Review: Star Wars - The Force Awakens

tfa Normally I wait till Sunday to do non-tech posts, but with the memory of the film still burning bright in my mind from last night, I thought I’d write it up today. The first of this review will be spoiler-free and I’ll clearly mark the beginnings of spoilers. Also, the comments are fair game for spoilers too, so stop reading where it makes sense for you. This will be long winded and emotional, so if you want the tl;dr - it rocked. See it now.

My memories of the first Star Wars film are a bit hazy. I was four years so I’m not even terribly sure I’m remembering correctly. All I know is that I saw it with my father and the only scene I remember is R2 being lowered into X-Wing.

For Empire Strikes Back, all I remember is the line. It stretched around the movie theater.

For Return of the Jedi, I saw it in a little town in Louisiana. There were - maybe - five people in the theater and I sat in the very first row. (Don’t ask me why - I was a dumb kid.)

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. I’ve certainly seen better sci fi in my life, but nothing has left the impression on me as much as these movies. I love them - warts and all. When I ride my bike, I’m flying through the woods of Endor. As I write this - I’m in an office completely covered in Star Wars toys. (And some Star Trek too - along with Robotech and a few other geeky properties.) For the past few years I’ve walked my kids to school in a full on Sith robe with a fancy (i.e. not cheap) light saber. I’m actually considering picking up some boots/pants to make it a bit more realistic.

ray

So yeah - I love Star Wars. Really love it. So when I heard about the new trilogy, I was pretty damn excited. Unlike a lot of Star Wars fans, I did not hate the prequels. Did they come close to what I, and many other fans, had hoped for? Not at all. To be fair, there was no chance in hell it could. And in the end, Vader’s portrayal was a let down. That being said, the prequels had some great aspects to it. Without a doubt, Ewan McGregor absolutely, 100%, nailed Obi Wan. Ian McDiarmid’s Palaptine was wonderfully evil. His scene with Anakin at the Space Opera was chilling. The Jedi being portrayed as all powerful, yet seemingly blind, has been called one of the flaws of the prequels, but to me, this is one of the strengths. They had grown complacent and I think that made for a great part of the story.

I also didn’t have the Special Editions. To me - they let me see the movies again on the big screen - and actually remember them this time. Did I like seeing Greedo shoot first? Nope. Did I loose any sleep over it? Nope.

My biggest concern with the new movie was it turning into something cool, but lacking in the original spirit of the movies. I enjoyed JJ Abrams updated Star Trek film, but the more time passes, and the more I watch DS9, the more I feel like he really missed out on the “feel” of Trek. (And yes, I’m a huge Trekkie too.) The trailers that were released really felt like they got the emotional aspect right, but I wouldn’t be sure until I actually saw it.

And as the lights dimmed last night and I saw those famous words on screen - my fears melted away.

long

From the first sentence of the crawl to the last shot - this was everything I had hoped the prequels would be and every bit a “proper” Star Wars movie. You’ve got great action, incredibly funny scenes, awesome bad guys, and a great story as well. The cast, especially the new heroes, were wonderful. Kylo was incredible. So many movies have trouble getting the bad guys well and I thought he was awesome. I really liked Hux too, even when he was (and maybe this is a spoiler) bat-shit fanatical. Rey and Finn had great chemistry, and while at times they were a bit annoying in their youthful excitement, it was a good annoying if that makes sense. As I told a friend, sometimes the jokes were bad - but even when they were bad, I still grinned like a fool.

“The Force Awakens” met every expectation I had. I won’t call it perfect (and few films are) - but I’m so happy now I feel like I can bust. If I had to call out one thing I felt let down by it would have to be the soundtrack. While it was good to hear those old melodies again, not one of the new songs really feels like it made an impression on me. There was no “Imperial March” or “Duel of Fates”. I’m going to give it another chance though - I’m buying the soundtrack today. But at least while I watched, I can’t say that any of the new music was memorable. It certainly wasn’t bad, but John Williams has really set the bar high. (The music in the cantina though was pretty good. I’m not really counting that as it feels like it is set apart from the soundtrack itself.)

Seriously - don’t wait - go to the movies today. Now. See it with your kids. Enjoy the hell out of it and lets hope the next movies are just as good!

spoiler-alert

Here are some random, SPOILER-ish, thoughts in no particular order.

  • The shot of the Star Destroyer covering the planet as an opening shot was freaking perfect.
  • When Kylo stopped the laser in midair I was convinced I wasn't seeing it. My jaw dropped. That is - single handedly - the coolest thing I've seen in a Star Wars movie ever. Or least tied with the reveal of the Super Star Destroyer in ESB.
  • Snoke is... fascinating. I don't recognize his race. He doesn't seem like "just another Emperor". Another thing to keep in mind is that Snoke in person could be quite a bit different than what we see in the hologram.
  • I love the new X-Wings. Love em. But I still wish I had seen an A or B wing too.
  • If you didn't read the books, I bet you would be pretty confused by the "Resistance" thing. To be honest, I've read the new books and I still find it a bit weird. From what I know, the New Republic is helping the Resistance fight against the First Order, but why there is a separate group as opposed to just "the military of the Republic" is weird. In "Aftermath", they suggest heavily that the government is going to be pacifist, but it still feels like an odd setup. The First Order I get. The Empire was shattered, broken apart, and this is what came from it. But the Resistance seems weird. I'll get over it.
  • Love that we have a new Star Destroyer. I find the top portion to be weirdly off center, but that could be my OCD. In case you're curious, and you are - the SD is the Finalizer. The class is called Resurgent.
  • Hux's speech was so over the top. I would have loved to have been there for the filming of that. Obviously meant to echo Hitler's speeches, it just shows how this new Empire is much more fanatical, much more a cult than the "dignified while blowing up your planet" days of Tarkin.

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