My Thoughts on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

I have had many ask about what I thought about the new Star Wars movie, so I’ll take a brief break from my dissertation work to share a few thoughts. Here is my spoiler free summary: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fun, action-packed, and wonderful return to the Star Wars universe. New characters and clever plot twists breath life into what is, at times, a too familiar story. 8 out of 10.

Okay, that’s as much as I can say without spoilers. Personally, I tried to avoid any spoilers about the film so I could just enjoy it, and I’m glad I did! I highly recommend you see it that way, too. So if you haven’t. go go see the movie and come back later.

For those of you that have, here’s what I thought…

This genre of “space opera” is great for the director, J.J. Abrahams’s style of filming. His movies have wonderful casting, look, and pace, but he has a tendency to leave gaping plot holes that frustrate some people (like me). Thankfully, this movie played to his strengths, not his weaknesses. It also helped that the Star Wars universe is so established that he could point to the canon of what has been done before and build on it. Lucas gave him such a low bar with the prequels that almost anything would be a welcome improvement.

This movie isn’t just better than the prequels, it really stands on its own two feet—something the prequels didn’t do. The new main characters that were introduced were fun, dynamic, and engaging. Rey was wonderful. It was great to see a female character in such a strong position. Loved Finn! I really appreciated in this movie the moments of humor that endeared the audience to these characters. That was missing, not just in the prequels, but even in the original trilogy. It felt like it took a good page from the kind of snappy dialogue that Joss Whedon has become famous for.

The look of this movie was fantastic. Abrahams really captured the vibe. It felt we were back in a far away galaxy a long time ago. The score was excellent though I have to say it wasn’t as striking as Duel of the Fates from The Phantom Menace. I didn’t leave humming a new melody line as I had from previous Star Wars movies.

Some great plot turns. Really fascinated by the story of Kylo Ren. As I said, I avoided all spoilers so had no idea he would be Han and Lea’s son and, by that relation, the grandson of Darth Vader. When they were standing on the bridge I kept thinking “will he? Won’t he?” and then he did. Having Finn be a storm trooper with a conscience was also a nice twist.

The action was incredible. Loved the monsters in the freighter, the space ship battles, and the lightsaber battle at the end.

Overall, a great movie!

So… why an 8 out of 10?

A great sequel (or prequel) needs to walk the line between giving the audience what they liked about the previous film but also give them something new to cheer for. The Force Awakens gave a lot of new things to like. But it came to the final battle: small X-wing fighters against a planet-size weapon that destroys other planets? We’ve seen that in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. I have to say, when they were standing around a graphic of the planet and talking about how to destroy it, I was really disappointed. On one hand, you could argue this was a homage to the original trilogy done over thirty years ago. And perhaps, if I hadn’t seen it since then, I would agree. However, I saw those movies on Sunday. When Po flies into a trench (A New Hope) and then into the area where he starts blasting away (The Phantom Menace, Return of the Jedi) it was too familiar. All these decades since Star Wars was first released and we can’t come up with something better than the original movie did? I was far more invested in the Kylo Ren/Finn/Rey battle since I didn’t know exactly how that would turn out, unlike the spaceship battle where I had seen the conclusion two (three counting Phantom) times before.

Han and Lea have the ULTIMATE PARENTING FAIL. When your son becomes a mass murderer and stabs you with a lightsaber, your last thought has got to be, “Maybe I should have spent more time at home…”

Not a fan of the last shot of the film. I was so hoping Rey would use the line Po had with Kylo Ren at the beginning: “Is one of us supposed to say something?”

And then there are the unanswered questions Abrahams is famous for. This is less a critique and more a concern, because we’ve got two more movies to unpack things. But Abrahams track record isn’t great here, so I think it is worth mentioning. The obvious one: how did the rebellion get so small? I looked like they were operating out of a MASH unit. What happened since Return of the Jedi when it looked like the Empire was destroyed and the Rebellion in charge? I liked learning about where Storm Troopers came from—I wish there were just a couple more moments like that in the movie, and perhaps they will come in forthcoming episodes. Of course, this is part of what Star Wars is about: say what needs to be said in the opening text crawl, then dive into the action. As I stated before, a perfect fit for this director.

My biggest concern going forward is what will happen to Kylo Ren. Will the third movie end with him being a good guy and saving Rey from Supreme Leader Snoke? I hope not, but after seeing the “Death Star” battle, again, I fear that is where we are headed.

Those are my thoughts. I haven’t read other reviews so perhaps there is something original in what I’ve said or maybe everyone else is saying the same thing. I would put Force Awakens on the same level as Return of the Jedi, and under Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope. That’s one of the best things I can say about a movie! I’m willing to forgive some of it’s problems because I’m so in love with the Star Wars universe and so happy to have it back! I can’t wait to see it again.

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