Star Wars: The Force Awakens is familiar yet satisfying

The review has no major spoilers. 

My expectations were low, anything better than the prequels and I would be pleased. Thankfully Force Awakens easily managed to deliver that. J.J. Abrams succeeds in making the most heartfelt and entertaining Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi. We live in a rehash obsessed culture, both music and film pay homage to the classics. Mad Max, Spectre, Creed, Star Trek, Star Wars, there is no end to the recycling of old ideas in a fresh packaging. Force Awakens is one of the best homage movies of the year.

Most things work, the action, special effects, comedy and especially the performances of Harrison Ford and Daisy Ridley shine. The script might just be the most amusing of the whole franchise, with Harrison Ford firing one-liners like we are back in the 80s. The screenplay certainly has enough quotable moments for the movie to be rewatchable.

For the rewatch I’m curious to give the soundtrack a closer listen, which is one of the few things I think Phantom Menace did better. The Force Awakens soundtrack has the familiar score we know and love, but the new compositions I barely remember at all, and the end credits music was bland. Rey’s Theme is the stand out.

While relying on practical effects and old school storytelling, Force Awakens also feels very modern. It really is the year of the female action heroine(Charlize Theron, Rebecca Ferguson), and Daisy Ridley gives an award worthy performance as the feisty female lead. Force Awakens actually has multiple female characters and passes the Bechdel Test. Throw in John Boyega in a major role and you can tell it’s politically correct and they wanted to please women and people of color alike. Of course the cynically inclined my accuse Disney of trying to attract the broadest audience as possible to boost ticket sales.The new and the old gel well together, and the new cast is equally as likeable, which was a pleasant surprise.

You don’t expect deeper character studies in a Hollywood blockbuster, but a minor quibble is we are hardly given any back story. I wondered what had happened to the old characters in the intervening 30 years since Episode 6. I hope the filmmakers explore that in Episode 8 and give the next film some contemplative moments and much needed depth. The relationship between Leia and Han Solo is vague to the point that I wanted to know more. Even the new characters Rey, Kylo Ren, Snoke, Poe Dameron, Maz Kanata, General Hux, we barely know anything about, which is what makes the film feel quite simplistic and innocent.  Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (1977) fleshed out the main characters a bit better. Force Awakens has to juggle so many actors that it’s tough to give depth to all of them. Although the humanity of the leads is evident in how they face the problems they encounter, so despite the vagueness I cared about their journeys. The indefiniteness gives the story an air of mystery and anticipation about future installments. There have been complaints about Rey’s ability to master spaceships and lightsabers while having seemingly no prior experience, this may frustrate some viewers who are looking for logic and realism. I’m willing to give the movie the benefit of the doubt as the trilogy isn’t over yet.

The new addition to the series isn’t packed full of never-before-seen ideas like the original trilogy was. To me the Stormtrooper aspect and hand weapons are the only new things. Avid Star Wars fans may feel Force Awakens is too reliant on pre-existing formula, but J.J. Abrams delivers a fun ride with laughs and surprises, which could win over even the most skeptical. Bring on Episode 8!

12 thoughts on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens is familiar yet satisfying

  1. “My expectations were low, anything better than the prequels and I would be pleased” Ahah, I think most people are in your camp, but that said, I think this was MUCH better than the prequels. I'm not really wowed by it, as you've read in my review, but still I have to give credit to Abrams in making it work and pleased fans greatly.


  2. @Ruth: I agree Force Awakens was better than the prequels, but there will always be nitpicking, especially in this internet age when everyone has an opinion. It seems the movie pleased many including the majority of critics, even if some fans felt the story wasn’t as innovative as it could have been. It was a safe movie with laughs and likeable characters. Judging by the box office success, a crowd-friendly, accessible film, which there was a demand for.


  3. Pretty much agree with everything you said. I had low expectations even with the glowing reviews, but I ended up loving the film. It definitely felt 'safe' and didn't really try anything new, but that's OK. I think the series will really kick into gear with the next movie.


  4. Eric @The Warning Sign: I really enjoyed it too. For me, it’s my 4th favorite of the series(the original trilogy in the top 3 spots) Sets up so well for Episode 8 which I’m already looking forward to!


  5. Familiar uet satisfying is a great way to describe The Force Awakens. I had a great time watching it thanks to all the things you mentioned. Great review.

    Minor note: where you have “they wanted to please women and colored people alike,” please consider using the term people of color instead of colored people. I know you aren't trying to go there, and it might sound like a small thing, but “colored people” has a much different connotation and belongs to an earlier time.


  6. This movie was so much fun! Daisy Ridley gave one of the breakout performances of 2015, and I can't wait to see where her career goes from here. Bring on Episode 8, indeed!


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