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Movie Review: “Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 12/18/2015

Theatrical Release: 12/18/2015

Synopsis

It has been 30 years since the fall of the Empire. The Rebellion—led by Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher)—went on to form the New Republic, but although the Empire is gone, the galaxy is not entirely free from the dark side. A new faction has risen from the ashes of the Empire, and this new faction is known as the First Order. The First Order, led by the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is fighting to take control of the galaxy. In order to do that, they need to find and eliminate Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). However, Luke Skywalker has disappeared.

The New Republic wants to find Luke to help stop the First Order from rising to power. The First Order wants to find Luke to solidify their control of the galaxy. The First Order has learned of a clue to Luke’s whereabouts. It is located on a planet called Jakku, but a pilot for the New Republic named Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has beaten the First Order to it. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a high ranking member of the First Order and powerful in the ways of the dark side of the force, has been sent to capture Poe Dameron and obtain the the clue to Luke’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, a mysterious young scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) crosses paths with an old ship known as the Millennium Falcon.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Protagonists (+8pts)

The Millennium Falcon (-2pts)

Kylo Ren (+8pts)

Captain Phasma & General Hux (-3pts)

Star Wars Action & The Special Effects (+8pts)

A New Hope (-4pts)

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Pro: The Protagonists (+8pts)

This movie revisited great protagonists like Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) after over thirty years since we last saw them on screen. It was interesting to see these characters again, and to learn about what happened to them since the events of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. These characters gave the movie a heavy dose of nostalgia, and I liked getting the small taste of what these characters have been up to as well as seeing the part they would play in this story. They were main characters of the original trilogy, and I liked seeing them take on older mentor roles for the new and younger characters introduced in this movie. The filmmakers had an iconic group of characters to pass on the torch to their newer characters, but in order for that to work, the newer characters had to be effective. Fortunately, that was very much the case.

Finn (John Boyega) was a really interesting new character, as he was a Stormtrooper who realized that he was fighting for the wrong side. Then there was Rey (Daisy Ridley), the typical up-and-coming protagonist who began to learn the ways of the force. Finally, there was Poe Dameron (Oscaar Isaac) who was an elite fighter pilot for the Resistance. Each character brought something different to the table. I liked the chemistry between them, and I really enjoyed the character development of both Finn and Rey. I liked what the filmmakers did with their respective stories, and I left the movie looking forward to seeing where the filmmakers would take their stories going forward.

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Con: The Millennium Falcon (-2pts)

The Millennium Falcon showed up very conveniently in this movie. The protagonists needed a ship, and low and behold, an old ship was just lying around, and that ship just so happened to be the Millennium Falcon, and that ship just so happened to still fly. There was a very lazy explanation given for all of this, but the real reason was clearly that it was just a plot device. The filmmakers could have had characters comment on the legendary Millennium Falcon earlier in the movie, suggesting that they knew about the ship and assumed that it no longer worked. They could have also had Rey living on the old ship, trying to save up to buy the parts necessary to fix it. Honestly, they could have done any number of other things, but they instead went with the approach that it was coincidentally functional, and coincidentally lying around right when the protagonists needed it most.

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Pro: Kylo Ren (+8pts)

I liked Kylo Ren a lot, because I thought he was what George Lucas wanted Anakin Skywalker to be in the prequels. Kylo Ren was angry, he was powerful, he was trying to find his place, and he felt betrayed. This did not come out as a winy teenager, although I acknowledge that this character was further down the path of the dark side than Anakin was in the prequels. Instead, this character came across as dangerous, power-hungry, and emotionally unstable.

Kylo Ren was unpredictable, very emotional, and I thought Adam Driver did a really great job bringing this to the screen. He was an effective antagonist for this movie, he got plenty of character development, and the filmmakers left the door open for a lot more for this character's story going forward. Sure, this was a movie that followed the protagonists, but this movie felt like it was just as much the first chapter in Kylo Ren's story, as it was the first chapter in Rey's. It established a sort of yin and yang relationship between the two characters, and while I liked the character of Rey, I thought Kylo Ren was a much more interesting character.

