... but... yeah. Anyway, huzzah!

Amen to everything. I've been trying to summon the energy required to write a review of this movie, and I just can't. I will eventually.

The only thing I've heard that even makes a tiny amount of sense to me about Rey's abilities with the Force is if she was one of the extremely young padawans in Luke's first attempt to restore the Jedi Order, and he hid her on Jakku before he disappeared in order to protect her.

This movie threw me into a funk for days. I have since seen it a second time, and my brother now has me all but convinced that a certain horrible thing that happened near the end may NOT have actually happened with quite as much finality as it seems... but that could just be seriously warped wishful thinking.

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