Like any Hollywood picture, all films are subjective. There are many movies out there where the general audience will declare a film to be great, good, bad, or simply horrible. Star Wars: The Force Awakens I believe is that kind of picture. While the majority of people say good or great things about it, others may say they left the theater disappointed or wanting more. And then there are those who are just plain dumb and say the film is garbage. I am gladly not one of those people.
For most, J.J. Abrams has reinvigorated this beloved franchise for Star Wars fans. But it’s not just those die-hard fans he was applying it to. Children will now grow up watching these films as I did the prequels (I don’t hate on them like most simply because they were a part of my childhood memories).
Star Wars has left an iconic following not just in North America, but around the world. As soon as you mention the words Star Wars, most people will tell you their film going experience or just how much they enjoy being a part of the culture. Others might tell you it was an idea that Ronald Reagan had for our future defense force (he clearly took the name directly from the popularity of the films). Overall, Star Wars has meant a lot to this generation and for generations to come.
It was to no surprise that the anticipation for this film was sky high. Surely no one would believe that it could possibly be better than any of the originals (at least in my opinion), but fans simply wanted a good film that felt like Star Wars again. And with that, I have to say that Abrams knocked it out of the park.
Having said all of that I’d like to give you my feelings on the movie including five reasons I loved it, and five things that I wished had been better. Before you read any further I will say that you should have seen the film by now. If you haven’t (and why not?), then please check out some of my other articles. So here are my thoughts on the film as a whole…
But first, let’s get to some of the issues I had with the film...
Captain Phasma’s Role
I’d like to start this list by giving you my thoughts on one of the most highly marketed characters for this film who’s not named Finn, Rey, Kylo Ren, BB-8, or Han Solo. That character would be Captain Phasma.
Captain Phasma portrayed by Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie was one of the most hyped villains for The Force Awakens. Aside from Rey, Phasma was another female character who many speculated would play a big part in this film and rightfully so. I mean c’mon she looks so damn cool in that chrome trooper armor!
But what was her role exactly? That’s what I’d like to know. With all the marketing surrounding Lucasfilm including toys, posters, and word of mouth, Phasma was surely going to steal the show. However, fans expecting more from Phasma will leave highly disappointed. Phasma’s role was downplayed tremendously but at least we can go into Episode VIII expecting her to have a larger role. A few weeks ago Phasma was confirmed to be in the sequel. But it’s not her screen time in Episode VII that bothered me but rather how her character was utilized in the film.
Christie earlier referred to her character as a Boba Fett type of villain which in a sense is accurate. However, her role was completely different from Fett’s character. Fett had a reason to be in Empire Strikes Back. His role was simple: to take Han Solo’s carbonite body to Jabba the Hutt for ransom. So even though Fett may have been in the film for under three minutes, he at least had a purpose for being there. Phasma on the other hand did not. The film could have easily been just as good without her. She was clearly wasted in this film however I expect bigger things from the actor as well as the next few directors who are taking up the mantle after Abrams departs.
Unnecessary Use of CGI
This one is nitpicking a bit. There are quite a few scenes in the movie where I felt the use of practical effects would have been more efficient. That’s not to say the film didn’t need any CGI (it had a ton), but some of the creatures would have looked more real and less artificial had practical effects been used. Some of the scenes I am referring to include the alien near the beginning who was accepting resellable parts or artifacts as payment from Rey, one of the Resistance pilots, and the entire sequence of octopus like creatures who attacked Han, Chewie, Rey, Finn, and the pirates on that ship. That whole scene took me out of the film a little bit mostly because all of the other creatures had been practical up until this point.
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Felt Too Much Like 'A New Hope'
I’ve been hearing and reading a lot of backlash on this film where people are saying that The Force Awakens pays too much homage to the movie that started it all. Those same people also hate on the prequels so when J.J. crafted a film that was more like the originals and less like the prequels, people were still complaining. Make up your mind people!
Clearly there are many elements in which to compare both films however Abrams and company did a fantastic job creating their own adventure with new characters and planets to explore. For the most part, the film is a standalone movie with many direct elements from the original trilogy including the humor, dialogue, action, and the overall tone that the blockbuster movies did well. However what bothered me the most about this film was what the Resistance had to combat against and that was Starkiller Base.
