Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The new Star Wars movie is a huge box office success and proof that Disney knows how to milk a cash cow. Almost everybody in America has seen this movie and bought one of the new toys for their kids on Christmas, and if you haven’t (who are you?) then be warned that this review will contain some heavy spoilers.

As someone who enjoys the expanded universe of the Star Wars franchise, I was disappointed when Disney bought the rights and cut a large section of the canon out. Sure, the extended universe has some pretty cheesy and/or awful writing here and there, but it’s an overall fun closer look at the fantasy setting.

I was bemused in the lead-up to the movie by debate surrounding the race of one of the main characters. A number of outlets just couldn’t resist dropping words like “racism” and “whitewashing” in covering the perfectly reasonable confusion on the part of fans over how a black man could be a clone of Jango Fett. For those of you wondering, the answer is that the storm-troopers are not clones like the clone-troopers were, but just a bunch of guys wearing similar armor.

So, I finally saw the movie. A) I kept hearing hype about its great story and beautiful special effects, and B) it was gradually being spoiled for me from day one by the many memes floating around online. So I did something I rarely do, an action that I only take once in a blue moon to be immersed in a film or to sate a rare craving of fattening popcorn. I went to a theater.

When it came to the audio and visual aspects of the film, it looked and sounded like a Star Wars movie, with beautiful shots of scenery and well done CGI for the technology and aliens (like every other science fiction movie these days). The soundtrack was the fitting orchestral masterpiece that fans of the franchise know and love. The fights had a little bit of variation, but usually ended up to being the same old stuff we’ve come to expect from the series. It felt like a Star Wars movie.  My main problem however was the plot. The story is more of the same, only not nearly as well written.

The movie starts off with the classic Star Wars opening, and follows that by ripping basically everything else from the classic Star Wars as well. We watch as a battle unfolds between storm-troopers and rebels, a Sith lord wrecks some shit up, and a member of the Rebel alliance loads some important secret plans on a droid before being captured and left alive for interrogation. The droid makes a mad dash across a desert planet with an army of soldiers seeking to retrieve the stolen data. It gets captured by an alien looking to make a profit off of it, and is then rescued by the main hero who makes a hasty escape in the Millennium Falcon. In so closely retreading the general plot points of the first film, The Force Awakens feels uninspired and dull. We also have the return of a heavy-breathing leader, a lovable hairy sidekick, a Jedi hermit, and a metallic English butler.

Some of the new new characters include an angsty young bad guy rebelling against his parents, an evil general who’s, unsurprisingly, ginger, a hamster-ball that for some reason the media thinks is female, and a generic friendly pilot with a cool jacket. All the characters are finely acted, and this movie will probably serve as the breakout vehicle for Daisy Ridley  and John Boyega (as the original entry in the franchise served as a breakout for Harrison Ford.)

The character of Finn is enjoyable to watch as he brings some comedy to the film as the wisecracking screw-up who doesn’t feel like the Stormtrooper gig is right for him. However, my one problem with this great character is that he seems awfully flat-footed when it comes to combat situations, despite supposedly being trained for combat from a young age. Han Solo’s character has grown much wiser, and injects a large doses of nostalgia into the film for those of us who loved him in the original trilogy.

Aside from the fact of its being such a retread of the original movie, my biggest complaint is with the main character, Rey. Throughout the movie she’s seen to possess whatever skills happen to be convenient to fit her situation. You sit through the whole movie wondering how Rey is going to save everyone again. She discovers she has strong control of the force and easily overpowers the main villain despite having zero training. Her unerring success leaves little room for the character progression that she so desperately needs by the end of the first movie to be an interesting lead for an entire trilogy.

Anakin had to train for years as a child and turned to the dark side despite being depicted as some sort of Jesus figure. Luke was forced to run away as his mentor gets killed in the first movie, gets his ass kicked and suffers the humiliation of getting his hand chopped off despite a training montage in the second film, and in the end of the trilogy he just talks his father into killing the main villain. Rey, by contrast, just breezes through whatever challenges her movie throws at her. She may be untrained in the use of a light saber or blaster, but no worries: she develops expert marksmanship and master swordsmanship in a span of about five minutes off screen. The only way I can see Rey becoming an interesting character is if she turns to the dark side.

Whatever problems this movie has, it should be said that it is a Star Wars movie and will therefore be defended to the death by fanboys from any implication that it isn’t perfect in every possible way. I rate it 10 out of 10, would watch again.