RELEASED 2015 RUNTIME 136 MIN LANGUAGE ENGLISH DIRECTION J. J. ABRAMS SCREENPLAY LAWRENCE KASDAN, J. J. ABRAMS, MICHAEL ARNDT STARRING DAISY RIDELY, JOHN BOYEGA, HARRISON FORD, ADAM DRIVER, OSCAR ISAAC, DOMHNALL GLEESON, CARRIE FISHER, GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE, PETER MAYHEW MUSIC JOHN WILLIAMS
After three consecutive viewings of the film on 3 consecutive days and 2 days of letting it all sink in I feel ready to give you a constructive review of the movie.
However, before I do I want to elaborate a little on where I am coming from on this review and on any reviews I write.
I am a huge Star Wars fanatic. I have been watching each of the movies countless times, including the Prequel Trilogy. If you have been reading my reviews during the past week you know how I feel about each movie.
I gave all the movies in the classic trilogy a perfect score and I stand by it. I know some of you may think that hurts my credibility and yes, I agree, I would feel the same way. On the other hand, I would feel like I’m lying to myself, if I would have given f.ex. Return Of The Jedi a 9/10. I enjoy this movie just as much as the other ones and, therefore, there is no reason for me to rate in anything lower than perfect.
I grew up with the movies and they have been my favourite movies since I was 11 years old, when my dad bought me the VHS tapes for the first time. Of course there is a lot of nostalgia factoring into my scores, but that’s ok. That’s why I write these long essays underneath each score to explain why I feel about a movie the way I do. The number on top is just a number. We all have our own scales of how we view a movie. The important things are the arguments we support our score with. I know some people don’t hand out perfect scores at all. But I made the decision to do so every now and then because why the hell not? Mad Max: Fury Road got a 10/10 this year because it blew me away. Yes, it is not a perfect movie, but for me it is more important what emotions and feelings a movie can evoke in you. All three classic Star Wars movies make me feel like the happiest person alive for the runtime of 2 hours. That’s a fact. It’s like therapy for me.
On the other hand, I gave the Prequels a lot of hate because I realised over time that they are in fact really bad movies. But I have to admit, there was a time I felt very positive about them. This is how big of a Star Wars fan I am. When I was younger I told myself that these are good movies because the love for Star Wars was stronger than my common sense. You can say literally, the dark side blinded me.
So, for The Force Awakens I had to be very careful with myself. I was waiting for this movie for 3 years, since Disney first announced that they are working on a new trilogy. When you wait for something with that much of anticipation you can easily be seduced again to love something just because you don’t want to disappoint yourself. This time I told myself that I won’t drink the Kool-Aid again. But in order to do so, I had to give myself and my mind the time to digest the experience and to cool down from all that excitement that build up over the past months because at this point it’s absolutely personal! It is the most important review I have ever given out to any movie yet.
Let me tell you, I was watching the movie like a hawk. I was looking for flaws everywhere. The first viewing of the film was more like an analytical scan of me checking every corner of the frame, if there was just a single thing that did not fit with my Star Wars world that I set up for myself. I as basically watching it like an asshole, really. And yes, while there definitely are some things that bugged me, I can safely tell you that this is the movie you were looking for since 1983.
I kind of don’t want to give you the premise of the movie because I think experiencing the opening crawl in the movie theatre is half the fun with a Star War film. Yes, I told you the premise of each movie in the other reviews, but they are old movies and I’m pretty sure everybody who read the review watched them already. The only thing I will say though is that it takes place 30 years after Return Of The Jedi, duh!
First, I have to absolutely applaud the effort that went into recreating the feel of the old trilogy with the settings, production design, music, practical effects and basically every single detail you love about the classic movies. You will find yourself with a huge grin when you see BB-8 rolling around for the first time because you know, it is a real robot driving through real sand. There are creatures that look so real that your mind will try to fool you “oh that’s clearly CGI”. There is one creature in particular on Jakku drinking out of a water pool that people I was with thought it may have been CGI. I assure you, it was practical because I saw behind the scene footage back in 2014 where this creature clearly was a real prop.
There was another character in the first act in a trading outpost that I am still not sure, if his face is a real mask or CGI. Of course we also have some CGI creatures in the movie, but what I’m trying to get across here is that this time the blend of practical effects with CGI works so good, that sometimes you are not sure anymore what is real and what not. You just believe everything. The illusion works almost perfectly and that’s how it should be. In fact, there are two major CG characters that almost stick out because everything around them is practical, or a blend of both.
The production design is fantastic. We have the First Order which of course are the successors of the Empire. Everything about the First Order (and the Resistance as well) looks like a natural evolution from what we have seen before.
