Warning! This review contains serious spoilers! Please leave this page if you do not want to be spoiled!
STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Run time: 135 minutes
Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and John Boyega
So I had the privilege of watching The Force Awakens recently. Overall, I think the movie was well done. The visual effects were very good, the characters were likable (and prone to be disliked), and I enjoyed being immersed in the new climate of the galaxy.
The new characters that J.J. Abrams and George Lucas introduced for Episode VII provided a good contrast I think, similar to the original movies. You have Finn (John Boyega), who is a former Stormtrooper, but decides he hates the First Order, Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scrapper from Jakku, Poe (Oscar Isaac), a pilot for the Resistance, BB-8, Poe’s information-carrying astromech droid and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Sith apprentice and son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). These contrasts are nearly always the beginning of great friendships, and such is the case in The Force Awakens as well.
The premise of the movie is that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared and both the First Order, a conglomeration of Galactic Empire sympathizers, and the Resistance, the new Rebel Alliance, are trying to find him before the other. Poe contains a missing piece of a map that will lead to Luke’s whereabouts, but the First Order locates him and conducts a swift raid before he can escape Jakku. He gives the map fragment to BB-8 who eventually runs into Rey on another part of Jakku.
Meanwhile, Poe has been captured and is being tortured for information. Finn hears about Poe’s plight and decides to help Poe to escape. They crash land on Jakku and Finn assumes Poe to be dead. Finn travels to a nearby settlement and runs into Rey. They are eventually forced to trust each other when a First Order raid comes looking for them and they escape on “garbage” (a.k.a. the Millennium Falcon). This leads to their being found by Han Solo and Chewbacca. After a slight run-in with a couple gangs and dangerous creatures, they make their way to another system to meet up with Resistance sympathizers.
Here, another First Order raid occurs, but the heroes are saved by a Resistance counterattack. However, in the fray, Rey is captured by Kylo Ren. Finn returns with the Resistance to their base and they are forced to stage an attack on the First Order’s superweapon, Starkiller, akin to the Death Star. Han, Chewie, and Finn are sent in to save Rey and weaken the shields of the superweapon where they meet up with Kylo Ren. Han and Ren have a reunion which is promptly interrupted by Han’s death by the hand of his son. Rey and Finn pursue Ren and individually duel with him. Rey turns out to be more powerful and strong in the ways of the force. She severely injures Ren and escapes the planet-sized superweapon with Chewie in the Falcon to return to the Resistance base.
It turns out that Rey’s stay is very brief. After R2-D2 and BB-8 reunite the missing pieces of the map to Luke, Rey leaves with Chewbacca as the Falcon’s new pilot and goes in search of Luke. At the end of the movie, Rey finds Luke and holds out his old lightsaber to him.
Commendations and Criticisms
I really appreciated the marriage between the characters old and new. Han and Finn have multiple great back-and-forths, Han comments that Rey “knows her stuff” more than once, and of course Rey taking Han’s place beside Chewie on the Falcon after Han’s death. Ultimately, I think the new heroes are very likeable, Rey being very matter-of-fact and no nonsense, while Finn is more of the worrier and comic relief. The First Order Stormtroopers look awesome, by the way.
The settings in which the story took place were very well developed. The wreckage of the Galactic Empire’s ships on Jakku was very cool, while the snowy forest environment of the “Death Star planet” was interesting as well.
One thing that I found a little hard to believe was the duel between Finn and Ren. Earlier in the movie, Finn fights a Stormtrooper with a counter-lightsaberish thing but Finn can’t even hit the guy with his more powerful weapon. During the battle between Finn and Ren, Finn lasts a lot longer than one would expect against a well-trained Sith apprentice. I feel the same way about the subsequent duel with Rey. Although I understand that Rey is “strong with the Force,” I don’t think she would be powerful enough to defeat the likes of Kylo Ren.
Another thing is the Buddhist influence in the Star Wars movies. Although The Force Awakens hardly even mentions the Force “binding the universe together,” etc., etc. this is a common theme throughout the films. Having recently watched some other Star Wars films, the influence is much more prominent. But nevertheless, the idea that “God” is an impersonal force and that it can have a “light and dark side” is not Christian in origin whatsoever. However, the fact that there is such recognition of the struggle between good and evil, it’s still worth watching. And, just because it’s Star Wars.
And finally, my biggest issue with The Force Awakens. The plotline is just too similar to the original Star Wars film. I understand that Abrams and Lucas may have done this because their trying to appeal to a newer audience of viewers or that it was a formula that worked in the past. Whatever the case may be, I was really expecting something fresh and new. And while The Force Awakens delivered that in many other ways, the similarity between the plots of A New Hope and The Force Awakens was a bit of a disappointment to me.
To prove my point, allow me to list some of the major similarities between the two movies. In both, there is an “Imperial” raid at the beginning, the vital information is placed in the care of an astromech droid, the suspect of the stolen information is captured and tortured, the suspect is rescued by a “Stormtrooper,” the “Empire” has a large superweapon capable of destroying entire planets and it also has one weakness that can be exploited by X-Wing fighters, a main character on the mission is killed, a character has powers that they did not recognize, etc., etc. You get the picture. This is what disappointed me, but perhaps you won’t find it as much of a letdown as I did. 7.5/10.
 Images courtesy of Lucasfilm and Disney