Director: J.J. Abrams
Screenplay By: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt
Release Date: December 18, 2015
Run Time: 135 Minuets
I’m not going to lie, I went into The Force Awakens with lower than average expectations. I was sure the film would be…okay……tolerable……competent…..but nothing more. Most of this came down to one major issue: J.J. Abrams. Abrams is, by far, the most uniquely bland director I’ve ever known. He may be a better director than some one like Michael Bay, but from watching his films alone I can tell you more about Michael Bay than I can Abrams (like, for example: Bay as a clear hard on for Americana and the US Military especially). This is most clearly seen when focus is placed on Abrams one true strength as a film maker: mimicry. Abrams is always at his best when he’s trying to be another director, but once he tries to put his own spin on things, that’s when everything falls flat. The best example of this was, in my opinion, “Super 8”. When Super 8 was trying to be a Spielberg film, it was really enjoyable. Once Abrams had to rely on his own creativity, the entire film fell apart. This was a long form way of saying that I was expecting this to be the best Star War movie George Lucas made scene “The Empire Strikes Back” until it becomes yet another uninteresting, underwhelming Abrams film.
And I was totally wrong. While I still feel Abrams
shouldn’t have to lean so much on ’70s era Lucas to make a good film, I think this is the best film he’s made thus far in his career. So, with all that out of the way: lets talk about the movie.
We open, as Star Wars films always do, with a text crawl setting the scene. After “Return of the Jedi” and the fall of the Empire, and new foe called The First Order has surfaced to bring down the newly founded Republic and trying to reinstate the empire as it once was. We also learn that Luke Skywalker has gone missing. The film proper opens with a rebel pilot named Poe (Oscar Isaac) being given a map that leads to Luke’s position, but the First Order has found him before he could get the information to General Leia (note the “General” there. Leia has always been a badass, people seem to forget) so he gives it to his droid, the incredibly adorable BB-8, and sends it off so the information doesn’t fall into enemy hands.
As the enemy lands and attack the village Poe was in, we see a lone Stormtrooper cower from battle and unwilling to fire at the unarmed civilians. We learn that this is his first battle, and it’s clear a life of war isn’t something he is cut out for. So when the New masked Villain, Kylo Ren, abducts Poe to learn the whereabouts of the map, our Stormtrooper, Fin (John Boyega) decides to break him out. The two men manage to escape and even start becoming friends, but are shot down and land on the same planet they had just left.
As this is going on BB-8 runs into Ray, played by Daisy Ridley, and the two decide to team up and look for Poe in a near by town. It’s hear that Ray and Fin meet up and decide to escape together as the First Order soon attacks the town knowing it’s about where Poe and Fin’s downed ship would have landed.
Once the two are free they come across some old friends, Han and Chewy, who decide to help the two of them get BB-8 to someone who can take the droid to the rebel HQ. Unfortunately, once they get there they are spotted by both First Order and rebel spies and a full on battle breaks out. Ray is kidnapped and taken to the First Order base. Fin, Han and General Leia go back to theirs, using Fins first hand knowledge of the enemy base to get in, rescue Ray and destroy the enemy HQ once and for all.
Now, you may have noticed something in this description of the films story. Barring a few details, this sounds an awful lot like the plot of the first Star Wars (i’ll rot in hell before calling it “A New Hope”), and you’d be right. However, this didn’t really bother me much as it truly felt more like an homage rather than rip-off. The new beats keep things feeling new and unless you’re really looking for the similarities between the films they’re not all that noticeable.
However, there were two major issues (and a few minor ones as well).
The first is how much of the film relies on coincidences. Poe just happened to be on the same planet as Ray, Ray and Fin just happen to meet up, they just happen to run into Han and Chewy and so on. While i’ve heard some say that this is “the force” leading these people on their path, but I don’t really by that. Nothing about how the force has been depicted, even in the prequels, makes it seem like the force is some kind of conscious being.
The second thing, unfortunately, deals with this films relation too the prequels. As much as I hate the prequels, I will defend them as cannon. So, with that in mind, how does no one seem to remember the fact that the Jedi were real? How has Luke and his journey become the stuff of legend when it would have happened within most of their lifetimes or just before it? I’m sorry but if the Jedi were aiding the republic only about 100 years ago, especially in such a technologically advanced society, there should be some evidence for it, right?
Those were the two things that bothered me to the point were I had to doc the movie. But then there was Captain Phasma, who only shows up three god damn times and doesn’t do shit in the film. Sure, that didn’t make the film any worse, but so much could have been done with her. (if she doesn’t show back up in 8 or 9, I’m going to be pissed).
Pretty much everything else is top notch. While the film may not be as jaw droppingly beautiful as this years Crimson Peak, there are still a ton of amazing shots throughout, like one early scene where a laser blast is being force held in place. Fin and Ray are two of my favorite leads in a long, long time and Ray is probably the best female lead in a genre film scene Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens” (sorry “Mad Max: Furry Road” Fans, I like Ray a bit more)
And going back to Abrams: one of the reasons his work fails is his “misery box” crap which never pays off well enough for it to be the big selling point for his films. However, there is a twist in the film that I honestly never saw coming. It’s not a story twist, but when it comes, you’ll know and it is beautifully well done.
In the end I’d say this is my second or third favorite film in the franchise. It’s not better than “The Empire Strikes Back” but I may have enjoyed this more than either the original or “Return of the Jedi”. I am absolutely looking forward to seeing where this new trilogy goes from here (although this “one new movie a year with a main installment every two years” thing kind of bothers me). If you haven’t seen this yet, just go do it. But don’t bother seeing it in 3D as it just does not add anything to the over all film.