J.J Abrams has GOT to be smiling from ear to ear right now. The Force Awakens was amazing, J.J. gets the giant Ewok off his chest after worrying so much about upsetting us crazy Star Wars fans, and Daisy Ridley and John Boyega get to sit back and enjoy the hell out of life knowing that they will soon become household names. The Force Awakens is not only a great addition to the Star Wars universe, but also a masterfully crafted sc-fi experience for all ages.
Before I begin this review/reaction article, I want to get it out there that I am a lifelong Star Wars, and I am totally biased when it comes to Star Wars. With that being said, I have seen the movie a few times already and although it is not perfect, I truly believe that no one could have done a better job than J.J. Abrams.
One of my main concerns going into The Force Awakens was if it would feel too similar to J.J.’s Star Trek movies. Luckily, J.J. captures the grand scale of the Star Wars universe, but also brings the much needed detail to each landscape with the use of practical effects and imposing set pieces.
Perhaps J.J’s greatest strength as a director/writer is his ability to make intriguing characters along with natural development and interactions. TFA is THE best example of how Abrams really lets his actors have fun with their roles, as there was not a single bad performance in the movie and everyone seemed to be aware of how crucial each and every line is to us fanboys and girls.
In ways very similar to A New Hope, TFA introduces great new characters on both the Light and Dark side, all on quests to find meaning and purpose. The Resistance is the rebellion, and the First Order is bascially the new galactic empire (although it’s really the First Order who are rebelling against the Republic), and both are beginning to clash as the race to find Luke Skywalker begins.
The amount of throwback references to ANH may be a bit too much for some moviegoers, but I loved it. Abrams incorporated plenty of Easter eggs throughout the film, and the entire movie actually flows and moves forward through classic characters such as Han and Leia. Again ANH and TFA are very similar, but TFA pays homage to the classic with plenty of new characters that are perfect medleys of the cast of old.
Not to sound like a broken record, but the cast did a beyond amazing job. Poe stole every scene he was in, Finn was hilarious, especially when he “talked” to BB-8, Leia demanded respect as the General of the Resistance, and the still-smuggling Han was as charming as ever. But the major standouts of the film were Daisy Ridley as Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren.
Kylo Ren is unlike any other Sith that has been on the big screen. He is immature, aggressive, short-tempered, and most of all, very powerful. Okay, maybe that sounds a bit like Anakin from the prequels, but Kylo Ren’s characterization is far different. He has a bit more edge to him than the Sith we have seen before, and most importantly, fans will go back and forth between how much they love or hate him. This new trilogy is just as much Kylo Ren’s story as it is Rey or Finn’s, and it is great to see a young, unrefined Sith find his way to the Dark Side.
Aesthetically, TFA looks amazing. Cinematographer Dan Mindel is no newcomer to Abrams’ direction, the two have worked together on Mission: Impossible III, and both of Abrams’ Star Trek movies. This is by far Mindel’s best work yet. If for some reason you aren’t a Star Wars fan, see this movie for the cinematography alone. I highly recommend seeing it in IMAX 3D, but only if it’s a “real” IMAX screen.
The Force Awakens may be a bit predictable, but it is greatly executed. My only nitpicks would be that nothing really feels at stake, and the new characters feel safe as we all know that Disney has big plans for just about all of them. There are some moments that are totally J.J. Abrams and the last act feels a teeny bit rushed, but overall the story and the characters are great and after seeing it 3 times, I still want more. I suppose if you have not seen Star Wars Episodes 4-6, you may not appreciate TFA as much, but it is still an entertaining sci-fi experience nonetheless. Even though there isn’t much at risk in this film, and even though the “bad guys” should know by now to stop building things, the movie delivers an exciting story with intriguing and diverse new characters that are all inspired by the original cast that we love so dearly.