*****This is a spoiler review*****
“Chewie, we’re home.” And we definitely are. “Star Wars The Force Awakens” is not just a glorious return back to the franchise, but it is a testament of good old fashioned entertainment. There is so much to be said about this new “Star Wars” film and a lot of juicy material to cover. With one of the greatest opening crawls, we are immediately thrown back into a galaxy, far, far away. Luke Skywalker has vanished and a certain Princess, or General I should say, sends the Resistance’s best pilot Poe Dameron on a secret mission to find a map that will lead to the mythical Jedi. Out of the ashes of the Empire, a new darkness has emerged which is the First Order, lead by the villainous Kylo Ren, a Dark Side user and Darth Vader wannabe. We are also introduced to an AWOL Stormtrooper named Finn who runs into the main hero of the story, Rey the scavenger. Finn and Rey are thrown into the action and find themselves on an adventure that will lead them closer to the Force and the truth about the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker.
I discussed in detail the power of the amazing new cast and how they blended naturally together with the old. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher felt like their original characters for the first time in 30 plus years and they were used perfectly in this film. I mentioned John Boyega as Finn, and how he really stands out in this movie and the humor he adds is exciting and fun. But since this is a spoiler review, I want to talk about the two most important characters in this film. First I will start with Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren was not the villain I was expecting and as a character he blew me away. He is just a normal guy, wearing a helmet and cloak. He has some serious inner struggles that he deals with throughout the movie and much like Darth Vader, there is more to him than meets the eye. Kylo Ren is a completely fleshed out dynamic character whose arc is just beginning to develop.
Going hand in hand with Kylo Ren is Han Solo. The big reveal that “The Force Awakens” delivered was the realization that Kylo Ren is the son of Han and Leia, whose real name is Ben Solo. Ben trained with Luke Skywalker when he was a boy and Luke sensed evil in him. Ben was seduced by the Dark Side and assumed the name Kylo Ren after he joined the mysterious “Knights of Ren.” We don’t know anything about the Knights of Ren but we do know that Supreme Leader Snoke is the guy who Kylo answers to. Of course the biggest shock in the film comes near the end. Han confronts Ben and tells him to come home. The two exchange words and before Ben hands his father his lightsaber, he thrusts it through Han’s torso. Before Han dies he gently touches his son’s face before falling off of a bridge to his ultimate demise. Now here are my thoughts regarding the way Han’s death was handled. I thought it was done in the most epic way possible. There are critics and fans out there that wanted Han to die a heroic death, or by crashing his ship into something and saving lives. To me, Han trying to bring his son back to the light was heroic. The fact that he risked his life to help his son is the most heroic thing that a man can do. And I think Han knew the risks before confronting him. But it ultimately doesn’t matter. I am no parent but most will say that they would sacrifice their lives for their children if they had to. And that’s what we have here. I thought it was tragic, heroic and brave and at the same time an extremely somber moment in “Star Wars” history. And this death will have major repercussions for future films. And what gave me goosebumps is the way Chewbacca handled it. He let out a screeching battle cry and shot Kylo Ren with his crossbow. That one moment will be remembered.
The most important character in this movie is Rey, played by Daisy Ridley. Rey is the Luke of this new franchise. She is the loner on a distant desert planet, looking up into the sky wondering what her destiny is. Rey is thrown into the fight, like Luke was in “A New Hope.” And even if she refuses the call to adventure, she ultimately accepts the mission and becomes a true hero by the film’s end. What makes Rey unique is her look. She is pretty, but not sexually glorified. Her hair is similiar in style to a samurai, harkening back to Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece “Seven Samurai,” which was an inspiration for George Lucas when he created “Star Wars.” Rey is the most interesting character in the movie because of one special reason. She is “force sensitive.” Rey knows the ways of the Force even if she tries to deny it. In one of my favorite scenes in the film, Rey discovers a box underneath the Castle of Maz Kanata. She hears her name being called and when Rey opens the box, inside she finds Anakin and Luke’s old blue lightsaber. Rey touches it and has a premonition. She sees Bespin, where Luke fought Vader. She hears Luke’s scream after Vader revealed that he was his father. And she saw Kylo Ren just after he joined the Dark Side. This premonition was not only interesting but it gave me my first clue into who exactly she was.