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Con: Captain Phasma & General Hux (-3pts)

These were two promising antagonists that were unfortunately used poorly. Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) was visually a badass in all of the marketing leading up to this movie, and there was the fair comparison to her being the new Boba Fett. The character was a mysterious and visually intimidating antagonist, and fans like myself were excited to see what her role would be in the movie. Unfortunately, her comparison to Boba Fett ended up being more fitting than anyone realized. The filmmakers hardly used Captain Phasma, which felt like a pretty big missed opportunity, and the movie would have honestly been better off removing this character all together.

General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) could have been an intimidating high ranking officer of the First Order. However, he ended up being just as emotionally unstable as Kylo Ren, and I really did not think there was room for two characters like this in one movie. Kylo Ren was more effective, as he was still an intimidating screen presence, and very obviously powerful and formidable in the ways of the force. General Hux, however, seemed like a small dog whose bark was a lot worse than his bite, which could not have been what the filmmakers were going for here.

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Pro: Star Wars Action & The Special Effects (+8pts)

The action in this movie was pretty good. There were no incredibly choreographed duels, but there was an intense lightsaber showdown during the climax of the movie. There were also plenty of other strong action sequences with blasters, lightsabers, batons, explosives, and a couple of great sequences featuring X-Wings versus T.I.E. Fighters. The action was intense and entertaining, and it looked better than it ever has before in this franchise.

The special effects were done really well. While the original trilogy used almost exclusively practical effects, due to the technical limitations of their time, the prequel trilogy relied too heavily on CGI. This movie marked the beginning of the sequel trilogy and it showed that the filmmakers learned from the mistakes of the heavy CGI in the prequels. The filmmakers of this movie seemed to know when to use practical effects, and when to use CGI, while also benefiting from having far more advanced CGI than the prequels did. The result was a lot of special effects that utilized the best of both worlds. They had the realism of practical effects, and they had digital effects to hide any flaws, to touch things up, and to do what simply could not have been done practically. The effects were excellent and it made it very easy to submerse myself in this movie.

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Con: A New Hope (-4pts)

I liked the movie for trying to bring back a classic Star Wars vibe. I thought it succeeded for the most part, with utilizing practical effects whenever possible and with delivering personal character-focused stories with big stakes. However, the filmmakers also decided to make this movie's story very similar to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, by basically copying the bones of that plot. There was a young force-sensitive protagonist on a desert planet who did not know who their parents were, and there were factions identical to the Empire and Rebellion in every way but their names. There was a planet destroying space-station and the whole climax was about trying to find the space station's weakness and trying to exploit it. There were many additional similarities, but I think you get my point.

The similarities between the two plots were so abundant, that it is hard to refer to them as simply similarities. The filmmakers basically copied that plot, and made some tweaks. I get making this movie similar to the originals in terms of effects and the type of storytelling. However, I truly believe that this movie could have been a lot better and a lot more exciting if the filmmakers went in a new direction with the plot, rather than re-hashing an old one.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: A- (90pts)

I like Star Wars, even the prequels, but I knew to manage my expectations going into this movie. I am a big fan of the movies, the games, and the lore, but I know that a number of the movies have been far from perfect. With that in mind, I went into this movie excited, but I did not have much in the way of expectations, and I ended up enjoying the movie quite a bit. I thought spending so much of this movie rehashing the plot of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope was a bad move, but there was a lot to like about the movie anyway.

This movie had a great group of protagonists that included iconic Star Wars characters like Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca, but it also introduced a few interesting and promising new protagonists with Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron. Then there was the villain, Kylo Ren, who was as menacing and powerful with the force as he was emotionally unstable, which made him a captivating, commanding, and unpredictable screen presence. I also liked the filmmakers' use of special effects, as they used primarily practical effects whenever possible and used digital effects to enhance the practical effects or to do what simply could not be done practically. The movie had some issues, but it was entertaining, it had intense action, it had a great group of characters, and it looked incredible visually. This made it a great way to kick-off a new trilogy of Star Wars movies.

Best of the Star Wars Franchise

RankMoviePoints

1

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

95pts

2

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

93pts

3

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

92pts

4

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

90pts

5

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

89pts

6

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

87pts

7

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker

86pts

8

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

83pts

9

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

79pts

10

Solo: A Star Wars Story

78pts

11

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

77pts

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