Star Wars: The Force Awakens – A Review with Words

First:

Warning-Spoiler-Alert

I really wanted to find problems with this movie.  I will admit this.  While I can easily enjoy most movies, I often have fundamental issues with anything that appears to be a nostalgia-based cash grab.  I also have problems with J.J. Abrams’ recent Star Trek movies, which are little more than action flicks with Star Trek characters.  I’ll talk about those movies at length another time.

There are problems.  There’s not many.

(NOTE: I very much enjoyed this movie.)

When I see a movie that’s a sequel, a remake, or a reboot, I try to separate the referential material from the rest of the movie.  I do this to see if the movie is still good despite any tugs at nostalgia or fan-services of any kind.  I do this mainly because I don’t inherently trust Hollywood with knowing what I will like, and I find it fun to resent large monolithic institutions wherever I can.

Obviously, this movie would be referential to an extreme.  It’s the seventh movie of the series.  It’s referencing characters and plot points from the most influential and culturally significant intellectual property of all time.

However, in this unique and singular case, this is OK.  Star Wars can reference itself.  How many people are watching this movie without having watched episodes four, five, or six?  Even then, people who have never seen Star Wars still know who Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are; Star Wars has planted deep and entangling roots in American culture.  People make Star Wars references all the time without even realizing it.  Like it or not, Star Wars earned the right to be self-referential decades ago.

Even then, I felt the self-reference went a bit overboard, at times.  The Millennium Falcon just happened to be on the planet where all this other stuff was happening?  Does everyone absolutely have to be related to one another?  Did this movie really have to be a near-clone of A New Hope?

(This is where I remind you that this is nitpicking, and I very much enjoyed the movie.)

  • Rae’s unlikely triumphs in the movie definitely rang false, if only for a moment.  Defeating a long-trained Sith mere hours after discovering her Force powers is definitely a bit of a stretch, even when considering her opponent was already injured.  Also, she demonstrated outright mind control very quickly.  Again, these are rules based on an imaginary thing anyways, but it still felt weird.
  • The “big death” of the movie was very, very telegraphed.  I actually called it before I had seen the movie, not knowing anything beyond what was in the trailers.  Still effective and well-done, but it was clear what was happening.
  • I felt this way after the trailer, and I still feel this way: the cross-based lightsaber is cheesy.
  • Kylo Ren should have left his helmet on.  He instantly became less imposing.  Not saying anything about Adam Driver’s looks or anything, but I felt he was super bad-ass until then.

OK, so that’s about all the bad.  Here’s some good:

  • Being an X-Wing/TIE Fighter fanatic, I really appreciated all the space combat and attention to detail.  Extraordinary.
  • Despite all the returning characters (and other characters either obviously or subtly related to them), there was still some compelling new characters added, and I hope to see them further developed.
  • The lightsaber fights were back to the old style, which is easier to follow and far more dramatic and effective.
  • People say words, they mean things, and little of it was forced.  So it’s already better than episodes 1-3 already.
  • This felt like a Star Wars movie.  This also felt like a good movie.

That’s all I have for now.  I think the movie was a bit formulaic and predictable, but it was so well-executed that I don’t care.  I’m in for episodes 8 and 9.

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