Star Wars: The Force Awakens

3.5 stars

Theatrical release: 12/18/2015
PG-13; 135 minutes
Produced by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Kathleen Kennedy
Written by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt
Directed by J.J. Abrams

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

January 19, 2016

Luke Skywalker has vanished. So says the first sentence of the opening crawl of Episode VII: The Force Awakens. For the first time since Star Wars began nearly 40 years ago, George Lucas is officially, completely out of the picture and Disney is now running the show. But do not worry (even though I suspect some of you were cheering), because Luke Skywalker has vanished, and the franchise stewards very much care about that fact. Right at the outset, J.J. Abrams' new entry into the saga announces its intentions as a tale still ultimately about the Force-filled fate of the Skywalker bloodline.

Interestingly, the movie then spends its entire first act suggesting exactly the opposite, as a plucky little droid named BB-8 turns up on the desert wasteland of Jakku and becomes the subject of an intense search by the First Order, the evil remnants that arose from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. They have star destroyers and TIE fighters (and a base; more on that later) and they want that droid, which has been given a map revealing the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, but mostly functions as the plot's MacGuffin that draws everyone into the fray. We see none of the familiar characters for quite some time.

That's a wise choice. This is a movie that easily could've collapsed under the weight of its history, but by spending the first third establishing its new players, it allows the film to create its own identity (up to a point) and move things forward even though we know we're eventually going to be pulled back into matters of the past. It does such a good job of getting us into the narrative thrust of the new characters, in fact, that when Han and Chewy finally do show up, it feels like a surprise.

BB-8 has been given the map from a man in a Jakku village that the First Order, led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), promptly burn to the ground. They take prisoner Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an ace pilot for the Resistance. A First Order stormtrooper designated FN-2187 (John Boyega) but quickly renamed "Finn" by Poe, experiences a crisis of conscience from his part in the mass murder at the village and, intending to defect, agrees to break Poe free in exchange for his help in piloting a ship off the star destroyer.

Meanwhile, BB-8 crosses the desert and ends up in the hands of Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who spends her days searching through the ruins of destroyed ships for anything she might be able to sell for food. She lives in the remains of an Imperial Walker. (Wouldn't that get awfully hot in the desert sun?) Poe and Finn escape the star destroyer and crash in the desert, Poe appears to have died in the crash (no body is seen, so that should be a clue), and so Finn ends up crossing paths with and joining Rey and the chase begins, with everyone wanting that droid. It just so happens Rey's employer has among his lot of junk the Millennium Falcon, which Rey and Finn use to flee Jakku, but not before an exciting sequence where TIE fighters chase the Falcon across the desert sky, including through the ruins of a star destroyer. (Watching the Falcon take flight after all these years has got to be a thrill for any Star Wars fan. I know it was for me.)

These opening scenes establish all the new characters with amazing economy. What's immediately obvious is that these characters are dynamic, interesting, and grounded in a way reminiscent of the original trilogy. J.J. Abrams, along with this very good cast, have pulled Star Wars back to Earth more than 10 years after a prequel trilogy where the biggest problem of all was that the characters were too often rendered inert by their Sophoclean predestination. More to the point, Abrams does a much better job of getting good performances out of actors and striking a more relatable tone. There's humor, humanity, and a natural cadence that was oddly amiss in the prequels. I say this as someone who generally defends the prequels, but this movie rights many of the things those movies got wrong.

Take, for example Kylo Ren, the movie's chief villain. He's immediately intimidating, demonstrating great power of the Force and cruel actions. A big part of his ominousness is the mask, but he later takes it off, revealing a normal face that suggests he's merely trying to make himself in the image of his mentor, Darth Vader. (Vader is his grandfather, we learn, because Ren is the son of Han and Leia, and Ren turned to the Dark Side when wiping out the new Jedi that Luke was attempting to train.)

Ren has Vader's molten mask and speaks to it (promising to finish what Vader started) like Yorick's skull in Hamlet. Ren has anger issues and much internal angst (he slices up walls with his lightsaber), but Adam Driver's performance finds the right notes of fearsomeness mixed with immaturity that Hayden Christiansen never could for Anakin. This character is what I believe a young Darth Vader could've been. His conflict is that he feels calls from the Light Side of the Force while trying to remain in the Dark, essentially the opposite of Luke and Anakin. Ren works alongside General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and they have sort of a Vader/Tarkin relationship, albeit at much younger ages. Both work for Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis in motion capture, appearing only as a massive holographic projection, making us wonder exactly how big Snoke is), and you can see a lot of pieces of the trilogy being set up by these early relationships.

In terms of our new heroes, consider me a big fan of Rey, who I hope carries this entire trilogy as the lead and can maybe someday be the entry point for my kids into the Star Wars universe (assuming I don't just start them at the beginning). Rey is a strong, independent survivor. When Finn grabs her hand and tries to pull her away from danger (a Hollywood trope the film satirizes), she objects. She holds her own in fights. At one point she is shown Luke's lightsaber by this trilogy's version of Yoda, Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o), and when she touches it she has a mind-blowing vision that suggests the Force awakening in her. (Question: Just how did Luke's lightsaber even get here? Who retrieved it from, presumably, the bowels of Cloud City? I look forward to learning all about it in 2021's standalone movie, Star Wars: The Legend of Luke's Lightsaber.)

Rey's past is a big mystery to clearly be explored in the upcoming movies. The obvious answer that would align with the franchise's focus on the Skywalker bloodline is that she is Luke's daughter, but that seems so obviously telegraphed that I wouldn't be surprised to see that assumption subverted. Daisy Ridley is terrific in a versatile performance often sold on intense, expressive gazes. Rey adeptly adapts at will, as when she uses the Force to repel and reverse Ren's mental probes, or amusingly uses a mind-trick to coerce a stormtrooper into releasing her.

John Boyega's Finn is also interesting, and his initial concealment of his true background as a First Order defector plays into much of his motivation. Among the newcomers, he has the Han Solo me-first role, because all he wants is to get away from the First Order and save his ass. But that, of course, changes as the stakes rise. But I also wonder what exactly broke him free of his obedience as a stormtrooper. Was it simply his conscience suddenly taking hold, or was there something else at play here?

All of these characters work well on their own, so by the time Han and Chewy show up to attempt to reclaim the Falcon, we're in good shape. But the great thing about Han and Chewy is that they bring everything home again. They, along with Leia, are the link that connects this sequel trilogy back to the original, and it works marvelously as a passing of the torch. The idea of Han having gone back to being a smuggling, fast-talking, debt-evading scoundrel after gotten his supposedly happy ending in Jedi is perhaps a little depressing but also amusingly appropriate. Harrison Ford plays this role so naturally that the performance is essentially invisible. But because Kylo Ren (born Ben Solo) is his son, the stakes are heightened. Leia hopes Han can bring Ben back from the Dark Side, but how this plays out — with the inevitable death of Han Solo at the hands of his own son, who is trying to purge the conflict of goodness from himself — is very much in keeping with the Skywalker bloodline tragedy. (One wonders exactly what will happen when Luke finally does get directly involved in this trilogy.) Han's death is a major moment in the franchise, and I hope it reverberates through this new trilogy. But it's probably the right choice to have it happen here; it allows the iconic character to pass the torch and step aside, making room for the new generation.

The plot is admirably lean and efficient, as A New Hope's was, but is probably the least impressive aspect because of its abundant familiarity. The Force Awakens has the odd distinction of simultaneously playing like a sequel, a remake, and a reboot. That's by design. Disney is trying to continue a famous franchise while making it accessible to a whole new audience while also pleasing fans who have been thirsting for Star Wars for a decade — and possibly longer, depending on how much mileage those fans got from the prequels. There's a lot of fan service going on here, where telling a story in the tradition of the original trilogy means the new storytellers have either paid it homage or plundered it shamelessly, depending on your level of cynicism. We have a villain who is very much Darth Vader 2.0; we have the familiar messy family dynamics of potential redemption but for now terrible tragedy; we have an obscure desert dweller who may be the heroine who can save the galaxy; and we have Starkiller Base, which is yet another Death Star that needs to be blown up with an attack on a very specific flaw. A lot of this plays like a newly released album of greatest hits.

Starkiller Base, a superweapon built into a planet that makes the Death Star look like a toy ("It's bigger," Han wryly notes), feels like a bit of a rehash. It's even defeated in a way similar to the other Death Stars, and probably too easily. Its existence continues to up the absurd Star Wars scale in terms of insane things that can be built and insane destruction that can be wrought. (I will say that when the weapon is fired that it's hauntingly depicted, but now what threat could possibly top this in the next two movies without looking silly?) The First Order uses the weapon to destroy several planets that include the location of the senate and fleets of the New Republic. I often wonder with such extreme examples of planetary destruction what the villains hope to ultimately accomplish. If you destroy everything, what's left to rule?

In terms of execution, this movie takes a refreshing back-to-basics approach. The prequels were ambitious and pushed the visual envelope to the breaking point, but The Force Awakens takes a more grounded approach with actors occupying more realistic sets and spaces. The visual effects are, of course, extensive and elaborate. But they feel more straightforward, natural, and tactile than the fantastical canvases of the prequels. The result is a movie that feels more lived-in and plausible on its terms.

Naturally we get a major lightsaber battle toward the end. It's notably scaled back from the prequel duels. Instead of being so amped up on Force steroids and stunts, Abrams goes for ominous atmosphere in the snowy landscape. The results are more emotionally resonant and character-based than jaw-droppingly new or amazing. That's a good thing. Still, I questioned how Finn, who had never held a lightsaber before the events here, could possibly survive a minute against Ren. I could possibly buy Rey facing off against him, given her innate Force abilities, but if Ren is such a lightsaber/Force badass, I don't see how either of them could plausibly stand against him, even with his injuries. After all, Luke had to train to learn his Jedi skills.

The Force Awakens is a promising start to this new trilogy. It follows dutifully in the tradition of the original and sets up a lot of new characters and new pieces that should be fun to see unfold over the next few years. In the process, Abrams has re-established an emphasis on actors and grounded characters. It isn't until the last scene where Rey (and the audience) finally meets the self-exiled Luke Skywalker. Just who will this guy turn out to be after 30 years? I look forward to finding out.

