Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens (★★)

2 stars

The movie you’ve seen, not that long ago in a galaxy far, far away…

This is the Star Wars movie that they had to get right. If they messed it up this time, the movie franchise would be pretty much over. It is for this reason, and probably this reason alone that the movie fell drastically under my expectations, resulting in me leaving the cinema feeling incredibly disappointed.

It was fun, I can’t deny that. As soon as the opening credits rolled up, there was a smile cemented on my face. Abrams didn’t need to get me into this movie; I was already with it as soon as I saw the first shot of the star destroyer slowly taking over the screen
. I was impressed that there were parallels between A New Hope and this movie, and I thought that this first shot was a clever variation. However, soon after this shot, it began to slowly dawn on me how similar this movie was going to be to A New Hope. As time went on the smile on my face was slowly being chipped away until a few moments happened that made me feel like facepalming. Playing this movie safe is one way to please fans that, which I am very aware, left this movie like the giggling man-children that they are, but it didn’t need a beat for beat retelling. Tricking the audience, by labeling this a new movie in the franchise, feels like the sort trick that Bugs Bunny would pull on Elmer Fudd whilst wearing a wig. It got to the stage where I was predicting most of the major plot points. I would think, ‘this feels like that bit in A New Ho-…Ahh, that’s why. It is that bit from A New Hope.’  This removed any of the tension and excitement from the movie for me.

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I have had people say to me that Episode 4 and 6 have similar beats to each other. This doesn’t make me agree that it’s ok for this movie to do that, it only solidifies my point that they shouldn’t be doing it again.

Despite this, the movie looked amazing. Everything within the world actually felt that it was contained within the world, which is a refreshing compared to the prequels. I must say it was quite odd to begin with as all the ships looked like shiny video game versions of the ships from the originals. But after the first 20 minutes, it didn’t matter, everything just looks great. The practical effects worked particularly well for BB-8, who had weight to him, and you can actually see the impact he had on the world, such as trials in the sand, that further adds to the immersion of the movie. The scene in Mos Eisley Cant- I mean Maz Kanata’s Castle was a feast for the eyes with the puppetry opening up, yet again, exactly how expansive this universe is.

The sound design can’t really be commented on. It’s John Williams and it’s lovely. You know exactly what you are going to get but it’s always a nice surprise to see what he has up his sleeves.
The new characters are also a treat to watch. Unlike the prequels, they are actually fleshed out. You know their motives and you actually care about what happens to them. However, the characters fall into the same tropes as the plot. They are too familiar. Poe Dameron is the new Han Solo, Rey is just Luke Skywalker, BB-8 is the new R2-D2 and Kylo Ren is the new Darth Vader.

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Even the older characters have been promoted to roles seen prior. Han Solo is the new Obi-Wan and the role of Luke feels like it’s going to be all too similar to a particular wise green fellow. This is no discredit to the performances. Everyone did a fantastic job in the roles they played and the slight differences in these characters were refreshing at times. Rey and Finn are fantastic leads and I can’t wait to see where episodes 8 and 9 take them. Kylo Ren is exactly what Anakin should have been in the prequels. His instability and ego really add depth to him, especially towards the end of the movie. This still doesn’t detract from the fact that, in conjunction with the plot points, a strong sense of déjà vu floods throughout this movie.

On a second viewing, I may enjoy this film more than I did the first time. My enjoyment was hindered throughout by frustration and disbelief. When I go see a Star Wars movie I expect to be taken to distant lands and see new and interesting things. The locations felt, yet again, all too familiar. I wasn’t transported to any distinctly new planets that I won’t confuse with locations from the original trilogy. I understand why they made the movie this way. The strong parallels between this and A New Hope will give people that Star Wars feeling once again. It’s just such a shame that for a franchise that has a universe so expansive, it couldn’t stray away from its own solar system.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens (★★)

  1. Ouch. I’d recommend viewing it again if you have the intention. I understand your criticisms and get that the parallels with A New Hope might diminish ones’ overall enjoyment.
    I myself loved the movie, but I’m also a hardcore Star Wars fan. I’ll even defend the prequels. Not as being good movies, but just as being movies that I can find my own personal enjoyment from.

    I’d really recommend watching Chris Stuckmann’s analysis video on The Force Awakens. He brings up a lot of points that you have, but relates them to the formulas of other films. It’s very interesting, and I don’t recommend it to change your viewpoints by any means, because obviously film is a very subjective thing. But this video would do a better job of forming a counter-argument to a lot of your points, and a better job than I would do.

