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(Review) Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

I went with my sister to see Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens yesterday, and here’s my review. If you don’t want a review with spoilers, skip reading behind the cut.

I had no expectations of this film. Did it live up to the hype? Of course not! No film could, but it wasn’t a bomb, either.

I give this film a solid B, and would be tempted to bump it up to a B+ because of the shining presence of Harrison Ford as Han Solo. :)

Was I entertained? Yes.

Was I disappointed? Yes.

First, the good stuff. The new characters are interesting on their own. Finn as a Stormtrooper-turned-hero? I like it. I thought he was a clone but apparently that program can’t be accessed by the First Order and now they’re stealing toddlers from families to brainwash them into becoming killers.

Rey is the hero unaware of her Force powers at first, but she’s got spunk! Han sure liked her tech knowledge.

Poe Dameron is interesting and yummy to look at.

The new droid, BB-8, is adorable.

Nice to see the Millenium Falcon again. The old girl still has it! ;)

I was happily surprised to see so much screen time for Han Solo. Harrison Ford can still knock it out of the park at age 73. Still sexy, too! And Carrie Fisher as Leia and Mark Hamill as Luke are great, too. Yay for seeing Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 again, too.

The bad stuff? Hmm, when I learned that J.J. Abrams was involved, I shoulda known! He would ace a fannish remix challenge, that’s for sure.

I got the feeling of “I’ve seen this before”, and it usually was from Episode IV, with some homage to Episode V. I’ll list what I call repeaters:

A shot of a Star Destroyer filling the screen? Check, though it was done far more impressively in the original trilogy.

Hero growing up on a desert world? Check.

Hero left there as a child to protect her from the Jedi-turned-Dark-Sider? Check.

A droid with important information that has to be delivered to the Rebellion, oops, the Resistance? Check.

Said droid chased by the forces of the Empire, um, First Order? Check.

Leia as leader of the Resistance on a remote outpost that resembles Yavin 4’s moon? Check.

A Jedi seduced to the Dark Side by an evil Emperor-type? Check.

Said Sith killing all the young Padawans in training? Check.

A confrontation with a Jedi seduced to the Dark Side? Check. And if they’d used Luke, the parallels would have been stronger, but they used Han instead.

Father-son conflict on a major scale involving the evil Dark Sider? Check.

Major character death that jolts the audience? Check.

A new Death Star? The third time around, in fact, as there were two in the original trilogy. And this time it’s a planet and even bigger!

The Weapon destroys a planet, which happens to host the New Republic’s Senate.

Our heroes muck about the Death Star, trying to sabotage it.

Resistance X-wings fly against the Death Star, trying to destroy it.

Jedi-in-exile after his padawan turns to the Dark Side? Check.

I’m actually surprised that more reviewers haven’t skewered this remix approach, but maybe they’re just happy that the new film isn’t the prequel trilogy. And despite that lengthy list, this movie did pass the Time Test for me: I was not trying to sneak a look at my cell phone to find out the time because of boredom. So it was entertaining, but I’d hoped for more revelations about the New Republic and what Leia and the Rebellion had built after winning in Return Of The Jedi. Instead it was the same old Resistance against the Dark Side-led forces of evil, just with new names.

Interesting twist with Rey: while Luke yearned to leave Tatooine, Rey doesn't want to leave, convinced that her family will return for her, and there is where her future lies. She even turns down Han's offer of a job as she intends to return to Jakku.

I would have liked to find out if the New Republic had been successful and welcomed by the galaxy. What was allowing the First Order to flourish years later? Decadence, corruption, indifference? The New Republic is still in charge, but will it last?

I would also have liked to have seen a thriving Jedi Order, or at least enough of them to put up a fight against the Knights of Ren. I can understand Luke running off in guilt after the disaster during Ben’s training, but it’s been years since Return Of The Jedi. Surely there would have been adult Jedi that Kylo Ren could not have reached during the Academy massacre?

We did get the backstory of Ben Solo, now Kylo Ren. He seems an extremely fearful, weak-willed character easily seduced by Snoke, the Emperor stand-in. It’s little wonder that Luke failed to train him. I get the impression that he despised his parents: Leia for never training to become a Jedi and Han for being what Ben would consider a low-life scumbug (smuggler) who has no Force-sensitivity.

We knew your grandfather, Darth Vader, and Kylo, you are no Darth Vader! Those Stormtroopers had the right idea to turn around and leave after Rey's escape in a more comic moment than menacing.

