Spoiler-Filled Discussion/Thoughts/Mini-Review of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

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AGAIN, SPOILERS AHEAD! 

LAST WARNING!!

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Okay, so obviously Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out last weekend, and it was a huge hit with a great opening box office haul. The film has, and to some extent still is, shadowed by secrecy. No good fan of the series and of movies wants to ruin it for anyone. I already did a spoiler-free review, and a friend asked if I was going to do a spoiler-filled review. If you’ve been following the blog, you know that all my reviews are spoiler-free, because I never want to ruin an experience for someone watching a movie.

In fact, I don’t like spoilers – at all. I don’t know why anyone wants to everything about a movie before they watch it. Why ruin the experience for yourself? Why bother watching the movie at all if you know everything? I don’t see a reasonable logical explanation behind that. Spoiler Rumors are a tad different. I’m indifferent to them because they are rumors first and foremost. Look at all the rumors going around for The Force Awakens, a lot of them were way off. But I digress.

So this post will be a SPOILER-FILLED Star Wars: The Force Awakens discussion/mini-review. I’m going to mostly focus on some of the big things that happened and some cool things that I liked. So let’s get starting shall we. Oh, and I’m avoiding all canonical Expanded Universe material – for the most part – because this is the movies, not the comic and novels.

So, let’s start off with the beginning. Luke Skywalker has disappeared and has been for awhile apparently, how long? We don’t know, but it seems like whatever The First Order has planned, it apparently means Luke Skywalker has to go…or does he? All we know is that The First Order wants the map that leads to Luke, we are just assuming that they want to kill him because they’re the bad guys. Even General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) tells Kylo Ren, or should I say, Han Solo’s son(!), who was trained by Luke and went to the Dark Side, that he shouldn’t let his personal agenda get in the way. So does The First Order/Kylo Ren want Luke dead, or do they need him for something? Nonetheless, it looks like Luke will play a key factor in the new trilogy as well…maybe.

But instead the focus will be on a new patch of characters. There’s the now former Stormtrooper in Finn, who is rather interesting character himself, since there hasn’t been a character like this in the movies. Finn, despite doing heroic deeds: like helping Poe escape and trying to help Rey and BB-8 on Jakku, is for all intent-and-purposes is a hero. He did grow up under The First Order and was trained by them. It’s not until the end that he finally becomes the hero when he stands up and fights Kylo Ren. Speaking of Kylo Ren, what a character huh? Not only is he the son of Han Solo and trained by his uncle Luke Skywalker, he’s turned to the Dark Side and follows new trilogy villain Supreme Leader Snoke (voiced and motion captured by Andy Serkis). He’s also got a weird Darth Vader thing going on as he keeps his grandfather’s burnt helmet in his room like a shrine, and wears a (heavy ass) helmet that looks like a knockoff of Vader’s.

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Of course, the big moment for Ren was the scene with this father. What a bittersweet scene it was. Harrison Ford finally got his wish: Han Solo dies. The bad thing, Han Solo is dead. The scene works for a few reasons in that it finally shows Kylo Ren has chosen the Dark Side. Despite the “pull” to the Light Side, Ren has made his choice and sealed it by killing his father, who wanted to help him. However, it also sounds like his training isn’t complete when Snoke tells Hux to bring Ren to him to “finish his training.” Now it looks like Ren is going to be an all powerful Sith? I ask that as a question because The Sith are gone remember? And no one refers to Kylo Ren as a Sith. I thought Adam Driver did a fine job and I think he’ll be a force (no pun intended) to be reckoned with, especially with his cool ass lightsaber. But let’s talk about Harrison Ford. Did he show up! It looked like he was having fun all over again. However, with Han Solo dead, what does that do to the series? Sure Han Solo is a lot of people’s favorite character, but the series can survive without him, despite not having him around could be a bummer. Was killing Han the right move? At first glance, yes, because it helps elevate the character of Kylo Ren and was a fitting end to the Han Solo character. However, the question will be how does it change the characters going forward?

Finally, there’s Rey, a scavenger from Jakku who is waiting for her potential family to come back for her, hence the markings on the wall, which could easily be overlooked on first viewing. However, that fact that she’s wide-eyed, vulnerable, and badass all at the same time makes her character so much cooler and much more relatable. However, the biggest thing about Rey is that we still don’t know who the hell she is! We know she has the Force, but is that it? Is she just Force sensitive or is she Luke’s daughter as it’s somewhat hinted at? Or someone else’s daughter? You could have made the argument that she was Han’s daughter, but he or Leia – even though Rey and Leia have only two scenes that the end together – never mention or hint at having a daughter, but you can tell that Han knows who she is by the way he acts and looks at her. Also, she’s been apparently training her whole life for any situation she’s thrown into. She knows how to pilot a ship and make adjustments on them, she also apparently knows how to really use her Force powers as she uses the Jedi Mind Trick on the Stormtrooper (played by Daniel Craig), or has she heard the stories of the Jedi for long enough that she took a shot in the dark to see if she could do it? She also knows how to speak droid and, well, Chewbacca. Not everyone knows how to do that.

