The Star Wars The Force Awakens Review (Spoiler Free and Full of Spoilers)

force awakens 06 general hux and the first order

Like every other nerd that likes to write I saw Star Wars The Force Awakens and feel compelled to write a review. Hey, stick with me, this might be fun.

This review comes in two parts. A very spoiler free version and a super spoiler filled section. There will be plenty of warning, so don’t scroll past the warning mark if you want to remain unsullied!

The Spoiler Free Star Wars The Force Awakens Review

force awakens 03 rey and bb8 in the desert

To set the stage a bit, I’m a big Star Wars fan with a personal connection to the films, like everyone else writing a Star Wars The Force Awakens review. Unlike them, I’ll spare you the details. But just know, I’m a huge, huge fan. Also know that for this film I avoided everything except the initial teaser trailer. I went in about as fresh as one can get with one of these things and I went in with a really open mind.

As a Star Wars fan, I can tell you that you should see it if you are into Star Wars or sci-fi action adventure. The film contains a lot of heart. And if you like feelings of nostalgia, boy you’re sure going to get them. However, too much of a good thing can also turn out to be a bad thing. A Force Awakens uses nostalgia like a hammer and what has come before as a crutch. There’s way too much of the same movie that we’ve seen before.

And that’s about all I can say about The Force Awakens without giving any of the plot details away. And without spoiling anything, there’s a huge spoiler that you don’t want spoiled, so you better see it ASAP.

Okay, now go out there and see it, you fool!

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Be warned.
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There are massive, gigantic spoilers ahead.
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Still with me?
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Okay.
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Seriously, think about your life choices at this point.
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You sure? I give pretty much everything away…
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You are very brave.
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The Spoiler Filled Star Wars Force Awakens Thoughts (All The Spoilers)

force awakens 15 millenium falcon dodges tie fighters on jakku

There’s a lot I like about The Force Awakens and a lot I don’t. As stated before, the film relies way too much on nostalgia and hits too many familiar beats. Hell, the plot is a mashing of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi with more emphasis on A New Hope. However, instead of plans, they’re trying to get the location of Luke to the Resistance. Characters get captured. Then they escape. And give the plans to the good guys. And the good guys are almost blown up. The Force Awakens practically screams in your face, “Hey, remember the movies you loved?! This is like that!”

While this film marks the return of the principle cast of the original Star Wars trilogy, it spends a lot of time with our new heroes, Finn and Rey mixed with a little of Poe. We do get the originals returning, but Force Awakens is really about 80% the new crew’s show. This works out because Finn and Rey are really great characters with excellent chemistry. They stand alone as great new characters and I really want more of them.

However, the nagging feeling of been there done that is pervasive until the moment the bad guys reveal they have a super weapon and then it’s almost groan inducing. And it’s not just any super weapon, it’s a super duper weapon. You thought the Death Star was bad? This thing can blow up like five planets at once! A Force Awakens really suffers from this super weapon crutch. Even Han almost acts like it’s just another day at the office.

force awakens 32 leia and han

Speaking of Han, I feel like Leia could have been utilized a bit better. She spends most of her screen time in discussions with Han, while touching, also these scenes plow deep into an exposition mine where the two characters tell each other a bunch of stuff they already know.

While genuinely funny, A Force Awakens also has a bunch of lines and jokes that are oddly too contemporary. These lines and gags took me out of the film completely. They didn’t feel like real “Star Wars” moments. In fact, the whole begining kind of feels like people role playing Star Wars. They’re “Star Wars” like characters that make modern day jokes and they make some just barely succeeding rolls because they’re still level one… okay I’ll get off this tangent, but if you ever played a Star Wars role playing game, you will know what I’m getting at.

force awakens tie fighters

The Force Awakens is frustratingly vague on the political structure of the galaxy. So there is a Republic… but somehow there’s these powerful First Order dudes running around. And there’s a Resistance. Maybe it’s my over tired brain, but I couldn’t figure out how this fit together. Wouldn’t the Resistance be a part of the Republic? Usually, a resistance fights the entity that has the most power and that would be The Republic. Unless there’s two equally split powerful factions… well it was three in the morning when I started writing this, perhaps its not the film, it’s me.

