Movie Review: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

“We’ll figure it out, we’ll use the Force!”

“That’s not how the Force works!”

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Before I begin, please let me preface this review by letting you all know that when I got out of the movie, I shouted in the lobby to friends that I refused to speak to them because I didn’t want to ruin the movie for anyone passing by. I continued this thought once I got home by posting that I would leave social media for the weekend because I didn’t want to inadvertently spoil the movie for anyone. The weekend is over now and it’s time to turn in a review. What type of review though? Full of spoilers? Spoiler free? I realized that doing a spoiler free review would actually handicap any hope of a solid review but a review full of spoilers is not my thing. So I have done my best not to have spoilers at all, but consider this to be your warning in case a few slip in. For the most part, I’ve tried to be as vague as possible.

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“The Force Awakens.” Anywhere you go you’ll see or hear someone talking about it. It’s everywhere right now and it’s an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan. It’s definitely a special entry into the mythos that comes to us from a galaxy far far away. It’s been ten years since our last foray with “Revenge of the Sith” but what makes this movie so special is that it continues the film legacy of the original trilogy that started in 1977. There are fans who have been waiting for this movie for literally a majority of their lifetime. So is it good? Is it the piece of the puzzle that we’ve been waiting all this time for? I’m not so sure and here’s why.

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They say that history has a habit of repeating itself and this is how I have come to see “Awakens.” As the first entry into a new trilogy, is it on the same level as “A New Hope” or “The Phantom Menace?” The easy answer would be yes, but after a bit of retrospective the answer gets a bit complicated. It’s on the same level as those other movies so much so that it practically IS the other movies. Much more than I would have liked it to be.

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There’s important information that is tucked away into a droid who manages to befriend someone of importance. Another someone of importance in need of saving, who is rescued by an unlikely ally. A character needs passage aboard a ship in an attempt to escape the only life he’s ever known. A likable pilot of considerable skill with a questionable past who doesn’t understand the force enough to believe in it. A desert planet. A planet destroying weapon. A lightsaber scene that affects the main character(s) on an emotional level. A squadron of fighter ships doing what they can against an enemy they aren’t likely to beat. A cantina scene. The similarities are plentiful. In truth, the movie borrows from all of its film predecessors. A familial connection is revealed. Characters thought lost are reunited. A wicked lightsaber duel. Scenes with scores and scores of stormtroopers in formation. A small party goes on a mission to disable the shields of a weapon. I think you get the idea.

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I know that it sounds as though the movie was a huge letdown, but the truth is that those aren’t the areas where I was disappointed. I enjoyed those parts. They felt familiar. They felt safe. I was grinning from ear to ear once Han and Chewie showed up and essentially took over the reigns of the film. Until that moment, I was enamored with these new characters. I had come to accept Kylo Ren as the big bad. I had come to accept FN-2187 er, uh… Finn as the stormtrooper with a conscience. I had come to accept Poe Dameron as this story’s Wedge Antilles. I had come to accept BB-8 as this story’s R2-D2. Disney took this epic moment to introduce us to a new Disney Princess in Rey who had an air of mystery about her that kept me locked into what was happening on screen. Unfortunately it’s after Solo and the Wookiee show up that the movie gets all wonky.
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The movie starts off well. Our introduction to Kylo Ren is impressive as we’re given an awesome display of his mastery of the Force but then it’s all downhill from there for that character once Han and Chewie show up. Poe is lost at this point. Finn turns into comedy relief. One of the coolest moments in the movie is meeting Maz Kanata, but she’s all but forgotten after she hands off a certain lightsaber to Finn. That’s not necessarily Han’s fault, but it’s a disappointment nonetheless. General Hux. Who? Exactly. Captain Phasma. Who? Exactly. Even the soundtrack was a bit lackluster. Before viewing the movie I had the great opportunity to take part in a premier event celebration for “The Force Awakens” where the soundtrack for the new movie played over the sound system. I couldn’t help but comment then how bland the music felt but had hoped that I felt that way because I didn’t know the context in which the music was to be used. Even after the credits were rolling, my opinion didn’t change much.
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But wait! With all of this repeating of content, does “Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens” stand as it’s own movie? Does it distinguish itself from the rest of the franchise? My response is a very enthusiastic YES! Yes it does! You see, the familiar content needs to viewed as nostalgia. They are the scenes that keep you grounded in the lore. You know them. You’re comfortable with them. Then there are enough visually stunning moments tied in with the nostalgia that there were times when I was reaching for my drink in an attempt to free the lump from my throat. The entire time, my eyes were glued to the action on screen. I even teared up at moments, but not necessarily for the intended emotional spots of the movie. Seeing the Millennium Falcon take flight again for the first time on the big screen since 1997 (Special Editions) was an awe inspiring moment.

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Back when George Lucas announced to the world that he would “revisit” the classic trilogy and put in the things that he felt were missing, what we got was something that the fans didn’t necessarily care for. I truly believe that may have been because he was too close to the project and couldn’t view it from a fan’s perspective. Enter J.J. Abrams. A fan who made a fan film the way a fan of the series would have: For the fans. Where Lucas gave us the “Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope” (Special Edition), Abrams gave us “Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens.”

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As for the rating… The truth of the matter is this: If I were to rate “The Force Awakens” it would be from two perspectives. While the movie is onscreen it gets a solid 4 stars from me. Any other time and my brain starts picking it to pieces until I end up with 2 stars. I’m sure to get a bit of heat for such a low score, but search your feelings and you will know it to be true.

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