21 December 2015

FWS Movie Review: STAR WARS VII: The Force Awakens (SPOILER FREE!)

Some mock science fiction and call it the bottom of entertainment, literature, and cinema. However, Star Wars proves that science fiction is not just a generational thing, or even a western world thing, but it is a global thing that crosses the gap between rich and poor, young and old, and male and female. Since 1977, Star Wars has altered common global culture, the world of cinema, and science fiction forever. The original holy trilogy ran from 1977 through 1983, and then there was the gap of decades until the prequel were announced in 1994 some eleven years after Jedi. From 1999 to 2005, the unholy, shitty Prequel films tarnished the world of Star Wars, and it was believed that this would be the way the Star Wars films ended...with a flaming bag of dogshit. As Lucas altered and raped our childhood with new elements to the holy trilogy, the deal with Disney was looming. In October of 2012, it was announced that Disney had bought LucasFilm and the mouse would be making more Star Wars films, starting with the sequel trilogy. In November of 2014, we finally got to see the first trailer for The Force Awakens and reaction was strong that these new films would be a return to good Star Wars films...so, is it? Here is my Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens SPOILER FREE review. I saw this film in Dallas on IMAX 3D at an 1000am showing on 12/21.

The Basic Plot (Maybe Minor Spoilers!)
It has been 30 years after the Battle of Endor, and in the First Order has arisen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. Siding against the First Order is the Republic. While the Republic and the First Order are not engaged directly, the Resistance is the insurgency to the First Order and is being supplied by the Republic. Now, there are forces at work to destabilize the situation in the galaxy...and that is where the film opens.

For the most part, Star Wars VII: the Force Awakens is a solid, very enjoyable Star Wars that ranks up there with The Empire Strikes Back, and is the second best sci-fi film behind The Martian this year. It has the soul, character, world of Star Wars all there with healthy doses of Star Wars IV: A New Hope to create a bridge between the classic films and this new generation of action figures...I mean...heroes. This is the film that we fans deserved in 1999 and it has redeemed the promise of Star Wars after the abortion that the prequels were.
While there are tons of SFX, they are a fusion of practical and CGI that makes The Force Awakens more real than the plastic prequels. The connection to the old characters is there, and it is more than just fan service. The new characters are real characters in their own right and I was excited to see the development on Kylo Ren as more of a real character than a set piece. The film manages to get the little element rights, along with the big ones. I laughed, I cried, and I marveled at the world of Star Wars again. For me, this movie was more "the fans awaken" than the Force awakens.

As I said above, The Force Awakens is strongly connected to the original 1977 film in more than just imagery. For those of us that have seen the ANH repeatedly, The Force Awakens can feel like a retread in both theme and plot points. You knew what was going to happen, and while the film is very good, it can feel very borrowed, and that some of the film's plot points are there just because of that. This is true of one of the only major thing I really disliked about the film.
The great looming menace that our heroes have to deal with is just a borrowing of ANH element, that it makes little sense on its own. Since this is spoiler-free, I cannot say more than that. Also, the movie moves very quickly from place to place, like most Star Wars films, and the scenes on planet Jakku are the longest. This jumpiness is even more apparent in order to make the combining of the new generation and the original, the film  needed to throw together characters, like the original film or The Phantom Menace, and that can also feel forced. and things being done because the script says so. Another thing I disliked was the lack of explanation over the current political situation in the galaxy and who these factions were. I personally think this was done on purpose due to the attention paid to the political situation in the prequels to death.
Also, I was surprised by the tacked on nature of the big central question in the background of the whole film, and then it is solved in the final few minutes and the ending feels rushed. I honestly thought the end scene in The Force Awaken should have been saved for episode VIII. Then that brings to my last "Bad" portion of The Force Awakens...the science. Star Wars has never been about being an ambassador for hard science fiction, and general it is soft science fiction. But, The Force Awakens takes to a new level of softness...like liquid. Several times, I was stunned at the lack of real-world elements and one element was so bad, it derailed the film for a few minutes for me.

Bottomline, The Force Awakens is a very good Star Wars movie that reminds us of how good this universe can be...and brings us to the ugly aspect...it reminds us how bad, crushingly bad, the Prequel films are. For decades, we fans have wanted to see the apex of the Jedi Order, the rise of the Sith, and the Clone Wars...and we got this flaming bag of dogshit. The Force Awakens does not acknowledge the prequels save for one comment, and it show how irrelevant those prequel films and how plastic they appear. This film generated feelings of remorse for ever investing anytime into the prequels and makes you also wish we could get them remade with the gusto of The Force Awakens. I can honestly saw that when it comes time to buy the Star Wars films on Blu-Ray, I am buying four of them now and not just the original three.

Should You see The Force Awakens....waitaminute...you already have.
Everyone is going to see this that is remotely interested in the film...maybe I should ask another question.

How Does The Force Awakens Fit into the World of Star Wars?
Because Star Wars is a saga that tells the story of the Light and Dark Sides of the Force along with the family history of the Skywalkers, how does this new film fit into the rest of the saga? I can say, very well. The Force Awakens feels like an organic piece of the puzzle and it is a brave start to a new trilogy storyline. It retains that favor of the original films and allows for a bridge from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens. My hope is that more of our questions about some of the events in the background are answered in the next two films.

