Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Full Spoiler Review)

| December 21, 2015

Gargantuan, is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Star Wars these past few months. Ever since Disney had wrangled the rights from George Lucas, people knew that this next phase of the legendary Hollywood franchise was going to be massive. No one could get away from anything Star Wars related. With everything from food to toys to video games, Star Wars was everywhere, to inundate both the long time fans and non-fans alike. While it had the backing of both Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and J.J. Abrams, who helped revitalize Star Trek a few years back, the one thing on most people’s minds was just a single question, Will it be good? While there are a few minor caveats in the film, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is an incredible addition to the Star Wars franchise and the science fiction genre as a whole.

First and foremost, it’s impossible for this film to be better than the original Star Wars trilogy, due to its cultural impact and the amount of time that I’ve had with the series, extracting both meaning and entertainment from it. It was important to weight my expectations to the point, where I should judge this film on its own merits, regardless of the fact that there would be countless times where both the filmmakers and then backing of Disney were going to just harken back to the originals, just for cool points. While the film does it to its own detriment, there are plenty of things that make The Force Awakens shine brightly.

The first highlight is the new, invigorating cast that has been assembled for this film. While its fabulous and joyful that the original cast has entered the fold as their iconic staples in this universe, it’s the new protagonists and antagonists that make this journey worth taking. With John Boyega’s Finn, you have a character that is wishing to change what destiny has been laid out before him and trying to take matters into his own hands. Boyega’s full of energy and enthusiasm and brings Finn to the forefront with his charm and inner struggle as a Storm Trooper. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is someone who’s running away from who she truly is and must come to terms with what she must become, for her sake and those that she cherishes. Seeing Ridley’s performance as a character that isn’t a damsel in distress just feels so refreshing. Sure, Princess Leia’s laid the groundwork for this in A New Hope, but Ridley manages to reinforce what Leia’s character’s done in the past. Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Issac is a cookie cutter hero, but he’s so charismatic, that you can’t fault him for playing an archetypical character in this setting. His role almost harkens back to the sci-fi serials, that Lucas pulled from to create Star Wars. Last but not least, we have Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, who not only dominates every scene that he’s in, but manages to create one of the strongest and believable villains the Star Wars universe has ever seen. Whereas Rey is trying to escape from her calling, Kylo Ren is trying to be something that he’s not. He’s a volatile force of emotions and full of so much emotional conflict, that it’s just invigorating to see him on screen. While we have the iconography of Darth Vader to compete with, Kylo Ren showcases his villainy, in his look, his actions and his motivations, to create a tour de force that shall hopefully exist within all three of these latest films. While we have brilliant actors such as Gwendoline Christie and Domhnall Gleeson as part of the cast as well, they not given a solid amount of screen time to fully flesh out their characters and only truly serve as plot devices.

In terms of the technicality, Abrams and his team make The Force Awakens much more invigorating than all three of the prequels and a thrill ride from beginning to end. Editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey do an impeccable job at keeping a tremendous pace with both action sequences and the overall film that make it a breeze to watch. There’s a flashback sequence that Rey encounters, that really capture the means of having images and scenes rush through one’s mind and place the audience right in Rey’s position at that very moment. While the work that Ben Burtt has done for the series is legendary in its own right, the continuation of that sound design work from Will Files, David Acord and Robert Stambler leave an incredible mark on the aural experience for The Force Awakens. From the harshness of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, to the new droid BB-8, the use of sound design is a major portion of the enjoyment and engagement of the film.

While there’s been plenty of fantastic things to say about The Force Awakens, there are some slight grievances to have with the film. The entire plot structure of the film is nothing but a rehash of A New Hope, just with a few things changed in terms of the new and old characters. While the stakes seem higher and much more devastating with the First Order, nothing about them, besides Kylo Ren, has them stand out from being standard archetypical villains. This along with nods to devices and locales from the first three films make The Force Awakens a Star Wars film that manages to embody the problem of most modern movies, in giving the fans exactly what they want, as opposed to engaging in a smart audience that works to find links and clues the original films and other science fiction properties.

That minor notion aside, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, is an entertaining thrill ride, which resembles and delivers in the only way that Star Wars truly could.

About the Author:

is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He's an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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