“Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens” movie review

Star Wars VIIThe force awakens…then realizes it’s done this all before and should’ve stayed in bed. Return to that time long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Relive that first moment you saw Star Wars IV and fell in love with the franchise, because you are pretty much getting a plot so similar that you may wonder if the rest of this new trilogy will just continue to rehash and polish what’s all been said and done before. A more appropriate title for this visually stunning film would have been Star Wars: DejaVu or Star Wars: Revisited. No doubt that this film will indeed perform well this weekend; but that has a lot to do with the fact that so many people will view this film through an augmented reality and perceive it to be better than it actually is. The Big D can do no wrong, right??? All that being said, J.J. Abrams once again proves that he is a master at visual storytelling and his films are of a high caliber from a technical achievement perspective. The cinematography and editing are nearly flawless and really help to mesmerize the audience and impress even those who are generally not impressed by visual graphics and sound design. Watching the screen as familiar faces reprise the roles that cemented them in cinema history is nostalgic and heartwarming. Unfortunately, the writers should have spent more time developing a NEW story versus relying upon nostalgia.

With Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in hiding, the Resistance, which has birthed out of the old rebellion, needs to find him in order to defeat the The First Order, a new world empire developed out of the ashes of the old Empire. In an effort to avoid capture, BB8 meets Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley). Through a series of events, this small band of rebels encounters the legendary general and smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Form). Working together, they need to get the information in this BB unit to the resistance so that The First Order may be stopped. Leading The First Order is Kylo Ren, a masked, dark, and menacing Sith under the direction of the Supreme Leader. Follow familiar and new faces on a journey through the galaxies to stop this new empire from destroying all that is good.

Put simply, this film relies too heavily on the previous movies, thus prohibiting a new story to “awaken.” It was made known early on that Abrams desired to create a new old-school Star Wars sequel to the original trilogy. And in many ways, he did just that. The problem is that it is way too old school and forgets that this movie was also responsible for relaunching the dormant (as far as theatrically released movies) franchise and introducing something truly new. He was so concerned with pleasing everyone–old fans and new ones alike–that he ended up not pleasing anyone who is willing to step back and actually examine the film as a film. All this film did was reuse past plots and forget to give the eager audience and fanbase something legitimately new after waiting so long. The overall plot, locations, and characters lack anything newly appealing. The movie even begins on a desert planet and ends with the destruction of a “not” Death Star–but it basically is–just larger.

With more than half of the movie consisting of space travel and battle sequences, you will wonder if you are actually playing Star Wars: Battlefront. Why? Because it looks and feels very similar to a highly developed video game that includes film sequences to transition to the different chapters or levels. Just pick one of the characters in the film and you can almost feel yourself moving them with your controller. One of the most memorable elements to the original trilogy is the nearly unparalleled cinematic villain–and the one who many try to be but fail–Darth Vader. Don’t worry, “there is another” as Yoda put it in Empire Strikes Back. However, this new “Vader” will leave you wondering how the writers thought he (Kylo Ren) could even come close to filling Vader’s boots and mask. From the mask to the red lightsaber, Kylo Ren appears to be just as menacing as Lord Vader. And there was some promise there. Unfortunately, the writers took any potential of a comparable sinister villain and essentially emasculated him when he removes his mask to reveal a guy in his 30s with luscious wavy hair. After that, it is impossible to take Kylo Ren seriously as a villain for the remainder of the movie.

Before you jump to the conclusion that the writing in general was poorly developed and executed, just wait a moment. Actually, the writing includes some comedic relief, moderately intense moments, with some pretty decent rushed character development, and sufficient exposition. The problem with the writing lies in the overly used plot elements and past Star Wars tropes. The script essentially lives in the past even though there are parts of it that want to live in the present. Leaving the audience thinking that they’ve seen this all before, the writers fail to include anything new and interesting. Instead of coming across as a much-needed sequel or revival, the film plays out as a reboot. There isn’t anything innately wrong with reboots of old, beloved franchises; but Disney and Abrams indirectly promised the sequel that never was but should have been after Return of the Jedi. Sequels are required to advance the story, introduce significantly new material, and move the plot along. The Force Awakens can easily be interpreted as 3/4 reboot and 1/4 sequel.

Visually, the film is cinematically brilliant! The sound design is also incredibly well executed. Even the score is beautiful. What one can appreciate about the score is that there is familiar music wrapped in a completely new score. Too bad the plot didn’t takes notes from John Williams on how to include the old but advance the new. There is no doubt that this movie will be nominated, if not win the Academy Awards in the technical achievement areas–and it deserves them. Honestly, I think some of the editing and graphics team from this movie should work on improving the graphics in the next Jurassic installment. Abrams promised that he would go back to practical effects and merely enhance them with digital effects, and he did just that. The combination played out very well and impressed me. He may not have delivered the movie that Star Wars fans wanted to see, but he did keep his promise to not rely on cheap digital effects as a large part of the design.

