I’m writing two reviews for this movie, since it’s only been in theatres for about a week and a half and it is Star Wars after all. This is the Spoiler-Filled review. If you want an opinion without spoilers, that one is here.
So let’s start with what I liked about the film.
The characters showed some cross section and some diversity, which was nice for a Star Wars film, in addition to being a relatively new thing if you don’t count mostly negative stereotypes from the prequel films. Those characters were mostly played by actors who were allowed to act, which was also pretty neat.
I mostly liked the production values, although whoever was in charge of the cinematography spent a lot of time trying to impress me with how big everything was, a little too much really.
The overall aesthetic of the film, visuals, effects, soundscape, were all awesome. The film looked and sounded good, even in 3D, though I think I should have been sitting a little farther back. There were a few moments when there was too much going on for me to be able to take in everything.
Here’s where we get into spoiler territory, mostly with things that didn’t work for me.
In a lot of ways, The Force Awakens is just a remake of A New Hope. All of the basic elements are there: Death Star/Death Planet, Trench Run, Cantina, bad guy in a black plastic mask, young hero(ine) learning to use the force, desert planet, rescue mission, rebellion/resistance, a unit of distance being used as a unit of time, a droid with incredibly important computer files, etc, etc.
Although… Storm Troopers who could actually hit things. That was nice.
I guess I’m saying the writing was weaker than I might have liked, but I should also add that the dialogue was a lot less clunky.
And there were a handful of things that really stretched credulity for me, to the point where I couldn’t suppress my need to make smart ass remarks out loud: a giant laser that could shoot faster than light, Kylo Ren stopping a blaster bolt in mid air and not even needing to concentrate or look at it to hold it there while he held the shooter in place, either one of the two people who picked up Luke’s old lightsaber being able to stand against a mostly-trained Sith for more than a swing or two (especially after one of them got his ass kicked by a Storm Trooper with a shock baton), not to mention said Sith’s temper tantrums, and R2 waking up when it was all over to provide the rest of the map to find Luke instead of when BB8 and friends came by to tell him that they had a piece of the map.
And everything was too close together: the Resistance base, the New Republic Capital, the Death Planet, and the underground Casino all seemed to be practically in the same system.
Did I say the writing was weaker than I’d like?
Not quite done yet, though. The biggest thing that threw me out of the story was the very impressive trench opening up between Kylo and Rey just at the right time to not let her kill him. It would have been a lot better for Rey’s character development to actually make the choice not to kill the bad guy and maybe even try to bring him back.
Speaking of Rey, she figured out too much Force stuff on her own. Jedi mind tricks, focusing ability to suddenly improve her light saber skills, and the art of mental distraction. She’s pretty much got all of the Obi-Wan stuff locked down without having had any training. So why does she need to go find Luke? (Side note, I’m thinking there’s going to be a training montage very early in the next movie.)
I wasn’t invested enough in Poe. He wasn’t more than a plot device in this movie, though he was clearly meant to be a main character. I feel like there are probably a couple of cut scenes focusing around him that would have made me care about him more as a character, and maybe they’ll put those back into a bluray release, but it wasn’t there in the theatre.
That said, I was clearly invested in things near the end of the movie because I remember thinking several times that they needed not to pull another Darth Maul and allow Kylo Ren to die. You know you’re filming a trilogy that makes one big story arc so try not to waste a good villain. The way Kylo’s life didn’t end was a big eye roll, though. The giant trench in the ground I mentioned.
Never really a secret, or at least not for long, that Kylo Ren is actually Han and Leia’s son Ben, but the line, “There’s too much Vader in him,” rang hollow and cheap. And Kylo throwing a temper tantrum every time he got angry and Supreme Leader wasn’t around to see was… let’s go with unfortunate.
And great death scene for Han Solo. Naturally flowing out of the characters and not really surprising, but a definite emotional impact because there’s no way they’d really do that, right?
There are a lot of unanswered questions, and that’s a good thing because most of them came out of the characters and their actions or largely unexplored backstory, and most of them can lead to some great character development in the next film.
Overall, I’ll go with a 7/10, though I feel just a touch generous. Far better than the prequels, but not up to the original trilogy. The potential is there. I liked it, but I probably need to see it again to find some things I missed.by