Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Pays Homage To Its Predecessors But Still Feels Like An Original Story
Title: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Director: J.J. Abrams
Screenwriter: Lawrence Kasden (written by), J.J. Abrams (written by), Michael Arndt (written by), and George Lucas (characters) (uncredited)
Principal Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Lupita Nyong’o
Summary: Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
I’m going to come right out and say that I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. I like Star Wars, I respect Star Wars and I understand why people love it as much as they do. On a personal level I never really got into it the way that other people have. I’ve also been a member of the Bummer Brigade since the first trailer dropped by reminding people that trailers don’t mean anything and the movie might not be good. I’m not a huge fan of J.J. Abrams, either, so this is probably one of the least “fanboy” reviews that you’ll get on our website. I went in hoping for a good movie, but I was also very aware that the hype for this could cause the movie to collapse into itself. If you set the bar too high you’re going to be let down in some capacity. I was worried that the Disney hype machine was shooting Star Wars in the foot before it was even released.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a good movie, I’m happy to report, that captures the things that made everyone fall in love with this universe while also feeling fresh enough to kick off a new series of movies.
This is going to be a spoiler free review. I’m going to urge everyone out there to try and avoid spoilers the best they can for this. It’s going to be hard since everyone and their mother seems to be keen to be a jerk about this movie. DON’T BE A JERK. There is a fine line to walk when you are rebooting a beloved classic. There is the temptation to basically redo the original movies with different actors because “if it worked once it should work again”. There is also the temptation to take it in the other direction and make the new project barely connected to the previous incarnation linking them in name only. This line, maintaining the spirit of the original properly while also feeling new, is something that can be done. Creed and Jurassic World are both excellent examples of this. The Force Awakens also happily falls into this camp. The movie feels very much like a Star Wars movie for better and for worse. However, it also feels like an original story that ,while mimicking moments from the earlier movies, doesn’t fall into the lazy copycatting mode.
This copycatting is one of the reasons I was worried about J.J. Abrams. He seems to write movies that are pretty good but homages to better movies. The best example would be Super 8 which was just Abrams telling us how good E.T. was. I didn’t want a “greatest hits” Star Wars sequel. However, Abrams has surrounded himself with good people this time and The Force Awakens feels very much like a new chapter in a familiar universe. It also helps that Abrams has managed to snag a great cast. The original trio are great but it’s the new cast and characters that made all the difference for me. Our three new leads, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Finn (John Boyega) with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) as our new bad guy are all great. Isaac was the stand out for me as he stole every scene he was in. He’s a great actor and he’ll more than likely be the new Harrison Ford of this bunch. Speaking of Ford this is probably the most engaged he’s looked in a long time. There are also two “mocap” characters played by the legendary Andy Serkis and Lupita Nyong’o that are wonderfully well imagined.
That is not to say that it’s a perfect movie by any account. Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) got a lot of build up in the promotional materials, but much like Boba Fett she ends up not doing much. I’m hoping there will be more of her in the following movies. Also, if you’re going into this movie expecting to find out things like who the New Order are, where they came from and anything like that, they remain mysterious much like the Empire in A New Hope. Rey, while a great character that is absolutely a fully fledged human being, spends most of the movie walking around with a neon sign flashing “this moment will be important later on” that can get a little irritating. There isn’t anything here that’s a deal breaker, though, and the moments that work work very well.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the film that Star Wars fans have wanted for thirty years. However, for those of us not completely in love with Star Wars, The Force Awakens is a very good entry in what appears to be a very promising new series. Perhaps if they iron out the last of the nitpicks we’ll have the great entry in a couple years.