Whatever the case, Rey is undoubtedly the main hero of the trilogy. Unless, they pull a massive swerve on us but I doubt it. Rey, like Finn, has her own journey. The only difference is that Rey doesn’t want to acceptable her heroic deeds, until the end, when she also fights Kylo Ren and has no choice. It isn’t until she touches Luke’s lightsaber that she starts to be able to use the Force (hence the title perhaps). And she gets visions? What’s the deal with that? The vision seem pretty damning themselves too. We see Luke with R2-D2, looking possibly defeated and we see Kylo Ren with what we can assume are The Knights of Ren, which are only mentioned but never seen (what’s up with that!). Anyway, you can see she’s a little scared about using the lighsaber against Kylo Ren. The main thing however is that we never find out who she really is, which I can see why people would hate that, and if fact after watching the movie the second time, I felt that way too. Then I realized, why should I feel that way? We didn’t find out that Vader was Luke’s father until Empire Strikes Back. Now, I’m not saying this new trilogy has to do something big like that, but not finding out who Rey was could be – and is to some – a sour issue. Personally, I don’t mind not knowing who Rey is just yet. I like the mystery, but as long as they give us enough, or answer, who she is in the sequels, then let her character continue to grow and be the badass she was in The Force Awakens.

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Speaking of growth, let’s talk about the new characters that didn’t get a ton of screen time, I’m looking at you Captain Phasma! Seriously, the costume is so cool looking and the character has less than ten minutes of screen time. Hell, the Stormtrooper that Finn fights with the lighsaber had a cooler moment than Captain Phasma. Although, J.J. Abrams admitted that he cut a descent chuck of stuff out, maybe Captain Phasma is one of them since she is the most noticeable. There is also Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, and shares the first scene with the great Max von Sydow who play Lor San Tekka. Which is a bit odd, because Sydow seems like an important character because its assumed that he’s known Leia since the original trilogy AND he has the map to Luke, yet he has about five minutes of screen time and gets killed by Ren, who he apparently has known since a child since Ren knocks how old Tekka has gotten, maybe we’ll find out later or not. Anyway, Isaac is always great and his character had a lot of charm and swagger, I mean come on, “So who talks first you or me?” That was awesome, but I do wish there was more of him in the film. Again, just another thing of begin the first of a trilogy: characters are going to get put on the backburner until the sequels.

Then there is Lupita Nyong’o’s character Maz Kanata, who for some reason, has Luke’s lightsaber. Why? Who the hell knows, or according to her “a story for another time.” I don’t know where they will go with the character, but I hope it’s somewhere good. Let’s go to the villain side, Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux. There’s something off and simple about his character. Hux has a General ranking amongst The First Order, but he seems a bit too young, is he related to someone powerful or high up in The First Order or the now fallen Empire? He certainly gave a powerful speech to his army of Stromtroopers when they fired their new weapon. Maybe I’m over thinking it, but Hux is still a wild card on the villain side for me. Finally, there is Supreme Leader Snoke. Who some fans believe is really the character named Darth Plagueis. He was actually mentioned in the prequels by Palpatine saying that he was a powerful Sith that could cheat death. George Lucas even described the character in the past and his descriptions sound a lot like Plagueis. Will Snoke be Plagueis? Again, who knows, but Snoke does look to be the big bad in the new trilogy, despite only seeing him as a hologram.

Look, I loved The Force Awakens, but I also see the big burning Starkiller Base issues with the movie. The big one being we got very few answers to questions we’ve wanted, but in return we got more questions and get sidetracked on some which usually would have been a bad thing, but in this case, it’s actually kind of cool. Just remember this is the beginning of a new trilogy. It will take time to find out these answers. I’ll go back to my example of the original trilogy. We didn’t find out about Vader until the second film, and even then we still loved the series for what they did. I’m not going to compare the original trilogy to The Force Awakens because one, it wouldn’t be fair since IT’S ONLY THE FIRST MOVIE, and two, The Force Awakens really is the beginning of the this new story, with new characters and their own story and adventure to tell and explore.

Is the Force strong with this new trilogy? Let’s wait until we see episode eight to make that decision. For now, just enjoy the fact that we have more Star Wars movies, and spinoffs, on the way.

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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Review

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Director: J.J. Abrams

Writer: J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt, and Lawrence Kasdan

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow, and Mark Hamill

Synopsis: 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The first Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: I have already seen the movie twice, and the review was ready to go on Friday. However, I wanted to wait until this week to post the review. The review is spoiler-free, but still.*

 

Look, I’m not even going to pretend that this review is going to be easy to write. Not because I thought the film was bad, because it wasn’t, but because this film is so surrounded by secrecy that most of you probably won’t read this until after you watch the film – and I wouldn’t blame you. So, I’ll keep my promise to you that this will be a spoiler review and I’ll do my best to not even hint at any possible spoiler or could be considered a spoiler.

