Movie Review: The Force Awakens (Spoiler-Free)

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FAStar Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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-Free review. If you don’t mind spoilers, or you’ve see the movie, that review is here. This is naturally the shorter review, because I can’t talk about specific things.

I’ll start with what I liked about the film, and this will be in the spoiler-filled review almost word for word, because it’s easy to make the same points either way.

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.

But the writing was weaker than I might have liked, but I should also add that the dialogue was a lot less clunky. Maybe it’s the Abrams connection, but there’s a lot of Star Trek II factor in here. In a lot of ways, The Force Awakens is just a remake of A New Hope. Without listing them, all lot of the same basic plot basic elements are there to make the same basic story.

Although… Storm Troopers who could actually hit things. That was nice.

There were a handful of things, all of them significant events or plot points, that really stretched credulity for me, to the point where I couldn’t suppress my need to make smart ass remarks out loud. One of them was such a completely overused cliché and so completely ridiculous, it threw me completely out of the film.

Everything was too close together, physically and temporally. The second on of those is a traditional Star Wars problem, but you can ignore it if it isn’t too obvious. The first one, though, is previously symptomatic of Abrams Star Trek.

There was a little too much spontaneous character development for one of the main characters and not enough development at all for another. A complete lack of emotional investment in what really amounted to a walking plot device needed to move things along at key moments. I feel like there are probably a couple of cut scenes focusing around the character that would have made me care, and those will hopefully be available in the bluray release, but it wasn’t there in the theatre.

All of that said, I was clearly invested in events near the end of the movie because I remember thinking several times that they {the rest of this paragraph is almost spoilery, but watch the previews, I think I’m okay) needed not to pull another Darth Maul in this film. You know you’re filming a trilogy that makes one big story arc so try not to waste a good villain. However, the way they got around that is the thing that threw me out of the film.

There are emotional moments, funny moments, intense moments, and a really great death scene for a couple of people. There’s also a lot of cheese and weak writing.

And 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.

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