While the stormtroopers look sleeker and little bit more advanced, you believe that that’s how they would progress after 30 years. We have stormtroopers with blasters, stormtroopers with anti riot equipment, stormtroopers with flamethrowers, snow troopers and much more.
The TIE fighters also got an overhaul. Not only are their pilots more capable, but the TIE’s itself seem more menacing than ever. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I love their new features.
But what was old stays old. It is so much fun to see our favourite starship in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon, and the characters playing on the fact that it looks and works so retro.
Back to the stormtroopers. This time they are also more menacing. The movie actually makes a point to show that these stormtroopers are capable fighters. Man, my favourite moment of the movie actually showcases that there are quite some badass warriors among the stormtrooper who have fun fighting in close combat. Plus, there are two set pieces where we get to see stormtrooper squadrons just making a point that you better don’t fuck with these guys cause they will make your life miserable.
The movie gets the environment and overall atmosphere right. How about our new hero characters?
I will start this off by saying that just with one movie I already found myself to have a new favourite character (besides Han and Lando). It’s Rey! Daisy Ridley as Rey kills it! Star Wars basically continues the tradition of having strong female characters who can watch over themselves. She is our main character and I am very happy about that. It doesn’t always have to be a male character. If there is one thing we learned from movies this year, it’s that women can be just as badass as guys (Mad Max: Fury Road says “hi”). Btw. I’m calling it now. Daisy Ridley will be a superstar in the years to come. Also I have a fucking crush on her, no kidding this time. It’s tearing me apart!
Then we have Finn played by John Boyega. Oh my god, he has some of the funniest lines in the movie. Also, he has so much energy, it’s just so much fun to watch him on screen. But it is even more fun to watch him and Daisy Ridley together because their chemistry is off the charts. Without even saying a word you instantly know that these two actors had so much fun on set. I can’t wait for the upcoming movies just because of these two actors alone.
Then we have Poe Dameron played by Oscar Isaac. Oscar Isaac is one of the more familiar new actor additions to Star Wars and you know he is gonna bring it. But even with Poe Oscar Isaac will surprise you because it’s a character I have Oscar Isaac never seen playing before. Poe is such a badass pilot, but to my surprise not the cocky kind of type. How many times have we seen people being good at something and turning cocky and arrogant because of it? Not with Poe. This dude is such a nice guy, you just want to hang out with him and have a beer. He is so likeable, something we have not experienced in the Star Wars universe before, at least with our human side characters. He will lift you up when you are in your absolute lowest. He just seems like a great leader among the X-Wing pilots who will not leave anybody behind in battle. While his role is rather small, the substance behind it makes you wanting so much more. Can’t wait what he will bring in the following films.
My absolute highlight though of the entire film is BB-8. This little robot steals every scene he is in. Man, it will instantly win your heart. Some of us were afraid that this robot may be a little too cute for the film, and while there are some cute moments, it just works perfectly. Every scene BB-8 was in I had a huge smile on my face. Especially all the scenes between him and Finn are amazing. I feel like I want to get every single BB-8 toy right now because of how awesome that little robot is.
Last but not least, we have one of our two CG characters, motion captured by Lupita Nyong’o. It’s Maz Kanata, a bar owner housing quite a few sketchy aliens. I really enjoyed all the scenes with Maz Kanata, and while she is one of the few CGI creatures in the movie that stand out because it’s CG, it only took me out for a second because her performance is really good and you are interested in everything she says. Plus, she has some of the most important lines in the movie which give the most background to our new characters. I am very interested on where they’re going to take her role next.
Let’s move over to our villains for a little bit.
We have General Hux played by Domhnall Gleeson. I really like his role. While definitely not the stand out, he did a great job of portraying a young ambitious general who has more history to him than it seems. There is one particular line in the movie between him and Kylo Ren exposing a little bit of his background and it sound very intriguing. There is definitely more to be said about this guy.
Then we have Supreme Leader Snoke, another full CG character motion captured and voiced by the great Andy Serkis, who also did the motion capturing and voicing for characters like Gollum, King Kong 2009 and Cesar from the Rise Of Planet Of The Apes and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. While I admire the fact they want to create an interesting CGI character, I felt like it wasn’t really necessary. I don’t want to spoil anything because Disney purposefully left him out of any marketing material, but let me just say that I thought it could have been done with a costume and a few tweaks here and there to his design. But that’s not to say that the character isn’t interesting. He very much is one of the most shrouded characters and that’s very good. We don’t want to know a lot about him because he is not the focus of this particular film. But he damn looks evil as hell.
