‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Review

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I am a movie fan, not necessarily a “Star Wars” fan. But because I’m a movie fan I’m programmed to be a fan of “Star Wars” despite myself. So here I am the morning after seeing “The Force Awakens” in complete shock, awe, and, more importantly, pure satisfaction.

In short: J.J. Abrams did it. He took the most famous film series of all time and made it great. I’ve had my mental battles with how I feel about “Star Wars” in terms of weirdness, production, and the fact that George Lucas never really did figure out how to tell a damn story. J.J. took everything that made me uneasy about the other six films and made an epic, long-awaited, well-deserved continuation. Lucas’ “Star Wars” was OK. J.J. just made the entire idea of a galaxy far far away great.

And I get that if you’re a SW fan you’re not going to like my opinion. I do not care. I speak for those of us who just want to have a good time at the movies. SW has held up for over 30 years because of the idea that it’s universal. It’s something everyone can find enjoyment in. “The Force Awakens” is easy to enjoy. One of my friends in our group at the Thursday night showing had never seen a single SW film. And she was able to follow TFA and loved it. It takes a lot of labor and love to make something that is so easy to watch, a craft that both J.J. and Disney have perfected.

I’d like to say that I’ll keep this spoiler free, but that’s nearly impossible. If you haven’t seen the film yet, go, and then come back and read the rest of this blog post. If you have seen TFA already, congratulations, and keep reading for the parts of the film I thought J.J. and Disney brought to life the best:

1. The storytelling. I do love the original trilogy, I scoff at the prequels, and I too had high expectations going into TFA. The most important thing to me, of course, was that this movie actually had a plot. Have you ever watched SW and had a million questions as to what the hell was going on? Me too. Most of the time with movies we just shrug it off and keep watching. My biggest issue with SW has always been that there are gaping holes in plot lines. SW has always been more about the cool effects, battles, and mythical magic of The Force than it has been about telling a compelling story. Essentially it’s good vs. evil and nothing else is really that important. For most people it goes unnoticed, but as a writer I often get frustrated when I re-watch the films. I always end up thinking to myself, “Wait. Was that it?” Luke is good. Vader is bad/his dad. Yup, there’s six full movies about it. I was worried then, that TFA would continue the trend with a thin plot, fun characters, and nothing else. But J.J. has clearly been reading this blog and my mind because he gave TFA a sound plot that was simple enough to follow but complex enough to feel like you had something to root for.

2. The new characters. One of the big questions leading up to TFA was what the role of Han, Leia, and Luke would be. At first, I wanted to see them back in action and the main focus of the film. Spoiler ahead: they’re not. They’re supporting characters at best. But the new characters in Poe, Finn, Rey, and new baddie Kylo Ren (Why is Adam Driver so ridiculously amazing all the time?) make up for it. They’re complex and well-drawn. And people, they can actually act! Finn the ex-Stormtrooper is the perfect underdog hero we root for and Rey is the much-wanted female badass Lucas’ SW could never deliver. By the film’s end you’re with these characters 100 percent, and you’re left wanting to know their next chapter.

3. But the old characters are there. Most of the appeal of SW is nostalgia. The entrance of every original character in TFA was met by huge cheering bursts in the theater and rightfully so. Han Solo may have gotten a little older, but he was still full of sass and his pirate ways. Harrison Ford was enjoying the hell out of everything. He mixed well with the new characters, too. Leia was in charge and everything was better because of it. She was older, wiser, and super Jedi-like. Yes, please. The droids were wonderful. C-3PO wasn’t nearly as annoying as he’s been in the past. R2-D2 was sad Luke was missing, but stepped up and outsmarted everyone when he was most needed. Even the “It’s a trap!” fish dude made an appearance and was also met by wild cheering! J.J. succeeded in melding the old world and the exciting new world.

4. The disappearance of Luke. The main goal everyone was working towards in TFA was finding Luke Skywalker. He’d gone missing after Kylo Ren decided to join The Dark Side, fearing it was his fault that he couldn’t teach his Padawan. Although I missed seeing Mark Hamill (I won’t tell you how much or how little he’s in the film) as the center of the franchise, the disappearance of who we believe to be the strongest Jedi was a key detail.

5. Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata. Bravo to J.J. for combining the puppets of the original movies and the effects of the prequels to make a wonderfully balanced viewing experience. I’ve never been a fan of the creepy puppets and aliens running around in SW land. I relate more to humans, please. Again, J.J. must have read my thoughts because although he features plenty, it isn’t overwhelming and gross like Lucas’ films tended to be in spots. NOTE: I’d also like to point out that the women don’t need to wear crazy elaborate costumes in TFA, either. Something Lucas was hella into. Anyways, the best creature of the film is Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata, a wise alien lady who’s an old friend of Han’s, and who instantly sees that Rey (SPOILER) has Jedi powers. She’s not just there as someone’s sick joke. She, pay attention to this one Lucas, is a plot device that leads Rey to discovery. I love when good writing works.

6. Rey learning to use The Force. When Rey is captured by Kylo Ren he tries to pull information from her mind about Luke’s whereabouts. However, Rey quickly discovers that she doesn’t just have the ability to shut him out of her mind, but is also able to read his. Welcome to the world little Jedi! In fact, she’s so badass she learns how to control a Stormtrooper’s mind pretty quickly to escape Ren. Remember how long it took Luke to get the whole Force thing down? Rey shut it down almost instantly.

7. The Daddy issues turned up a level. We know that Darth Vader was Luke and Leia’s father and even though it bothered Luke, he was able to make up with dear old dad in the end. But Driver’s Kylo Ren has much more complex daddy issues. Anakin Skywalker was kind of a hothead. We knew he was going to The Dark Side. But we get to see Ren having doubts about both the Dark and the Light. It’s strangely human and intriguing. And considering we find out (SPOILER) who his family is, his daddy issues make everything 10 times more urgent.

8. Rey’s epic lightsaber battle. All I want to say here is that it’s utterly refreshing that in the big lightsaber battle it’s the girl that faces the baddie and rocks it.

9. The laughs. Humor is one of my favorite things and J.J. displaces it throughout TFA during the moments we need it most. Laughs are made from jokes about the originals as well as Finn’s obvious crush on Rey. In fact, Finn pretty much kills it in the comedy department as does Han Solo, of course. Some of my favorite dramas have some of the cleverest jokes.

10. The death that needed to happen. Someone dies. Someone that you love. I cried several times throughout the movie, but when this particular moment happened I could barely see through my tears. But then I realized that the death was necessary for the franchise to move forward and for the new characters to fully take over. I won’t say who, mainly because I’m still in denial, but killing the character was absolutely the right choice by J.J.

11. BB-8.
Dear Lord,

May I live long enough to someday live in a technologically advanced society where I can have my own droid just like BB-8. Sweet, kind, clever, and totally loyal. I want to laugh with him, respect his courage, and protect his adorableness from anyone who tries to harm him. He’s my new favorite character.

Amen.

 

Look for more “The Force Awakens” coverage next week with another appearance by guest blogger Ruth Ronnau!

 

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