I’ll go more into detail about Starkiller Base in my next point but what I will say is that the last thirty minutes of the film felt very evocative to the Death Star trench run from A New Hope. Not only was the Resistance plan similar to the plan of the Rebels from A New Hope (shoot at some exhaust port to blow it up), but the entire scene showcasing their meeting was pretty much the same exact thing. Even Admiral Ackbar makes a cameo to give his input on their mission. Other than that, Abrams did a great job with the action set pieces if only he hadn’t made everything so similar.
The look of Starkiller Base was simply astounding. Somehow, The First Order was able to create a giant killing machine built on the inside of a planet made of ice (not named Hoth). We saw the destruction that this base can cause. The base gets it’s source of power directly from the sun and is able to harness that energy and release it creating devastation in its path. The Force Awakens showed that power shortly after General Hux gave his motivational speech. Starkiller base is not only able to obliterate one planet but multiple planets at once! While Starkiller Base itself is cool to look at, the problem I had with it was that it lasted in just ONE movie!
In A New Hope and in Return of the Jedi, both Death Stars lasted in just those two films. In The Force Awakens, we are introduced to a brand new “Death Star” and once again it last’s only ONE movie. Why is it so hard for something so large to last in multiple films? Starkiller Base had a lot of potential to be a MAJOR threat for the Resistance to combat in future films. Once again, someone got their hands on the bases’ blueprints and was able to figure out its weakness.
For me, it was an easy cop out for the writers to create something that the Resistance would have to battle against at the end of the film. My only question now is what’s next? We’ve had two Death Stars and a planet sized Death Star! I wonder how long it took the The First Order to build that weapon in the first place?
Kylo Ren’s Motivation
First and foremost I want to say that I LOVED the villain Adam Driver portrayed as the main antagonist in The Force Awakens. He was a different kind of villain one in which we can sympathize with, well sort of. The main issue I had with Kylo Ren was that the film didn’t describe his backstory in detail as much as I would have hoped. Kylo Ren clearly has a temper tantrum and that’s an element that was shown beautifully by having him destroy part of the computer controls using his red cross-guarded lightsaber. This was an action that Lucas failed to give us in any of the prequels. Instead of showing Hayden Christenson all pissed off while destroying things, we had to hear him complain how the sandpeople were slaughtered “like animals” hearing him whine the entire scene. Clearly actions speak louder than words in this case.
Having now seen the film you have learned that Kylo Ren’s real name is Ben Solo, the son of both Han and Leia. However, I didn’t quite completely understand the reasoning behind Ren’s motivation in the film. What was the reason he turned to the darkside and wanted to finish what Vader started? We now know that the task Ren is referring to is the continuing onslaught of the Jedi specifically Luke Skywalker. The First Order are tasked to finish the extermination which is why we learn that the stormtroopers have been trained to fight those who know how to wield a lightsaber. The First Order understand that blasters will not get the job done so what have they done to partially resolve the situation? Well, they train the stormtroopers to use hand to hand combat when necessary.
Another marketing tool that the film glossed over were the Knights of Ren. Who were they exactly? What was their sole purpose? I look forward to seeing Ben Solo’s character expanded upon in future films. Could he possibly switch back to the light side since that was where he began his journey with Luke Skywalker? Maybe, but all those questions won’t be answered as quickly as some may have hoped.
Now to talk about the things I really enjoyed about this film...
Among other things, Abrams did a fantastic job bringing back the right humor to the franchise. No longer are we witnessing the likes of a Jar Jar Binks type of character that made us all shake our heads or role our eyes every moment he was on screen. Abrams was able to cautiously give us humor that was not laugh out loud humor but rather payed homage to what we loved dearly from the originals.
One of the scenes that stood out to me was when BB-8 showed us his lighter giving audiences a thumbs up. Another scene was at the very beginning when Poe Dameron mentioned to Kylo Ren that he couldn’t understand him while he was wearing his mask. But the real gem of a scene started when Rey, Finn, and BB-8 were running from The First Order’s string of TIE Fighters. As Rey calls out to Finn claiming she is a pilot, a TIE Fighter destroys the ship they were attempting to embark on. However, the fighters blew up Rey’s ship so “unfortunately” they instead had to take the “garbage” one. That hunk a junk ship was non other than the Millennium Falcon. The audience in the theater immediately erupted with cheers and it was a great moment for die-hard fans of the franchise.
The Practical Effects
Don’t get me wrong, CGI is a wonderful tool to use WHEN NEEDED. That was part of the problem the prequels had was that most of it looked artificial.