Previous: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Next: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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103 comments on this post

Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 4:31am (UTC -5)
Leia's character was underplayed. She was nothing more than an emotional prop. It would have been nice to see her as the grizzly general she was supposed to be- instead we got blah blah emotional turmoil and blank stares towards Han freakin' Solo.

I appreciate that you take a non-biased stance on reviews, judging each movie or show on its own merits (as well you should). I just can't get behind anything Abrams touches. I am completely biased against this man and everything he does. You mention that you appreciate this movie for its capacity to touch back to the Star Wars roots and that it is reminiscent of A New Hope- I say its derivative, like all of his work (especially Star Trek).

I actually fell asleep for fifteen minutes in the theaters on this movie. The 8 year old inside me hated me for it, but I did.

Anyway, good review all the same.
Dimitris Kiminas
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 8:08am (UTC -5)
I liked the movie and had a good time seeing it.

I only expected to see that the Jedi had indeed Returned. That the knights were back to their prequel status, albeit under a new administration structure.

Instead we got no Jedi and Luke hiding. I cannot understand how Luke could abandon everything, even if a disciple of his did wrong, and not try to fix things as it should. Luke running into hiding strikes me as something uncharacteristic of the Hero we met and followed in the original trilogy.

It felt as a cop-out, a fabricated plot point so we don't have many Jedi so that the situation remains like the one in the original trilogy...
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 9:47am (UTC -5)
Though I really liked this movie I thought that Rey learned the force way too quickly and could do all sorts of things right away without ever knowing how to before. And not just the jedi mind trick too, I mean she not only knows exactly how to fly the Falcon she knows how to fix something on it in the first 5 minutes of flying it that even Han couldn't do after 30+ years.

None of this counts how the story is almost A New Hope beat for beat. I'm kind of surprised Jammer rated it so highly, actually.

But they did something right: They have a very good new cast who can actually ACT (All prequel versions of Anakin, cough cough). Rey and Finn are awesome. By comparison, I rewatched Revenge of the Sith the other day- a movie I only ever saw once, mind you- and almost the whole movie is just a bore. The closest to a good character in the whole thing is Obi Wan and of course Darth Sidious who is always going to rule in these movies.

The difference between that movie and this new one though- for example not using a billion CGI soldiers or robots everywhere- just makes the whole thing look a lot better.

But now I'm rambling haha, sorry!
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 11:18am (UTC -5)
@Del_Duio - I'm not convinced that all of that is true.

#1 - We think she learned the force quickly because... why? She can fight (she was seen holding her own against multiple opponents before using the force).

Because she was able to hold her own against a Luke trained Sith? This holds some value until you realize that even Finn held his own for a bit. Which is preposterous. Darth Maul could have sliced both of these kiddies in half in seconds (and that's not even saying anything of Vader).

So how did this come to pass? I've always felt that the force weakens in the middle. A "do or do not" thing. Sith are strong, Jedi are strong... but what about a Sith Lord being seduced by the light? I wonder if the overwhelming guilt of what he just did coupled with the Chewie inflicted wound make HIM suck. So my explanation is that he sucked, not that she was that good.

#2 - Her flying the Falcon isn't that impressive. Little Anakin flew a Naboo Starfighter at nine without training.... at least she's supposed to be a pilot/engineer type character.

#3 - She does NOT fix something that had been wrong for 30 years that Han couldn't handle. After Han lost the Falcon somebody put a compressor on the ignition line that would stress the hyperdrive flow. Han doesn't even try to fix it, but she bypasses it while he's flying. I'm not convinced that it's all that impressive. He's impressed with her, but I'm impressed with my new hires when they can do things that I could do in my sleep because I don't expect them to know it. That doesn't mean they are better than me.

#4 - As to the mind control, I got the impression that would have been beyond Luke prior to his Yoda training. Although maybe she just has the balls to try. Or maybe Luke is actually guiding her from afar. Or maybe the writers made her a bit too overpowered. :P

As far as the movie being a re-hash of A New Hope with no new ideas... I almost appreciated that. I think the job of this movie wasn't to do anything bold or interesting, it was to be really well executed. It was fun and it has good characters and it was safe and it was fanservicey I was ok with that. The next movie better do something different though, I won't be as kind if 8 is a rehash of Empire.

I felt the same way about Star Trek 09 though. It was safe and had very little of it's own to say except to be a fun romp that successfully relaunched the movie franchise with good actors, some fan service and of course, Nimoy. My hope was that the followup could boldly go from that starting point... and it did not. Here's hoping that from this starting point SW:8 can do better.
Jason R.
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 11:54am (UTC -5)
I am disappointed in Jammer that he gives this film a 4.5 star rating.

The story is a carbon copy of A New Hope. To the extent that the story veers off the rails of the original NH plot, it is sloppy and stupid. Consider Rey and Finn just jumping into the first wrecked hulk of a ship in some random junk yard and it just happens to be the Millenium Falcon which just happens to be functional after sitting in a junk yard for how many decades and then within 90 seconds of flying into orbit of the planet gets picked up (tractor beemed? docked with??) Han Solo? Wow, small universe? What a joke. There's flying a "hunk of junk" in the figurative sense and then there's doing it literally.

As for the characters, it's fair to say that there really is only one of any significance - Rey. It's clear that Disney has chosen to market this film heavily to a female audience, which is just fine and may even be a brilliant coup for them if they succeed in doing for young girls what the original trilogy did for young boys.

But there's having a central strong female protagonist and then there's just having a Mary Sue whose only distinctive character trait is she's awesome at everything, instantly. A better Jedi than the Jedi, a better starpilot and mechanic than Han Solo and a better brawler than a storm trooper. Maybe they should have sent her to Coruscant and had her school the senators how to pass legislation. She's not the female Luke Skywalker - Luke was human and got his butt kicked more often than not throughout most of the trilogy. He was arrogant, brash and indeed "reckless" as Yoda noted. He needed help from his friends. Rey needed help from nobody, learned nothing, and was simply a generic brooding baddass character. She was basically the equivalent of a sitcom mom - an infallible character with no real weakness, and therefore boring.

Meanwhile, it's scarcely worth talking about Finn, as his character has no relevance to the plot. As Rey sucks up all the oxygen in the room, Finn's sole purpose seems to be to run around and admire her awesomeness. He contributes about as much to the story as C3P0. Why does he forsake his stormtrooper upbringing (literally in the first 120 seconds of the movie)? Why is he different from every other stormtrooper? Who knows? Who cares? The film certainly doesn't. It's not like Rey needs him for anything.

Finally, let's talk about the "villain", Kilo Ren. A friend of mine has dubbed him Darth Emo. The less said about this character the better. Never has a Star Wars film had a less threatening, less intimidating villain. The second his helmet came off it was impossible to take this character seriously. It also didn't help that he got beat in a lightsaber duel by Rey 60 seconds after she picked up a lightsaber for the first time in her life. Did I mention Rey is *awesome*?

Like in the Star Trek reboot (Into Darkness as Exhibit A), Abrams only knows how to ape what came before. When he does something new, it's all style with zero substance. The prequels, for all their flaws, had ups as well as downs. This movie offered nothing and evaporates in your mind as soon as you leave the theatre. The film is alot like its score. It looks and sounds like Star Wars, but the core is hollow. For all its critical acclaim, this one will be forgotten fairly quickly.
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 1:37pm (UTC -5)
@ Jason R.

"Why does he forsake his stormtrooper upbringing (literally in the first 120 seconds of the movie)? Why is he different from every other stormtrooper? Who knows? "

I've seen this question pop up a few times. I believe the rationale is briefly mentioned and as I recall the only excuse offered in the film is that Finn was a brand spanking new soldier and could not join in on the massacre with his fellow soldiers because of some internal moral struggle, so he opted to run and escape empire/new order/whatever
Jason R.
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 1:53pm (UTC -5)

Here's the problem: I'm not saying it's wrong to have a stormtrooper who foresakes his training and goes rogue. The idea is actually intriguing and humanizes what was previously a faceless cast of villains. Certainly I'm not saying that premise is faulty.

But TFA botches this by completely failing to give us any context to Finn's struggle. We literally know nothing about Finn at the moment he chooses to go rogue. We literally meet him one moment and then 10 seconds later see him abandon his post and run for the hills out of some apparent moral dilemma. How can we care the slightest about this if the movie can't even take a moment to develop Finn's character?

It's like if Lucas decided to open up the first prequel with a scene of Anakin slaughtering Jedi in a dark hood and glowing red eyes. Without knowing who this character is, how can we even care? It's only after giving him three movies of development that we get to know Anakin and his transformation becomes something moving and significant.

Not once does Finn get the slightest chance to expand or to explain himself to anyone. It's just BAM - Stormtrooper with heart of gold. That pretty well sums up TFA doesn't it? No sense of anything occurring within a greater context, no sense of events having any significance outside the narrow scope of the plot. You're on this roller coaster ride going where Abrams wants you to go - but don't stop to look around or ask any questions.
Tue, Jan 19, 2016, 8:18pm (UTC -5)
I think Rey's ability to wield a lightsaber at the end is far more problematic than Finn's. Consider a few things:

- We see Finn using a lightsaber earlier in the film, to fight off that Stormtrooper.

- We see a Stormtrooper using a riot baton that is impervious to lightsabers. This suggests that Stormtroopers were trained in melee combat, possibly against lightsabers.

- Finn gets defeated both by the Stormtrooper and by Kylo Ren. He can hold his own for a bit, but he's clearly not the greatest. I suspect anybody with combat training could survive in a sword fight against a sword master for a little bit, even if they'll surely lose.
Joseph B
Wed, Jan 20, 2016, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
@Dom (and others),

I don't think that anything can be assumed regarding what Rey can or cannot do until we see the additional episodes in the Sequel Trilogy.

