*Depending on how strictly you take the term “spoilers,” there may be some small ones in the text below. However, nothing factual about the plot of the movie will give any more away than the Star Wars crew has in the past several months. Nonetheless, you have been warned.*
I’m not a Star Wars mega-fan. Heck, I only watched the trilogies a few months ago and chronicled my intergalactic journey for your reading pleasure. Maybe that makes me the worst candidate for the role of reviewer; I don’t have a deep rooted love affair with the franchise. But, maybe my parity makes me the ideal choice.
I appreciate Star Wars and enjoyed all six films (yes, all of them) to extents ranging from moderately to extremely when I watched them all over the summer. I cannot thank the franchise enough for bringing Sci-Fi to the point where it is today, and I acknowledge how impressive the films were for their times, and how impressive they still are to this day. Although I am far from a Star Wars nut, I do have a new-found love for the series.
So with that preface in writing, I can say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is everything that it could and should have been. It is the sequel the fans have been looking for, and it is a spectacular film that perfectly captures the essence of the classic films while thrusting the series into a new age. Episode VII expertly ties together the best qualities of the original with the innovation it needs to make itself unique and worthy of the Star Wars name.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens pits new characters Finn, Poe, BB-8 and Rey against Kylo Ren and the rest of the First Order. Even so, some things never change: the Dark Side wars against the Light Side, and both sides have warriors and heroes that stand in the way. Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3P0, and more icons all make their returns – and fans couldn’t be happier.
In my theater, and in ones all across the nation, the crowd roared and clapped like no other when Han and Chewie made their first appearance. Make no mistake, the fans are ecstatic to relive their childhoods and their pasts.
Episode VII does an incredible job of playing with those nostalgic memories while still creating new ones. It’s great to see Han again, but the film still makes us care about Finn and Rey. In fact, these new characters and plenty of others are complex and well-rounded. They just fit. They are right where they belong in the Star Wars universe. They feel organic and authentic.
BB-8 is just adorable. He’s not an R2-D2 rip-off; he’s a well thought out character that, once again, just fits. He can emote incredibly well, thanks to his design, and he’s an interesting tag-along.
Kylo Ren isn’t a Darth Vader clone. He’s his own man and has an interesting story. He’s certainly the most complex and intriguing of all the film-based Star Wars foes. There’s something else notable about him worth mentioning, but you’ll just have to see that for yourself.
Many other complex and mysterious characters abide on the Dark Side of the Force, and the coming episodes will surely flesh them out more. The character development in The Force Awakens hits that sweet spot that so many films fail to hit: it tells the fans just enough to clue them into what they need to while still letting their imaginations run wild while awaiting the next installment.
Nods to the past abound in the characters as well. New characters exude qualities of their predecessors, but like everything else in the movie, they do so in moderation. The blend of old and new is very present in characters all over.
The same can be said for aesthetics, locations, plot points, and more. The films beautifully mix the old with the new. The mashup is graceful and tasteful; even in Kylo Ren’s much-discussed light-saber. In fact, the design works well and makes a lot of sense once it’s seen in battle. Doubters of the new and unorthodox design should keep an open mind.
On that note, the saber sequences also find a middle ground. They aren’t as choreographed and practiced as the battles of the prequels, but they aren’t as dry and stiff as in the original trilogy. They are passionate, brutal, fast, furious and heavy. Each battle feels like an entire war going on between two foes, and the magnitude of each spar resonates in the viewer.
Well-placed easter eggs are clever enough to be funny and nostalgic while still fitting into the grand scheme of things: throwbacks from cantina scenes to certain shiny things aren’t forced in The Force Awakens, nor are they found in an overabundance. But they certainly are funny and rewarding.
This is another aspect that the film nails perfectly. The humor is well written and fits the mood of the film. Poe is a jokester but isn’t a Han clone. BB-8 is cute and laughable but isn’t cheesy. The humor doesn’t break serious situations, nor is it flat, crude or otherwise out of place. The Force Awakens is certainly the funniest in the series, and it does so with a rare dosage of balance and grace.
The overall dialogue is stunning as well. Scenes are well written, and the lines are expertly executed in nearly all scenarios. The facial expressions are lively, vibrant and are worth more than a thousand words in many circumstances. The body language is as effective as the spoken dialogue, which is once again a feat.
The bigger picture shows an overarching story-line that is both satisfying and interesting. It hooks the viewer and has just enough mystery to leave everyone wanting more in future installments. Make no mistake: the plot is solid, but for the sake of spoilers, the description will go no further.
And of course, a Star Wars film would be nothing without special effects. They’re just out of this world (quite literally). The CGI models show incredible detail, and the action is gorgeous. Everything looks so real that it’s impossible to tell that none of it actually is. The film is a visual masterpiece.
The sound design is outstanding as well. The aircraft, blasters, sabers and droids all hum with classic effects and top notch quality. Battles have levels of authenticity that engross the watcher, as they should. Then there’s the score. Once again, it’s John Williams, and there’s nothing more to say than “it’s magnificent.”
So when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came to a close and the credits rolled, I was satisfied. Gripping plot twists have left me content with what I have seen while leaving me anxiously awaiting the next installment. Untold stories, secrets, and partially undeveloped characters have left me extrapolating; I’m grasping for straws while trying to piece together what I do and don’t know. And that’s just the way Star Wars likes it.
If I absolutely had to nitpick, I would say that I could see a couple moments coming in the story before I was probably supposed to. I might say that certain aspects were the tiniest bit cliche. But really, in the grand scheme of things, these flaws aren’t major enough to really extrapolate upon. They’re there, but barely so.
But there are plenty of reasons to love Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There are moments of triumph and moments of despair; awe-inspiring, hand-to-hand clashes and battles with the self; times of laughter and times of tears; answered questions and open twists; stories of love and stories of hatred, longing, loss and regret. But, hey, that’s Star Wars. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for, it’s finally here, and it’s incredible.