The Strengths and Weaknesses of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

December 18, 2015

******* SPOILERS BE BELOW. TURN BACK NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE ‘EM. *******

** SERIOUSLY **

 

Okay, that’s out of the way. So let’s do this.

Yesterday I went to a midnight showing of The Force Awakens. Midnight shows are fun. This was similar. 🙂

I’ll start: The movie was good. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it wasn’t flawless of course. Very solid entry in the series and certainly about the prequels

 

I’ve broken this down into what I liked and didn’t like about the film. This isn’t a plot review so much as it is a review from a fan who’s first ever movie seen was Star Wars (Thanks mom!) when he was a kid.

 

Was awesome:

Classic sounds. Ben Burtt does the sound design for this movie and it shows. The classic sounds of the TIE fighters and the X-Wing sounds remain iconic. No need to change them there. Lots of interesting panning from left to right and front to back. New lightsaber sounds but that’s needed based on that there’s new lightsabers.

Diversity. It seems the Star Wars universe has grown up since the rebellion and this new world is teeming with other races naturally woven into the fabric, alien species not being a spectacle as much as the prequels, and of course, women in important roles. Justin Trudeau would be proud. The Bechdel Test is passed a few times, once in a really powerful and plot-advancing way.

Dialogue. The writing was snappy and fresh, but the banter was still Star Wars banter, which I really enjoyed. Han did a great job of being the old man, and Finn gave stormtroopers personality! (The idea is that the First Order was desperate for people so they just raided villages and took children) Rey’s voice was very well said through the film and many actors didn’t have regular American/British accents. There’s some memorable quotes, one of the best right now is “Move it, Ball” from Han.

BB-8. I enjoyed that the ‘ball’, BB-8, didn’t overshadow R2D2, and especially looked up to him (Physically and emotionally (?) in the film)

Finn. I very much enjoy Finn’s character and the back-and-forth between him and Poe had me laughing at times.

When the “Long time ago” came on screen, someone behind us said, shakily “It’s…it’s happening. This is happening!”

Speaking of that, the text crawl and intro were not changed. Good job, JJ.

No Jar-Jar.

Supreme Leader Snoke. Andy Serkis (Gollum in LOTR) played this character. I’m so intrigued as to what he is! He seems to have the force, too.

The wipes and transitions were still there! The sill Star Wars fades and circle wipes stayed, which thrilled me.

Leia. She seems wiser. And very troubled.

Lightsaber fighting. Chaotic and visceral. Return to form of the original films.

Directing. It seemed like a very mature, almost, well aged, Star Wars film. It wasn’t a kids movie. My soul is happy.

Wasn’t:

Too high of a nostalgia factor. The movie was chalk full of EP 4, 5 and 6 references, but the references they put it only make sense if you watch the movies from a fan’s timeline. (1977 being the first one and around 35 years since content from the original films) – If you watch this movie having seen 4, 5, and 6 recently, these references are just a “Oh, well I just saw this, hah.” instead of a “Oh man! I remember that game they played on the Falcon where 3P0 said “Let the Wookie Win!”

The beginning. It seemed like a Call of Duty opening scene. There wasn’t anything Star Wars-y about it until Kylo Ren comes on screen. Which, maybe is fine, but I expected to be thrown back into the universe, not coaxed in gently.

The end. They didn’t NEED to have that reveal if that character isn’t going to do anything. It’s good that they did that but it could’ve been handled so much better.

I HATE to say this, but, the music. This is a movie by John Williams. Not only that, but Star Wars is voted the greatest movie soundtrack of all time. So why would I not love the music? Because it’s forgettable. All of the other films had these huge, epic, grandiose fanfares and most if not all of the main characters had a theme (Except Han and Chewie and a few others). When I left the theatre following Episode I, I was singing Duel of the Fates all the way home! Following Episode 3, that Anakin vs Obi-Wan music was so good it gave me chills. This movie? Re-hash of older themes which is needed for sure, but nothing new on that scale. No massive epic themes, no grandiose fanfares. I think it’s telling that Williams is almost 90 and his style is slowing down (Same thing happened to Bernstein and Goldsmith) – But I really wanted some of that sweet, Star Wars fan fares flaring in my ear. It’s worth noting that Michael Giacchino, the composer for Up, Jurassic World, and the new Star Trek films, looked up to Star Wars and Williams for his own music style. Michael is in the movie as a stormtrooper. I think if Williams can’t do EP 8, we have someone in waiting!

 

That’s it for now. I’ll see it again and give you a follow-up review. May the Force be with you!

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One comment on “The Strengths and Weaknesses of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  1. Agreed with the music. It was the first comment I made when the credits came. I was like “JJ did it….but where the hell was John Williams”. The soundtrack felt like someone else did it. Like you said, even the prequels had memorable themes walking out. I was very disappointed in some of the scoring here. Even moments, like when we first see Rey, was too epic.