Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens Review

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Some Spoilers Ahead—Beware!

Brad: So after my drive and slumber I’ve come to the conclusion that it was just a great start for Star Wars. It’s just like Star Trek—great movie, great action, great story and dialogue, great characters but it just felt “different.”

Maybe a case of too little too late with these returning characters or maybe it was the “reboot/remake” aspect of some of the storyline and characters but something didn’t gel with this huge Star Wars fan. I give a lot of credit to J.J. and the actors involved and I’d like to think that I’m not letting nostalgia get in the way of my critique but this entry definitely left me wishing for more—which is a good and bad thing.

Brian: Well the A New Hope was almost 40 years ago of course it’s going to feel different. If it was too similar you’d complain they were using nostalgia as a crutch. Which they did at times, but it didn’t seem too forced to me (FORCED, get it???!!). You just grew up with Star Wars so much that you’re probably being too hard that it didn’t quite recapture the magic you felt as a kid because you’re not a kid anymore and your brain just doesn’t work that way now. As someone who’s not really big into Star Wars I actually liked it a lot more than I thought going in. The only thing that really puzzled me is why the recast Leia with James Brolin.

Brad: Don’t get me wrong I thought this was an excellent movie and a great installment to the Star Wars Saga. The first 5 minutes was better than the entire Phantom Menace. It’s hard to explain what I mean by feel different but it’s not about the nostalgia for it because I even thought the Prequels felt like “Star Wars” movie in style and tone. Abrams’ Star Wars, like his Star Trek is more action-based and violent than the previous installments. Just the five minutes in Force Awakens has a massacre of innocent people. Very different from what we’ve previously seen. But again, not a bad thing either. This franchise needs an update but I’m not going to say it’s the same ‘ol Star Wars.

I’m just hoping the next episode is more original as this one relied too much on familiarity with the OT especially A New Hope. It’s almost a carbon copy in story line. Same thing happened to Escape From LA.

Brian: What about the slaughter of innocent Jawas in A New Hope?

I love Escape from LA. Yeah they hit an insane amount of the same beats and deliver a ton of fan service in a pretty heavy-handed way but I honestly didn’t mind any of that because I liked the new characters so much. Although the villains were a tad weak. Kylo Ren was good and had depth and will surely be more fully developed in the next two pictures, but General Huxtable was basically a cliche sniveling leader and was miscast too young (not that Grand Muff Tarkin had that much backstory, but at least you believed Peter Cushing could be in a position of authority). Captain Phasma literally did nothing and was a waste, hopefully she gets something to do in the other installments. And Snoke was also just kind of unnecessary. And has the shittiest videophone service in the galaxy since he can only talk in that one giant chamber.

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Brad: You never see the massacres. It’s just implied. Much like the Jawas’ genders.

If I can nitpick anything from this flick it would be that their were too many central characters. Rey, Finn and Han Solo all have a lot at stake in this film and it’s hard to focus on any of them. Unlike Luke, who was the central character in the OT and he had a full-thought-out character arc to follow. The other characters like Han and Leia really didn’t develop or change in the course of the OT, not in the same degree as Luke anyway. In this new one we have both Rey and Finn and to an extent Kylo Ren who we know has his inner conflict to deal with as well. Although I must admit that I am curious about both Rey and Finn and I thought that their screen time was well-equaled out since they are the two new leads for the next installment.

The other thing that this one was lacking (and this goes back to what I said about not feeling like the ‘ol Star Wars) is there was really no memorable scenes really like the A New Hope had. They attempted to harken back to the Cantina scene at Maz Kanata’s temple but it was pale in comparison to the original Mos Eisley cantina scene’s denizens for example. Same with the Jakku people, just not memorable enough. In the OT, the characters that everyone loved as the toys had like 2 seconds of screen time. These new characters don’t have that appeal at all. Boba Fett had 3 lines and barely did anything and he’s the most popular character. I’m having a hard time even recalling any character or alien that had a memorable scene like this.