“Real sets. Practical Effects. You’ve been here, but you don’t know this story. Nothings changed really, I mean everything’s changed but nothings changed. That’s the way you want it to be really.” -Mark Hamill
Those were the words Luke Skywalker himself iterated in the Comic Con footage that was released back in July. And boy did the effects not disappoint.
From the costumes to the giant creatures, the use of practical effects worked brilliantly much like it did in the originals. Even the filming locations were REAL places with very few green screens used in the making of the film. Most of the sets were hand built so it didn’t appear as artificial as it could have been. Abrams did a great job promising fans that this movie would go back to the Star Wars roots and would start by using real locations, custom built sets, and realistic looking creature costumes.
The swash-buckling smuggler may have aged many years but that didn’t stop the actor from giving us one of his best performances. Ford lived and breathed the role of Han Solo from start to finish. If you’ve seen most or all of the interviews he has had recently you can tell how much passion he had to partake in the ongoing journey as Han Solo. When Jimmy Kimmel asked him a few weeks ago if he was glad that his character had survived the events of the original films, Ford responded with an affirmative “yes.”
Even though we now know that Ford won’t be back to play Solo again, he at least gave us a memorable performance. All of his promotions such as Force For Change, certainly helped push the marketing for this film (as if the film needed any more publicity). But it wasn’t just the advertising but the motivational steps taken by Ford. Every time he was on camera including interviews, he couldn’t wait to talk about The Force Awakens.
Ford is not a person who thoroughly enjoys interviews or promoting his own films, but this time was much different. Ford was able to relive a character he played more than thirty years ago. Sure he played Indiana Jones again in Spielberg’s fourth installment, but Ford acted like Ford, NOT the iconic character of Indiana Jones. However, for The Force Awakens, he looked like he had a lot of fun during production even though there were a few setbacks including the time when a piece of the Millennium Falcon fell and broke his ankle.
I will miss seeing Ford as Solo, but at least he went out knowing he retired a much beloved character from a galaxy far far away.
The Final Lightsaber Duel
The final lightsaber battle near the conclusion of the movie was shot perfectly. The duel felt like that of the originals where it did not seem choreographed at all. Even though I really enjoyed the lightsaber duels from the prequels, they felt too choreographed. It was almost as if you knew who was going to strike next and how the other character(s) were going to defend themselves. The scenes I’m directly referring too were Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace and Anakin Skywalker vs Obi-Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith.
This duel on the other hand felt more like a hack and slash duel much like the originals were when Luke faced Vader. Luke may have become stronger in the Force, but he still slashed through his enemies to get the job done with his trusty lightsaber.
All those battles were full of emotion. That’s what made the stakes feel so intense. Even after Kylo Ren was injured from Chewbacca's bowcaster and exhausted from fighting Finn, Rey's ambition to defeat Ben proved to be the deciding factor of the battle.
The New Cast
This new trilogy of films certainly have started off on the right foot. Star Wars: The Force Awakens cast of John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver gave us fans a tremendous performance. All of these actors are up and coming stars and proved to have been the right fit to take part in the Star Wars universe for years to come.
With a cast this solid, Star Wars is in good hands. Though it may seem obvious, my favorite performance of the film was Daisy Ridley who appears to be the next Skywalker type of character (could she be somehow related?) Boyega also gave us a great performance as a stormtrooper who left The First Order and helped our heroes to victory.
Oscar Isaac played the lead Resistance pilot named Poe Dameron. Every scene that he was in stole the show for me. I hope the writers give us more back story on his character in the future installments of the franchise. Adam Driver also gave us a great villain in Kylo Ren who we learn is Han and Leia’s child.
The future surely is bright for this franchise. So far, everything Disney and Lucasfilm have done thus far has been impressive. From the marketing to the actual film, Star Wars has a light at the end of the tunnel. Who would have thought ten years ago that we would have been getting more Star Wars films?
Overall, I had a really great time at the movies. Was Star Wars: The Force Awakens a perfect film? Of course not. Just because it’s a Star Wars film, doesn’t mean it’s without flaws. Every major Hollywood movie has flaws and The Force Awakens is no exception. We can all rest assured knowing that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is worth seeing multiple times. It’s a fun time at the movies and I plan on seeing it again and again and again.
I’m going to give Star Wars: The Force Awakens an 8/10. What did you like/dislike about the movie? Did you agree with any of the points on my list? Are you more excited for Rogue One or Episode VIII? I’d like to hear your thoughts below and please share. Finally, I’d also like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays!
Sources: Creamer's Cinema Craze