The focus of this movie’s villains is Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver. Holy shit, what an interesting bad guy! You thought he is gonna be Darth Vader 2.0. No, he absolutely is not. He is so much different. While he wears this mechanical mask, which btw. has a huge purpose when you understand what the character is all about, his motivations and where he comes from seem very much different as well. Of course, the majority of his background is not revealed in this movie and that’s very good. You don’t want to blow all your ammo with he first film. I just can’t wait where they will go with this character. Adam Driver just fits the part perfectly and I can’t imagine anybody else in this role. Also, the stuff that he does in this movie sets him up for some really emotional stuff coming at us in the following films.
Last, we have Captain Phasma played by Gwendoline Christie. Ok, this is my first negative. While I love her design and her part in the film, she just doesn’t do much. Besides a few commanding lines she kind of get’s wasted. I don’t know if they have planned more with her in the upcoming film or not (it’s hard to say after watching this one), but if they do, they really need to amp it up a little. Otherwise, it would just be a waste and that would make me very sad. Yes, it would! She just looks too amazing in her badass chrome armor 😛
Now, let’s talk about maybe the most anticipating part of the review. How are our old heroes from the classic trilogy?
I have to be very careful here to not to spoil anything. But let me just say that Han Solo and Chewbacca are fucking terrific. I was a little worried about Harrison Ford because over the years he hasn’t been very keen about Star Wars and reprising his role as Han Solo. But it seems like he embraced his character and delivered one of the most fun performances in years. You totally forget about Harrison Ford because it is in fact Han Solo you are watching on screen. It feels like he has never been gone.
Carrie Fischer as Princess Leia, while not as prominent as Han, also is great. The scenes between her and Han bring you right back to the classic trilogy. Everything we got to know about these two comes right back. Without spoiling, their scenes together are really sweet and emotional. I love all of it.
I can’t talk about Luke Skywalker without spoiling anything. So, let’s move that part into the spoiler section at the end.
Now, how was the plot?
This one is very tricky. First of all, as said above, all the people involved did a phenomenal job with bringing us back to the classic feel of the original trilogy. That’s what we all wanted, right – or maybe not?! The plot feels very familiar, maybe too familiar. There are sections in the film that feel very much like a remake of the first Star Wars, while other sections are fresh and bring a lot of new things into the lore. I think the most negative point for me about this movie is that the 3rd act feels very much like a copy. But I can’t go further into detail. That’s why I will call SPOILERS! Everything I say from now on you should only read if you have seen the movie!
Familiarity is a tricky thing because you can view it as a positive or a negative. The plot is definitely heavily inspired by the first Star Wars. We basically have a 3rd Death Star called Star Killer base and this time it’s built into a planet. Now, I am having a big problem here. The idea that a super weapon is built into a planet is awesome. I love it. But the fact, that it operates in a very similar way to the usual death star i don’t like because it’s basically just copying and pasting from the first movie. Only difference, this time we don’t destroy a single planet, but entire systems. Again, I don’t think that’s necessary a bad thing that the base can destroy an entire system at once, I just feel like at least they could have made it a little different the way they get destroyed. Do we really need a laser for that? Also, the fact that it splits into 5 different cases kind of makes no sense to me, but ok, it’s phantasy. But still… Anyway, that was really my only major gripe with the story structure. Yes, I wanted the feel of the original movies, but that doesn’t mean I want an exact copy of it. Another thing I wasn’t entirely in love with was the music. Yes, I was hoping that Kylo Ren would be a Skywalker family member. I love that it is Han’s and Leia’s son and I love love love the fact that he kills his father, Han. Speaking of old characters, let’s talk about Luke. I can’t believe I haven’t talked about the lightsaber battles yet. They were fantastic!! Another thing that I heard was, how does Rey know how to pilot the Falcon and how to repair it.
The other problem with Star Killer base is that it gets destroyed. Well, of course it needs to get destroyed because it’s evil, but it seems to me like the bad guys just didn’t learn anything from the previous movies. How many times does it take for them to learn not to build a giant weapon/station because it gets destroyed every time. Stop it Empire, i mean, First Order!
But then again, maybe that was the entire plan of The First Order. As you know, the weapon drains the sun to get the power it needs to fire. So, when there is no sun, there is no power to fire. The movie tells us that two shots with the weapon drains the sun it is orbiting next to.
Maybe Supreme Leader Snoke just wanted to build a weapon he can use once to destroy the centre of the new republic, which he ultimately does. Now that the Republic is gone, the Resistance has no backing and, therefore, is weakened tremendously.
On the other hand, I am willing to forgive Lucasfilm, if the following two movies will take us to places we never went before and this movie ultimately is used as a catalyst to jump back into the universe we love.
