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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

10 years since the last Star Wars prequel tarnished fans feelings about the franchise; this new installment from J.J. Abrams looks to have done everything in its power to get fans excited again. Warning: Major Spoilers follow.

Summary

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has vanished. After the fall of the Empire, a New Republic has come into power, supported by the forces that took down the Empire. Out of the ashes of the Empire, a group called the First Order has risen. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), formerly Princess Leia is now a leader in the Resistance; a group that fights against the First Order. The Resistance’s best pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), is on the planet Jakku to retrieve a map that points to the last known location of Luke Skywalker. He is intercepted by the leader of the Knights of Ren and dark force user, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Before he is captured,  Poe hides his portion of the map in is droid, BB-8 and tells the droid to hide.

The attack on Jakku is also the first battle for a young storm trooper (John Boyega). He is shaken by the fight and refuses to kill; breaking the programming instilled in him by the First Order. When they get back to their ship, he breaks Poe out because it’s the right thing to do and because he needs a pilot to help him escape. Poe gives the storm trooper the name “Finn” and a crash course into how to shoot the guns on a ship. The two manage to get off the base, but are shot down on surface of Jakku. Finn presumes that Poe died in the crash and wanders off to find help and a place to hide from the First Order.

He runs into a girl named Rey (Daisy Ridley), a rough and tumble scavenger who happened to find and save BB-8. She attacks Finn when BB-8 assumes that Finn stole Poe’s jacket. He quickly informs them of the situation as First Order troops show up and attack them. They flee together and fly off the planet in the Millennium Falcon, which has been gathering dust in the scavenge yard. They escape the First Order, but are captured by another ship when they stall mid-flight.

The ship just so happens to be piloted by Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca. After Rey is done being awe-struck by meeting him, Solo explains that the legends about he and Luke are true. After the war, Luke tried to re-establish the Jedi order. He started training students, but one of them turned on him and slaughtered the others. Feelings like he failed, Luke went into exile.

After a scuffle with some space thugs and tentacle monsters, Han, Chewie, Rey, Finn and BB-8 take the Milennium Falcon to the Resistance base in order to see if they can find any leads to Luke. They head to Maz Kanata’s (Lupita Nyong’o) castle for information. While they’re there, Finn tries to find someone to take him far away from the First Order. After failing to get Finn to reconsider leaving,  Rey hears’ something calling out to her. She stumbles upon the lightsaber that was used by both Anakin and Luke Skywalker. When she touches, it she sees flashes of Luke, the Knights of Ren and hears the voices of former Jedi. After Maz explains the lineage of the lightsaber, Rey is freaked out and runs away. About the same time, the First Order attacks the castle. They were tipped off about BB-8 being there. When Kylo realizes that Rey has seen the map, he kidnaps her instead. Han and Finn are saved when Poe (yeah, he’s not dead) and the rest of the Resistance arrive, also looking for BB-8. Han is reunited with Leia and they all end up back at the Resistance base.

Han and Leia’s dialogue fills in the rest of the holes in Kylo Ren’s past. He is actually Ben Solo, Han and Leia’s son. When they found out he was strong with the force, Leia sent him to train with Luke. Sending him away and his subsequent turn to the dark side and betrayal of Luke contributed to Han and Leia’s eventual separation. As it he is now, Kylo is emotionally unstable and still struggling against the light. Along with General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), Kylo is guided by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), the mysterious leader of the First Order, who seems to be connected to the dark side. Kylo also keeps the burned helmet of Darth Vader and wants to become even more powerful than Anakin Skywalker.

While the Resistance is gathering itself, General Hux addresses his army on the surface of the Starkiller base. It is a planet retrofitted into a weapon. It absorbs a nearby star and turns the energy into a beam that can destroy multiple planets at once. They destroy several planets that are members of the Republic as a show of force and to weaken the Republic.

After that, General Leia’s first order of business becomes destroying the Starkiller base. A multi-pronged attack is organized with Han, Chewie and Finn sent to the surface of the planet in order to take its defenses down while Poe leads the fighters through the air. Both Finn and Han have ulterior motives for their mission. Finn wants to save Rey and Han wants to confront Kylo Ren. Both of those tasks turn out to be pretty easy. After touching the lightsaber, Rey has developed force abilities that she is quickly learning to use. She is able to resist Kylo’s mind invasion and Jedi mindtrick’s a storm trooper into releasing her. She runs in to the group while they are looking for her.