    For me though, these parallels didn’t bother me because I knew that this movie was meant to be a soft reboot of the series in that sense. Star Wars is generational, and this film is really for the new generation of fans. They felt the best way to introduce it to new people, would be to follow similar beats of what made the original such a phenomenon. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Especially when it’s bee 30+ years since the original films, and a full decade since the prequels. At the same time, it’s aimed to get back older fans too. There are many of these parallels with the prequels too, and so it’s nothing new for the series.

    If the new characters were not interesting, then I would feel the entire movie would be flat. It’s these characters (for me) that make me not care so much for the fact that the movie follows the exact formula of A New Hope. It’s the same reason I love Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s the same movie as Raiders, beat by beat almost. But I love the dynamic with Sean Connery and Harrison Ford, as well as the other supporting characters. It’s my favorite in that series because, it’s like Raiders, but does everything better. And this is not a beat by beat remake of A New Hope exactly. It has a lot of similarities, yes. But many things are flipped in reverse. Han is kind of the new Obi-Wan in this, but it doesn’t change who he really is. He does not aspire to teach anyone the ways of the Force, he’s just an average guy trying to help out. And there’s a huge difference in the way each character goes out too. Obi-Wan knows that he’ll actually become stronger after he dies, and he’ll be able to still guide Luke as a Force spirit. Han dies trying to be a good father. And because he’s not a Jedi, when he’s gone…he’s gone. Another thing I enjoyed was how Kylo was represented as the exact opposite of what Luke was in Return of the Jedi. Luke is trying to hard to stick to the light side, and ignore the dark. Kylo is trying to get rid of the light and fully embrace the dark. It’s interesting to see the same struggle, but at the opposite end. Especially since in Revenge of the Sith, it almost seems like the fall to the dark side is more of a domino effect. That could still be the case, but it was intriguing for me to see a bit more of a struggle. Same formula of events, but much different outcomes and meanings when you really think about it. I can’t defend Starkiller base though.

    Definitely check out Stuckmann’s video though. It’s a bit long, but it’s pretty insightful and strangely eye-opening to how important a formula actually is for a film apart of a series. We always think that certain movies should boldly do something different, but in many scenarios, those sometimes end up being the movies we’re more disappointing in, mostly when it comes to franchise films like this, Indiana Jones, Die Hard, James Bond etc…

    Here’s the link.

    Keep up the great work though! Sorry if this was long-winded. I really love talking movies haha. And already I think it’s cool that we were in agreement on The Revenant, and not so much on this one. Difference in views is what makes this art so fun to talk about!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for checking it out and I’ll definitely give that a watch. I tried to express how I felt purely from my first viewing and I think I conveyed that feeling rather well. I definitely have the intention of watching it again and I’m sure, as an avid Star Wars fan myself, really enjoy it and embrace it the second time around. I intend to re-review it when it comes out on DVD. The characters were the main thing for me personally and I’m really excited to see where the next episode takes them. The characters are done in such a way that I constantly keep thinking of ideas of what they might get up to next. It’s really hard to tell and is a credit to the writers as well as giving them a lot of different directions they can take them. I’m hoping the next one does as I stated and takes them to the distant lands that I was hoping for in this installment. I’ve been talking to my friend recently and we pointed out the parallels between The Star Wars trilogies and Indiana Jones. The first one is a classic and every heralds it as the best. Temple was too different and people didn’t like it as much, much like the prequels. Finally, the new trilogy seems like it’s going to be much like Crusade. I can accept that and I’m going into the next one with new hopes, wink wink, nudge nudge. I just didn’t expect this to be a soft reboot, which can be seen as naive on my behalf, but I’m sure I’ll grow to accept it on another viewing. It was just at the tie, I was so focused on the parallels that I didn’t take the time to notice the subtle differences so I thank you for pointing some of them out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just judging by your words, it almost sounds like they don’t reflect your rating of the movie at all. It sounds like for the most part you enjoyed it. And that’s not in your fault though either! The weird thing with Star Wars, or any other franchise movie is that, a second viewing is almost always a necessity. Sometimes it’s just too much to take in the first time you see it, and your hype and expectations distract you from the overall product. I’ll never forget watch The Dark Knight Rises for the first time and thinking it was kind of poor. When I saw it a second time I enjoyed it far more because I had a better idea of what I was getting involved in. The Dark Knight was one of my favorite movies, and I had 4 years of hype and speculation surrounding the third movie. So of course I was going to be let down when it wasn’t how I imagined it to be. I think the fact that you liked the characters of this new movie, and the desire to see them more counts for a lot. And now that your mind is a little more used to it following a formula, your rating for it might change quite a bit after seeing it again. Like I said, sometimes certain movies are just a lot to take in for 1 viewing. It’s a big universe, with lots of characters, a huge time jump, and an expansive story. This formula might have been that one key to keep it all a bit more focused.

        Liked by 1 person

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