I think it is a way for Disney to say “hey, we know that you hate the Prequels and while we don’t want to reboot the franchise, we want to bring you back to something you loved in the first place, so we can slingshot from there into territories we have not yet explored.”
Maybe Lucasfilm wanted to build a strong foundation for the new Trilogy first and make sure not to fuck it up. Yes, they played it safe because they knew, if they fuck this one up, there would be no going back and all the 4 billion $ they spent to acquire the license from George Lucas will be wasted.
Also, another reason for doing it this way may be that they want to bring in a new generation Star Wars fans into the mix by kind of recreating what most of us have experienced in the 70’s. While I would have rather preferred to go into a new direction story-wise, I must let go from my selfishness a little bit and knowledge that there are younger fans who may want to experience the original Star Wars in a fresh way.
No matter what the motivation behind these decisions were, it doesn’t diminish the fact that this movie is amazing and can stand on its own. Yes, it may be too familiar in places, but isn’t that what we were asking for? And let’s be honest with ourselves. We got the first Star Wars movie since 1983 that we don’t have to feel embarrassed about. Finally, Star Wars is back on track and isn’t that an accomplishment in itself?
When we look back in a few years and we know the big picture of the entire trilogy, this movie might work better as an homage to the original Star Wars. After all, Star Wars from 1977 changed our lives forever.
Wait what?! Am I crazy? Even the Prequels had great music! It’s John Williams man! Ho dare I criticise John freakin’ Williams?!
Ok, let me rephrase. I thought the music this time wasn’t as great as before. That’s not to say that it wasn’t good. It just didn’t stand out as much. I like my Star Wars music and any other cinema score to stand on its own. After all, people who know me know that I have a sensitive ear for music in general and it is very important to me.
There just weren’t any new themes that stuck out besides Rey’s theme that I fucking love and of course all the old themes from the classic trilogy. Btw. I’m so glad none of the themes from the Prequels got used because that would have thrown me out of the movie and brought back horrible memories.
But it is definitely a surprise because I thought, if there was just one thing I can count on to be amazing, then it would be the music.
Well, it was good, but there were better things f.ex. Kylo Ren, or shall I say Ben Solo? smile emoticon
The scene between him and Han was so good and gave us so much information about Kylo Ren and why he is so different from Darth Vader or Anakin Skywalker for that matter. This guy is struggling! He is not evil, but he is not good either. He is in conflict with himself and the way Adam Driver portrays him in this scene is phenomenal! You can really feel that his soul wants to escape the dark side, but his body won’t let him.
Also the fact that he wears a helmet perfectly conveys that. He obviously is very self aware about his struggles, so he wears a helmet to make sure none of these emotions about his doubt get out in front of his soldiers and the other officers because that would make him appear weak, not to mention that he is pretty young and his face looks more harmful than intimidating. I love that! It makes him so layered and just very intriguing. I can’t wait where the story is going to progress with him, especially after what he does to Han.
On the one hand we want to hate him for killing Han, the most beloved characters in all of Star Wars for most people, but on the other hand, we feel sorry for him and we want him to escape the dark side because we feel sorry for him. Whereas Vader didn’t give us a face we could identify with, Kylo Ren feels very human. Oh man, even writing this makes me so excited for the upcoming film and his character. That’s a sort of depth we always wanted to see with Anakin Skywalker but never got in the Prequels.
Btw. when Kyle Ren gets pissed off, he really is pissed off. He is not whining like a little bitch, as Anakin was in the Prequels, but he fucks shit up. The scenes where he snaps out of anger are so amazing. It’s another reason why he is not Vader 2.0. Vader would have never snapped. Vader remains calm and keeps his composure. He will kill somebody to demonstrate his power and to intimidate people who are watching. Kylo on the other hand just snaps and releases his anger on anything around him. He is not in control of his emotions as Vader is.
One more thing I want to say about Han’s death though. I wish JJ Abrams would have found a way to make his death just a little bit more emotional. I kinda would have liked to see the Resistance having a symbolic funeral because I never felt the emotional weight about the loss of Han.
However, if the next movie starts with the Resistance or New Republic mourning over his death, then I will forgive that. I just need to cry a little because we lost Han, that’s all wink emoticon
Also, it would be the perfect time to bring in a pissed off Lando Calrissian into Episode VIII who can’t think about anything else, but avenging his friends’ death accompanied by a really pissed off Chewbacca! That would be a-fucking-mazing!