Okay, let’s get to something I liked, Kylo Ren is pretty cool. He is outclassed as a bad guy, but tries so hard. It’s cute. One of the very best parts of the film is the turning temptation to the Dark Side on it’s head. Rylo is tempted by the Light side, something I didn’t think Dark Side Force users would have to deal with. It works really well for the film.

I’m very happy they didn’t kill him off as he has the potential of being a world class bad guy, especially now that he’s due for some cybernetic dark force user style enhancements. The reveal that he’s Leia and Han’s kid really wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Also, while it seemed that they were hinting that Rey could have been their kid, it would have been odd that it didn’t come up that they were missing a daughter who got lost on the same planet that the Falcon was lost on.

The use of non CGI was nice, since it felt like they were in real locations rather than floating in a computer. There’s still plenty of CGI used, it’s a really nice mix. It’s most telling on aliens when you can really tell which ones are computer generated and which ones are latex.

Did someone say lightsabers?! This movie features a couple of lightsaber battles and they’re wonderfully clunky and awkward. The characters don’t exactly know what they’d doing with them, unlike in the prequels highly choreographed and super stylized fighting. It much better fits the feel of how lightsaber fighting worked in the original trilogy.

force awakens 19 kylo ren with troops in rain

Now for the biggest of all the spoilers, the mother of spoilers: The death of a main character. The thing is, that moment is really telegraphed. You know it’s coming because of the way the scene is structured and it would have felt cheap had they gone any other way. That and out of any of the characters to die, Han made the most sense. I wondered how they would keep convincing Harrison Ford to put the Han pants back on for future movies and how much of the back-end gross they’d have to offer him. That problem is solved now!

I’m still a little raw from seeing one of my childhood heroes die on the big screen, but somehow I’m also emotionally unattached from it at the same time. I feel like part of this is the fault of the film. It’s almost like the filmmakers demanded that there be a major shocking moment, like Empire, and we get one. At least Han didn’t go out like Captain Kirk though.

I also need to talk a moment about Luke. I find it troubling that Luke failed training an apprentice and he just gave up and ran away. Reflecting on it, it makes him seem like a coward. He left this evil Force user run around the galaxy killing who knows how many people. That doesn’t feel like the Luke from the original trilogy. The only way they can turn this one around if the thought that Kylo Ren was dead when he decided to take his decades long sabbatical.

force awakens 26 phasma leads stormtroopers

As noted before, the main driving force of the plot at the beginning was finding Luke, but there’s a big stumbling block in the form of a Super Duper Death Star. By the end of the movie, and probably well before then, you realize that they aren’t going to find Luke as the minutes go by and he’s still not on screen. They get to leave that open thread as well as many more by the time the credits roll.

Overall, this really sounds like a complain fest and I guess it is. I really did enjoy The Force Awakens for what it was. It didn’t leave me with an empty feeling like so many summer blockbusters have recently. Still, I feel like there was a lot of missed opportunities with the plot retread. Despite all the flaws in the film, I liked it. I’d watch it ten more times and not in the way I re-watched Phantom Menace thinking I’d eventually like it. It was fun. Give me more Star Wars.

I’m holding out hope that now we’ve established the characters and their relationships that we’ve moved a bit beyond needing to hit every nostalgia note and can have a truly new adventure. As much as people hate the prequels, at least they tried to do something different.

