The latest episode in the Star Wars saga has begun its raid of worldwide movie theater dominance. A whole lot is expected out of this one as many see it as the heroic return for the beloved franchise that last left us with a bitter taste with the fully-controlled George Lucas prequels. And given the fact that Episode VII's box office success is something out of question, this leaves us to question whether the movie itself is that good or not.
Now officially a Disney movie, The Force Awakens is just like how a Disney movie would be: an action packed flick with a little wit sprinkled over it. But being under the Disney umbrella isn't a problem here, in fact, the Star Wars franchise has always had this "heart" that compared it to the Disney projects, the problem is simply that the makers of this movie have taken a lot of things for granted, and heavily counted on the warm reception that a franchise that hasn't been on screen for 10 years would receive. Yes, the audience might be willing to ignore the flaws of Episode VII just because it is Episode VII.
If you're wondering if this is the prequels' case all over again, then worry not. This is not and will not be a sequel trilogy with the quality of the prequel one. This very much still qualifies as a good movie. But if we are to compare the first installments of each trilogy (those being Original,Prequel, and Sequel), this isn't The Phantom Menace, and it isn't A New Hope either, it just falls in between.
With the CGI strong with this one, Episode VII delivers the quality expected from visuals (and you can't really expect any less with today's technology), and reanimates scenes long missed such as Star Destroyers, TIE Fighters, X-Wings, and the one and only Millennium Falcon, all taking flight as well as taking the audience's breaths away. What is really to be admired, though, is how humble the movie is with its use of its CGI capabilities, going back to the old school of practical effects that bring this authentic feel to the aliens, and yet still using computerized effects to bring characters to life that would seem utterly ridiculous if a puppet had been in their place. And by characters I mean Maz Kanata, who instantly gives you the female Yoda vibe with her screen time, and I'm still making my mind on Supreme Leader Snoke...
Not only did the visual presentation of characters like Maz Kanta work smoothly, but also the voices behind such characters and well...the cast in general. With the favorites returning and having nothing to prove, it was the new kids who had everything to prove. The four soon-to-be mega stars John Boyega, Daisey Ridley, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver (with special praise for this one), who played Finn, Rey, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren respectively, proved to have solid performances sharing the screen with our old giants (or mostly one of them, to be precise) and also proved that any short-comings are not because of their portrayals, but because of the way their characters were written.
And boy oh boy, were their characters rushed! And here is where the "taken for granted" part kicks in. This movie has, somehow, made me invest in characters that I have yet to see just through prior promotions than it has through the actual exhibition of those characters. If you really think about it, you have no actual reason to care about any of these new heroes aside from the fact that they hang around with Han Solo. You are just handed their stories as a given without spending enough time to build their special places in your heart as an audience, so if someone asked you to about those new heroes and how you'd relate to them, all you'd say is "girl that kicks ass, good pilot, and righteous comic relief"... and that's pretty much it.
However, the same can't be said about Driver's Kylo Ren. Out of the four new stars, his character has been given justice the most, as it was clearly displayed how the leader of the Knights of Ren was in control of his powers and his use of The Force, while also giving a fresh take on the masked, usually scarred villain, which wasn't the case as a handsome young man was used instead ( I can see you in the back, Kylo Rey shippers!). But unfortunately, Kylo's blood connection added one underused layer to his character that didn't seem to push the plot any further and didn't seem to have any serious repercussions on the remainder of the movie. Anyway, you can easily call Kylo Ren the Anakin Skywalker we never had.
And also, expected death is expected.
And don't even get me started on the never used characters...
Despite the fact that the big names are written before the small ones when the credits roll, this was still very much promoted as a movie carried by the new cast, with the old one being the support. However, the veterans, err... Solo, made the dialogue interesting when you were supposed to be interested by what Finn or Rey had to say. The fact that you kept waiting for an older character to do something on screen and not the a young one instead really says a lot. It shows the heavy dependence on what was already established without using it well enough to carve the new details of potentially great characters. The movie used the anticipation you had for the appearance of your good ol' familiar faces to keep your brain around while the story moves forward, which ultimately worked and culminated in a cliffhanger, but it's that exact cliffhanger that led to the inclusion of the term "Underwhelming" mentioned in the very beginning.
As for the pacing of events, the movie smartly makes you anticipate something major and unexpected to happen, but never actually grants you such a thing.
Poe was never for a split second presumed dead, nor Finn either. The revelation of Ren as Han's and Leia's son was just a matter of ruling out the options. And Han Solo's end was one that has been heavily rumored and long in the talks, but it was neither a shocker nor a fan-pleasing event.
But credit must go to JJ Abrams for giving Episode VII the feel of authenticity it had. From his use of practical sets and effects, to the smart placing of nods and references that remind you why you love Star Wars in the first place. The movie also never shies away from giving you the involuntary goosebumps whenever John Williams hits with his trademark music, something that can add gravity to any scene, even if it was just Po having lunch, and I'm talking about the Telletuby!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn't pay much attention to what was worth paying attention to. It simply couldn't find the perfect balance that uses the old characters as stepping stones for the younger ones so that the latter can carve their places in the hearts of the fans and take over. It has, however, lay hands on very promising aspects upon which will be built in the future. Maybe this first third of the sequel trilogy chose to save a lot for what is next to come, but that still doesn't excuse the movie's lack of ability to close the circle of events in a satisfactory way.