TL;DR (spoiler free) 8.5 / 10: J.J. Abrams has done a brilliant job at bringing us back to the Star Wars universe with the fun, drama, and magic that made us fall in love with the originals. While giving a nod to the original films (and a big of the expanded universe), you’ll want to see this one again AND be itching for the next installment to come out.
For a LOT of spoilers (and my own thoughts) keep reading...
I’m no movie critic, so instead of laying out a crafted plot review/summary, I’m just going to go through the topics that come to mind (in no particular order) after having seen this movie twice (hopefully a few more times in the theatre to boot 8^D)
I’ve been a fan of Abram’s work for quite a while now (yes, I really did like Lost) and so I was eager to see what he would do to the Star Wars universe. I was also a little anxious that there might be a huge change in the overall universe to which I was familiar. I was even afraid that we might not have the opening theme song and scrolling of text that we all know and love. Fortunately both of those were here and we were off and running. Luke Skywalker is missing?! What?! Why?! How?! I’m hooked!
Finn will prove to be a really interesting character. I suspect that given his conditioning throughout his entire life may come back to haunt him, and ideally will give him some character growth through the series. He’s definitely poised to be the new “roguish charm” character of the series, with a scuffed up jacket to boot.
The humor in Star Wars may be missed by some of the younglings (“Are you talking first? Or am I? Who’s supposed to talk first?”) there was plenty of humor mixed into this movie that everybody will enjoy without going over the top to be “Jar Jar-ish” The BB-8 “thumbs up” is my all time favorite. I need an animated gif of that pronto!
Han Solo’s Death
A friend I know had predicted this one before the movie came out, and you had a pretty good hunch what was going to happen when he stepped out onto that bridge to confront Kylo Ren. It seemed oddly fitting in a way. Solo had come full circle to deal with (and face) what had happened to his son instead of running away. Even after a second viewing, there was that moment where you could see the tension in Kylo’s eyes as he’s handing Solo his lightsaber, and you yearn for that handoff. But then the light from the sun fades and it seems to have darkened Kylo’s demeanor. Mere seconds could have swayed things differently. You could see the compassion in his eyes, despite his gruffy demeanor, and I hope that last look and brush of his face haunts Ben back to the light side. On a more “practical” level, Solo’s death helps pass the torch on to the new generation.
He seems to have inherited the “whiny” nature of his uncle (and grandfather’s) youth. To some degree I think this was Snoke’s intention, to grab him early before he has matured to let his unruly nature (and flare-up of emotion) keep him immersed in the dark side. We also know that Kylo hasn’t completed his training yet, so maybe in the next installment we’ll see the “formidably evil” opponent we’ve come to associate with the dark side.
For all the grief that went around when we first saw Kylo Ren’s lightsaber (with the two horizontal blades sticking out) it appears that it does serve some legitimate purpose, being able to get a jab into Finn’s shoulder when their blades were locked. I was hoping there would be some more “epic lightsaber duels” along the lines of Obi-Wan and Darth Maul, and I really haven’t seen one since. It also seemed odd that two complete newcomers to the saber (Finn and Rey) were able to hold their own against Kylo. But you have to figure that a bowcaster to the side, no matter how strong you are in the force, is going to knock you down quite a bit. Here’s hoping we get some amazing “saber play” later on.
Did you notice the difference in saber “character” Luke’s saber had a pure blue energy to it and Kylo's seemed to “burn” or “flame” with raw energy. Is this saber technology 2.0 that causes this difference or maybe it’s a more subtle inflection of the characters of the force.
Sidenote: You may be wondering how a Storm Trooper could be fending off a lightsaber during that fight with Finn. I suspect that the Storm Trooper was equipped with a Vibroblade, which has some special engineering in it to prevent a lightsaber from cutting through it. It was quite handy in the exapnded universe.
What a wonderful and powerful heroine they have introduced into this series! Daily Ridley does such an amazing job with her character and you can feel the power and independence she has in herself. While Princess Leia was a strong character in her own right, she didn’t get center screen to the trilogy like I believe Rey is going to have in this trilogy. I suspect once the next movies come out I’ll be getting the “Rey” lightsabers for my girls 8^D
Rey is Luke’s daughter. When she first touched Luke’s saber and had such a vivid flashback, my mind was set. Generally speaking, you don’t have that powerful of a force intuition when touching an object unless there is some direct lineage going on, or a very strong and close friend to said person. I suspect that when things went sour at the Academy, he whisked Rey away to keep her safe. Which also leads to...
For a person that had NO spoken lines in the entire movie, the two minutes or so of screen time he had was so powerful. Do you see the look in his eyes. They shift from disbelief (I can’t believe you’re here - though guised under that Jedi “sageness”) to surprise (you’re giving me my lightsaber back) to agony (my precious daughter, YOU are here and you don’t know what you’re asking me do to by handing this back to me). I suspect we’ll get a good quarter to a third of the next movie with Luke in it, to help flesh this out further. I suspect our story will be very emotional.
It was exciting to hear that our main trilogy characters would be in the next “saga” of the movies. In a way, I’m rather excited to see them exit the picture. The acting and story that we are seeing in the next triology is so well done that Luke/Leia/Han (RIP) doesn’t need to really carry things forward. This is about a new generation continuing the saga and they will do so brilliantly. I suspect we won’t see Leia in the next movie (or maybe briefly) and Luke will need to give us some good back story (and hopefully Jedi training) and then we will move forward.
Why Not 10 out of 10?
Simply put, this wasn’t a “profound” movie that I would give full points to. It wasn’t supposed to be either. This was just the beginning of the bigger story, and it starts out marvelously. Some people have criticized the fact that this story borrows too much from the original “A New Hope”. I agree that the pacing is nearly identical, but having this level of familiarity while introducing new things (We don’t have the Empire, we have the First Order, we don’t have the Sith, we have the Knights of Ren) gives us a lot of room in which to explore moving forward. The lineage of Kylo Ren and the death of Han Solo weren’t as dramatic as the imfamous “I am your father”, but we still get some good drama out of it.
How About You?
What are your thoughts about “The Force Awakens”? Are you going to see it multiple times in the theatre? Like it, love it, hate it? I’d love to hear it! May the Force be with you!!!