Warning: this review contains spoilers.
It’s hard to know where to begin when reviewing Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Possibly one of the most anticipated movies of all time, The Force Awakens broke box office records and had the biggest worldwide opening of all time. The film had a lot to live up to, and it delivered and then some. Probably one of the strongest outings from the Star Wars franchise, and definitely surpassing the prequels, the movie contained a nice mix of new characters and plot lines along with a healthy dose of nostalgia that satisfied all Star Wars fans.
By far the best thing about The Force Awakens is the new trio they introduced. Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron are poised to become the Luke, Leia, and Han for a new generation. Daisy Ridley did a wonderful job as Rey, an orphaned girl from Jakku who comes across a droid (the adorable BB-8), which sets her on an adventure of self-discovery, culminating in her discovering her ability to use the Force. Finn, played expertly by John Boyega, is a Stormtrooper who was able to shake off his conditioning and eventually ends up assisting the Resistance, all while developing an obvious crush on Rey and forming a friendship with Poe. Oscar Isaac plays the skilled Resistance pilot Poe Dameron with great enthusiasm. Though Poe is thought to be dead for a good chunk of the movie, he later appears unharmed and is able to show off his skills as a pilot. These three are not carbon copies of the original trio by any means, though Rey most likely has some familial connection to Luke Skywalker, they are just as likable and compelling, and a great foundation for the future of the franchise.
Speaking of the original trio, they all made their presence known in The Force Awakens. Han played the biggest role of the three, acting as a mentor in certain ways to Rey, while him and Chewbacca were back to their old antics. In many ways, this movie was a send off to the character of Han Solo, as he dies confronting his son, who has turned to the dark side. Regardless of how you feel about his death, it was a very powerful moment in the film, as was Leia’s reaction when she felt his death. Now known as General Leia Organa, she plays an equally important role as a leader of the Resistance, though her screen time is much less. It’s shown that she and Han had a child named Ben, who was skilled in the Force and trained with Luke until he fell to the dark side, and that they separated shortly after that. Han dies trying to get through to him, as Leia had asked that he try, so it’s likely that in future sequels Leia will also try to get him back. Luke made a short cameo at the end, but the entire movie was about finding out where he went, so he’s also likely to play a big role in future installments. Though Han Solo is likely gone for good, The Force Awakens served as a great farewell to the character.
One of the best, and most unexpected, things about the movie was the humor. Though Star Wars dialogue has always been filled with quips, I wouldn’t necessarily consider any of the previous films to be funny. The Force Awakens albeit was dramatic and filled with action, but it was also a funny movie. The character of Finn in particular was used as comic relief in many parts of the movie, and John Boyega perfectly executed the dialogue that could have almost come off as manic in the wrong hands. The humor never felt out of a place, either. This movie definitely had laugh out loud moments, which I can’t say is true of any other Star Wars film, but it still felt very appropriate for what it was. J.J. Abrams didn’t fundamentally compromise the movie by adding humor, he just added an extra layer to an already exceptional film. The new trio, plus Han and Chewbacca, all had in-character moments where they were able to shine comedically, and it really added something nice, yet unexpected, to the film.
The Force Awakens introduced some interesting new villains, as well as a new evil regime to oppose the Republic. The First Order came to power and essentially created another Death Star, and uses it to try to wipe out the Republic. The leader of the First Order, Snoke, is the one who turned Han and Leia’s son, Ben, to the dark side. Ben, who joined the Knights of Ren and now goes by Kylo Ren, struggles throughout most of the film between the light and dark, until he kills his father and pledges himself wholly to the dark side. He is even seen in the beginning with Darth Vader’s helmet and promises to avenge him. Though he is overwhelmed by Rey in their fight near the end of the film, they will undoubtedly fight again as they are both skilled in the Force and are most likely related. Their rivalry is likely to be the Luke vs. Darth Vader of the new trilogy and was quite compelling in The Force Awakens. The Stormtroopers are still there as well, with Finn at one point explaining that he had been trained since childhood to be a Stormtrooper before breaking free, which is bound to be an interesting development going forward.
There is so much to talk about when it comes to The Force Awakens because it satisfied almost every want that a Star Wars fan could have for a new movie. Besides just being better than the prequels and holding its own with the original trilogy, it had so many moments that made fans in the theater happy. In my theater, the applause started as soon as the text scrolled up the screen and continued throughout the film during cameos and jokes and nods to the original movies. The new trio were definitely fan favorites, as was the new droid BB-8. It’s hard to make an adorable character like that likable to hardcore fans, but J.J. Abrams was able to pull it off. In addition to the original trio, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Chewbacca got huge rounds of applause when they first appeared. When it was said that R2-D2 had been in low power mode since Luke disappeared, the audience in my theater seemed to collectively sigh sadly. It’s hard to say who the audience enjoyed seeing most because they reacted enthusiastically to every cameo. Though theories and opinions abound, everyone in my theater at the Thursday night opener and everyone I know who has seen the movie genuinely enjoyed it and thought it was among the franchise’s best.
It’s hard to properly review a movie like The Force Awakens and how it fits in with the beloved Star Wars franchise because it has so many layers. Unlike some past Star Wars films, this one felt wholly complete while still obviously being a piece in a larger universe. Based on everything this movie showed us, there is a lot to look forward to for the future of the Star Wars franchise. Though not a perfect movie, but almost, The Force Awakens did a great job kick-starting a new trilogy while still being able to stand on its own. It’s a must see for everyone – from diehard Star Wars fans to those just wanting to see a spectacular blockbuster.
What was your favorite part of The Force Awakens? Let us know in the comments!