It's quite possible that she may have been in Luke's Jedi Training Class which is why she seems to "know" some of the things she does with the Force. Luke may have placed a Jedi Block on her memories to hide her from Kylo Ren since he was seeking out and killing all the trainees in the class. My impression upon viewing the movie was that her latent Jedi training started to come to the fore due to the combination of being exposed to Luke's lightsabre and the Kylo Ren mind-probing. She didn't show any Jedi abilities until those incidents and then all of a sudden she could perform Jedi mind tricks and fight off an injured Kylo Ren in the snow confrontation. (Please don't forget that Ren had just taken a phaser blast to the chest from Chewbacca that had to slow him down at least a little in the two mini-lightsabre duels which followed.)

In short, I feel we'll know more regarding Rey's abilities when Episode VIII hits!
Jason R.
Wed, Jan 20, 2016, 2:33pm (UTC -5)
"I don't think that anything can be assumed regarding what Rey can or cannot do until we see the additional episodes in the Sequel Trilogy."

Yes this is the standard refrain of apologists for this movie's storytelling failures. Any movie that requires you to see the sequel to make sense is indeed a failure.

I would say that in the next few years, TFA will be seen in retrospect as little more than a stepping stone to whatever the greater whole turns out to be (for better or worse). As a standalone story, it's garbage.
Paul M.
Wed, Jan 20, 2016, 3:53pm (UTC -5)
No, Jason, it's not apologia to point out that Rey's character will be further explored in the upcoming movies. I'd say it's clear that there is more to Rey than meets the eye: her (repressed? half-forgotten?) memories, sensitivity to the Force, the fact that someone left her on Jakku and that she was still waiting for them to return... It's a setup for some kind of character revelation down the road. Nothing remotely failure-ific about this.
Wed, Jan 20, 2016, 5:31pm (UTC -5)
Better than the Prequels but not great.

It was an enjoyable movie experience.

Visually stunning and very complimentary to the Star Wars universe.

The score didn't raise any eyebrows for me.

I thought the acting was good all around.

I thought Kylo Ren was a weak villain. No intimidation factor there at all.

I really enjoyed Finn and Rey. Impressed with both actors.

I thought Rey seemed to grasp the "force stuff" pretty quickly compared to Luke in the original movies.

Rehashed plot to the extreme... but the SW's faithful don't seem to mind.

I thought JJ did a better job with ST2009. (ducks...)

My 13 year old son teared up when Hon Solo died. :-)

Maybe the next movie will give us a solar system sized death thingy that draws energy from neighboring galaxies... (face palm)

Kylo Ren's lightsaber design is just stupid. It would be more of a hazard to the wielder than whom he/she was fighting.

Was the number of the access port (wrong term probably) to blow up the "Star Killer" thingy that contained a "47" a little trek tidbit thrown in by JJ and/or possibly Pegg?

Tons of easter eggs in there for SW's fans.

Plot holes galore, but it's just Star Wars... I don't hold it to the same standard as I hold trek.

I'm not unhappy that I saw it.

STID awaits Jammer...
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 10:00am (UTC -5)
"No, Jason, it's not apologia to point out that Rey's character will be further explored in the upcoming movies. I'd say it's clear that there is more to Rey than meets the eye: her (repressed? half-forgotten?) memories, sensitivity to the Force, the fact that someone left her on Jakku and that she was still waiting for them to return... It's a setup for some kind of character revelation down the road. Nothing remotely failure-ific about this. "

I'd say even if they weren't planning this, the massive backlash about 'Super Rey the instant Jedi Master' is going to make them write it into VIII's script. And doubly so for the untrained 'Emo Ren' who will almost certainly come out as a certified badass in the next film. Or at least I hope so!

So in the long run, this could all be a very good thing for this next set of movies.
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 10:36am (UTC -5)
@Jason, I think it's problematic for character development though when you have to hope that a future installment explains the character's arc over the course of the movie. I agree we might get something that explains it, but in TFA we don't. I prefer movies to feel more like standalone experiences. I like characters to have a clear arc within the movie and to have all the pieces of the puzzle so I can understand what happened within that film. I think leaving it up to future episode to explain something in a previous episode is better suited to TV, which is more about serialization over a shorter time frame, than movies, which tend to be big events spaced out every few years.
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 10:52am (UTC -5)
Between Harrison Ford, some promising bright-eyed newcomers, and some spectacularly realistic special effects, this deserves at least 3 stars.

I get the whole "It's just 'A New Hope" with different actors" arguments. There's no denying that. But why deny it in the first place? I think where Lucas went wrong in the prequels was precise when he started to make Star Wars something it wasn't (Political Intrigue).

Daisy Ridley's Rey is a treat, and reminds me a little of Luke, but also of Keira Knightley's character in the first Pirates film. The difference is, Rey is unmistakably a fighter in sheep's clothing, and this is refreshing.

John Boyega is a great asset to the cast as well, giving us a taste of what it's like living under the former Empire from the perspective of the everyman. That he struggles with his own role in the battle is heartening, because the balance of Light side and Dark side is always a delicate one in Star Wars.

Finally, I totally disagree that the film needed to show the backstories of all the characters. We didn't need Han Solo or Obi-won's backstory to enjoy "A New Hope". I don't see why viewers expect the writers to handhold them, explaining every character in depth in the first film in what's obviously a longer saga.

It's not a perfect Star Wars film, but the few flaws in story organization only marginally detract from what, in total, is a great production. Looking forward to more!
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 11:34am (UTC -5)
Hey, I look forward to seeing all the character backstories, including Rey and Finn as children, and what Han and Leia have been up to for the past 30 years in the future trilogy of Episode VI.25, Episode VI.5 and Episode VI.75. Coming in 2023 through 2027!

I kid. I'm hilarious.
Jason R.
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 11:43am (UTC -5)

In the end, I'll say that whether or not there's truly a logical explanation of why Rey can do the things she can do it's really academic. I don't think this would be any better in the context of a TV show. The failures of TFA and this character in particular, are not due to some logical plot hole (which I agree, will likely be filled in after the fact in some future installment) but in how Rey is portrayed by the story. For better or worse, she's the heart of the film, the character around which the story revolves.

Rey suffers from what I'll call TV mom syndrome - basically the story seems unwilling or unable to invest in her any significant flaws and is unwilling to permit her to fail at anything. The only flaw she does have (namely her obsession with sticking behind on Jakku to wait for her family to come back to her) is a pseudo flaw, designed to make her seem angsty and tormented - in other words, a classic Mary Sue trope. This is like Bella Swan in Twilight - look how tormented and dark I am!

We get the first glimmer of this problem when we first see Rey being attacked by 3-4 thugs. Finn runs to the rescue and we see her single handedly beat them all up, rendering his aid unneeded. The same pattern just keeps repeating itself over and over with Rey just single handedly overcoming every obstacle and rendering every character around her superfluous.

I can pretty well see where Disney is going with this. It all comes back to their apparent marketing strategy with this film. Every Disney commercial I have seen for this movie seems aimed almost exclusively at girls. In one ad I have seen recently, there is not a single boy in the entire ad, with even the Kilo Ren character shown as a female version of the costume. In another ad, the male child goes to rescue his sister, but when he arrives, she handily disables her captors without his help.

Disney, I presume, knows that Star Wars fandom is predominantly male, and it sees girls as its greatest potential for growth. I can just see the marketing genius behind giving girls a "superhero" of their own to root for in a Star Wars movie.

Except they have misconstrued what Star Wars is. Luke Skywalker wasn't a great protagonist because he was a badass who could single handedly save the day. Indeed, in each and every one of the original trilogy, Luke absolutely needed others to save him. In New Hope, he would have been blown to bits if Han Solo hadn't flown in and disabled Vader's ship at the last second; in Empire Strikes Back, he would have died if Leia and Lando hadn't flown in to rescue him at Bespin; in Return of the Jedi, he would have been killed by the emperor if Vader hadn't turned on Sidius and tossed him into an abyss.

I feel that Rey's character was conceived for marketing purposes and not for the story.
Jason R.
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 11:50am (UTC -5)
I'll also add that I found nothing compelling about Ridley's performance. She's grim and angsty, and talks with a British accent. Apart from a single fact (that she was abandoned by her family and wants to wait for them) we learn virtually nothing about her as a person, we learn almost nothing about her values or what she wants to do with her life, she's just an empty vessel. There really is only one choice she makes in the whole story, and that's to not sell the droid at the beginning. But since we're given almost no reason for that choice and no real insight into her reasons, it just comes across as a necessary plot point rather than anything significant about her character. In perhaps the one and only juncture where she might get a chance to actually make a *choice * (whether or not to finish off Renn) the movie intervenes and literally cracks the earth between her and him, removing that choice from her. What an apt metaphor for the whole story. Rey has no agency whatsoever - she's just on this rollercoaster ride going wherever she's forced to go.
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
"For better or worse, she's the heart of the film, the character around which the story revolves"

Well, not really. Daisy Ridley doesn't even get top billing. An ensemble cast doesn't need a single hero, (See also, The Avengers, where Tony Stark is not the heart of the movie).

There's a pretty strong argument that this is Han's story, too. At least I think he gets the most screentime and character moments.
Jason R.
Thu, Jan 21, 2016, 12:29pm (UTC -5)
Chrome, she's the only hero. She literally does 99% of everything in the story. Finn is utterly useless. Leia is useless. Han does help set some charges to damage the starkiller base, I'll give him that.
Latex Zebra
Fri, Jan 22, 2016, 2:42am (UTC -5)
I really liked it and I've seen it twice and am taking the family next week.
Sure some stuff is a little creaky and yes it borrows from A New Hope.
Let's be honest, after the prequel backlash they had to play it safe.
If JJ had delivered another Phantom Menace that would be it, one of the most beloved franchises would be badly tarnished. Not something Disney would want having spent billions on it.

I do have complaints, Starkiller Base being the biggest. The idea is dumb and so much of it doesn't hold up to any scrutiny, yes its a fantasy film but you have to keep it grounded within that universe.

I have no problem with Rey being able to access her hidden Jedi powers or giving Kylo a bit of a pasting. He had been shot with a weapon we'd seen decimating Stormtroopers early.
Fri, Jan 22, 2016, 8:46am (UTC -5)
@Jason R, I agree with your assessment. I'd be very excited about the prospect of more female Star Wars fans, but the film almost seems afraid to admit that a female character - like ANY good character - could have flaws. That said, I thought there were some subtle hints about Rey's motives. In the beginning, we see her playing with an X-Wing helmet and she has a doll of an X-Wing pilot, so she does dream about flying. It's not as blatant as Luke's whining about wanting to go to the academy, but it's there. I think Rey also has abandonment issues, especially now that everybody she gets close to (Finn and Han) are dead or in a coma.

