In honor of the one-year anniversary of first seeing it on the giant screen, here’s my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Seeing it multiple times on Blu-Ray did not change the opinions I had when I first saw it—only once—in theaters. I agree in general with people who say it has too much in common with the first movie, though I won’t go as far as to say it’s a reboot.
But there’s one very big difference: Rey. As much as she’s been likened to a young Luke Skywalker, her story is much more compelling. Had the robots not dropped into his lap—and that was quite an amazing coincidence, considering who his sister turned out to be—he would have led a drab but okay lifestyle on Tatooine, though more likely he would have gone off to be a pilot somewhere. More importantly, he was raised in a family by his aunt and uncle. Compare that to Rey, and it’s amazing she survived all those years alone.
In screenplays there’s plot and there’s dialogue. With such a big budget record breaker in the works, the important thing is not to screw it up. There’s some validity to the plot being similar to the first one, but in the moment it’s not nearly as noticeable. (And then I think that Poe’s in the Leia role at the beginning and all such thought goes away.) Oddly enough when it comes to the dialogue, it’s the opposite of what I am going to say about directing below: here the moments are more important. Who can forget Maz screaming, “Where’s my boyfriend?” or Rey’s eyes bugging out when she sees all the meal packages places in front of her?
It’s been said that JJ Abrams goes for “moments” in his directing style, and oddly enough there’s evidence both pro and against here. It’s true enough, as the pace is choppy and uneven. But then there’s a reason Lucas didn’t get nominated for Star Wars, and today no one cares. Let’s just say he didn’t screw it up.
For years Harrison Ford was thought of as simply an action guy who didn’t need to worry about finding depth in his performances. Then he did Regarding Henry and all that changed. In his fourth Star Wars movie he gets to do more than in the previous three combined, though that’s mostly because he has a wife, son, and surrogate daughter to play off of rather than just a Wookie. (Sorry, Chewie, didn’t mean it like that.)
Daisy Ridley has some nice subtle touches that are simply adorable; the way she alternately smiles at praise and then looks dismayed when Han blows her off shows that Rey should never play poker.
John Bodega didn’t get anything all that juicy to do here, though I expect that’ll change in the next one. As for Adam Driver, when you’re asked to go crazy with a lightsaber how can you not go all out? That must’ve been fun, smashing all that equipment.
(RIP Carrie Fisher)
When you’re driving across the desert the landscape is boring, but on film it’s always gorgeous. And of course you need a verdant oasis to counter it. Loved Rey’s reaction to seeing the green rain forest, though I would have thought she would be more impressed by all that water.
And even if this goes in the special effects category, the insides of the destroyer, as well as Starkiller Base, during the dogfights have a stark beauty to them as well.
It’s John freakin’ Williams. Next question.
Here’s where the big difference is for me from the first movie. Maybe it’s because I saw Star Wars as a kid; in fact, it’s the first movie I remember seeing. I don’t like to think of myself as old and jaded—well, jaded, anyway—but I simply didn’t get that same feeling of adventure and wonder from this one.