My Big Worry...
To date, JJ Abrams has helmed two of the biggest franchises in the realm of science fiction: Trek and Wars. The excellent job paid to the new Star Wars proves to me that he has talent and can make a excellent film without ripping the original material to shreds...like he did with his "vision" of Star Trek. Honestly, I hate his Trek films and think they are simply pieces of shit that trade on the good and hallowed name of Trek. His Trek is related to the original Star Trek has much has was the World War Z film had in common with the World War Z book. My big worry is that JJ Abrams will not be able to replicate The Force Awakens and we will get films that tarnish the new hope we fans have for the sequel trilogy.


  1. JJ isn't directing VIII, so no worries there! :)

  2. Oh...I didn't know that! Very cool...thanks for the heads up. Hope is the not the guy he got for the 3rd Trek Abortion film.

  3. Forgive me for asking, while I do certainly appreciate a much more balanced opinion here than the hype pieces passed off as reviews elsewhere, did you have nothing to say about the plagiarism of the story? Even getting over how the film basically serves as a "best of" for the classic Star Wars films by repeating its events, a lot of plot elements were directly lifted from the Expanded Universe. The same one Disney and Abrams helped to push into becoming non-canon supposedly so they could be free to tell their own story.

  4. Thank you for the much more critical review than most, I agree with most of it and I bet the science problem is the same one I had, And if JJ had just taken the Galaxy Gun from the EU it'd solve the Problem.

    My biggest problem were the characters, Kylo Ren is the worst for most of the movie he is either sulking, whining or throwing a temper tantrum. He is a petulant child not a Sith Lord. Captain Phasma, for being built up a big threat just rolls over immediately. and Finn, spoilers for the first 10 min of the movie His backstory is he was a stormtrooper since a young child, and defects after seeing a fellow stormtrooper die in front of him. now for his actions to defect and after are fine, but throughout the movie he acts way to eager and happy to see people that for most of his life were the closest thing to family for him die. he is the one who should be sulking as Finn betrays everybody he knows for his conscience.

    For these criticisms and others I’d give it a 3 out of 5. A little bit more care in the characters, bit better fight choreography, a more distinctive final fighter battle, less redundant plot, and some tighter editing the film would be fantastic. a workable start for a new trilogy, but more work needs to be put in for Episode 8 and 9.
    I’m looking forward to Rouge One next year more than this one as Rouge Is actually trying new things for the franchise in film.

    Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to get my criticisms off my chest and everywhere else seems to have drank the cool aid.

  5. I wish I knew more about the SW: EU to discuss the plagiarism aspect of the film. Please tell me more. I do think it is odd how these new films wiped out decades of EU works. Maybe Abrams should have remade the prequels?
    And you are correct, The Force Awakens is a Greatest Hits of Classic Star Wars. We shall see if the next two films can create something new. And I too am looking forward to Rouge One.
    Since we are talking some spoilers here, I tell what pissed me off in the film and it was lazy goddamn writing.

    The fucking starkiller station. Lords of Kobol save me. The thing sucks energy off of the nearby sun to charge the weapon, can fire a massive destruct-o-beam lightyears, but it cannot defend itself against X-Wings? The technological scale here is all over the map. I know they were mining ANH, but c'mon! And the worst thing is that audience was clueless about the starkiller planet location in relation to the planets it wiped out.

    1. Oddly enough the Starkiller Station is actually one of the REALLY big ones they directly lifted from the expanded universe. In that there was a weapon known as Centerpoint Station, a vast artificial construct left behind by an unknown alien race. Powered internally by an artificial star, it was discovered and then used as a dyson sphere colony. This turned out to be a bad idea when terrorist groups discovered it was an ancient weapon which could be used to destroy planets and whole systems lightyears away. The first shot was particularly horrific, burning the colony and ripping the cities to burning debris under the force of a partially powered blast.

      Sound familiar yet? This is one of about eight or nine BIG story elements which seem to have been lifted right out of the novels, to the point of just up and copying them. The problem is they've been done stupidly, skipping over basic stuff like set-up, development or establishing ideas, often so they can mine some nostalgia. In the case of Centerpoint Station, someone actually brings up the idea of performing a torpedo attack with fighters, only for it to get shot down.

      I'm certainly not saying the film is BAD, as you said yourself, there is some good to be found here. The problem is that those good elements seem to just have been copied and pasted from novels the director helped make non-canon, claiming he wanted freedom to tell his own story. It's pretty morally repugnant that he's getting away with this, and even has people defending him by claiming he's "remixing" other author's works.

    2. In the the novelization that uses a older version of the screenplay as a base, the Starkiller Station is a little less stupid. in the novel the Starkiller is powered by dark matter, and instead of a really big lazer it fires a ball of plasma straight into hyperspace. the plasma then exited hyperspace in the targeted system aimed for the star. when the plasma hits the star it causes the star to go nova wiping out everything in the system. Still not good but better than what we get in the film.

  6. "unholy, shitty Prequel films" what are you on about? The prequel films are not that bad. If you want unholy shit, look at the Clone Wars and Rebels animated series. Those are shit.

  7. What JJ did to ST made Me want to weep..