Star Wars: The Force Awakens: A Review



My family and I saw the latest Star Wars on Saturday and I greatly enjoyed it.  It was a fine example of slam bam space opera and a rousing tribute to the best in the original trilogy of films.  Not deep entertainment but quite satisfying.  My review follows below the fold and the usual spoilers warning is in full effect.




The makers of the this film took to heart a basic fact of Star Wars life:  almost all fans loved the original trilogy and most fans were meh or hated the second trilogy.  The current film is a mish mash of plots and elements from the first trilogy:  begin on a desert planet;  have a young person who has great power with the force but who lacks training;  Darth Vader is now Vader the Grand Son;  dashing roguish Hans Solo, well at least as much dashing and roguish as Harrison Ford at 73 can muster;  exploding death stars;  fish-headed rebel admirals;  a plot line that is centered upon the search for a legendary Jedi warrior; an intergalactic bar scene;  Princess Leia-(Sorry, at 59 no slave girl attire) and she now bears a striking resemblance to Debbie Reynolds her Mom;  funny droids, three of them this time, are back; and the list could go on at considerable length.  Going to see this film was like a Thanksgiving meal at Grandma’s:  she  knows what you like and that is what you get.

Having an actor reprise a role from a third of a century ago was fairly daring, but Harrison Ford did it with aplomb.  Hans Solo is sadder, but no wiser:  still dealing in cons with back stabbing crooks.  He is the center of the movie.  His death by his geeky son with Princess Leia, Vader wannabe, Kylo Ren, (Ben Solo) portrayed well by former Marine Adam Driver, was truly shocking.  (I did warn you about spoilers!)  Carrie Fisher does an adequate job as the now matronly General (Princess) Leia.  She does not have a large role in the film and her speech indicated to me that perhaps Ms. Fisher suffered a stroke when she was hospitalized in 2013.  (Either that or she really needs to sue her plastic surgeon for malpractice.)  Mark Hamill appears only at the end of the film, obviously having missed few meals in the past three decades, and I assume he will play a major role in the next film.

Newcomer Daisy Ridley  as Rey is going to be the central figure throughout this trilogy, and she did a workmanlike role in this film as the new Luke Skywalker, taken from a marginal existence and destined to be a Jedi Knight.

Chewbacca, as in the original trilogy, steals every scene he appears in.  Peter Mayhew, at 71, still does a masterful piece of acting buried within the wookie suit.

John Boyega’s Finn, a turncoat storm trooper, has an extended doomed “red shirt” role throughout the film which is one of the more original elements of the film.  When Rey tells the corpse of Finn that she believes that they will meet again, it is one of the more moving moments in the film.

The film runs 135 minutes and it is a wild roller coast ride from start to finish.  It hearkens back to the magic that I felt when I saw the original Star Wars in 1977 and that is very high praise from me.

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  1. This was a welcome return to greatness by the franchise. My only minor complaint is an odd one considering the criticisms of the prequels, but they actually could have spent just a little more time explaining the politics. I had a hard time understanding just what the First Order was, and what happened to the republic, but I was able to better understand it from some quick internet searches.

    FWIW, recent photos of Hamill show he has trimmed down quite a bit, so it’s safe to assume he will play a more active role in the next film.

  2. Actually, I’m mixed. Thought the elimination of cutesy characters was good. Also the effort harkened back to the first trilogy in story telling though weaker than the first two movies.

    Somewhat depressed by the aged Leia and Han though this was perhaps in part due to my advancing age. Also dismayed by the poor performance of Fischer. Maybe she is ill or whatever – just felt very stiff.

    I also thought Ren had more of a the feel of a 21st Century Millennial – conflicted and in need of therapy. Thought it paradoxical that he should seek to emulate his grandfather Darth Vader when it was Vader who in the end turned back to the light and destroyed the Emperor.

    My biggest complaint was with Rey. I thought Ridley did a very good job with the role but I had a problem with how Rey basically came to master the Force through her own efforts. In the past, Jedi needed to be trained by a Master. Now, Rey comes to be able to control the Force through her own self. She gains such control that she is able to beat Ren who one presumes has been trained for years. Felt this ability on Rey’s part was a betrayal of discipleship and humility taught in the first two movies.

    As for prognostications about Finn, I suspect he is also a Jedi (note how he was able to so effectively shoot down enemy fighters though he had limited training in the equipment.) So we shall see him in the future performing some heroic role.

  3. You didn’t mention the Skellig Michael monastery scene. (Catholic content!)

    Amusingly (to me), Skellig Michael in pagan times was known as Teach Donn, the house of the god of the dead, Donn. In Christian times, it was said that if you were really desperately lovelorn and wanted to get married, you should go on pilgrimage to Skellig Michael. (And there’s at least one old song about it, which was sung every Spring to tease the local confirmed bachelors and old maids.) So that may be movie-relevant, heh!

  4. His death by his geeky son with Princess Leia, Vader wannabe, Kylo Ren, (Ben Solo) portrayed well by former Marine Adam Driver, was truly shocking.

    Oh c’mon, how could that possibly have shocked you. They telegraphed that the minute Kylo Ren stopped in mid-stride and cocked his head. Even through the mask you could see him thinking I sense something; a presence I have not felt since….

    And like Phillip I’m pretty sure Finn’s not really dead, just sleepy.

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