Here is what I can tell you:
This review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be super unbiased. Why? Because I am not a hardcore fan boy of the series like most critics I know. I didn’t watch the original trilogy over and over as a kid, and didn’t even see them as an adult. Each film of the original trilogy I have only seen once, and honestly, I get why they were popular then, but think most of it is just nostalgia a la Tron love. Tron is technically terrible, it just did something no other film did before it, so it was a big deal and loved for that reason. If I saw Star Wars as a kid, I might be hooked as well.
I am not saying I hate Star Wars, as that would still be biased. I am just very neutral and ambivalent towards it. I liked KOTOR as a game, so that is one thing I enjoyed. And yes, Episode III might be my favorite Star Wars film, solely for the ending magma battle and shouting.
Here is one more thing I can tell you:
No, I don’t think this review will have a ton of spoilers. I didn’t watch any trailers myself to keep it completely fresh in my mind. I waited days after its released and walked through the internet like a minefield to keep my take on it fresh, despite the news stories of its success. I wanted to wait, so I could watch it in an enjoyable way with a small crowd to not sway my opinion one way or another. Will I reveal basic plot points? Of course, but if that is a spoiler, then fuck me, everything is a spoiler.
This is how I be dodging spoilers on the internet.
Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, shit has once again hit the fan. Remember Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)? Yeah, he was a big deal. He has been missing for a long time now though and might just be the last Jedi. Turns out there are still bad people. They aren’t the Empire anymore, they are the First Order. And they are looking for him.
So are the Resistance, which is of course led by Leia (Carrie Fisher), a General now. You can’t really call yourself a Princess anymore when your only claim to royalty blew up in the first half of A New Hope.
Either way, she sends her best pilot down to Jakku on hearing that there is a clue to his whereabouts. You’re thinking Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbaccca (Peter Mayhew)? Hell no! We’re talkin’ Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)! He is like the new Han Solo, I guess.
And that is the plot outline basically given to us by the rolling credits to start the film. Since I don’t want to freak anyone out. First Order bad. Luke is gone. And more question marks.
But there are still new characters! Rey (Daisy Ridley) is the new Luke and Finn (John Boyega) was a storm trooper, and also New Luke. I guess. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is new Darth Vader and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) is new Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin.
Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) is new Yoda, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is new Palpatine, and Anthony Daniels is still C3P0. Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) is a silver storm trooper commander, and I guess she is just a new thing completely. But she has almost no real reason to be in this film, to be honest.
Princess Leia really let it all go for this film.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an entertaining film. It has likable characters. The new people seem to mostly be the focus, determined to tell their own story, and not let a bunch of old people steal their spotlight. What I might have loved the most was that it felt a lot more “realer” than the prequels. It didn’t feel like a giant CGI fest. It involved actors really running through sand. Real sand!
And sure, I liked Rey. This series will catapult Ridley into super stardom, I can feel it. I liked the Poe and Finn bromance. I really liked Poe. I liked Poe a lot more than I would imagine for someone who is just a pilot. Damn you irresistible Oscar Isaac. Even the new R2D2 was cool.
I didn’t like Kylo Ren when he took off the mask though. No offense to Adam Driver, who I tend to enjoy in his other films, but the look he had with the long hair made him just feel so un-intimidating. His characteristics, technically realistic, but not currently as BAMF as I had hoped. The storm troopers themselves were better. They had personalities, they could hit targets, they had various weapons, and obviously, one of them gained a conscious.
He does have the most sensical lightsaber at least.
But then. Then there are other things. Things not as good as those first things.
Of course a common complaint is this whole thing just feels like a rehash of events from the original trilogy. Some people would argue they are just a homage or mirror of events. Others will just call it lazy fan service / heavy winking. I am on the latter. This didn’t feel like a completely new movie. I mean, fuck, they already did two Death Stars. This time we have a really really really big Death Star, with similar dumb weak points with even more who gives a shitness.
Not everything is well acted. Some scenes are cringey, some seem forced. The worst scene for me to watch was unfortunately a scene between Fischer and Ford, talking about their old love. Neither seemed to be really into it at that moment (Fisher was unfortunately aloof for every one of her scenes), and it didn’t provide the power that it was striving for.
I think what I hated even more about this film is that it didn’t feel like a complete story. Yes, it is part of a trilogy. Yes, trilogies should have an over arcing plot and goal that is being worked towards. But each film in a trilogy needs to have its own beginning, middle, and end, and not leave us with almost literal cliffhangers. The ending to TFA reminded me of the ending of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which pissed me off so much I still haven’t seen At World’s End. Will I see Episode VIII? I have to, it is my job, but I will go in on a slightly sour note.
In case I wasn’t clear, this film felt like it wanted to set up the trilogy and only hint at what is to come, instead of letting that come naturally through its own story.
TFA is an entertaining movie and one people can enjoy again and again, but it is not movie of the year material when it comes down to all of the bigger elements. I have hope for the future films.
As a side note, I enjoyed a few other things. Like Fisher’s daughter having a small role, and you may recognize her from Scream Queens. It is hilarious that Isaac and Driver are both in this film, when they were last together they sung with Justin Timberlake about not wanting to go to Outer Space. I hope JT is given future consideration for a small role.
And finally, there was a mother fucking reference to Clerks. Clerks, which made many references to Star Wars. Randall was wrong. He said that the average storm trooper does not know how to install a toilet, and that they’d have to hire independent contractors to make the Death Star. But damn it. Those storm troopers do have jobs. (Spoiler)? Finn worked in fucking sanitation!
3 out of 4.