You have been warned. Spoilers ahead. Go watch the movie and judge it for yourself. What follows is my own opinion, as biased as any reviewers.
Alright, let’s do this.
AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH! This movie frustrates me. So much. To see those titles, that opening crawl, to hear that score again on the big screen…it was magical. It was like a Star Wars film should be.
Luke Skywalker is missing. Everyone is seeking him after he went into exile. The Republic has been restored, and supports a Resistance that battles an Imperial remnant known as the First Order. Stuff we already know/figured out from the trailers and promotional materials.
The opening of this movie…is promising. Actually, it’s pretty damn good. It’s thrilling, it’s fun, it has tension. It’s a bit simplistic in some places (like our stormtrooper hero, Finn, going into his first combat mission and immediately questioning what he is doing – how come he’s the only one? What makes him so special that he wasn’t fully indoctrinated? The rest of his squad does fine…so is it a Force thing? I don’t think so – Finn is after all not a Force sensitive. Or at least, is not even hinted at being one.)
However, reasons for defecting aside, his actual defection and fleeing the First Order forces is a fun opening to the movie that is perfectly fitting for Star Wars – Finn teaming up with a captured Resistance agent, Poe (who was clearly meant to be Wedge Antilles before the actor who plays Wedge couldn’t make it to filming) who needs to get to his droid which has secret information on it. So you know, a bit like the opening of A New Hope.
And I kinda like this thematic link back to the original trilogy. Though something that irks me is that we visit NONE of the planets established in the other movies. This is probably just a personal thing, I’m sure, but why Jakku? There is nothing special about it whatsoever. Sure, its a big galaxy and is undoubtedly full of planets to explore but…am I the only one who thinks it would have been thematically fitting to start on Tattooine? Then, the first movie of each trilogy features that desert world, forever tied to the story of the Skywalker family.
Ugh, let’s see what else did I like…the Stormtroopers! They’re competent, they’re scary, they know what they’re doing and who they are – and know exactly who they’re dealing with. When our latest Sith baddie goes into a foul mood and starts thrashing a room, a pair of troopers patrolling the hallway outside notice and leave. The Stormtroopers get lots of nice little characterful moments like this throughout the film.
More than Captain Phasma does. Maybe she’ll turn up in a later film, but so far it feels like Abrams want Phasma to be the new Boba Fett. But eh…she doesn’t really do anything (she doesn’t even get to fire her weapon) and has maybe three lines. Again, she may very well appear in the later movies, in which case, cool!
This whole movie feels like its trying to distance itself from Star Wars whilst being Star Wars. i know that’s weird and I’m rambling, but it’s 3am and I’m going by memory. The Force Awakens is A New Hope. Messing around a desert planet, visiting a cantina, an attack on a super weapon which gets destroyed because of a damaged heat valve…the old mentor and father figure to our main characters get’s killed off by a villain of their own creation…
And no, it isn’t Luke Skywalker, bucking the trend which includes Qui Gon in Episode I, and Obi Wan in Episode IV. Wouldn’t it also have been a great way to carry on the traditions and themes by having Luke die in Episode VII? But nope, it’s Han Solo who dies. Murdered by his own son.
Yep, Kylo Ren is Ben Solo, so Abrams took that aspect of the EU and made it canon again. Han and Leia’s son is powerful, was first trained by Luke alongside other New Jedi before being corrupted by Supreme Leader Snoke (who apparently knows something of the Force and maybe a Sith himself…which I don’t get but eh, again, sure the other movies will cover it), and dismantling the New Jedi Order.
Which sounds far more interesting than the whole Starkiller Base plot, and is only alluded to in flashbacks. Also, Anakin’s/Luke’s lightsaber s back! We last saw it plunge into nothingness in Cloud City. How the hell did they get it? They brush it aside as a “good question for another time”. Uh…no, where did you get it. Found it stuck in an air conditioning unit? Travelled onto the surface of bedpan to retrieve it? Explain please! Again, may come up in a later movie.
The villains are a let-down this movie. We have Phasma, our Boba Fett who may actually be dead (she’s never mentioned again after our heroes supposedly stuff her down a garbage chute), our First Order General (whose name escapes me because he’s a ranting screeching Tarkin wannabe with none of the quiet dignity – Peter Cushing made Tarkin scary because he was a cold man who didn’t need to raise his voice!), and Kylo Ren (who is a Darth Vader wannabe, but with none of the power or menace. Hard to be scared when he takes his mask of and it’s just a man who looks like he’s only recently out of his teens), and of course our Emperor-expy, Supreme Leader Snoke (who only appears via hologram, like the Emperor in Empire Strikes Back). And is just ominous and makes vague statements about the Force, pretty much like the Emperor did in his first appearance. His visual design was also kinda…meh?
Guess I just expected more.
Of course, ultimately, I may just be old. this movie is for a younger generation, a new generation. It is a bunch of young people playing at being the characters from what, to them, is a mythic time. Kylo Ren is a child playing at being a villain, Finn is the man who wants to run away but finds his courage to help in the end, Rey is the unsure orphan who has a growing connection to the Force.
Rey is…a character. She’s well written, and a survivor, and has a few great moments in the movie. But then there’s stuff like being able to pull of jedi mind tricks despite not being trained at all, and not even knowing she was force sensitive until a day before, and piloting the Millennium Falcon like Han Solo himself despite never having flown it before. She almost veered into Mary Sue territory for me at times.
Mark Hamill is in this movie. The last ten seconds, and says nothing. I like how he looks a bit like Ben Kenobi though – the jedi hermit living alone in isolation after a pupil of his turns to evil.
So, to end my ramblings: The first half of the movie is great, the second half just keeps being A New Hope, there’s too much and yet not enough Star Wars – none of the older planets, but a planet sized super weapon. A new cantina scene, a battle in the forest, in snow, in the desert…
Ugh. I’m sure I’m just being nitpicky, but in the end, I found this movie underwhelming. Then again, it’s not for me, but at the same time, why can’t it be?