[Ed’s Note: Part of what made Star Wars: The Force Awakens so awesome is that the trailers gave away nothing in terms of plot. This makes reviewing the film kind of tricky; most of the enjoyment one gets from watching Force Awakens stems from the plot unfolding in front of you with a bajillion surprises and OMG moments. Matt unplugged himself from all Force Awakens media a year before the movie came out. As such, he wasn’t aware of what people knew from trailers and what they did not. Consequently, I got out my SUPER-RUTHLESS EDITOR hat and eviscerated some of his review out of fear that even the tiniest of spoilers gets through. You’ll see where I’ve been a total meany buzz-killer. Enjoy!]
It’s almost impossible not to have a connection with Star Wars. What started as a homage to black and white movie serials has transformed into a cultural touchstone; a franchise that affects most of us in different ways. So with a new movie just out, by a different director, starring new characters, kickstarting a new Trilogy, it’s difficult not to get swept up in the hype and excitement, especially after the Prequel Trilogy burned fans. But anyway, on launch day, Fick Senior and I watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens in cinemas, and here’s what I think of the film.
If all The Force Awakens had to do to succeed was be better than the Prequel Trilogy, then it succeeds by far. The movie feels like a return to form for Star Wars. It’s a grand adventure, dealing with classical themes of heroism in the face of evil, and the overblown melodrama that plagued the Prequels is gone.
While it’s easy to gush, there is a lot that the movie objectively does right, starting with the story. Without spoilers, the Evil First Order (basically the remnants of the Empire) is in a race with the Resistance (basically the Rebel Alliance) to REMOVED FOR SPOILERS REMOVED FOR SPOILERS REMOVED FOR SPOILERS [sorry Matt, I’m playing it safe here. – Ed] I’ll leave that for the movie to reveal. Along the way, new characters get involved in the struggle, and some old favorites return. The story is reminiscent of A New Hope‘s: it’s simple; it’s to the point. It keeps the action moving forward at a comfortable pace, and it never bogs itself down with waffle like “Trade Disputes”, or “Voting” [Ugh, is it just me or has this film re-highlighted just how damn boring the prequels were? – Ed].
It may feel like I’m comparing The Force Awakens too much to other Star Wars movies. The comparisons are inevitable though, especially with such a rich mythos surrounding them. However, the new movie very quickly shows that it is its own beast, and is different from all the Star Wars movies that came before it.
For example, there is a fairly Earth-shattering reveal that the movie casually drops in the first act. It’s big, it reshapes how we’ll see the next two movies, but here it’s deployed neatly to end any useless speculation. The film doesn’t keep it a secret, or use it as the analogue to other big reveals, like: “I am your father”, or “Leia is totally your sister, and you made-out with her that one time, bro”. This is exciting because they have completely wiped the slate clean, and viewers really don’t know what the next big reveal is going to be.
Because it doesn’t rely on big reveals and twists to drive the plot, the writing is superb. Characters are written well, being the right amount of charming, naive, emotional, or intimidating. Their delivery is exceptional, and I must really take my metaphorical hat off to their performances. Furthermore, none of the characters conform to one’s expectations. Kylo Ren is not Darth Vader 2.0, Supreme Leader Snoke is not a retread of Palpatine, and the characters Rei and Finn go through believable transformations and are not just rehashes of previous female and male leads. The film also manages a great deal of humour, perfectly delivered through one liners, quips, and subtle inside jokes, without any mention of Bantha Poodoo. [Please stop referencing the prequels; they now make me even sadder than they used to. – Ed]
I do have one small nitpick with it though, and it’s with Captain Phasma. She’s on the poster, she’s in the trailers, she has just as many versions of action figures as Kylo Ren, but I didn’t think she delivered in the film. She is still intimidating and has excellent screen presence, but I just hope Episode VIII actually gives her a few cool scenes.
However, that doesn’t stop the rest of the cast from having amazing and memorable action scenes, particularly the REMOVED FOR SPOILERS. Gone are the flashy REMOVED FOR SPOILERS REMOVED FOR SPOILERS of the prequel trilogy; here the REMOVED FOR SPOILERS are beautifully REMOVED FOR SPOILERS and packed with action and tension. Watching REMOVED FOR SPOILERS between characters moving and acting like real humans gives the scenes more tension and suspense, and they become the highlight of the film.
There is so much more I want to say about The Force Awakens. There’s so much more that needs to be said. The Star Wars cinematic universe has begun with a bang, and I can’t recommend this movie enough. It’s everything you loved about Star Wars, with a lot of stuff you didn’t know you wanted until now. Oh, and BB-8 is literally the cutest thing ever. [Oh gosh he is adorable and I want one. – Ed]
Score: Oh, geez, do we do movie scores? [Good question! – Ed] Huh, this is NAG Online’s first film review that I know of, so I don’t know what precedent to set. I guess if I had to give it a score, it would be nine and a half Crossguard Lightsabers out of ten.