Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review (Mild Spoilers)

Well, the biggest film of 2015 has now come and gone. I have had my tickets for the past 2 months, and I have been waiting for this film for a long, long time. The big question on everyone’s mind is: does it live up to the hype? It does, and it does not. Overall, I really enjoyed the film but it is not without its flaws.
There Has Been An Awakening
As is customary with all my reviews, I will first focus on the positives. First of all, the new cast of characters are mostly great. These new characters may feel familiar to characters of the past, but the actors behind them are still able to make them feel fresh. Daisy Ridley stands out as Rey, and she fits delivers some of the film’s best scenes. I am amazed at the vast range of emotions Ridley is able to convey on her face, and her delivery of lines is exceptional. I look forward to the future of her career because she shows great promise. John Boyega as Finn also impressed me. He was able to handle the films’ comedy and drama very well. Not only that, but he and Ridley have some great chemistry. I look forward to the evolution of their relationship in later films. Of the rest of the new cast, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren stands out. I was aware that Driver is a good actor, but he really did a phenomenal job in this film. I heard that some audience members do not like his portrayal of Kylo, but I think it is great. He brings complexion to the role, and even has the audience sympathize with this very interesting character. At times I was frightened of him, other times I would pity him. Unlike Vader in Episode IV, he is given a little more backstory which makes him a very interesting villain. He is not on Vader’s level, but he is by far one of the better villains in the Star Wars saga. Another great new character is little BB-8. From the second he is introduced I fell in love with him (It feels natural to call BB-8 a “him”, but he could be a boy or a girl). He was not only adorable, but frequently hilarious. He never felt like he was goofy, and he even had some great chemistry with the new lead actors. The film sets up these characters very well, and I believe the next film will explore them even further. I also love seeing all of these characters interact on screen. They have remarkable chemistry with one another, and no one feels out of place. Along with some great new characters, I like how the world has progressed since Episode VI. The film explores some new locations in order to show how the times have changed, which worked well to distinguish this film from the rest of the original trilogy. The effects in this film are also top notch. We have never seen the force portrayed as it is in this film. I love how JJ and crew were able to show the force being used in so many clever and unique ways. The sound effects and music are also noteworthy, but I want to wrap up the positives focusing on the old cast and the lightsaber battles. First of all, I applaud the film for not relying too heavily on the old cast. They are present, but the film was doing great before they came into the fold. The standout this time is of course Han and Chewie. I loved seeing them on screen together and they had some of the films’ biggest laughs. Finally, the lightsaber battles in this film are amazing. They feel less choreographed than the battles in the prequels, and they are appropriately emotional and intense. I would say the main lightsaber battle in this film is up there as one of my favorites.
Have You Felt It?
The biggest negative against this film is that it feels far too familiar. The beginning and end of the film follow Episode IV very close structurally, and that bothered me a little. If the beginning was kept similar I would have been fine with that, but the ending should have been something different. I do not want to spoil exactly what was kept the same, but all I will say is that there is a similar conflict like in A New Hope. Along with that, several of the new and old characters are sidelined. I found this frustrating because there was a lot of build up for these characters. Without spoiling anything: Poe Dameron, Captain Phasma, and even Leia are all given minimal material. When they are on screen they command attention, but they were not given much to do at all. There are also several glaring plot holes within the film. Perhaps these plot holes could be explained in the next film, but it would have been better if this film worked on its own. Too much of this film feels like it is setting up for Episode VIII, which is fine, but it does hurt some of the material. I would have liked to see more of a complete ending instead of having so many threads lingering until the next installment. This is not completely bad, especially since I love to speculate. However, the film would have felt more complete if there was more devotion on the present film, rather than the future films.
Closing Remarks
Is the force strong with this film? Yes it is, but it has several problems that hinder it. I really do love the new cast, and the new direction of these films, but some of the characters get lost in the mix. I went in expecting something more original, but got many retreads of Episode IV. JJ and crew did a good job of restoring Star Wars close to its former glory, but now they need to focus on telling a captivating and original tale. Hopefully director Rian Johnson is up for the task.


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