Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Review

After all the criticisms and reviews posted online, what more can one more do for viewers? Likely nothing but getting my own take on the latest blockbuster in the Star Wars saga up where it is easily referenced is going to make my life easier in replying to hundreds of blogs that have their own take on it.

Please be aware that (and this should be obvious) there are spoilers involved here so by all means, refrain from reading further if you have not seen the movie yet! With that, let me start with some key issues others have had with the film and summarize with my own take on it.

Why does this feel so familiar?

One of the big complaints is that The Force Awakens is too similar to The original Episode IV – A New Hope. Let’s start by outlining the similarities…

  1. Rey and Luke are both orphans.
  2. Rey and Luke are unfamiliar with the Force.
  3. Neither Rey nor Luke have ever left their desert home planet.
  4. Data is being sought which the First Order/Empire wants to retrieve and is hidden in a droid.
  5. The droid is seperated from Resistance fighters and found by Rey/Luke by sheer fate.
  6. Both Rey and Luke team up with a reluctant, self-serving protagonist that has no loyalty to the Resistance but has distinct antipathy for the First Order/Empire (Finn and Han).
  7. Both Rey and Luke soon encounter a father-figure that explains the jist of The Force to them (Han and Obi-Wan).
  8. Both Rey and Luke are caught in a tractor beam shortly after being chased from their home planet.
  9. Poe Dameron is caught and tortured for information just as Princess Leia was.
  10. The First Order/Empire use their new weapon to destroy the Republic planets/Alderaan in a show of force.
  11. Finn and Han each try to wash their hands of the fight against the First Order/Empire and fly away but are pulled back in.
  12. Rey and Luke each witness the death of their father-figures (Han and Obi Wan).
  13. A small group of Resistance fighters have to attack a small but critical target that would destroy the First Order’s/Empire’s new weapon.

While some of these points may be a bit of a stretch and not all are in the exact same order in their scripts, the similarities are undeniable. I particularly winced when they included a small trench in the Star Destroyer battle for The Force Awakens that was very similar to the attack on the Death Star.

Well this Is New…

Perhaps the greatest difference between A New Hope and The Force Awakens is that of the story and the villain’s role in it. Kylo Ren does not have the experience that Darth Vader had and is still journeying on his path to the Dark Side of the Force. His part is much more reminiscent of Anakin Skywalker’s role in Revenge of the Sith. He is even disfigured (slightly) in the final battle just as Vader was. We also didn’t see such a prominent role from the older cast members in A New Hope as we did here.

The Cast, the Script, and the Director

I found no fault in the casting and the job the actors did in portraying their characters. Daisy Ridley made an ideal female lead and came across as a self-sufficient, smart, and shrewd survivalist that was capable of feeling compassion and wonder. Jon Boyega was capable of displaying the conflict that Finn felt between fighting and running and also showed his clumsy but capable usefulness in dangerous situations. He could be funny when needed and deceptive when it suited his character’s motives. Oscar Isaac had a good flair for playing a cocky resistance pilot and Adam Driver did okay at showing the snivelling, pouty anger of a young adult tortured by his own inadequacies.

When talking about the story versus the script I should be clear. The story is the outline that the script is based upon and defines the elements and timeline of the script. The director determines not only the tone that the actors offer but also the pacing and camera shots to help ellicit the emotional response of the audience.

One of the weaknesses that I found in the story was that there was little sign of adult leadership and deep-rooted political motives. It felt more like we were bearing witness to young tools being used by a very few adult icons with some big consequences that we have little chance of understanding.

I also found it difficult to understand how Rey so easily picked up on how to tap into her abilty to use the Force and so handily stood up to Kylo Ren who had years of training in it. Perhaps those who inhabit isolated desert planets develop a more inate ability with the Force than others do or perhaps there is more to Rey’s backstory than we’ve seen so far but her skill was far too readily accessible for me to find palatable.

I also would have prefered a more emotionable journey than what was offered. More expressive shots of the actors as they emoted what they were feeling. I gathered that the film was more targetted towards a younger audience than me.

So where does that leave us?

If the silimarities between A New Hope and The Force Awakens were meant more as a nod to the original film then I say thank you. It was put on a bit too heavy but thank you. I would have prefered a fresh film with all new experiences and more chances for an emotional connection to the characters. Even so, there was enough difference in the characters to offer this still in the upcoming films and new possibilities and I look forward to seeing what lies in store for the rest of the Star Wars saga.