And some scenes felt “FORCED” as well. Especially the meeting of Finn and Rey in Jakku. I’m not saying they should’ve met in a bar and talked to each other but they were basically thrusted together hastily. And remember when that chubby alien who doled out food for scraps of metal put out a bounty on BB-8 and like the next scene had two unidentifiable and unmemorable thugs to attack Rey and kidnap BB-8. It would’ve be nice to have some suspense build up to those thugs and how they approached Rey much like that spy on Tatooine stalked Luke and Obi-Wan and told the Troopers about them. It’s those little scenes that stand-out in the OT that this film lacked. But when 875 things are happening in a sequel coming out 32 years later I guess triviality isn’t a major concern.

I’m still confused who or what Maz Kanata is and what she does. It seems she has a temple of some sort. We know it’s hers because Han says it’s hers and there’s this 20-foot statue of her on top. Yet the first time we see her she’s bussing tables and returning glasses to the bar. You would think the owner who puts a huge statue of themselves would be more outstanding in presence and role. Make some other dweeb clean up the tables. Plus Han builds her up as someone not to trifle with. He says something like “don’t stare at her or something” right? But she turns out to be the kindest, gentlest, grandmotherly character in the whole Star Wars universe. Reminded me of Estelle Getty in Golden Girls. What was the big deal with her?

Brian: I didn’t think that they were hard to focus on at all. Rey basically has the same character arc as Luke, and I thought Finn was well fleshed out and different enough. Plus keep in mind that this is a trilogy, and A New Hope was basically a standalone that could have been a failure and not gotten any sequels.

Again I think the “memorable” stuff is just a mindset and a product of the times in which these movies came out. There was nothing like Star Wars back then, now it’s out amid a sea of special effects blockbusters. Some of the aliens and creatures had cool designs but we’ve only seen it once. On repeat viewings they’ll stick out more, I think. Except Maz Kanata’s place wasn’t patronized by the god damn Devil like the Cantina was.

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Han’s warning to not look meant looking at the other patrons, not Maz Kanata. I actually liked her character because Lucas would have played her for cheap laughs and Abrams didn’t. She was kind of Yoda-ish but could form sentences. She’ll probably be more fleshed out in the sequels.

So really those minute nitpicks didn’t add up to much for me. The only things that stuck out that I didn’t like were:

1. Han and Chewie just happen to be right there to capture Rey and Finn in the Millenium Falcon. The most convenient coincidence ever. That’s almost up there with Kirk finding Spock on that ice planet.

2. Kylo Ren somehow getting ahead of Finn and Rey in the woods, especially after he’d been shot in the gut.

3. The rift that formed perfectly between Rey and Ren so their fight could end. Such a cheap trope.

4. It was really morbid and unnecessary when Chewie made love to Han’s corpse.

Brad: I really like Finn’s arc mainly because it is different and not so much in step with repeating a Jedi’s course. And it was interesting him being so naive in dealing with situations. He wielded a lightsaber to fight Kylo Ren and got his ass handed to him!

Maybe you’re right about the “memorable” stuff because I can’t recall any movie, in my adult life anyway, that brought out my childlike wonder and imagination like how I described. However, I’m thinking I’m sort of right in that these new aliens weren’t that designed that interestingly. I have a bunch of the toys for these characters and I’m not that impressed.

Brian: Yeah all he knows is Stormtrooper shit so he’s like a giant baby. It would have been good to see him kicking a little more ass, but the Stormtroopers never were good at fighting.

Yeah, special effects just aren’t special anymore. All that awe and wonder is totally gone. And now you only care about special effects when they noticeably look like shit. But there was a good balance between practical and CG in this picture. I was thrilled that they were in actual locations instead of all green screen. Having real characters and environments made the acting 100,000 times better than the prequels. It’s staggering how much better The Force Awakens was than The Phantom Menace. That also had to do with the comedy bits actually working instead of making you cringe so hard your balls go into your heart. “You’re cold??” was actually hilarious.

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Brad: I’m sure he’ll get better with some practice. Maybe he can borrow Han’s floating laser-shooting orb.