I also liked Daisy Ridley's performance. She brought a nice energy and charm to the role.
Fri, Jan 22, 2016, 8:50am (UTC -5)
@Chrome, we certainly don't need every character's backstory the way we might in say a novel, but we need enough to understand the character's motives and arc throughout the film. In the Original Trilogy, the Cantina scene set Han up as a scoundrel, a pilot, and man of ambiguous morality. That's all it needed to do to prepare us for the rest of the film.

I think the problem with the lack of information about Rey is that viewers aren't really prepared for her transformation into Jedi superhero. How did she get those powers? Han's character arc over the course of A New Hope is clear, but Rey's isn't (but will probably become clearer after the next two films).
Sun, Jan 24, 2016, 8:30pm (UTC -5)
The worst thing about this movie is Han and Leia's chemistry, or complete lack-thereof.
Eduardo Jencarelli
Tue, Jan 26, 2016, 10:25am (UTC -5)
"I think where Lucas went wrong in the prequels was precise when he started to make Star Wars something it wasn't (Political Intrigue)."

@Chrome: Yeah, let's pretend that the civil war fought throughout the original trilogy had no political motivations whatsoever. It was just a Rebellion fighting for freedom in a galaxy ruled by an Empire who promised peace and justice in an attempt to rectify the Republic's corruption. Yeah, none of that happened.

I hate people who call themselves Star Wars fans and don't even realize that politics is at the core of the Star Wars universe.
Tue, Jan 26, 2016, 10:45am (UTC -5)

I'm not saying politics don't exist in the original Star Wars movies, but the plot seems to be more character-driven and the politics are left to the side. That's not the case in The Phantom Menace, where you need to follow the politics to understand the story.
Jason R.
Tue, Jan 26, 2016, 12:15pm (UTC -5)

I would concede that the prequels are more politically driven than the original trilogy. However, I don't see that as being the prequels' weakness. Indeed, Palpatine / Sidius's machinations in Phantom Menace, through to Revenge of the Sith, are really the best part of those stories. Without those schemes (which reach their shocking climax in the Order 66 scene in ROTS), the prequels would be poorer for it.

What people are most likely referencing when they talk about the confusing politics in the prequels is really just one item that only affects the first prequel, Phantom Menace, and really only the first part of the story. I am of course talking about the "taxation of trade routes" plot point, which to this day, I could not possibly explain to you. However, once you get past the fact that the Trade Federation is on Naboo (for whatever convoluted reason) it's smooth sailing from there. Everything thereafter is Sidius's manipulation which is just awesome.

One of the mistakes Abrams made with TFA is assuming that the prequels must have failed due to excessive complexity and subtlety, leading to him stripping down the exposition so much that it leaves the audience adrift and confused. Even the original trilogy attempted to give some context to the politics, such as the dialogue about the dissolution of the Senate in A New Hope.

We don't need a long backstory for every event and every character, but it would have helped to devote eight seconds to explain who the First Order actually were, why they appeared to be just like the Empire (despite the Empire being defeated pretty definitively in ROTJ) and some understanding of what they actually wanted.

But no, we just get thrown into this deja vue with the First Order basically appearing to be a carbon copy of the Empire, and we even have a "resistance" despite the fact that there's still allegedly a Republic? Why would the Republic not have armies and fleets? How can we appreciate the impact of the starkiller blowing up the Senate when we didn't even know there was a Senate left to blow up?

And please, don't waste time explaining it to me; I realize there is a perfectly rational explanation for all this. But like much of TFA, if it's not made clear in the four corners of the movie, or I need to see a sequel to understand it, well that's just plain bad storytelling, period.
Eduardo Jencarelli
Tue, Jan 26, 2016, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
@JasonR.: I understood the trade embargo plot device just fine. The Neimoidians held Naboo (a non-threatening peaceful world) hostage as leverage to get the senate to drop taxes over their trade routes (think libertarians angry with big government). They thought Sidious was their senate ally, looking for their best interests, without realizing he was just using them for his own purposes.

Since the senate was fraught with corruption, the Trade Federation felt they had the upper hand. Nute Gunray never thought a weak chancellor like Valorum would have had the courage to deploy Jedi to settle the embargo. And then Sidious forced them to take drastic measures, which worked to his advantage.

It's really not that different from the Ukraine/Russia/US situation, which involves territorial oil pipeline disputes. And of course, taxes are always reason for discord and protest in any situation, especially when involving venture capitalists, for which the Feds qualify.
Eduardo Jencarelli
Tue, Jan 26, 2016, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
And while I adore the scene where Starkiller destroys Hosnian Prime, I agree it lacked context. Hux's speech, well acted as it was, felt hollow since the film never properly explains what is the Republic and what's their relation in this conflict. Hell, for that matter, we don't know what's the purpose of the First Order other than nihilism. The Empire had a clear goal.

I feel Abrams may have cut a lot of important details. The reason the Old Republic didn't have an army prior to the Clone Wars was because the Jedi kept the peace. I assume Luke was forming a new order to serve the same purpose prior to the Knights of Ren mucking it all up, hence why the Republic barely registers during the film.
Tue, Jan 26, 2016, 3:50pm (UTC -5)
@ Jason R. - Thu, Jan 21, 2016 - 12:29pm (USA Central)
Chrome, she's the only hero. She literally does 99% of everything in the story. Finn is utterly useless. Leia is useless. Han does help set some charges to damage the starkiller base, I'll give him that.

Yup, you could remove Finn from the film and nothing changes.
Tue, Jan 26, 2016, 5:28pm (UTC -5)
@Jason and Eduwardo, The politics in the Prequels could have been handled with more finesse. We didn't necessarily need to see the Senate's deliberations. But I generally felt like I knew what the stakes were. In TFA I didn't until I read the book "Before the Awakening" and the "Visual Dictionary." Even so, it's still not clear to me if the Republic still exists, if there's even a Republic fleet, or if it's basically been completely destroyed.

@Yanks, never thought about it like that, but you're right. As much as I love Finn as a humorous sidekick, he really doesn't do anything. The only thing he seems to do is identify Phasma as a senior office that Han should interrogate. And he insists on going after Rey, but I find it hard to believe that Han would have just abandoned her.
Dan L.
Tue, Jan 26, 2016, 5:57pm (UTC -5)
Great review, Jammer!
Jason R.
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 8:04am (UTC -5)
"And while I adore the scene where Starkiller destroys Hosnian Prime, I agree it lacked context. Hux's speech, well acted as it was, felt hollow since the film never properly explains what is the Republic and what's their relation in this conflict. Hell, for that matter, we don't know what's the purpose of the First Order other than nihilism. The Empire had a clear goal."

You mention Hosnian Prime, but there we go again with lack of context, because I have no idea what that is. When I watched the movie, I really thought that they were blowing up Coruscant, the seat of the Galactic Senate. Really, I found that idea quite shocking, since Coruscant was the heart of the Old Republic, so the idea of that world being destroyed was one of the few memorable scenes in the movie... that is until I discovered later that it WASN'T CORUSCANT!!

It's more than just lack of context too. Okay, I'll bite - so there is a New Republic (despite it not getting mentioned until 3/4 of the way through the movie) and for some bizarre reason, its military is called a "resistance" (which makes all kinds of nonsense...) and somehow this superweapon gets built and used. So the "resistance" (whatever) sends its force to destroy it and they've got.... like five fighters? Even the rebellion in ANH had bombers and in ROTJ they even had capital ships! You're telling me that the New Republic has got fewer resources than the rebellion did? And seriously, another trench fight scene? Seriously? J.J. Abrams is such an unimaginative hack. This wasn't a sequel or even a reboot - it was a garage band performing a "greatest hits" bit with a few aging cameos from the original members.
Eduardo Jencarelli
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 9:04am (UTC -5)
There is one other thing that somewhat bugs me on this film: lack of innovative starship design.

When you advance from Episode I to Episode III, you see a clear evolution from sleek, aerodynamic craft like the Naboo ships to the more industrial design utilized for Republic ships during the Clone Wars. You even get to see predecessors to both the X-Wing and the TIE Fighter.

From A New Hope to Return of the Jedi, you also see some significant evolution. The first film only has X-Wings, Y-Wings and TIE Fighters. Empire introduces TIE Bombers and Snowspeeders, while Jedi introduces TIE Interceptors, A-Wings and B-Wings.

Force Awakens has zero new models and designs. Am I to assume they would still be using X-Wings 30 years later? The only difference is the Engine's S-Foil. Coloring a TIE Fighter's solar panel isn't an upgrade either, and adding an extra man on the cockpit just to handle blaster controls seems counterproductive. Ideally, when technology evolves, you want to use less people and more automation.
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 10:10am (UTC -5)
Nice to see your posts again, Jammer. I was very pleasantly surprised to see you had done the Star Wars films and had opened up discussion on them. Cool!

I was a little disappointed to see another desert planet, just because I constantly thought of Tattoine. I suppose their choices are desert, water, frozen, barren, lush, molten-ish, city-ish, and swamp, but I had to keep reminding myself that it Wasn't Tattoine...

That being said, I liked the destroyed weapons of war that were littered about (Star Destroyer, Walker, X-Wing, etc.). It helped my perception that a war had been going on somewhere (perhaps for quite a while and in many places), and a rather large battle had taken place here. Now, what they could possibly have been fighting over, I've no idea. Maybe one of the sides had a base here. Or perhaps the galaxy is running low on sand. But I was reminded that every war has big battles that take place in weird locations, just because that's where the combatants ended up.

The Empire had burned down the helpless in the past, with the Jawa's being a prime example, but I thought they showed them killing the villagers just to remind everyone that they were the bad guys, and they are REALLY BAD.

When they were escaping the ship with the Tie fighter, I had to smile when they blew up the control room. But from the first moment, I was wondering where Finn was going to sit. Then Poe asks if Finn knows about firing weapons on a Tie, and now I wonder if a Tie fighter is a two-man ship or not? It looked like a pilot and a weapons officer to me, and I thought they were single seat. Maybe they use a droid too, but can use a human if they need to. Perhaps I've not been keeping up on the lore enough...

