A Review of J.J. Abrams’s The Force Awakens: A Good Bit of Nostalgic Sci-Fi Fun

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie Review

Film: Star Wars: The Force Awakens 
Director: J.J. Abrams
Primary Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie
US Release Date: 18 December 2015

This is a little late sorry. Also, if you haven’t seen the film yet, this review is completely spoiler-free, so no worries there.

The Force Awakens is set 30 years after The Return of the Jedi (1983). From the remnants of the Empire, a new threat, the First Order, has arisen. Among the First Order’s leaders are Kylo Ren (Driver), General Hux (Gleeson), and the Stormtrooper Captain Phasma (Christie), all of whom serve the Supreme Leader Snoke (Serkis).

As the First Order works to destroy the Resistance, the Resistance works to find Luke Skywalker, the last surviving Jedi. After obtaining the last piece of a map to Skywalker’s  whereabouts, the Resistance’s best pilot, Poe Dameron (Isaac) is captured by the First Order. Before he is taken prisoner, Poe gives the map to a BB-8 droid, who then meets a young scavenger named Rey (Ridley). Later, Poe himself meets a Stromtroooper defector named Finn (Boyega), who is quickly swept up by the Resistance and its efforts to fight the First Order.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an entertaining and visually captivating action film that is sure to excite audiences of all ages. In finding a way to please old fans while entertaining new ones, Disney has presented a Star Wars film that—if followed up correctly—may be just what the saga needed. While Abrams’s film does spend much of its time revisiting what made Lucas’s space western so successful in the first place, it also shows enough signs of breaking new ground to keep viewers interested. Only time will tell how successful—and narratively innovative—the new Star Wars trilogy will be, but with The Force Awakens as its foundation, its future looks promising indeed. 

I should probably preface this review by saying that I have very little interest in reviewing The Force Awakens the way I would most films. My father was born in 1969, so most of his childhood was filled with Star Wars, and I grew up listening to him talk about how important it was to him; as a result, I simply cannot be entirely objective about the series (I teared up about 3 seconds into the title sequence, for what it’s worth). Put another way, I was raised by someone who loved Star Wars as much, if not more than my own generation loves Harry Potter, so I’m not sure that I could ever remove nostalgia and similar emotions from the equation as long as Jedis and droids are involved. 

Now that that’s out of the way, I can confidently say that The Force Awakens is one of my favorite films of the year. From a more critical standpoint, the film is anything but perfect, but it will also provide a large number of viewers with one of the most enjoyable, the most memorable, and (possibly) the most emotional film-going experiences they have had in months. I’ve only paid to see two films more than once this year; one was Mad Max: Fury Road, and the other is The Force Awakens. And while Fury Road is, in many ways, a far better film than the latest Star Wars one, the fact that I—someone with very little cash at my disposal—have seen it twice still says a great deal about how much fun it is. (That I also watched the entire original trilogy for the first time in about 10 years after seeing The Force Awakens only reinforces this fact).

When I first heard that Abrams would be directing the newest Star Wars film, I was less than thrilled; I found many aspects of hist recent Star Trek revivals rather frustrating, and I forgot just about every detail of Super 8 the same day I saw it. As far as I’m concerned, Abrams is not a particularly inventive director, regardless of how badly he’d like to be seen that way. That said, The Force Awakens may just be the most satisfying Star Wars film to date, and this is largely because it is so loyal to its origins.

With The Force Awakens, Abrams has crafted a film that will appeal to those who grew up with the saga while also captivating the hearts and imaginations of an entirely new generation of Star Wars fans. And while some may fault the film for spending too much time revisiting events and ideas from the original trilogy, they’d be better off enjoying the ways in which Abrams re-imagines and (re-presents) them for a today’s audiences. The Force Awakens most certainly pays homage to and builds directly upon the foundation provided by earlier Star Wars films, but it does so in a way that (for the most part) actually strengthens its own efforts while also using the past to look ahead. 

As familiar as most of The Force Awakens will feel to anyone who has any knowledge of series, there still aspects of the film that are inspired and new. Most of these “aspects” are (or are directly connected to) it’s new cast members and main characters. Together, Poe, Rey, and Finn make for a compelling (and undeniably attractive) set of leads, and—if developed properly—they all have the potential to carry the series forward in new, exciting, and of course, entertaining ways. Similarly, Driver’s Kylo Ren is also presented in a manner that is sure to leave viewers interested in how his story will progress in future films.

For all its entertainment value, The Force Awakens does suffer from a few noticeable problems. The  films’s visuals and score are flawless in that they are just what a Star Wars fan might want, but it’s pacing and script are less than perfect. Such problems are most noticeable near the end of the film, where a number of scenes are too rushed for viewers to feel their full impact.

At the end of the day, Episodes VIII and IX may determine just how good The Force Awakens really is. Abrams’s contribution to George Lucas’s sci-fi saga is rife with nostalgia; but what remains to be seen is whether it will springboard Star Wars to new heights or limit it to rehashing old ground.

(Oh, and for what it’s worth, the repetitive way of things that Abrams establishes in The Force Awakens is very much like the cyclical nature of Tolkien’s mythos; which is to say that if you don’t have a problem with the things that happen twice in Middle-earth, then you shouldn’t mind them here either.)

Until Next Time
I recently saw The Big Short, but I haven’t written about it yet, and this might be my last post of 2015; with that in mind, I’d like to wish a “Happy New Year!” to all of my readers. I know that I haven’t done any sort of top movies of the year post yet, but I will as soon as I can see films like The Hateful EightCarolThe Revenant, and Anomalisa (I live in Tulsa right now, so I have to wait longer than some for certain films).

Also, you can support this blog by donating or by purchasing something from this society6 shop. I’m in between jobs at the moment, so movie tickets have become a bit of a luxury, and any help at all would be very much appreciated.

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