I was really shocked and pleased at how humorous this installment was. We were actually laughing for the right reasons in this episode as opposed to laughing at it like we did during the prequels. And Chewbacca was really more fleshed out as a real character and equal to Han as opposed to a big furry pet. Their camaraderie was way more felt than the entire OT.

I did find C-3PO extra annoying for some reason. And was bummed that R2 was barely in it and the way they decided to just use him finally was very weak and shoe-horned. So Luke gave part of the map to his location to R2 and the other part of the map to that Max Von Sydow character that we all don’t know shit about? Why would Luke do that if he’s in hiding?

Brian: Maybe in the climactic battle in Episode IX he’ll make Kylo Ren swallow it and it will blast his insides to death.

Yeah Han and Chewie had actual banter instead of Han just yelling orders at him.

Was it me or was C-3PO’s voice much higher?

I didn’t care about R2 not being in it much since he’s been in 6 pictures already (BB-8 was a great replacement), but yeah the map thing mystified me. Hopefully it will be explained better in the next one.

Another little nitpick was when Leia knew Han was dead she just seemed like she at too many hot wings. Finn and Rey had much stronger reactions and they barely knew him. But I’ll chalk that up to Carrie Fisher being a horrendous actress.

Brad: Yeah C-3PO’s voice was quite different. They must’ve neutered him.

Brian: The First Order cost him his arm and his balls!

I’m feeling really bad that I didn’t clap and cheer every time an OT character came on the screen.

Brad: You should feel bad. You hurt Harrison Ford’s feelings!

Brian: Peter Mayhew and Warwick Davis could have been there in disguise. 

I’m surprised Peter Mayhew played Chewbacca again, I thought he could barely walk.

Brad: Peter Mayhew only was Chewbacca sitting down. In the credits two people play Chewbacca. Having Mayhew was like an honorary thing I think.

Brian: Ohhhh, ok. Now it makes sense. Did it seem like his eyes looked a little different when they were planting the detonators?

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Brad: Why do people who are mind controlled by the Jedi Mind Trick always repeat the exact words of what they are going to do after the Jedi say it? It was a funny scene but I never understood why they do that.

Brian: I guess they’re compelled to. Like us saying, “Yes, dear.”

How did Rey know she could do that?

Brad: I’m still bewildered how she even knew or thought she could be a Jedi. Earlier in the film she thought it was all a myth and she becomes self-taught in a few scenes. She becomes better at it than Luke did in the OT.

Brian: Yeah the scene where she closes her eyes and then she’s suddenly a badass was dumb. Maybe that will get some sort of explanation though. And keep in mind that Luke was a pussy and kind of a dope.

I don’t really have much more to nitpick. I really enjoyed this picture. It’s basically a remake at heart, but it’s all pulled off really well. And to have a modern blockbuster movie franchise with such likable characters (especially after zero likable characters in the prequels) is no mean feat. After not really clamoring to see this one, now I’m genuinely looking forward to the next one to see the wacky hijinx of Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Ren, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

8.75 Bumps of “Acting Powder” for Carrie Fisher (out of 10)

Brad: Yeah, she’s quite the bad-ass, which is nice. She definitely handled herself exceptionally well. This year certainly has had a huge increase in strong female characters from Furiosa, Black Widow, Jessica Jones, Caitlin Jenner and now Rey. Go Girls!

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Yeah I struggled to nitpick this really. There’s a lot of unanswered questions like who exactly was Max Von Sydow and what is his connection to the Skywalkers? Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? How did Maz get the Skywalker lightsaber and how much does she know of the force? Did Captain Phasma ever escape out of the trash compactor? Will Poe Dameron ever get rid of the Space Herpes? But overall this is a great start to the rebooted franchise and this one left me really wanting more especially after the literal cliffhanger ending.

9 Hours for the Starkiller Base to Recharge Before It Can Fire Again (out of 10)

7 thoughts on “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens Review

  1. I haven’t enjoyed a Star Wars movie this much since June 3rd, 1977. You young whippersnappers with your hula hoops, transistor radios, and Dan Folgelberg records…

    Liked by 1 person

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