It seems that Stormtroopers in general could either be clones, conditioned-from-young-age humans or regular human/conscripts, and they seem to like their soldiers on the brainwashed side. I figure the regular-type would be the ones talking about the new T-16 while on the first Death Star. Finn would be one of the conditioned ones, but the conditioning never quite took hold for some reason.

I really liked the monsters on Han and Chewie's frieghter. Rolling balls of teeth, with tentacles. Heh :). Han's comment about how they used to have a larger crew was initially cute, then I wondered if his entire crew had died while capturing these three specimens? It might have been a joke, but I was left wondering...

Is the lightsaber calling Rey, or is the Force directing her to it? I'd hope it was the latter, but in the theatre, it seemed the other way around. It might just have been me...

My favorite lightsaber duel is the one with only one lightsaber, wielded against the Stormtrooper with the aforementioned riot baton. That one was believable to me, because they would be pretty equal combatants. I really liked it and was disappointed when he was taken out by a blaster. I wanted more of the duel, at least for a little bit.

When I saw all of the Stormtroopers, and other various baddies, out at their rally, I figured they'd be getting into ships to go attack their enemy. There is a great deal of loud talk, and something about destroying the Republic. Then they all stand around while the Big Gun fires. What do they do then? They don't seem to be leaving yet, and they cannot watch the planets die, so do they sort of mill around, fidgeting, then melt away? Sitting in the theater, I'm then saying to myself "They are shooting the big gun at WHO?". I was lost for a jiffy, then dumbfounded they would, just for a moment, show us a world that is the seat of power for the Republic, show us some astonished denizens (in close-up like we should know them), THEN BLOW THEM UP! It all happened so fast, it seemed like I'd missed something...

Finn did well against the Stormtrooper while using the light sabre, but no matter how good a swordsman he is, he doesn't have Jedi-type reflexes and intuition (that we know of). Ren would have taken him apart if he hadn't been injured. As it was, the fight lasted about the right amount of time. And someone mentioned Ren's lightsabre would have been dangerous to use, but regular swords have guards to keep the opponent from sliding down the blade and cutting off their thumbs (or other appendages). It's a natural progression to me, so I liked it.

Since I've never seen a planet implode then turn into a sun from the star-plasma that is inside it, I cannot say if it was realistic or not. But it sure was cool. :)

Did anyone else notice they seemed to be talking rather slooowly sometimes? SW:IV had quick, clipped lines. Even Grand Moff Tarkin's slowest line was fast: "Charming... tothelast...". I swear Han was on the verge of slurring his words, and Leia seemed like her mouth wouldn't move. But my memory has nearly every line spoken slowly, or somewhat deliberately, in the whole movie (seen two days ago at the time of this writing). There just didn't seem to be a sense of urgency. Might just have been me, again.

I really liked the movie. It was Good. Not Great, but Good. When I saw R2-D2 was powered down, I was saddened. Seems I like the little guy. Heh, C-3PO telling them they might not recognize him because his arm is a different color. Han using a Bow-Caster for the first time, and liking it.

If I think of anything else to add to this mess, I'll post again. :)

Regards Everyone... RT
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 10:36am (UTC -5)
"I really liked the monsters on Han and Chewie's frieghter. Rolling balls of teeth, with tentacles. "

Really? I think you're the only one!

They look way too fake and didn't mesh well with the live actors IMO. Kind of like J.J's red monster thing on the frozen planet who chases Kirk in ST2009.
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 3:49pm (UTC -5)
@ Del_Duio - Wed, Jan 27, 2016 - 10:36am (USA Central)
....Kind of like J.J's red monster thing on the frozen planet who chases Kirk in ST2009.

Yeah, JJ obviously has a thing with destroying planets and monsters with tentacles.
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 7:00pm (UTC -5)
Heh, I did not go into this movie to compare it with anything else JJ Abrams has done or will ever do. So no, I didn't think about Star Trek, Fringe, or anything else that has been done by him. I simply liked the monsters on Han and Chewies's freighter. Rolling balls of teeth, with tentacles. As for their believability, heck, it's a movie. :)

Oh, and he wasn't the first one to destroy a planet or have a critter with tentacles in Star Wars, if memory serves...

As with anything, your mileage may vary.

Have a Great Day... RT
Jason R.
Thu, Jan 28, 2016, 6:43am (UTC -5)
"@JasonR.: I understood the trade embargo plot device just fine. The Neimoidians held Naboo (a non-threatening peaceful world) hostage as leverage to get the senate to drop taxes over their trade routes (think libertarians angry with big government). They thought Sidious was their senate ally, looking for their best interests, without realizing he was just using them for his own purposes."

Okay, but I don't understand, why Naboo specifically? You mentioned Ukraine, but Putin justified his invasion because of alleged persecution of Russian minorities there. You may not believe him and think this a pretext, but it is his stated reason.

I realize Palpatine / Sidius engineered it so that Naboo would be targeted to garner sympathy for his home planet so he could be made Chancellor. But what does Naboo have to do with the taxation of trade routes? Surely the Trade Federation chose to invade that specific planet for some ostensible purpose other than just throwing darts at a star-map. They must have explained their invasion in some terms connected specifically to that planet.

To me that's one of the reasons Episode 1 is a bit of a muddle. I can't for the life of me understand what reason the Trade Federation has for being on Naboo versus any other planet in the cosmos.
Eduardo Jencarelli
Thu, Jan 28, 2016, 8:29am (UTC -5)
"I realize Palpatine / Sidius engineered it so that Naboo would be targeted to garner sympathy for his home planet so he could be made Chancellor. But what does Naboo have to do with the taxation of trade routes? Surely the Trade Federation chose to invade that specific planet for some ostensible purpose other than just throwing darts at a star-map. They must have explained their invasion in some terms connected specifically to that planet."

@JasonR: Naboo was a peaceful world. It didn't have an army. It wasn't even really close to the galactic core. And the Trade Federation needed to somehow bully the Republic into dropping the taxes. They probably debated over several worlds of choice, but any other planet would likely defend itself. Naboo had no chance against a massive droid army. If you want to bully someone, you pick what appears to be the weakest target. It's not that different from terrorist tactics. Threaten the innocent to bargain with the powerful.

At the same time, having Naboo be the blocked world forced the Republic to show some strength in a crisis. If they couldn't promise a member world its own freedom, it would reflect badly on the Republican leadership, which is exactly what happened.

Palpatine orchestrated this well, and the Federation went along with it because they were confident the Naboo would bend over and sign the treaty, which would also weaken the Republic's leadership and essentially jumpstart a Separatist movement with Naboo being the instigator instead being a Republic ally.

Since that didn't happen, Palpatine seduced Dooku to the dark side and had him convince the Federation to be a part of the Separatist movement instead. Divide and conquer, however you put it.
Jason R.
Thu, Jan 28, 2016, 9:13am (UTC -5)

I guess I'm just struggling with this explanation. I mean it works as an explanation of why Naboo made a convenient target, but it still doesn't really explain how the Trade Federation justified this "completely legal" blockade. They're not shown to be rampaging barbarians in the movie, invading planets willy nilly.

To use the Russia situation, whatever you think of Putin's true motives around Ukraine, he presented a coherent reason to invade that specific country. He didn't just march into, say, India and tell the world he was doing it to extort concessions from the USA. Even tyrants have to play politics sometimes.

I feel we're missing something here - there has to be some connection between Naboo and the Trade Federation apart from Naboo being weak and defenseless. It felt from the movie like Amidala was already known to the Trade Federation, like maybe her government had previously done something to piss them off.
Thu, Jan 28, 2016, 4:32pm (UTC -5)
@Jason, if I recall correctly, in one of the books there was something about the Naboo being in debt to the Trade Federation or having reneged on an energy contract, leading to something like a foreclosure. The idea is that the rest of the Republic thinks this is just a trade dispute, but don't know about the invasion. But I think the better example is something like the East India Tea Company, which conquered large chunks of India and other countries with really limited legal basis (from the Indian point of view).

But personally I'm OK with this. I can accept that there was some sort of dispute between the Naboo and Federation before the movie starts. The important thing for me is that we know it's a pretext.
Jason R.
Fri, Jan 29, 2016, 6:54am (UTC -5)
@Dom, I guess you're right that it doesn't much matter for the movie.

But what does matter is how poorly Phantom Menace portrays the occupation, in the sense that none of it ever feels real. They keep talking about how Amidala's "people" are suffering and dying, yet I don't think we ever see a single Naboo citizen outside of the royal entourage and guard even once. It's hard to imagine how people are suffering when it appears the whole "occupation" is just a garrison in the royal palace.

Now I don't know what I expected. I'm not saying we needed to see concentration camps or something. But if you're going to play the "suffering people" card so prominently, you need to follow through at least a little.
Fri, Jan 29, 2016, 12:23pm (UTC -5)
@Jason, you're right, but I feel like that's part of the limits of the franchise. Star Wars has never been about depicting the suffering of the masses. It's still pretty much a kid-friendly franchise (ROTS aside). There really haven't been many scenes depicting outright "suffering people", possibly aside from the deaths of some soldiers in the OT. Heck we don't even see Alderaan before it gets destroyed. Maybe there could have been a scene in TPM of the camps or the droids rounding up more people. I honestly don't know how far it could and should have gone.

