By Josiah Ward
@Josiah4311 on Twitter
You might notice a theme with a lot of my blog posts- Star Wars. I LOVE Star Wars. I grew up watching the Original Trilogy on VHS all the time. I was in Elementary School when the prequels came out. I was somehow allowed to go see Episodes 2 & 3 with my dad on opening night, a midnight showing on a school night (my dad is the best). I had a Star Wars themed room for the longest time. I’ve played almost every Star Wars game they’ve made, and I dressed up as a Jedi several times for Halloween. Okay enough with the geeky talk, you get it-I’m a huge Star Wars fan. Now that Star Wars is back in movie theatres everywhere, I thought I’d share my review of The Force Awakens.
I’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens four times so far, and I’ve loved it every single time. Though it didn’t take my #1 spot on my Top 5 Movies of 2015 list, (Room took home that trophy) it did come in at number two. There were a couple of things that prevented it from being #1 on my list, and we’ll get into that a bit later. So let’s start with the things I loved about TFA (I’ll be referring to Star Wars: The Force Awakens as TFA for short).
Things I Loved
Every single main character
I loved every single main character of this movie, so much so, it’s hard to decide who was my favorite. Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Han Solo, and Chewbacca were all used perfectly. JJ Abrams and
Kasdan somehow found out how to give every main character enough screen-time that we actually cared for them. A lot of times in these big ‘Blockbuster Movies’ I find that the visuals and action are great, but the characters lack depth. A lot of times that’s hard to do when you have so many characters, but TFA manages to pull it off perfectly.
This is by far the best acted Star Wars movie we have ever seen. A lot of people hate on the Prequels for the bad acting, but I think the same could be said about the Original Trilogy in a lot of places. Star Wars is awesome, but it isn’t specifically known for its strong acting performances. Every single main actor delivered outstanding performances in TFA.
The CGI/Practical blend
TFA is FILLED with CGI, or ‘Computer-Generated Imagery’. When the prequels came out, the CGI effects looked amazing, pople had never seen anything like it. It’s been 17 years since Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace came out, so of course parts of the movie look dated looking back at it now. Nowadays, we see movies like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes where all of the apes are CGI, and they look like real apes.
One thing TFA does extremely well is mix CGI with practical effects. A lot of the creatures you see in the movie are costumes with actual people inside them. Maz Kanata is the only creature in the Castle Cantina (as I like to call it) that is CGI. Every other creature you see in that short scene is a costume of some sort. But don’t forget, there is tons of CGI in this movie, it’s a space movie! JJ did a great job of blending CGI with practical effects to the point where I couldn’t tell if certain things were practical or digital.
The Lightsaber Duels
I freaking loved the lightsaber duels in TFA. The first lightsaber duel is between Finn and a stormtrooper (FN-2199). The second is between Finn and Kylo, then Rey and Kylo. My favorite moment in the entire movie is during the second lightsaber duel. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s the moment when Kylo is trying to “Force-Pull” the lightsaber out of the snow, and instead it soars past him into Rey’s hand.
I love the little details about the duels I noticed during a rewatch. First, Kylo is toying with Finn. As soon as Finn gets an actual hit on Kylo, the duel changes. Kylo, in one move, disables Finn and almost kills him. It’s almost like Kylo never gets to duel with anyone so he toys with Finn for fun, but underestimates him. Second, Rey’s fighting style shifts halfway through her duel with Kylo. She all the sudden starts to hold the lightsaber like its her staff once she starts taking advantage of the force. (See below)
Okay so now let’s get into some of the things I didn’t like that much about TFA. These negatives don’t subtract that much from the overall movie for me, just little things I wish could have been fixed or changed.
Death Star/Starkiller Base
I could have done without another Death Star. Give me another creative weapon, a full-on battle on the ground, or just focus on the lightsaber duel.
R2-D2 conveniently waking up
Every time I’ve watched TFA I get annoyed when R2-D2 “wakes up” at the most convenient time, for no explained reason. They didn’t even try and explain it.
‘Music Video’ feel to the ending
Don’t get me wrong, I love the ending of the movie. For some reason every time I see the ending where she starts up the stairs, I notice one song ending, and another song starting and it plays like a Music Video. This is a very small problem almost not worth mentioning, but I feel like this could have been fixed.
Kylo and Han
Hans death would have meant so much more if we had another scene between them. When Kylo comes to Maz’s castle, Han sees him from a distance. I would have loved some type of short scene where Han confronts Kylo and he spares Han, then later kills him. There’s also a rumored deleted scene where Kylo finds the Millenium Falcon and has a moment in the cockpit- that would have been great as well.
Snoke and Phasma
I know it’s not fair to complain about the underuse of characters in the first part of a trilogy, but I wanted to see more of Phasma and Snoke. I can forgive the underuse of Snoke, but when Disney is marketing the crap out of Phasma, it sucks when she’s barely in the movie.
TFA gets an 8.5 out of 10 for me. This had to have been a very difficult movie to make. JJ Abrams had to somehow cast three new outstanding leads, a great villian, figure out how to use the old cast and not overshadow the new cast, and tell a compelling story. This movie was a fantastic start to another trilogy, and I cannot wait for Episode 8!