Run Time: 135 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
EE Critic Score: 9/10
The crowds have finally dies down enough for me to feel comfortable heading out to the theater to see the new Star Wars. (I’m a huge Star Wars fan but an even bigger agoraphobe.)
There’s not much I can say about the movie without spoiling it, except that it’s quite good. Director J. J. Abrams likes to keep his stories secret until they’re officially released, and this was no exception. All I can say is that it’s a good film, and you should go see it if you haven’t already. When you’re done, come back here.
So you’ve seen it now? I should hope so, because I’ll be discussing plot details throughout the rest of this piece.
The Force Awakens is the pinnacle of the first wave of Disney Star Wars content. It did a good job of introducing the new story and the new characters, especially in the opening crawl. The background is basically that the Rebellion has become the Republic, and the Empire has been beaten into submission. But a man named Snoke (Andy Serkis) has formed an Imperial Nationalist movement called the First Order. Under Snoke are General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) leads a Resistance movement to destroy the first Order. Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts are unknown, and both sides are searching for him.
This is where the movie starts, in medias res, as Resistance agent Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) meets with Jedi supporter Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) to pick up a clue to Skywalker’s whereabouts. The First Order arrives, kills Tekka, and captures Dameron. Dameron’s droid, BB-8, escapes with the clue.
Dameron is interrogated, revealing that his droid carries a map to Skywalker’s location. He escapes with the aid of Stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega), whom he gives the less sterile name “Finn”. Finn is convinced that the First Order is evil, and recruits Dameron for his piloting ability to help him escape. They steal a TIE fighter and escape to Jakku, though they crash and become separated.
Finn finds BB-8 with Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who collects scrap from the wreckage of a battle in exchange for food rations. Finn passes himself off as a legitimate Resistance agent, and he and Rey help BB-8 escape Jakku. From there they meet with Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who helps them get to the Resistance base.
The big reveal of the movie is that the new villain, Kylo Ren, is in fact Ben Solo, son of Han and Leia and former student of Luke Skywalker. Ben has decided to end his internal conflict by committing fully to the Dark Side. He destroyed Luke’s new Jedi academy and joined the First Order. In response, Luke set out alone to find the first Jedi Temple, Han Solo and Chewbacca returned to smuggling, and Leia returned to leading a guerilla war against evil powers. R2-D2 has shut down in a corner, missing Luke.
The character of Kylo Ren borrows heavily from characters from the Legends continuity, especially Kyp Durron and Jacen Solo. He is, thankfully, a much better character than either of them. I suspected that the new canon would be more-or-less a remake of the former Expanded Universe, and Ren’s character is some proof of that.
The other villains are good enough. General Hux is probably the best Imperial officer in any of the movies. He’s not a big, complex character, but he’s not supposed to be. I remember him better than I do a Firmus Piett of a Tiann Jerjerrod.
Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) is not in the film much. She’s introduced, and she plays a small part in the finale, but apparently she’s being saved for later.
Supreme Leader Snoke also felt mostly saved for later. He only appears via hologram (which shows him as being twenty-five feet tall. I’m not sure if he actually is that large or if it’s like Palpatine’s first appearance in V.) The CGI mocap on him seemed a bit sup-par. Snoke’s final design wasn’t even settled on until October 2015, so the artists might just have not had the time they needed to get it right. He might look better in later installments. Andy Serkis gives a good performance.
Really, everyone did. This is sort of a first for Star Wars. John Boyega was the best, with Harrison Ford being the best of the returning cast (as always) Oscar Isaac is a good supporting character; I wish he had been given more to do. Daisy Ridley was fine. I can’t think of any particular scene where she really shined, but her performance was certainly not a bad one.
Adam Driver was quite good as Kylo Ren. His character is rather similar to Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker, but Driver is a much better dialogue actor than Christensen.
As I mentioned before, Ren believes that the path to inner peace is full commitment to the Dark Side, which he tries to achieve by killing his father, in a scene reminiscent of Darth Caedus killing Mara Jade Skywalker. Now, Han Solo dies by being stabbed, thrown into a chasm, and having the planet/superweapon he was on utterly destroyed. In any other movie, he is very, very dead. But this is Star Wars, and no one in Star Wars is dead until their remains are burned on screen. Harrison Ford is signed to appear in Episode VIII. In a flashback or something, I’m sure.
But overall, this is a solid start to a new era of Star Wars. Until VIII and IX are released, some of this film simply won’t be appreciable. The Force Awakens raises some interesting questions. I can’t wait to see them answered.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think? Have anything to say that I didn’t mention? Please leave your response below.