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Movie Review: Star Wars Episode VII

Return to the vast universe of Star Wars with The Force Awakens. Image used from theguardian.com

Return to the vast universe of Star Wars with The Force Awakens. Image used from theguardian.com

For nearly four decades the Star Wars films have entertained people all over the world. With its well crafted stories, wonderful characters, imaginative ideas and vast, expansive universe,  the Star Wars films have managed to stay relevant with people of all ages and have inspired so many. After Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012 a new chapter that followed the conclusion of the original trilogy was put in the works and after much time and anticipation, the newest film “The Force Awakens”, has been released. Will it be the grand new chapter everyone has been waiting for or will it fail in its endeavor?

The story for The Force Awakens is rather interesting. It clearly uses the same template as A New Hope almost note for note with it’s similar plot points, twists and characters. That isn’t a bad thing though as I feel it’s a good way to welcome back long time fans with something they know while also giving new fans a fine jumping off point. However the film does do things rather differently  with this template by switching certain scenes around and slowly building on character arcs that are similar to that of the first movie. With all this together the story comes off as familiar and fresh and all the while is quite engaging and entertaining. There are even some very clever things the filmmakers did when it came to it’s heroes and villains that I must bring up. On the side of the heroes you have a spectrum of many cultures and races working together with many higher ups and main heroes being Spanish, Asian and African American. On the side of evil every single main officer and higher up are white and British and the fact that they are called The New Order makes me giggle a little as they’re ideals are clearly regressed. Add on the heavy implications of Nazism and you have a band of villains you’ll love to hate. Despite the story being well done I have to say I do have some problems with it. Often times the film will introduce a new plot point or have a moment of important but vague back story for a character which they do not explain. Granted such things need to be developed over the course of the series and not in one fell swoop however there are moments that could have been given clarification but instead of being told we’re given the excuse of “I’ll tell you another time”. This is a very irritating to me as I see it as a lazy way to get around something. It tells us that the writers had no idea how to explain this situation and rather then figuring it out they decide to skip over it and come back to it in another film. This wouldn’t be a problem if it had happened only once but it happens far too often throughout the film. The film is also more action oriented, normally something I don’t have a problem with but in this case I’ll make an exception. The Star Wars films have always been about blending battles and story perfectly so we have excitement while having a good story. In this case far too much attention is placed on the action and though very well made it does cause the story to falter a bit.

The characters for The Force Awakens are very well written

Rey and Finn are our two main characters and they are both fantastic. Both are very interesting from the start and over the course of the film they develop wonderfully in their own unique ways and overcome their own separate conflicts. The characters work together greatly as well as each is very different from the other: Finn is louder, more outgoing and has the stronger moral conflict while Rey is lively, bold and more introverted. This makes for some great scenes of the two characters as well as fantastic growth between the two.

Our main antagonist is Kylo Ren and he is a fine villain. Ren is similar in some ways too Darth Vader but like the story itself he also comes off as different. Ren has some really interesting conflicts as well as having well made forms of menace to him that actually took me some time to figure out. I also greatly enjoy the design of his mask which looks something of a samurai mask, a nice nod to the films of Akira Kurosawa that initially inspired George Lucas.

Poe Dameron is a secondary hero and a good character all around. He has a wonderful sense of humor and is also a dutiful and honorable man. Unfortunately he is only in the film briefly during the first act and doesn’t show up again until the third, a shame because he is a good character that I hope to see more of.

Our returning characters Han, Chewbacca and Leia are all still great characters and fit nicely into the story. There is some great drama with Han and Leia that I dare not spoil but needless to say it is very touching and well made.

Acting for The Force Awakens is good but many actors go under used

John Boyega gives a great performance as Finn. Boyega is very entertaining in his role as he manages to blend a wonderful serious performance and a more light hearted and humorous one.

Daisy Rider is fantastic as Rey. Her performance is strong and engaging and her chemistry with Boyega is perfect with their opposite styles and personalities.

Adam Driver is very menacing as Kylo Ren throughout the film. However his finest moments are when his helmet is off. His appearance is very disturbing in that there is nothing wrong with him, his face is clean, handsome and innocent but that is what is so frightening that under all that is sadism and cruelty not to mention he has the crazy eyes down pat.

Oscar Isaac gives a very humorous performance as Poe. He’s charming and likable from the start and keeps it up from start to finish which only makes his smaller appearance all the more disappointing.

Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher both do splendidly as Han and Leia. Ford slips into his performance perfectly as if putting on a favorite old suit and gives every bit a good performance as he did thirty years ago. Fisher is unfortunately shown briefly but she manages to give a memorable performance nonetheless and once again has great moments with Ford.

The large cast is filled with bit characters and cameos but I’m only going to focus on the few that left an impression. Lupita Nyong’o plays Maz, the owner of an intergalactic cantina. Nyong’o is very humorous and exhibits immense charm in her brief performance, she did so well that I really hope we see more of her in the future. The other appearance that left an impression is not a good one, in fact it’s one that annoys me to no end. I’m a fan of Indonesian actors Yayan Ruihan and Iko Uwais of course for their martial arts skills which I greatly admire. When I heard they would be in The Force Awakens I was excited beyond all belief only to be disappointed to see that their roles consisted of Ruhian bantering for a few seconds and Uwais uttering a single brief line of dialogue before both are literally chased out of the film. I found this to be offensive not just to people who are fans of these actors but to the actors themselves who should have been given the opportunity of a lifetime but instead are used because foreign audiences would recognize them.

The effects for The Force Awakens are very well made

The effects are excellent for this film. The filmmakers manage to blend both CG and practical effects beautifully with the CG looking appealing to the eye while the practical effects are creative and are even better to behold. If I were to find any problem with them it would be that they look too much like Abrams designs, an odd thing to say yes but hear me out. While looking great (so much so that I would say they would age perfectly over the years) the effects look too much like Abrams interpreting Star Wars then Star Wars itself.

The action scenes for The Force Awakens are very entertaining

The action set pieces are numerous but all are entertaining. There’s a sense of variety in each and every one with all being destructive, chaotic yet well made with great cinematography, editing and a wonderful sense of stylization. Though there’s an overabundance the set pieces are still thoroughly fun and well crafted.

Final Thoughts: The Force Awakens is a great addition to the Star Wars saga and a very good starting point for the new trilogy. The story is familiar yet fresh, the characters great and some of the acting is very well done. I do have some issues such as quite a few cheap writing tactics and underused actors but overall The Force Awakens is a very entertaining film and one that was truly worth the wait.

Verdict: 4/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I’ve loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and I have Asperger’s Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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