Well, well. It’s been about a year since I wrote my last Star Wars re-watch review and it’s about that time again with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hitting theaters this Thursday night in the United States! Needless to say, I am absolutely over-the-moon excited for this movie, especially after listening to the audio book for Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel which gives significant background on some of the key characters of the movie. But before I watch Rogue One later tonight there is one important thing I had to do first, which is revisit last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens! It feels like years ago when this movie came out since I’ve watched it about twenty times, eight in theaters and countless times on blu-ray. However, it’s been a while since I’ve watched the movie until this week and somehow I was just as excited as when I first got the blu-ray. With that being said, let’s jump into my re-watch review.
A few warnings before you read the review. This review will contain spoilers so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and you care about spoilers, do not continue reading. Also, it might not make sense if you haven’t seen the movie, since I reference things as if I’m speaking to someone who has.
Obviously I am a huge Star Wars fan so there’s naturally going to be some bias when I talk about either of the films, I even enjoy most of the stuff in the prequels, and it plays into me liking The Force Awakens so much but I will admit the movie has some significant flaws that prevent it from being nearly as good as either of the original trilogy movies. However you slice it, there are good and bad things about The Force Awakens so let’s start with the good.
Star Wars is Back!!
The most important thing about The Force Awakens was not only making it a good movie but making it feel like Star Wars again, meaning giving it that broken down, lived-in universe feel that the original trilogy had. A lot of fans would agree that the prequel trilogy did not feel this way, with everything looking brand new and essentially everything except the actors being computer animated. The Force Awakens definitely brought this feeling back for me, with everything looking worn down and the use of practical effects. On top this feeling of “returning to home” for a lot of fans, the movie was actually good and compared to the last set of films we got (which I really enjoy and love) it is a significant improvement.
Introducing New Characters
One of the biggest questions going into The Force Awakens is the whether or not these new set of characters would be embraced by Star Wars fans. Considering how popular and well-known names like Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren have become, I think it’s safe to say that the introductions of these characters was a success!
Beginning with Rey, who is the main protagonist and arguably the most important of the new characters, they absolutely created a strong female, force sensitive/potential Jedi character who not only young girls can look up to and admire, but who also is beloved by most male Star Wars fans, including myself. Daisy Ridley gives one hell of a performance, especially for this being her first feature film, as she showed incredible range and made (mostly) everyone fall in love with the character of Rey. From her delivery of dialogue and her facial expressions, she absolutely killed it and showed she is the right actress to lead this franchise going forward. She brings Rey to life making her character and personality so likable. She is brave, kind, and vulnerable as we saw her get frightened and scared several times throughout the movie. This makes her a realistic character as most people would be terrified facing some of things she did in the movie.
I can go on and on about how great Rey is but another great addition to the universe is FN-2187 or as most have come to know him, Finn. How clever of an idea was it to make an ex-stormtrooper a main character? This not only humanized the stormtroopers but it also showed that there is good and evil on both sides, the First Order and the Resistance, and most people in this universe don’t have a choice but to join the side they were raised in or forced to join. Finn gave us a unique perspective as Star Wars fans since we never go to see what it was like for a character to grow up on “the bad side” and realize that what they were going was wrong, in turn helping “the good side” take them down (at least in the six movies). Johny Boyega does an amazing job of bringing this character to life and for me he brought so much energy to this role and made the movie exciting the entire way through. I look forward to seeing his arch continue through the saga films, no matter where it goes.
I’ve gone back and forth with this but I’ve concluded that my favorite new character in The Force Awakens is Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo, with Rey being a very close second. I’m not going to lie, part of the intrigue of his character is that he is the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia making him a Solo and a Skywalker, which is freakin’ awesome!! Aside from that, I just think his story line is the most interesting and his situation the most tragic, so far as we know. I know, I know, he’s an a-hole to say the least but I find something so fascinating with his struggle between the dark and the light. Also, Adam Driver’s portrayal of the character is excellent in my opinion. From his voice delivery, with or without the mask, his rage, and his humor, I found the character to be the most entertaining to watch.
I also think they did a great job of integrating side characters like Poe and General Hux. These are two characters I really enjoyed but wish I got to see more of. Not to mention BB-8 and Maz Kanata, who were also great additions to the Star Wars universe. Overall, I think the creative team, the director, and the actors did a fantastic job of bringing these new characters to life and giving us new favorites to follow for years (maybe decades) to come.
Explanation and Use of the Force
One of my favorite things in the original trilogy is how Obi-Wan and Yoda explain the force to Luke. It is something that needs some clarification, giving the audience an idea of what it is without explaining it completely. The Force Awakens does of great job of having Han Solo and Maz Kanata explain the force to some of our new characters, which also serves as either a reminder or an introduction of the force, depending on whether you’re a longtime fan or a new one.
Also, seeing Kylo Ren do things we have never seen before, such as stop a blaster fire midway through the air and read people’s minds, was a new and interesting use of the force. The movie not only utilized the force but gave a fans new uses of it. Along with that goes the mental force battle between Kylo Ren and Rey, which leads him to figuring out she is strong with the force. This scene is one of the best in the movie for me as we see force users battling with their minds as opposed to physically fighting. Getting to see Rey do some Jedi mind tricks on a stormtrooper was also a very cool moment. The incorporation of the force was done very well in my opinion and was necessary considering the title of the film.