And in the final scene, Rey confronts Kylo Ren after Finn is defeated, lying cold and bloody in the snow. Luke’s old lightsaber is off in the distance. Kylo Ren tries to use the Force to obtain it. And when the lightsaber flies into the air, it misses Ren and lands into the hands of Rey. The Force was calling to Rey as the lightsaber also called to it’s master. Rey and Kylo have one of the most epic lightsaber fights in “Star Wars” history. Two opponents, fighting in the forests snow; if this is not taken from an epic samurai film then I don’t know what is. By the film’s end, we know that Rey is extremely poowerful with the Force and the movie’s end gives us a huge question. Is Rey the long lost daughter of Luke Skywalker? It sure feels that way. And what better way to end the movie with Rey finding Luke. She climbs the steps of a mountainous green island, and at the top, standing outside of a Jedi Temple is Luke motherfucking Skywalker! He looks at Rey in shock, pulling away his Jedi hood and before the credits roll, Rey stretches out her hand offering Luke the lightsaber. I will be shocked if Rey is not Luke’s daughter. I think there are too many clues to indicate that she is. I guess we will find out in Episode 8. For those of you wondering what the “awakening” is from that first trailer. The Awakening is Rey. Rey is the soon-to-be Jedi who will have to help bring balance to the Force.
A couple of things I liked in this movie: I loved the dogfight sequences with the X-Wings. They looked so realistic, stylish and fun. My favorite shot in the entire film, shows a bunch of TIE fighters as they are silhouetted against the setting sun. That one moment felt like something taken from Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.” That was a money shot worth drooling over, brilliant cinematography. And I loved the J.J. Abrams feeling that this movie had. It was definitely a “Star Wars” film, but it was J.J.’s stamp. The classic Joseph Campbell myth story was also nicely woven in here, although it wasn’t as noticeable as the original films, but it still works here.
Out of all the amazing things that “The Force Awakens” has to offer, there are three things that didn’t work so well. The first and biggest one being the scene where Han Solo is caught up in a sort of gang conflict with these people called the “Rathtars.” There was a giant squid-like creature that attacked them and it really took me out of the movie. The CGI looked bad and the tone of that scene felt off kilter. I think the scene didn’t work and should have been changed or cut out. Another big thing was the way Han Solo’s death was handled. Besides Chewie, it seemed like no one really dealt with it afterwards. Leia feels the great disturbance when he dies, but that’s basically it. The after effects of his death are not dealt with by any one in the movie and it seemed weird that it was glossed over very quickly. I think they could have made it more impactful. And the other main issue with the movie was the Starkiller base. I didn’t feel like I cared a whole lot about it. I was more interested in the family dynamic, the Jedi stuff and the little exposition with this new “Death Star” like base wasn’t developed enough. It thought it looked cool and dangerous by destroying multiple planets but I just didn’t really care about it. I could nitpick all day, but there are more amazing things in this movie than bad things so it’s easily forgivable.
“Star Wars” is and has always been about the Skywalker lineage. It is a Shakespearean family tragedy with enough drama and action that gives this mythology its uniqueness. “Star Wars The Force Awakens” is not the best “Star Wars” film and I knew going in that it would never beat the original trilogy. But it’s a strong contender for being a third best of the films, tying right in with the original film. “The Force Awakens” is a new hope for the franchise and is a great launching pad for future films. The spectacle of this movie alone, is worth a trip to the movies. All I can say, is that it feels great to be back in this galaxy and I can’t wait to visit it again in the near future.