I will tell you, the most amazing thing I thought about the film was how they handled Luke. Speaking about making ballsy decisions. I know some people will bitch about Luke being in the movie for only one minute total without any dialogue. But if you consider that the movie ultimately is about finding Luke in order to help the fight against the dark forces of the First Order, you have to acknowledge that anything else would have been a mistake, especially when considering that this is the first part of a trilogy.
Again, you don’t want to use all your aces from the beginning. Let’s safe something for later. Besides, to be honest with you, I didn’t miss Luke. We have an amazing Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia to bring in the nostalgia we want. C3PO and R2D2 also have some small little scenes, so where was Luke to even suppose to fit in?
We have a bunch of amazing new characters. We didn’t need Luke. Now that Han Solo is gone we can bring in Luke and Lando to fill in that gap, while developing the new generation of characters further. I thought everything regarding Luke’s role in the movie was handled perfectly. Bravo to Disney and Lucasfilm for not giving in to the seduction of overusing the classic cast of characters.
I have heard some nitpicking about why Finn and Rey can use a lightsaber.
First of all, Finn can’t use a lightsaber! Have you seen how he handles himself in the two lightsaber battles he is in?
First, he gets owned by a stormtrooper using a riot bat. If that isn’t already enough, he gets almost killed by an injured Kylo Ren in the span of a minute roughly.
How about Rey? Well, I wouldn’t exactly call her being good with a lightsaber. Have you watched the fight against her and Kylo Ren? She is defending the entire time. She is retreating so much that eventually Kylo wis able to trap her at the cliff. It’s only because of her force powers which she begins to discover that she is able to fight back at the very end.
But as I said, Kylo is injured AND the movie even acknowledges that she is growing stronger with the force. Kylo Ren says himself after he discovers that she escaped her prison, “The longer it takes us to find her, the more dangerous she becomes.” That’s right. The longer she is aware of her powers, the better she will get controlling them in a very amateur way of course.
And btw. she carries a god damn stab with her all the time which she uses to fight off guys who are trying to steal her BB-8 unit on Jakku. Any bells ringing? 😛
First, she says she is a pilot.
Second, have you noticed what she does for a living? She scavenges mechanical parts from crashed battleships. Of course she knows quite a bit about mechanics and technology. Just because she is a girl doesn’t mean she is a greenhorn. Finn on the other hand, he is a greenhorn. He knows how to use a blaster though.
Familiarity is a tricky thing because you can view it as a positive or a negative. The plot is definitely heavily inspired by the first Star Wars. We basically have a 3rd Death Star called Star Killer base and this time it’s built into a planet. Now, I am having a big problem here. The idea that a super weapon is built into a planet is awesome. I love it. But the fact, that it operates in a very similar way to the usual death star i don’t like because it’s basically just copying and pasting from the first movie. Only difference, this time we don’t destroy a single planet, but entire systems. Again, I don’t think that’s necessary a bad thing that the base can destroy an entire system at once, I just feel like at least they could have made it a little different the way they get destroyed. Do we really need a laser for that? Also, the fact that it splits into 5 different cases kind of makes no sense to me, but ok, it’s phantasy. But still…
Anyway, that was really my only major gripe with the story structure. Yes, I wanted the feel of the original movies, but that doesn’t mean I want an exact copy of it.
Another thing I wasn’t entirely in love with was the music.
Yes, I was hoping that Kylo Ren would be a Skywalker family member. I love that it is Han’s and Leia’s son and I love love love the fact that he kills his father, Han.
Speaking of old characters, let’s talk about Luke.
I can’t believe I haven’t talked about the lightsaber battles yet. They were fantastic!!
Another thing that I heard was, how does Rey know how to pilot the Falcon and how to repair it.
So, here you have it, my super ass long The Force Awakens review.
I love watching this movie (that’s why I have done it 3 times + already) and while I think there are some flaws, or let’s say, things that I would have done differently, I think it’s a very good movie that has restored the Star Wars franchise to heights which have been long forgotten.
Disney, Lucasfilm, JJ, Kathleen Kennedy, Lawrence Kasdan, they all did a marvellous job to make us excited about Star Wars again. Let’s not forget, the task they had to accomplish was tremendous. Other people would have collapsed under this weight of expectations and responsibility.
Fun fact: Did you know that JJ at first didn’t want to accept the job because he felt that it may destroy his career? Speaking about feeling pressure. It took Kathleen Kennedy quite a while to change his mind.
Now look at what we got. We have an awesome new Star Wars movie that we will be able to pop into our BluRay player and get emerged into Star Wars, the first time since 1983. So, while the movie will not receive the perfect score from my end, I can’t feel more joy right now about the fact that Disney saved the biggest movie franchise in history. Let’s give them the applause they deserve.
Disney, you saved my Childhood. May the force be with you! <3