Some Random Spoiler Filled Thoughts:

force awakens 31 rey fires blaster in jungle

  • Han just now realizes the bowcaster is a powerful weapon?
  • So anyone can pick up a lightsaber and start swinging it around with effect, hey?
  • Captain Phasma was a real let down.
  • The part with R2-D2 being asleep and waking up at the right moment with the data they needed? That was stupid.
  • The part where BB-8 puts the data he had into the hologram like a puzzle piece. Very, very stupid.
  • Somehow the X-wing space battle stuff seemed less exciting than space battle stuff in any of the other movies. It just kind of happened.
  • It kind of sucks that Leia didn’t become a Jedi. They need a scene where she talks about taking a different path.
  • So the First Order could destroy the Resistance base and fleet by blowing up their planet. Isn’t a fleet in space?
  • What happened to all the different types of fighters. Why do they just have X-wings now?
  • Just how did they “lose” the Falcon?
  • Who was that guy in the beginning?
  • The moment that almost made me cry? When Chewie hugged Leia.
  • XeQUae

    Spoilers ahead…

    I had a pretty similar reaction to the movie. It had a lot of great things, but I felt like there was something missing and it was too much of a retread. By the end of the movie everything is pretty much where everything was at the End of A New Hope. They had a lot to set up and that is fine, but I hope they move in a new direction in the upcoming movies and we don’t end up at the end with Rey vs. Kylo Ren & Snoke and another Starkiller base. I’ll be interested to see how the new directors handle the movie.

    I loved the reveal of Rey being force sensitive. It was nice to go into the movie without really being spoiled regarding the plot. I’m really glad JJ Abrams pushed secrecy and did a good job keeping the plot hidden.

    I was fine with a lightsaber for Finn. He is trained as a stormtrooper, so he has been trained in a variety of weapons, but in the end he couldn’t take on Kylo Ren.

    Captain Phasma was a letdown, but hopefully she is introduced so she can be pretty badass in the upcoming movies.

  • It’s funny how much our opinions line up on this thing.

    I can’t say much more than what I didn’t put down in here, but I’m really surprised at the gushing reactions, and especially the people that don’t think the movie is a complete retread. It hits all the story beats of the original film. At least admit that it is a remix.

    But yeah, the characters are great and I had fun. I’m praying to Crom they come up with a more original adventure next time, though.

  • Skewed_View

    I was really suprised at how much it was a retread of a New Hope. I too stayed away from any spoilers, so I went in not even knowing there was a new death star type weapon (I know it’s on the poster, but I didn’t even look at that closely when it came out). I did watch the trailer, but I did not sit around trying to figure out who does what, what role they have, how they may be related to anyone; so I just went in very fresh and wanted everything to unfold before my eyes.

    I liked a lot about it, and I thought it was a pretty solid movie. It felt more like a Star Wars adventure movie that the prequels did to me. I also took note of the clunky lightsaber fighting, and I loved it. It wouldn’t make any sense to see the crazy, flipping, over choreographed fights of the prequels when Luke is the only one around to pass down any of these skills.

    The thing that pleased me the most and left me satisfied in a way the prequels did not, was having new characters that I genuinely cared about. I loved Finn and Rey, they were both well-written and well-cast. I even felt pity for Kylo Ren, while at the same time finding him terrifying. I am glad that JJ Abrams knew that he needed some strong characters to carry this movie, that showing a bunch of x-wings and lightsabers with no heart would not be enough to make a good film.

  • I was cool with the lightsaber wielding Finn too, but what about that weapon that the Stormtrooper had? I was under the impression that lightsabers cut through pretty much everything with the exception of other lightsabers. Or was that just an Expanded Universe thing that I read years ago that has been since wiped out?

  • Skewed_View

    That stormtrooper weapon looked like it had some energy field around it, and the prequels had some robots with electric staffs that could hit lightsabers. So I guess that is some EU thing you’re remembering, or it’s just that there are some energy weapons that can withstand lightsabers, but maybe no material that can handle them.

  • Didn’t Grevious’s droids have staffs that banged against lightsabers in Revenge of the Sith?

  • AHHHH! I forgot about those. Thanks for the clarification.

  • No problem. I’m always happy to correct you.