There are also many other things that are standouts in the film. Having Han and Chewy back, c’mon now! That’s awesome. Every scene with Poe in his X-Wing kickin’ butt was the best in any Star Wars movie for me. Even though some people criticize the lightsaber battle at the end, I happen to love it. I think the way it goes down is pretty realistic (for Star Wars) and the unorthodox fighting style makes sense sine Ren is hurt and Rey has never been trained, as far as we know. This scene also contains one of my favorite moments in Star Wars history, when Rey uses the force to make Luke’s lightsaber fly right past Kylo Ren and into her hand. I literally get goosebumps every time I watch this scene.
As you can see, I thoroughly enjoy Star Wars: The Force Awakens but I cannot deny that it has some problems. I may be a fanboy but I still am able to recognize the flaws in the movie. Let’s take a look at what those are.
Forced (no pun intended) Energy and Comedy:
One of the biggest knocks on the prequel movies is that most of the actors were dull, had no energy, and brought no life to the movies. I agree with that, so I understand why The Force Awakens had to bring back that energy and playful humor. However, I feel these elements of the movie were forced at times, rather than organic like in the original trilogy. For example, when Poe and Finn first meet they have some comedic dialogue between them and when they escape, and are blasting away cannons, they are super hyped about it. I felt like these moments were way too over the top and could have been brought down a notch to make it feel more realistic. Some of the other attempted comedic moments, such as a few one-liners from Han to Chewy, the attempt at reviving the banter between Han and Leia, and some of the moments between Rey and Finn, just didn’t work for me and felt out of place. There is some comedy that works in the film, like Kylo Ren’s sarcasm and a few things between Rey and Finn, but overall the comedy underwhelmed me.
This is a tough one for me because I understand that not everything needs to be explained right away, especially in a Star Wars movie. However, I think withholding certain information prevented the film from being better and making more sense. The creators need to understand that not all moviegoers are knowledgeable in Star Wars history and understand how the universe works. Having little-to-no information on Rey, for example, prevented some viewers from knowing that she was being guided by the force. Yes, they explain that the force is in all living things but they do not make it clear that Rey being able to hit a stormtrooper spot on with a blaster on her second try or being able to hold her own against Kylo Ren is the force at work. I’ve spoke to casual fans about the movie and one of their biggest complaints is, “How the hell did Rey fight Kylo Ren at the end? That was stupid.” I end up finding myself explaining to them how the force works, how she might have had previous training when she was younger, and so on. I’ve realized that the movie should have done a better job at making things like this clear to at least be a possibility. Instead casual moviegoers were somewhat left in the dark and confused.
Lack of Relationship Development
Another big flaw for me is the lack of build up to the big moment between Han Solo and Kylo Ren. Yes, we find out that they are father and son but we do not get a scene with them together until Kylo Ren kills Han. Because of that the impact of his son killing him does not feel as strong as it should have. Don’t get me wrong, Han’s death in general was very effective and had me emotional and upset. However, I did not feel it as hard as I should have knowing his own son killed him. This should be an almost intolerable moment for Star Wars fans, and for some it might be, but it would have been so much more tragic if we had a scene or two with Kylo Ren and his father interacting before the incident. This would have built up to the moment and made it much more effective in my opinion.
There are a few other things that bother me in the movie. The most of which being an emphasis on “First Order sympathizers” reporting where BB-8 is at times. It’s not the fact that they are reporting this to the First Order, that makes sense that they would have people all over the galaxy keeping an eye out for something so valuable. It’s the way those scenes are executed which bothers me, with the camera zooming in on the characters’ face and putting so much focus on those moment. Also, both of the characters’ face really bothers me when they execute the line. Don’t ask me why; I really don’t know. I just get annoyed with both of those scenes. I also did not love the scene with rathtars in general. I just think those things were unnecessary and felt out of place. This next one is selfish but I wanted more Luke!!! I understand the mystery of keeping him hidden and how special that moment is when we first see him but selfishly I think the movie could have used some more Mark Hamill. Oh well, we’ll get plenty of him in Episode VII.
I consider Star Wars: The Force Awakens a triumph in the sense that it brought Star Wars back to prominence and created a story line and characters with so much intrigue to keep the masses wanting more. No, the film is not perfect. It has significant shortcomings but it ultimately overcomes those and winds up being a really good movie. My critical mind aside, I personally love the movie and can watch it over and over again like I have the other six movies.
With all things considered, I give Star Wars: The Force Awakens an 8.5 out 1o. Before you say, “But you love the movie, why isn’t it a 10?” An 8.5 is a really high score and it means I think very highly of a movie. As far as pure enjoyment, I probably would give it a 1o but judging it as a film, the 8.5 is about right.
Well there you have it. My thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens after visiting it for the… damn I lost count how many times I’ve seen it. Anyways, let me know how you feel about The Force Awakens after a year. Do you love it more? Less? Let us know in the comment section. Now I’m all ready for Rogue One as I’m seeing it in a matter of hours. I can’t wait!