Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

starwars-tfaI’ve been struggling to write this review for weeks now for a number of reasons, but perhaps the biggest is because it’s STAR WARS. I mean, it’s huge! It’s a cultural phenomenon, perhaps one of the most well-known franchises in the world. It was the series that set me on the path to being a geek. “Formative” doesn’t really begin to cover it.

So putting down the words to describe how I feel about The Force Awakens seems to be an insurmountable task. It’s just so big, and there are so many things to discuss about it, and so much of it comes from who I am and what Star Wars has meant to me.

This movie comes at a point when it’s been more than 20 years since I saw the original trilogy for the first time, and ten years since I last saw a Star Wars movie in theaters (with the expectation that I would likely never do so again). When it was first announced, I was “meh” about it; given the overall disappointment with the prequels, I found it difficult to get excited for another film even though I knew George Lucas wouldn’t be involved.

And then the trailers came out.

I went from “meh” to “excited” faster than I ever have in my life. I couldn’t wait to see the movie, but at the same time, I was terrified it wouldn’t live up to my expectations (which were getting loftier by the minute, despite every effort I made to keep them manageable).

Fortunately, I shouldn’t have worried. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was easily my favorite movie from 2015, and is on par with the best of the original trilogy.

The Force Awakens takes place around 30 years after the end of the original trilogy, when the ashes of the Empire have reformed into The First Order, which has a tenuous peace with the Republic. Leia runs the Resistance, dedicated to ending the tyranny of the First Order, and she’s also looking for Luke, who vanished without a trace after the destruction of the Jedi temple. The only clue to his whereabouts is a map he left behind, and Leia has sent one of her best pilots to retrieve it.

Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Make way for the new kids in the Falcon.

Like the previous trilogy, we have a main trio of characters: Rey, a scavenger who’s been waiting on a desert world for her family to return; Finn, a stormtrooper having second thoughts about being part of the First Order; and Poe, the best pilot in the Resistance who’s been sent to find Luke’s map.

It’s hard to pick a favorite, because I loved all three of them so much and I could probably write a post about each of them. Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, and John Boyega are all spectacular in their roles, and very deserving of all the success that comes their way because of this.

Finn (Boyega) is absolutely amazing. He’s not what you’d expect from a stormtrooper, and it’s interesting to see a glimpse, however brief, into his life within the First Order. He’s brave and sweet and hilarious, and just a joy to watch. He’s single-handedly responsible for some of my favorite moments in the entire film.

Rey is the character I’ve been waiting to see on-screen in the Star Wars world since I was eleven years old, and Daisy Ridley played her perfectly. Tough, self-sufficient, vulnerable, and determined, Rey shows more emotion with a single look than some actors do with an entire monologue. She’s absolutely fantastic and I can’t wait to see where her journey goes over the next two films.

And seeing our old favorite characters–Han, Chewie, Leia, Luke–some thirty years after we left them is alternately fantastic and bittersweet. Things haven’t gone the way you might have hoped or expected after the end of ROTJ, which is what makes it bittersweet, but they’re also not just in the movie to throw fans a bone. All of them are important to the story in some way, and The Force Awakens would be poorer without them.

"Chewie, we're home." CUE TEARS.

“Chewie, we’re home.” CUE TEARS.

The beats of the story echo the beats of A New Hope, which some people disliked. You have the opening on the desert planet where a piece of vital information is tucked into a droid while the droid’s owner is captured by the villain. You have a young person stuck on said desert planet who ends up befriending the droid and decides to help it achieve its goal of getting the vital information to the right person. You have a gigantic, planet-killing weapon wielded by the bad guys. (And there are more similarities; those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.)

I not only liked it; I LOVED it, and felt it was thematically appropriate for this movie. It didn’t seem like a retread; it seemed like an homage, a passing of the torch as the old characters welcomed in the new ones, and a new new hope for the galaxy arrived.

The Force Awakens works for a number of reasons: It sets up a new trilogy with new characters we care about, while still bridging the gap between the previous story and the previous characters. It’s not so mired in its own mythology that new fans are barred from getting into it.

But most importantly, it feels like a Star Wars movie, a worthy successor to the original trilogy that captured so many of our hearts and minds.


3 comments on “Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  1. Agree with most of your review. My only disagreement is with calling Finn brave. The whole point of his character is that he’s a coward who has to overcome that and do the right thing anyway. It’s not so much that he’s brave, as that his determination to be good outweighs the fear and cowardice. It’s a brilliant counterpoint to the cold ruthlessness expected of (and normally displayed by) stormtroopers.

    • Michelle says:

      “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

      I never said Finn was fearless; I said he was brave. Bravery is, generally speaking, being scared but doing something anyway, which, as you point out, is exactly what Finn does throughout most of the movie. His first instinct is to run from the First Order because he is well aware of what they’re capable of, but as soon as he finds out they have Rey, he’s willing to go back into the belly of the beast in a heartbeat to save her.

      And I see where you’re coming from, but I have to disagree with the assertion that cowardice (and overcoming that) is the entire point of his character, and what sets him apart from other stormtroopers.

      Rather, I’d argue Finn’s counterpoint to the stormtroopers is not cowardice; it’s compassion. When we first meet him, it’s because he’s the one trooper who LOWERS his weapon when ordered to slaughter the entire village. Even though he has to know what that will mean for him, even though Phasma and Kylo Ren are standing RIGHT THERE, Finn still refuses to kill innocent people.

      He very quickly comes to care about Poe, despite the fact that they know each other for all of 5 minutes before they’re separated. He’s constantly checking in on Rey after they meet, and is the first person to ever ask her if she’s okay. When he thinks she needs his help, he charges in without a second thought (and when it turns out she doesn’t need his help, he stops).

      But all of that–bravery, fear, compassion, determination–combines to show us that Finn is human, which is another fantastic counterpoint to the faceless stormtrooopers. Even before we see his face, he’s marked with a bloody handprint on his helmet, making him stand out. He’s the first stormtrooper we EVER see without a helmet on (discounting Jango Fett). He’s a fantastic, well-rounded character, and I absolutely can’t wait to see where they take his arc in the next movies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s