They head to sabotage the base and are found by Kylo, who was also looking for Han. Han goes to confront his son. The two talk briefly before Kylo asks Han for help and then runs Han through with his lightsaber in order to complete his transition to the dark side. Chewie, Finn and Rey, run and set off the explosives, which allows Poe and the other fighters to complete the destruction of the base. Before they can get to the Falcon, Rey and Finn have to fight off an injured and enraged Kylo Ren. Finn is struck down, but Rey is able to defeat Kylo using her newly discovered force abilities and Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. Before anyone is killed, the planet-sized base starts to split apart and Chewie gets the heroes to the shp. Finn is left in intensive care and Rey leaves to go search out Luke Skywalker. The movie ends with her finding Luke and, without speaking, presenting him with his old lightsaber.

Commentary

This may the most Star Wars-y Star Wars movie that could’ve been made. The movie borrows themes from a lot of the original trilogy (Episodes 4-6) and feels a lot like the originals. The combination of practical effects and CGI works really well and there are some amazing set pieces. I also thought it was very well balanced between recognizing the work of the previous movies and being its own movie. More importantly, the movie was entertaining. There was great humor, some heart, action and a story that’s going to lead to lots of fan theories and debate until the next movie comes out (and probably even beyond that).

This is a movie that it’s hard for me to be critical of. Not because there aren’t flaws in the movie; there are actually some glaring flaws. For example, Rey comes off as a bit of a wish-fulfillment character. The ease with which she learns to control the force is almost unbelievable. Then she starts using abilities that are supposed to take a lifetime of training to master without ever having a lesson. Another example is Kylo and his strange past with Luke and unexplained infatuation with Anakin Skywalker. Yet another is Finn and his improbable shooting ability and continuous escapes. You’ve never seen a storm trooper shoot so well. On top of all that, you could say that the new characters are thin and underdeveloped because they’re mostly one dimensional. The older characters are relying on the audience knowing who they are from the past films. Some small characters did absolutely nothing. Gwendoline Christie was barely in the movie as Captain Phasma. They had the actors from the Raid series in the movie, and they only fought some CGI tentacle monsters. Oh yeah, let’s talk about those tentacle monsters and how cheesy that was…

There’s plenty to be critical of in this movie. My problem is that I don’t care. When I was in the theater, I was completely engrossed by what I was watching. There were only a couple of moments where my suspension of disbelief started to crack, but it was soon fully back up and running. I wasn’t being critical, I was thinking about what I liked:

  • I loved the scene with Rey and Finn escaping int the Falcon.
  • I was heartbroken watching Han reunite with his estranged love and then getting run through by his son.
  • I was intrigued by what’s been going on with Luke.
  • I got chills watching Rey force-summon the lightsaber to take on Kylo.
  • I also loved Kylo as a villain and the idea that he was still an incomplete villain, just like the younger heroes were still incomplete.
  • BB-8 was adorable and added a very unexpected element of humor to the movie.
  • Poe Dameron is one of the most unnecessarily awesome characters that I’ve seen in a while.
  • Finn and Rey were adorable together.
  • I loved how Rey took on both the roles of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo at certain points.
  • The movie had a great balance of diversity without it feeling like it was at the expense of anything else.

So, these are the things I choose to focus on when I remember this movie. That doesn’t mean that I’m ignoring that there were problems. I just don’t see a reason to focus on the problems instead of all the good things this movie did. Especially considering that this movie was tasked with resurrecting a beloved franchise after it was so poorly handled 10 years ago.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
9

Story / Plot

9/10

    Characters

    8/10

      Visuals

      10/10

        Music / Audio

        10/10

          Entertainment

          10/10

            Pros

            • Completely engrossing and entertaining
            • Does a masterful job of being a changing of the guard for the franchise.
            • Effects and Set pieces are well done
            • There are a lot of great ideas for characters

            Cons

            • If you think too much about certain parts of the story, it falls apart
            • The ideas of the characters are good, but some of them aren't explored well or at all. Probably because there are a lot of them
            • Wastes some actors by not giving them anything to do.
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