This review contains very minor spoilers. If you want to go into the movie blind, don’t read on! Otherwise, I don’t talk about any big twists and major plot points so you’ll be fine.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens with everyone’s favorite robot, BB-8, on a dangerous mission with Poe Dameron—the Resistance’s best pilot. Luke Skywalker is missing and they’ve been sent by General Leia to find information concerning his location. Things go wrong when Kylo Ren and his stormtroopers attack. Poe is captured and BB-8 escapes across the sands of Jakku. BB-8 must reunite with Poe or the entire mission will have been a waste.
Meanwhile, Rey is across the desert and struggling to survive as a salvager. She’s waiting for her family to return for her, but she’s been waiting a very, very long time. It takes running across BB-8 to propel her into an adventure and to force her towards her destiny and danger.
The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars film I’ve seen in the theater. When the prequels were released, I was still new to the whole Science Fiction thing and—after seeing The Phantom Menace on VHS, I had no desire to watch the rest of the films. It was a mistake maybe to give up so easily, but I’ve seen all the movies now. . .and I have to say that I don’t mind The Force Awakens being the first Star Wars movie that I got caught up in the hype about. It didn’t disappoint—whereas some of the others might have (to a certain extent).
From the very first moment that the movie opens on Jakku, I fell in love with the film. Visually, The Force Awakens is everything I love in a movie and miss in modern, adventure cinema. I love the scratch-y look of film vs. digital and practical effects vs. CGI. I know both have a place (I admit begrudgingly), but my favorite films are almost exclusively from the 80’s and 90’s a.k.a. pre-extensive use of sleek computer graphics. Puppets and animatronics give me life and are what I missed most about the Star Wars prequels. It meant so much to me to see BB-8 zooming around and random creatures having real depth and an almost-creakiness to them. Some people called J. J. Abrams a hipster for these choices, but when you look at the film, it fits in so well with the original trilogy that I don’t think there’s any question as to whether he made the right call. Everything might look rougher than most action movies today, but for me, at least, it looked perfect.
Thankfully, it wasn’t just the look of the film that was perfect. The plot and the characters were very nearly flawless as well. I don’t want to get into any major spoilers with the plot, but I appreciated that the story never delved too deeply into nostalgia and sentimentality. We didn’t get a repeat of the “I love you.” “I know.” convo—which I am very grateful for and I loved that J. J. Abrams chose to move the story forward with the next generation rather than focusing on the older characters. Even so, Han and Leia were very well done. I liked that their relationship was obviously complicated and that they were both living their separate lives. This was the sort of relationship I would have expected them to have, and I’m very pleased that they were still the characters that I remembered. Chewbacca and C3PO were also their same old selves but not in a cheesy “remember how fun we are” kind of way. I thought all of these characters were handled well. I’m definitely interested to see the development of Luke, in particular, in future films.
As for the new characters, I loved every one of them. In all of the previous Star Wars films, I’ve liked maybe two of the human characters per trilogy. Luke and Anakin in particular were not favorites so it was so amazing to have an awesome female character be the lead in The Force Awakens. I loved Rey and everything she represented. She was the tough, interesting lead that I’ve been longing for throughout the entire trilogy. Daisy Ridley did a fantastic job balancing sternness with softness. I just loved her reaction to Finn trying to hold her hand and that she was such a nerd about Han Solo and the Skywalkers. Her development over the course of the movie was great too and, in particular, I adored her interactions with Kylo Ren. As antagonists, those two have such potential. I have a lot of theories as to where their relationship could go, but that’s the stuff of an essay and not a review so I’ll leave it for now.
As the villain, Kylo Ren stands equal to Darth Vader and definitely has potential moving forward. Since this is Star Wars, I do believe he’s being set up to have a redemptive storyline, but so far, he’s unhinged and emotional and obviously distraught over his actions in this film. I like that he wants so badly to embrace the Dark Side, but unlike Anakin, he struggles with it. He’s not always very good at being a villain and that costs him (and his ship when he has tantrums). His struggle weirdly endeared him to me. I want to see him redeemed–just like I wanted Anakin to be redeemed in the other films.
Although, I loved Rey and Kylo Ren (and—it’s okay if you judge me for this—I might just ship them together too), Poe and Finn were my favorites of the new leads. Both had senses of humor and incredible chemistry with the rest of the cast (ahem, and each other). Poe didn’t have a lot to do in this film, but I got Han Solo vibes off of him so I hope he’s going to get a lot of swashbuckling adventures in the sequels. As for Finn, I found his character’s journey particularly fascinating. When you think that he had been raised since infancy to be little more than a stormtrooper drone, it means a lot that he was able to break free from that life and express compassion, friendship, and humor. I knew I would love him the moment he bent down to check on one of his fallen in comrades in one of the first scenes of the film. He’s such a strong character. I can’t wait to see where the next film takes him too.
At this point, I’m not ashamed to say that The Force Awakens in my favorite Star Wars film to date. It had so much in it that the other films lacked (notably a female lead and a decent amount of women and POC in the cast) and the story, look of the film, and characters had me from the get-go. I’ve loved Star Wars for a long time, but for the first time, I feel like a fangirl. I can’t wait to see the rest of the trilogy (and all of the companion movies too).
Who was your favorite character in The Force Awakens? Do you have a favorite Star Wars film?
Image Source: Kiss Them Goodbye