TFA in some ways had the opposite problem. It showed people reacting in panic before the destruction of Hosnian Prime, which is actually a rare type of scene for Star Wars (it doesn't usually depict crowds of people panicked or afraid). But it doesn't tell us much about who those people are, why we should care about them, etc. Even the Stormtrooper dying at the beginning and smearing Finn's helmet with blood was quite a leap for Star Wars, which really doesn't show blood (lightsaber wounds are cauterized).
Fri, Jan 29, 2016, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
I liked this one - I had a feeling that JJ Abrams would be much better suited for the Star Wars universe than the Trek universe. However, I feel that the movie as a whole went a bit too fast, and that template for this ep, structure-wise, rested a bit too much on A New Hope, especially in the beginning. Consider:

- The movie starts with a shot emphasizing the sheer size of a Star Destroyer, followed by a Stormtrooper attack.
- The main bad guy kills the rebel captain - er, I mean the village old guy, whats-his-name (who at least got a jab in against George Lucas with "This will begin to make things right")
- Princess Leia - er, I mean Poe Dameron - loads the Death Star plans - er, I mean the map to Luke - onto a droid and sends it into the Tattoine - I mean Jakku - desert.
- Princess Leia - sorry, I meant Poe Dameron - is rescued by one of the good guys in Stormtrooper gear. (Granted, Finn was actually a stormtrooper, but you get my point.)
- And of course, Obi-Wan - er, I mean Han Solo - gets lightsabered by the main villain.

There's loads more, but you get my point.

Lest you think I'm nitpicking too much, I want to stress that I enjoyed this movie overall. Even if parts did come off as derivative, it was still well executed. Of the new characters, I'm going to say that Finn is my favorite. Boyega does a good job and his character has a very unique backstory in the Star Wars universe. Finn is intended to represent individuality over uniformity - the idea that any one person, anywhere, has it within themselves to resist tyranny. Rey is probably the new Luke Skywalker, capable of handling herself and growing in her Force powers, but still with much to learn. Overall, the "good trio" - Rey, Finn and Poe - each come off with having characteristics of Luke, Han and Leia.

I also like the symbolism of the Jakku graveyard. The graveyard of original-trilogy era ships, to me, represented the dormancy of the Star Wars universe, with the Jakku scavengers representing the fans who kept going back to the original trilogy to mine every little background detail for a new story. (Not to slight the expanded universe people - I think they were a major Force [pun intended] in keeping the fires burning all this time.) When the Millenium Falcon finally takes off, it's symbolic of the franchise heading to new places once more. (Speaking of, that reveal was awesome: "That ship's garbage!" [KABOOM] "Garbage will do!" [cue triumphant music]) That was my favorite part of the movie.

By the time the heroes set off to take out Death Star III - I mean Starkiller Base's shields, I was 90% sure that Han Solo is going to die. Knowing it was going to happen, however, only increased the tension for me. There was actually a bit of a hope spot until the light went out (remember "As long as there is light, there is hope"?) - then I went from 90% sure to 100% sure. In the end, it brought closure to Han Solo's arc - he started A New Hope selfish and skeptical of higher powers, eventually comes to acknowledge the Force, and finally sacrifices himself for a higher cause - to try and bring his son back from the dark side. It also fulfilled the rule of "figure-from-past-generation-dies-in-first-installment-to-pass-the-torch" (in TPM it was Qui-Gon, in ANH it was Obi-Wan).

As a whole I think the characters still need further development, but I feel that TPTB are deliberately holding out on key background details to administer some key revelations in Episodes VIII and IX. (Rey and Finn's parents, for instance, and don't forget about Luke) Kylo Ren, I feel is a bit too much of a Darth Vader knockoff, but I do like the direction of his character and how his lightsaber is a symbol of his inherent instability. Maz Kanata and Captain Phasma really didn't get to do much at all (although Phasma getting thrown into a garbage chute was a really funny reference to ANH) - I hope they get to do more in Ep VIII. And Hux made Bill Shatner look positively restrained.

I guess my one main wish would be to see a huge capital ship-on-capital ship battle in Ep VIII or IX, instead of just X-wing-on-TIE fighter. Something like the opening of ROTS or the Battle of Endor except with more focus on the larger ships - I want to see the Finalizer's full capabilities on screen!

Overall assessment: Not perfect by any means, but still a lot of potential as long as they don't keep re-treading old ground. I would go out of my way to see this movie again. High 3/4.
Peter G.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 4:59am (UTC -5)
The idea that one must view a sequel in order to understand what's happening in the present movie is a post-hoc piece of nonsense. Never, ever, in a non-David Lynch film should anyone in the audience ever not understand what's happening right here and now. A planet blows up - there are two possibilities: you know what that planet is, or it's a secret for some reason to be revealed later. "It doesn't matter" doesn't qualify, nor does "you had to read the book!!!" The same logic applies to the rest of the film's omissions.

In the event someone here thinks it will all be explained later or that the sequels will retroactively give value to the events of this film - there's a word for that: fraud. When a person purchases a product and in order for it to function properly you have to purchase another product by the same company, that's fraudulent and false advertising. Imagine buying an Iphone but after purchase you realize that it will only work when paired with a second Iphone, that you can buy two years hence. That would be settled in a class action lawsuit in no time, but only after making a lot of people feel cheated. I felt cheated by this movie on countless scores, but the irony is that the most common defence of the movie is the very thing that would make it even more despicable, which is that you need to see another movie to understand this one. Very unethical business practice if this is the case.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 8:52am (UTC -5)
@Peter G - I'm not sure you understand what a trilogy is. But I didn't buy Game of Throne, Sorceror's Stone, or Hunger Games expecting to get the whole story in the first book.

Nor have I ever purchases a video game system without the intent to buy games to make it function properly. Your iPhone metaphor suits your purposes too well to be anything other than disingenuous.

The key to doing a trilogy well is not "Are all secrets revealed to me to the point where I am 100% sure how/why everything happened in the first part". The key to doing a trilogy well is done it contain a complete story. If watching the rest of the trilogy doesn't IMPROVE your appreciation of part 1, they are doing it wrong.

You can certainly feel free to argue that the story is not complete, I'm actually not getting into that aspect of the argument. But your "all must be revealed" attitude is bizarre and is not really compatible with the way multiple chapter pieces of art tend to go.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 10:42am (UTC -5)
@Robert, great point, and it makes me wonder if these same types of criticisms existed when "A New Hope" was released. Imagine "Episode IV? WTF? Where's I-III? What a ripoff!"

Anyway. I'd be open discuss this movie as an incomplete story. First, what does a story require? A story is defined as having an exposition, climax, and resolution. Let's see,

(1) Exposition: Rey, Finn, and Han find eachother in an attempt to flee what has become a powerful and oppressive military movement among the fragmented Sith Empire. They know they must find the powerful jedi Luke Skywalker before the this evil empire does.

(2) Climax: The trio, still missing the key to finding Luke, must confront the Fist Order before it captures and destroys their bases and homes. Han sets his mind to try and regain his son who has fallen to the dark side.

(3) Resolution: Han fails to turn over his son, who has become mad with power. Finn saves Rey and disables the First Order's defenses. The the pair is forced to confront the now powerful Kylo Ren. Rey's innate force powers awaken and she holds Kylo at bay. Having accepted her role as a jedi, Rey goes to find Luke, the last hope for the light side in the galaxy.

Sounds like we have all three parts required for a story here. Did I miss something?
Jason R.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 1:42pm (UTC -5)

The Force Awakens didn't come out of a vacuum the way A New Hope did. There have been six movies that came before, giving us a pretty clearly defined universe to work with.

It seemed to me, watching this movie, that Abrams was so committed to basically remaking A New Hope, that he had little interest in actually making sure that anything fit with the existing story. Where elements of the New Hope story didn't really jibe with the events of the previous movies, he just kind of crammed them in there, I guess hoping we'd assume that it was going to be explained later in another movie, or maybe just not caring whether it made sense or not.

It's not that the events of TFA are inexplicable in the context of the existing Star Wars universe, it's just that they simply aren't explained at all, and many scenes leave the audience scratching its head saying "huh?". For instance (not to beat a dead horse!) but one of the defining plot points of the original Trilogy was the empire being defeated. But now they're back and they're called the First Order? And Leia is back to being a rebel again? Wow. They might have taken 11 seconds of screen time to at least tell us why after 30 years we're back to square one, like nothing in the last three movies ever happened!

Now you can say that Abrams was rebooting the franchise, which is kind of the case - except that this wasn't what we were promised. I thought TFA was supposed to be a sequel, i.e. a continuation of the story we had come to love. If I had known he was just going to give us a straight remake of A New Hope, I might not have bothered showing up.

But I will say that these elements weren't really the worst failings of the story. There's just so much else to hate about this film, I can hardly get caught up with this one issue.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
@Chrome - Sounds complete to me.

The big question is of course how a force newb can mind control and beat a trained dark Jedi in combat.

That doesn't make the story incomplete... it sets up a bit of bait to make you wonder what's going to be revealed in the next movie.

People complaining about this are either
a) Annoyed that they can't think of a good reason for her to have been able to do this
b) Think she's ridiculously overpowered
c) Think the writers will fail to properly explain this

The trilogy may still fail, but it may also be explained to our satisfaction. For now I consider it a mystery I'm intrigued to know the answer to.

My money is on a combination of
1) Ren is severely weakened by the guilt of what he had just done weakening his connection with his dark side force powers and his injury from a weapon we've seen kill people in one shot

2) Rey already having decent hand to hand combat (which we saw earlier). Untrained Jedi are supposed to be able to anticipate things before they happen. If Finn can hold his own against severely diminished Ren for a few moments a hand-to-hand combat veteran with the ability to anticipate things before they happen could easily do the same. Remember Luke basically blew up the Death Star blind folded. For me the bigger mystery is what's up with Ren that he was so BAD. He should have been able to bisect Finn with little effort.

So our mysterious are....
1) What's going on in the larger world? I don't feel this is knock against the movie because our POV character isn't going to learn any of that stuff until the following movie because she's living in a backwater nowhere.

2) Why was Rey so strong/Ren so weak?

3) Who are Rey's parents?

4) What has Luke been up to?

5) What happened with Han/Leia/BRen?

Is that really too many unknowns?

Things that are name dropped in New Hope and not elaborated on...

1) Vader "killed" Anakin

2) The Clone Wars

3) What's going on with Han/Jabba

4) The Emperor
Peter G.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
@Robert @Chrome,

I understand what a trilogy is, but do you understand that the present action of a film cannot be literally unexplained AS IT'S HAPPENING? There was never one instant in ANH where I saw what was happening and asked "what the hell is going on?" or saw something and said to myself "that makes no sense given what they told me already." When Alderaan was destroyed I knew what planet is was, what it mean to Leia, and what the stakes were. I knew who did it, and why, and who was next. Tell me - how much exposition, exactly, did informing me of this take? So how can a star system be destroyed in TFA without me knowing what planets they are or why they were chosen? Should I have to wait until the next installment to find out?

