Spoiler-Free Review of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

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It’s Great to See Old Friends…
As a child of the late ’70s, I inherently grew up in a world of Star Wars. Though I was just a baby when he first one was released, I do remember seeing it at home, and seeing the The Empire Strikes Back at a bigger-than-life drive-in (when those were still a thing). I saw Return of the Jedi in ’83 at an opening weekend gala wherein they actually sold magazines about the movie at the movie theater. I had that heavily read Jedi mag featuring art and behind the scenes info tucked away in my closet for about 18 years. In the pre-internet days, you simply couldn’t just look up stuff like that on a whim.

To say I’m a Star Wars fan is an understatement. I know every line of the movies by heart, I understand the impact the movies had on the art of moviemaking and sound and the fact that Star Wars changed the game for Sci-Fi films, TV shows, and the genre as a whole. Sci-Fi didn’t have to be campy, and the special effects could look real or real(ish) enough. Oh, and lightsabers… that has to be the most exciting fake weapon ever dreamed up. Who hasn’t dreamed of wielding one, nor has seen the imagination of 2- and 3-year-olds sparked by merely seeing one? It’s probably a good thing lightsabers aren’t real, because if you think firework accidents are bad, people would be lopping off their own ligaments tinkering around with a Jedi’s weapon.

Like hundreds of millions of others, I love the franchise and the story, and loathe the remakes of the originals (Han always shot first), and watch with frustrated excitement as the prequels were released, which had a ton of great promise and possibilities, but fell short in many ways. Though I can’t dismiss the prequels altogether, as there are some good things about them as well… let’s not forget the prequels have three of the greatest lightsaber duels that have existed in Star Wars movie history:

1.) Darth Maul vs. Obi and Qui-Gon (best music during a lightsaber duel as well)
2.) The Jedi vs. Droid army/Ani, Obi, Yoda, and Dooku
3.) Ben, Ani, Yoda, Emperor shootout

I’ll grant you the lightsaber duels of the original three had more impact and meaning, but the prequels are an outright slugfest.

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterSo, how does Star Wars: The Force Awakens Stack-up?
This will be one of the first movies in a long while, that I think people will flock to see this in the theater multiple times. Which in this day and age of home theaters and big screens, speaks to how good this movie is.

Like nearly everyone else who’s reviewed it, I’ll say that it feels more like the original trilogy. Great acting, better/more realistic special effects which harken back to the originals vs. the over-CGI prequels where nothing looks real. It features a good-to-great story – don’t chide me on that one. It’s a “setup” movie so there’s some limitations it has in introducing new characters and making up for 30 years of missing history. There were limitations on what the writers could do – at least to their credit they didn’t try to fit the entire backstory in one fell swoop. They let you assume that your favorite characters lived their lives without a complete history lesson. I also say “good-to-great” story-wise, as there is some repetition from the very first Star Wars from 1977.

“This will be one of the first movies in a long while, that I think people will flock to see this in the movie theater multiple times.”

Overall, seeing some of my favorite characters again was awesome. Including seeing my favorite spaceships – the Millennium Falcon, and X-wing fighters. The acting is real in this movie. Rey is a breakout role/character, and my favorite, although I was able to more or less guess her storyline before seeing the movie. I look forward to seeing more of her, and also having a character for my daughter that’s similar to what Luke, Han, and Leia, were for me growing up.

For me, there’s simply more I want to see with this new story line and characters, and The Force Awakens does its job very well in that regard.

Who could replace R2-D2?
Well BB-8… that’s who. This simply makes sense from a filmmaking perspective. R2 is beloved, but it’s hard to have him emote without looking fake due to how he’s built. His takedown of two droids in Revenge of the Sith was outright awesome, but CGI fakery nonetheless. BB-8 simply emotes more, and is oddly interesting for a droid. It’s great that Rey can understand him without a translator, so there’s no need to replace C-3P0, who can be annoying at times. Was I the only kid who didn’t mind him getting blasted in Empire? Without being on Chewy’s back, I don’t think he would’ve made it out of Cloud City. Admittedly it made for a good action figure (Chewbacca with break-apart C3P0).

The Dark Side
I really liked what they did with Kylo Ren as he’s totally sinister, and the character that Darth Maul could’ve been in the prequels. Kylo is a true enemy whom you can really hate much more than Darth Vader. Kylo is just a bit more evil than Vader, when you see the movie, you’ll know why.

Special Effects
OK… the special effects are, in a word, perfect. Everything looks real, and nothing is forced or looks fake, which was the bane of the prequels. There’s new subtlety and fierceness to the lightsabers in this movie as they crackle and seem to be affected by the atmosphere they’re in, so even the lightsabers come across more menacing, and destructive than ever.

“There’s simply more I want to see with this new story line and characters, and The Force Awakens does its job very well in that regard.”

The battles mainly take place “in planet” versus “in space” which I usually don’t like in Sci-Fi movies at all as I want them to battle in space, but the special effects/story/acting are so good, that I didn’t mind at all. Of course, having the ships in natural environments adds to the realism bit.

The new Star Wars stacks up, and I sure hope that the movies after this can hold up to the excellence, depth, and odd humor that Star Wars: The Force Awakens provides. There are some truly funny moments in this movie. I plan on seeing it a few times in the theater, and cannot wait for it to come home.

With the new plot line and characters established, I think we’re in for a treat when the next movies come out as well.

Darksiders and Lightsiders unite… you have a new movie to see.

Note: This is a non-spoiler review. Respect the force, and if you have comments please keep them spoiler-free!


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