I don’t mind Leia and Han going back to their old roles. After their marriage broke up after their son turned to the Dark Side, Han said he went back to what he knew, and Leia said she had done the same thing. That I can buy.

I can’t buy the lightsaber duels. Either Kylo Ren is the galaxy’s worst swordsman or Finn and Rey are the luckiest. Without training they were able to give him a fight with a lightsaber, and Rey defeated him.

Finn wasn’t a hero at first, even rejecting his Stormtrooper occupation. He was more involved in the Resistance in order to rescue Rey, but I see character growth in his future.

Maz Kanata is a great character! Han knows the most interesting people. :)

Captain Phasma was just window-dressing. Let’s hope she gets more to do in the next movie.

My biggest complaint is the death of Han. I understand that they need to clear the way for the new characters and the original trio is getting up there in years, so they wanted to do an on-screen death, but I still don’t like it. I suppose it’s better than Han being killed in some sleazy cantina by some scumbag he had a run-in with, but at the hands of his viperous son? That’s really low! I knew Han was a goner when he met Kylo out on that walkway, but it still hurt. He was the best part of this film, IMO. I felt joy whenever he was on-screen. I predict a lot of fix-it fic in the future!

Luke’s tears at the end are probably a mix of knowing that Han is gone and his pain over his failure with young Ben.

Let’s hope we get lucky and Episode VIII exceeds this film as The Empire Strikes Back did with A New Hope.

For those wanting my recommendation without spoilers, if you’re a Star Wars fan, go see this film. If you’re a Han Solo fan, definitely go see this film. There is new stuff mixed with old (a little too much repeating of Episode IV, IMO) but this movie is a darned sight better than the prequel trilogy.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 23rd, 2015 03:42 am (UTC)
Yep, I knew it, re: Han's fate. I've been trying to find spoilers for days now but with zero luck, so thank you for this.

It sounds like J.J. Abrams didn't trash SW the way he did ST, so that's something.

I'll check it out when it comes out on DVD. That's good enough for me.
Dec. 24th, 2015 12:31 am (UTC)
Poor Han! It was a pretty intense moment.

Yeah, not a big fan of J.J.

You can definitely wait but it's still worth seeing even on DVD. :)
Dec. 23rd, 2015 11:52 am (UTC)
Thanks for a balanced review and a blow-by-blow of the repeats. We haven't seen it yet, but have gotten all the spoilers out of the way. I'm still a little surprised that it wasn't Luke behind that Vader mask, but that's what they wanted you to think.

One of these days, we will get there. Until then, Merry Christmas!
Dec. 24th, 2015 12:33 am (UTC)
Wow, Luke behind the mask would've been quite the thing! But hopefully he gets more screen time in Episode VIII.
Dec. 24th, 2015 02:03 pm (UTC)
Heaven knows Han won't :P
Dec. 24th, 2015 03:30 pm (UTC)
Don't be too sure. I heard that Harrison Ford is part of the cast for the next film. I don't know if that's true or not. Fun if so!
Dec. 24th, 2015 05:50 pm (UTC)
We'll have to see. Never say never in this business!
Dec. 23rd, 2015 12:00 pm (UTC)
I'm seeing it on New Year's Day, but I'd already heard much of what you reported. Like rileyc, I was really afraid that Abrams would make the same unholy hell of a mess with Star Wars that he did with Star Trek. Glad to hear that that isn't the case. But it does sound as if the biggest flaw is his overuse of things from the previous movies. Yeah, he definitely does that.
Dec. 24th, 2015 12:34 am (UTC)
He needs more originality! :)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 27th, 2015 08:18 pm (UTC)
They certainly seemed to drop the prequel trilogy and give us more of what we wanted. A pity it had to be so derivative.

I'm inspired with some SW ideas, too! :)

The backstory. whether canon or fanon, should be interesting! :)
Jan. 12th, 2016 02:19 am (UTC)
I deliberately avoided all spoilers and only saw the movie today, so I thought I'd comment on your review now.

I'm with you on the repeats. I noticed a lot of the same formula, and of course the "I have a bad feeling about this" cliches. Having said that, I loved it. Most of it. So did my Mum.

Han's death was predictable. As soon as Leia said to Han to confront Ben, I had the feeling it wouldn't end well. Still, if Harrison is part of the cast for the next one, maybe he will come back in spirit.

Who knows?
Jan. 12th, 2016 02:37 am (UTC)
Heh, I like Han's iconic line. :)

Yeah, I definitely knew something was up for poor Han. :(

I'm hoping the next installment will be outstanding, as The Empire Strikes Back surpassed A New Hope.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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