How can Rey do all these miraculous things without anyone (herself included) commenting on how bizarre it is that she can use these powers. She never says, even once, something like "I don't know how I know how to do this, this is crazy." Which, by the way, is what any sane person would say if they were suddenly a kung fu master with no apparent training. Rather, she has this smug look on her face when she realizes she can do stuff and just wins. This is especially so when she faces Kylo Ren a couple of times and just when he thinks he's got her down for the count (mind control scene, and then lightsaber duel) she pulls a "I'm not left handed either" and turns the tables as if it was all according to plan. And you'd think he'd say something like "How can a mere force sensitive do these things?" You'd even suppose, after having his mind read, that he'd report immediately to Snope to tell him that some neonate has uncanny force abilities, asking for an explanation.

Then there are the things Jason brings up; the First Order, the RESISTANCE (sigh), the lack of the Republic, the reason the First Order appears to be unopposed, the reason some droid is carrying the map to Luke, and so forth. We begin and end the film knowing jack all about the universe, what's going on, who is on what side, what the deal is with the search for Luke, and even why exactly Han left Leia. Heck, we don't even know basic things like who the heck Orange Yoda is and why she has Vader's lightsaber (you know, the one that fell to the void on Cloud City), or why Ackbar is with the RESISTANCE but not Wedge or the others. It's not even mentioned, as if it doesn't matter!

This goes beyond merely sloppy writing and insulting the audience's intelligence, which by the way we know is part of it since Abrams has verbatim stated that he didn't want to "complicate" the film with background. Yeah, it would be too complicated for us to know anything, thanks buddy. But it's worse than that, because I honestly feel all of this is being kept from us precisely so that we HAVE TO see the sequel to understand anything. It's a marketing ploy, plain and simple. That is what I call fraud; when a product cannot stand on its own two feet and be meaningful on its own. If I saw ANH and never knew of any sequels the film would be satisfying and I would never realize something was missing or that I had to watch more to understand what had happened. Empire does have a cliffhanger ending to be sure, and yet all questions in that film are answered other than whether Vader is telling the truth.

As you mention, TFA does technically have a standard dramatic structure, but it's not like we learned a bunch of stuff and have a few new questions to have answered next time; we have only questions and no answers. We literally do not understand the meaning of most events in the film, and we are obliged to observe them but not comprehend them, to sit back and watch but have no stake in it since there's no context. The real questions at the end of TFA should have been (1) Who is Snope, (2) Why did Luke leave, and (3) what happened when Rey was a child. Three things that big is already a damn lot but I wish those were the only unanswered questions. Instead nothing is answered; tune in next time!!!
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 3:08pm (UTC -5)
I will concede that if you need to ask yourself "what is happening" that it is a story telling failure. I don't necessarily know that "how is this happening?" necessarily constitutes a story telling failure... but "what is happening" does.

I will concede that I know very, very little about the First Order, the Resistance, the Republic, etc. and I wish I knew more. I guess I was ok with it because the PoV character is Rey and I assume she doesn't know any of this.

I'm hoping that in the next story they explain to HER what's going on and take us along for the ride and that those things weren't the story this was trying to tell... but instead were scenery... if that makes sense?

I also got the feeling that Snoke and Ren knew something about Rey... multiple scenes gave me that impression. I suppose though that if I'm saying the point of the story was Rey's tale we might have needed more from her. I will concede that Finn asking "How the hell did you do that" at some point or another might have been useful.
Peter G.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 4:16pm (UTC -5)

That is a very good point about Rey not knowing the answers to any of these questions, and therefore not being able to clue us in either. But actually this is what ought to point to Rey as being the perfect audience proxy to whom to explain all the things she's missed out on while stuck on Jakku. Even something as simple as "The First Order; what's that" followed by "Eh, some remnant of the Empire that won't give up." That would have been enough! Two lines. And the film's structure, especially with her being paired up with someone FROM the First Order (!!!) is the perfect vehicle for her to be asking these questions and getting quick, even comical answers.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 4:34pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

Even that sounds like a waste of screentime to me. The opening crawl already reads:

"Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed.

With the support of the REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa leads a brave RESISTANCE. She is desperate to find her brother Luke and gain his help in restoring peace and justice to the galaxy."

It's the second sentence that explains what you're asking for. I would've fallen asleep faster than you could say The Phantom Menace if they kept repeating this story.
Jason R.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 5:30pm (UTC -5)

Do you think it would be an important thing in the story to mention who was getting blown up by the death star thing? Do you think the scene would have been more meaningful if we actually knew who all those people running around were or even the name of the planets they were on?

As Peter notes, none of this is mysterious in ANH, the movie this one was modeled on. I didn't fall asleep because they took two sentences to explain what Alderran was, why they were destroying it, and how that related to Leia.

The irony here is that I actually thought I knew who was getting blown up - I assumed it was Coruscent. Due to my mistake, I actually was pretty blown away by that scene. Why? Because Coruscent means something to me. It's an important place and destroying it would have been a big deal!

Except, whoops, it wasn't Coruscent. It was some planet I never heard of that isn't even mentioned by name in the movie. Jesus. When did getting such elementary information become such a big deal? Are we all suffering from ADD that we can't pause the space battles and lightsaber duels for just a minute or two to explain even some basic facts? Or is it we just don't care what's going on or why, just as long as big explosions are happening on the screen?
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
I'm with you Peter & Jason. A bit of exposition would have gone a long way. Rey is the POV character and presumably knows nothing, yet she seems to have heard about the Resistance, so in a way she actually knows MORE than the audience. Instead, that scene when Finn says he's from the Resistance, I wold have had her remain ignorant of the Resistance and let Finn tell her. Could have gone something like this:

REY: "Resistance? Resistance to what?"
FINN: "You know how the Republic signed a peace treaty with the First Order a few years ago? Well, some people weren't too happy about that, thought the First Order was secretly building up an army to invade Republic territory. So they started to fight the First Order on their own, with some covert help from the Republic military."
REY: "Were they right about the First Order?"
FINN: "More than they know!"

Likewise for the planet that got blown up. Just a line of dialogue later in the movie about the state of the Republic might have helped. Leia could at some point have said, "We're still reeling from the destruction of the Republic capital. Not sure what happens next."

Or something like that. I'm not going to claim I can write as well in a few seconds in a comment section as professionals paid hundreds of thousands to. But those professionals should be able to write well and provide that necessary information.
Fri, Feb 5, 2016, 8:54pm (UTC -5)

They could've added a lot more exposition like the good examples you guys give, but that would've padded out the movie 10 - 15 more minutes. Sometimes films work better when exposition is left to the imagination, without sacrificing pacing.

The flip side to all this, I think, is that they've now set the expectations for great exposition in the next film, and cutting back now could easily blow up in the writers' faces. Still, my curiosity is piqued enough that I'm willing to hold my expectations until that next and hopefully great film.

They might also release an extended addition or at least some deleted scenes on the home release. Maybe that'll give something for everyone because I do understand how strongly some fans feel about more meat to this film.
Sat, Feb 6, 2016, 9:05am (UTC -5)
This film could definitely have used an extra 10-15 for exposition and character development. I understand why studios want to keep films short (so they can replay them more in theaters and get more money) but I don't understand why audiences tolerate it. I think the best movies need time to tell their stories. Films like Lord of the Rings really benefit from taking their time.
Sat, Feb 6, 2016, 12:08pm (UTC -5)

They've already said they're not doing an extended edition or director's cut version of TFA. It desperately needs one though, as many have pointed out the movie doesn't take 5 minutes to explain the most basic things that are going on.

Overall, TFA is a poor version of ANH, combined with a few other throwbacks to the original trilogy. In ANH the entire movie is built around the need to destroy the Death Star, from the opening scene to the end, giving it an elegant simplicity and cohesion. In TFA, the destruction of the Starkiller Base is almost a throwaway, the bulk of the plot is built around the location of Luke Skywalker and it's never really explained why that's so important. The dumbest thing is that at the end it's revealed that BB8 only had a portion of the map and it would have been useless to the New Order without the additional piece of map contained in R2-D2.

My theory with the popularity of TFA is that it has a few legitimately funny moments, a few likeable characters (Rey, Fin, BB8, Han Solo) and a decent villain (Kylo Ren). People didn't like the prequels because there were no likeable characters, all the intended humorous moments fell flat, and there wasn't a good visible villain until halfway through Revenge of the Sith.

It's sad, but most people don't care how nonsensical, pointless, or poorly explained a plot is as long as they get to watch characters they like make funny jokes on screen.
Jason R.
Sun, Feb 7, 2016, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
Guys, the movie is 2 hours and 19 minutes. And it felt like it. I think it says something about the incompetence of the writing that in a movie this long, they couldn't find 5-10 minutes to explain such basic background necessary to appreciate the story.

It's not like they based it on a well known book and needed to follow some convoluted lengthy story faithfully a la Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. It was their script. No, the story really isn't that complicated, and the only answer is that the writing is just garbage.

But as I said, this is probably #3 on my list of things I hated about this movie, so I can hardly get too caught up with it. It's not like the movie would have been good if they had fixed the obvious deficiencies in the script.
Jason R.
Sun, Feb 7, 2016, 6:50pm (UTC -5)
"The dumbest thing is that at the end it's revealed that BB8 only had a portion of the map and it would have been useless to the New Order without the additional piece of map contained in R2-D2."

Not since Revenge of the Fallen have I seen a film with a more stupid, pointless plot filled with so many useless characters. But who cares, really. What does it matter anyway if the story makes sense, if the characters are the least bit developed, if the action is any kind of coherent. That's just nerd stuff. If you care about that you're just a neurotic fanboy and Abrams doesn't care what you think.
Mon, Feb 8, 2016, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
The thing that's most concerning about TFA as a whole is where this trilogy is going in the future. It really seems that they've painted themselves into a corner somewhat, with Rey being set up as Luke Skywalker 2.0, Luke as Obi Wan/Yoda 2.0, Fin as Han Solo 2.0, BB8 as R2D2 2.0, Kylo Ren as Darth Vader 2.0 and Snoke as Palpatine 2.0. It's fairly clear what's going to happen over the course of this trilogy based on the events of the original trilogy, and it's going to be very difficult for subsequent writers/directors/producers to change direction a third of the way through.