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The Force Awakens starts off like every Star Wars film before it, with the crawl. The crawl lets us know the important thing and the plot point that will set up the new trilogy: Luke Skywalker (Hamill) is missing – hence why’s he’s not in any promotional material – and in his disappearance a evil arises called The First Order lead by Supreme Leader Snoke (Serkis) and his generals in General Hux (Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Driver). The one thing standing in their way is the Resistance which is lead by General Leia (Fisher) who has been fighting them since they rose to power after the Empire feel. In the middle of all this are our new heroes and lead in a Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac), a scavenger Rey, a former Stormtrooper who’s now on the run, and a droid in BB-8. Along the way they meet up with familiar faces in Han Solo (Ford) and Chewbacca (Mayhew) who also help them out to fight off the First Order and their new weapon that threatens the galaxy.

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It’s hard not to see the familiar structure of other Star Wars films in The Force Awakens, but what director J.J. Abrams was able to do with the similarities was create something that still felt fresh and was excited to watch from beginning to end. Abrams doesn’t rely too much on nostalgia, although there are scenes that are oozed in it, but instead takes what the series has already given us and adds to it. The Force Awakens has great action, cinematography and more importantly, it’s a ton of fun and lets us get to know the characters that we want to root for them and follow their journey to the end. You can arguably say that maybe The Force Awakens relies too much of the similar story structure, but it works nonetheless.

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The new characters are great, and not a stinker in the bunch. Oscar Isaac is the first new character we see and he brings a nice swagger and charm, that to be honest, I was not expecting and that’s coming from a Oscar Isaac fan. John Boyega’s Finn also brings his own swagger and charm and even brings some of the funniest moments in the film. At the same time, we’re seeing a different side in the battle between the Dark Side and the Light Side. Finn leaves the First Order and abandons his role as a Stormtrooper. We’ve haven’t really seen that side before, and given that Finn is probably one of the characters you really can’t nail down. Sure, he does heroic things in the film and is on the side of the resistance, but he was a Stormtrooper too. Boyega handles it well and if your first exposure to Boyega was Attack the Block like mine, you know he was able to rise to the challenge.

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Finally, Daisy Ridley as Rey is one of the best characters in the film. She feels like a real person and is a character that you can easily root for. She’s not just a badass character, but one that can be vulnerable, funny, and naïve. Rey, similar to Finn, is looking for more in her life. She’s also heard the stories of Luke, Han and Leia, and is wide-eyed to find out that all of it was real and she’s now going on her own adventure. Rey will definitely be a highlight for many once they watch the film. Of course, there’s BB-8 as well. I mean come on, have you seen the commercial’s, have the droids in the past not been great? BB-8 was awesome too.

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Now let’s talk about the Dark Side. Kylo Ren gets most of the screen time and attention so Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux, Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke and even Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma are just a bit underdeveloped and are clearly saved for the future films, but it still would have been nice to see them a little more, especially Captain Phasma. It’s understandable, obviously, considering this is the first movie of a new trilogy, but it was a little frustrating considering all the secrecy for the characters just to be saved for future films. However, Gleeson’s Hux does get a fair amount of screen time and you really tell there is something about him and the fact that he’s younger than other Generals we’ve seen in these films.

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Thankfully, not all of The Force Awakens is CGI (I’m looking at you George Lucas!). Abrams goes back to the roots of Star Wars and has a ton (!) of practical effects and physical creatures so the cast can interact with. It could have been easier to go with CGI creatures, but the fact that Abrams and producers Bryan Burk and Kathleen Kennedy went the route of building creatures makes the film feel so much more special. Sure there are CGI creatures, but there isn’t an over abundance of them. One of those CGI creatures is Maz Kanata, who Lupita Nyong’o does the voice and motion capture for. Her character appears right in the middle of the film and while her character doesn’t feel important, she does play an important role, and is one of the characters I’m sure we’ll see more of in the future.

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All in all, what makes The Force Awakens undoubtedly work is that the film is fun. It really is fun and funny. Abrams is always able to find a nice balance of action and comedy that they serve their purpose equally and one doesn’t overpower the other. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve had this much fun and laughed with a movie since the summer and Mad Max: Fury Road. The most importantly thing the film does however is that it doesn’t lean toward or on its past. It embraces it future while paying respect to the past. Disney, Lucasfilm, Abrams, who ever deserves the credit, should be given all the credit in the world for making that move. It was great to see the old cast come back, but it was even better to see a brand new cast of characters, especially John Boyega’s Finn and Daisy Ridley’s Rey.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is truly a great addition, and continuation, to the Star Wars franchise. It will make you feel like a kid again, it will make you cry and more importantly, it will make you happy that there is another Star Wars movie in our lives.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

4.5 out of 5

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