If you want to relive the first time you saw A New Hope, then here is your opportunity. It’s basically the same movie, but looks way more impressive. For those who wanted an actual sequel to resurrect this piece of Americana, then you may be disappointed. I really hope the next installment will give me something new. At the end of the day, the movie is certainly entertaining; and seeing Carrie Fischer, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, C3PO, and R2D2 on screen again, in their most iconic roles, is just plain cool and heartwarming. The nostalgia will certainly bring some to tears. And I also want to point out that this IS a fantastic film for a family, whether diehard fans or not, to spend some time together over the holidays at the movies.

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14 thoughts on ““Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens” movie review

  1. For those who woke up every Christmas morning between 1978 and 1985 to find Star Wars figures under the tree, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is, simply, wonderful.

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    • Not allowing a fandom or fondness for a particular franchise name or brand to augment the critical value of the film, I cannot get past the poor dialogue and lazily constructed plot (and subplots). However, I completely acknowledge that this movie felt like a true “Star Wars” film. And as I keep reminding people, I also found the technical achievement to be nearly flawless! It was a technical beauty. It just lacks new substance. It is doing its job of generating revenue for the media giant.

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  2. This to me was the best Star Wars movie of all of them. So what if it is a rehash of Episode IV. This is the first movie of the new trilogy. We don’t have the big picture yet. It was more Star Wars than all 3 prequels.

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    • I never said it neither failed to feel like “Star Wars” nor did I ever allude to it being better than the prequels. However, the plot is still poorly developed, the dialogue was poor, and the villain is boring. That being said, I am glad that you like it so much. As a film, it failed to impress me. It was mildly entertaining, at best. Despite the fact we clearly disagree, I appreciate your comment and engaging me.

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      • My response is late, been busy with school. The dialogue is poor? How is anything in this movie poorer than anything Jar Jar said or “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything’s soft… and smooth…” or “Anakin, you’re breaking my heart.” Blech, I’ve seen the movie 11 times now, and I still love it. It was made by a fan for the hardcore fans like myself. I’d rather it rehash A New Hope than The Phantom Menace. The acting is better as well. Say what you will about Kylo Ren, but Adam Driver gave an amazing performance. My only fault is that they should have done more with my favorite character, Captain Phasma. Maybe you’re not a hardcore fan like me and that’s why you didn’t enjoy it?

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      • I appreciate you taking time out to reply. Truth is, I don’t like it because it was all visual stimulus and empty of any real cinematic value beyond the visual effects and flawless editing. There is nothing wrong with the technical elements of the movie. But, just as the plot of A New Hope is bad, so is this one. Now, I am not a StarWars hater mind you. I find Empire Strikes Back to be excellently produced, directed, and acted. The Force Awakens does not contain anything new. I realize that “there isn’t anything new under the sun,” but it should not have felt like a rehearse of pretty much every plot device that has already been used in the Star Wars universe. That being said, I know that many fans of the franchise DID enjoy it, and that is wonderful. I’m glad it meant so much to so many people.

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      • I think they purposely did this as an apology for how awful the prequels were. After all the movie’s first line is “This will begin to make things right.” and for me and many of the other fanboys/girls it did and yes, Empire is most certainly the best one of the first 3. The I love you, I know scene is very powerful stuff. I will always love the first 3 and I consider all 3 to be masterpieces despite their flaws. The prequels should never have been made as we got all the backstory we needed from the first 3. The only good thing about The Phantom Menace was the Podrace (which could have been shortened) & the final battle with Darth Maul. Attack of the Clones was mostly filler. The fight with Obi-Wan & Jango Fett and the last 30 minutes are the only good parts. I did like Revenge of the Sith the most of the prequels as it wasn’t as cringeworthy. Vader’s “NOOOOOO!!!!” at the end was one such cringeworthy moment. Natalie Portman was terrible in that one though. Hayden Christensen was terrible in both 2 & 3. Ewan McGregor was fantastic as Obi-Wan and Ian McDiarmid was also great as Palpatine. As I said earlier I am a hardcore Star Wars fanboy. I see a lot of potential in John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isacc & Adam Driver.

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      • I have a great deal of respect for those who are dedicated to a franchise. I am merely writing my thoughts as I apply a critical analysis to the film and examine it as a film both artistically and technically.

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