If the next movie features jedi training scenes with Luke and Rey, Fin and the Resistance trying to escape the New Order, and some sort of familial revelation involving Rey it won't be too much of a surprise. At least in the prequels there was some sense of a new story being told, even if the execution was abysmal.
Tue, Feb 9, 2016, 2:43pm (UTC -5)
Thanks for the great review! I mostly enjoyed this installment too. I felt it was derivative, but also felt it had to be at least to an extent. I also feel that the whole cyclical Skywalker tragic family history is important to Star Wars and just because a lot of us knew right away that Han Solo was going to be killed by his son, doesn't make it not the right thing to happen with this family that keeps getting pulled light/dark/light/dark over and over.

I wish they had given Leia more to do on screen, but I loved seeing her again and loved that she was the General. I've seen some comment disparagingly on her acting, but I couldn't disagree more. I thought she was great.

Harrison Ford was so good, he had a lot of subtle moments.

And I
John TY
Thu, Feb 11, 2016, 3:14am (UTC -5)
It kinda makes any victories the good-guys had in the original trilogy a bit pointless doesn't it... Empire's back; Death Star's back; Luke has trained new Jedi but they're all dead (except for his nephew who's gone bad); You can learn to use the force, and a light-sabre, in about 5 minutes (all these theories about Rey's repressed memory are ridiculous - as Jason R was saying - there needs to be some indication from her, or those around her, that she is MASSIVELY exceeding her known abilities); Han is a smuggler again and he and Leia's relationship didn't really add up to much; Sith lords can use the force to read minds now - why didn't Vadar just "mind-meld" the Rebel Base info out of Leia's head in ANH? (I guess this is an issue with ROTJ as well when Vadar discovers he has a daughter by reading Luke's thoughts/emotions) If this is some Knights-of-Ren ability then some reference to that effect might have been handy. And as an aside, all this talk of getting-rid-of/minimising CGI only to have the main villain and a yoda-wannabe needlessly animated.

I think this is my problem with Abrams reboots: He has so much respect for the franchise but close to zero respect for the people that worked on it before him.

Then again, Star Wars is purely a corporate vessel now and he probably has to wear Disney's directives. At least when you get a Lucas-type running the show you know you're gonna see what they want and not what they've been told to show you.
Thu, Feb 11, 2016, 11:33am (UTC -5)
"He has so much respect for the franchise but close to zero respect for the people that worked on it before him."

@John TY, I think that really hits the nail on the head. Abrams has respect for the tropes of the franchise, but not the ideas and originality of it. TFA does a great job feeling like Star Wars, but a terrible job feeling like a continuation of the story from ROTJ. We didn't need a "happily ever after" ending, but TFA pretty much resets the OT.
John TY
Fri, Feb 12, 2016, 2:11am (UTC -5)
Other Chris
Sat, Feb 13, 2016, 10:27pm (UTC -5)
This comment section is refreshing, guys. It's nice to know that someone else out there bothered to think twice about this terrible movie. Thank you.
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 10:29am (UTC -5)
@Other Chris, I don't think TFA is terrible, but I am shocked that so many people are giving this movie such a pass. It's like all of the critical thinking that went into tearing down the prequels suddenly disappeared. I have seen much more criticism of the film in forums and even some film critics, but it seemed the initial reaction after the premieres shaped the mainstream discourse. Still shocked it has such as high rotten tomatoes score. I think what many Star Wars fans still don't get is that you can criticize some parts of a movie without "hating" it or even disliking it.
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 10:38am (UTC -5)
@Dom - For what it's worth I actually don't think it was amazing. I think it was fun and a promising start. Although I felt EXACTLY the same after Phantom Menace and we all know how that turned out. I think people are down on it because it was imperfect and we all feel sore about Abrams Trek and the prequels. This is it's own thing and I'm going to give it a chance.

Current Mood - Mildly Optimistic
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 5:28pm (UTC -5)
@Robert, fair enough, I'm just commenting about the general mood of fandom over this movie. Those who point out any flaws seem like a tiny minority and, in some forums, get shouted down for not being "true fans." (fortunately that's not happened here). I'd say TFA has many of the same flaws as JJ's Trek movies (good character development, weak plot), but that those strengths and weaknesses are a better fit for the Star Wars storytelling universe. I'm probably also mildly optimistic about the future of Star Wars, but there were a lot of unforced errors in this film that make me a bit nervous.
Sun, Mar 6, 2016, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
It's a decent movie, restarting a franchise, but there's a lot that can go wrong with Eps 8.

Rey's genealogy is probably going to be the main speculation point for the entire series: Is she Luke's daughter, abandoned after he lost all hope in training her in the light side of the force after he lost his nephew to the dark side? Is she Han's daughter and that's why he wanted to give her the Millennium Falcon or Leia gave her a hug upon seeing her? Is she Snook's daughter, bring dark side back into the alignment of Light side?
Fri, Mar 18, 2016, 8:59am (UTC -5)
I think no matter which way the movie was made, there will always be I satisfied viewers. On my part, I avoided reading anything about the movie or seeing any trailers so that I could go in with a blank slate. It didn't bother me that much that they pretty much recycled the plot of ANH, I just wish some of it could have been different. I especially could have done without a 3rd Death Star.

I think there was enough hinting at Rey's background without revealing g everything. It was obvious her mystery is meant to carry over into the next film and not just laziness in failing to give her a clear background. I don't think she was a former Jedi student sent into hiding because of Kylo Ren killing off all the students; she was very young at the time she was left behind on Jakuu, and she and Ren appear to be about the same age.

The best character for me was Kylo Ren. Many have complained that he was whiny and non-intimidating, which I think was the whole point. He was hiding behind his mask to make himself look threatening, but he was just an immature angry kid who wanted to be super bad.

Han's death: I could see that coming a mile away. The minute he showed up in the Falcon pretty much sealed it. He was an old guy escorting two youngsters, pretty much Obi Wan's role. It actually made it more stressful anticipating his death. I have to say I was depressed for a couple of weeks after I saw the movie because of his death. It made sense to kill him off at that point, but oh my God what an emotional impact.
Sun, Jun 5, 2016, 5:18am (UTC -5)
Reviewers up talked even the prequels. Is there nothing so terrible that marketing and a little nostalgia won't retread as a Midas touch? The prequels were significantly better an this, more experimental and less hackneyed. Jammer, how could you prop up this mess and yet give PM 2 stars? Not to be trolling this page, but this is clearly an inferior feature, critics and popular press notwithstanding.
Sun, Jun 5, 2016, 10:36am (UTC -5)
Samuel, I guess that's just a matter of preference. I re-watched all the films in sequence before writing these reviews, and what was clear to me is that for all of their technical experimentation, which I lauded, the prequels sorely lacked the "verve" factor of the originals, which I think no one disputes. And TFA, despite mining very similar territory, managed to get the verve and performance pieces right, which in the end for me tipped the scales. It just makes for a better filmgoing experience, in my opinion.

I don't know why it has to be a competition between the fan base and the critics/popular press. Who do you think makes up the fan base, anyway?
Peter G.
Mon, Jun 6, 2016, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
Jammer, I agree with you that the sheer enjoyment (fun factor) of a movie is quite subjective and that no review can quite encapsulate who will feel what when sitting in the cinema.

And yet there is a factor in film, or art in general, which I would call "substance", which is something beneath the surface view of the piece that resonates on a level other than the immediate. In the past 50 years there are many films that were smash hits when they came out and were promptly forgotten, whereas other films that came out at the same time and received a more middling reaction remain relevant to this day. This could be because of subtle artistry, subtext or narrative depth, and human meaning embedded in it. It may not thrill you the first time you watch it, but something in it sinks in and makes you think, and affects you in the long-term. I would argue that the best movies do this while also being exciting to watch, and by contrast, some sorts of art-house movies are weak on the 'enjoyment' factor but have the substance to stay relevant for a niche crows.

I put it to you that SW Ep 7 had good 'verve', as you put it, and a high surface enjoyment factor for many people (not for me), but little to no substance. I don't agree with Samuel that the prequels were better cinematic experiences for all people, but I do think they had a surprising amount of substance (to the point of being downright politically subversive by the time of Ep III) and do resonate in places for many fans. Personally, I view them as deeply flawed films but with great ideas and moments in them, whereas Ep 7 is a much more polished result but with no great ideas or moments.

It's hard to include these factors in a general review, but I am at present of the belief that Ep 7 will fall by the wayside and be largely forgotten in not too much time, while the prequels will retain a modest but stable fan base going forward. I suppose this could change if Ep 8 & 9 turn out to be masterpieces, in which case Ep 7 would be relevant as part of the trilogy. But on its own terms...not so much.
Mon, Jun 6, 2016, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
I'm genuinely curious as to what "substance" TPM had. The elaborate plot was undercut by so many issues the substance sank to the bottom of Naboo. I'll just go with one example, the Trade Federation. Why would they set up a blockade? Aren't blockades to prevent *trade*? Shouldn't they just be trading with Naboo to exploit its resources? What kind of business people are they, anyway?

TPM also lacked a protagonist. Anakin didn't show up until halfway through the film and he didn't have any stake in the trade blockade. Quai-gon Jinn could've been a protagonist, along with lack of growth or change in the film, he more or less failed to the Sith. Obi-won is probably the closest thing to a protagonist in TPM, but he didn't grow or change either. He sort of went along with Quai-gon and reluctantly accepted taking care of Anakin even though he was against it. So whose story do we care about and why are we invested in this film besides it being Star Wars?

Jammer and even Plinkett's review go a lot more into detail on these subjects. But if you want heroes who grow and you can root for, you know, people with *subtsance*, TFA is a much better story and film.
Mon, Jun 6, 2016, 7:46pm (UTC -5)
I like this movie. It's a return to a franchise that managed to both capture the spirit of the original and most importantly, not suck like other attempts to bring back franchises have ended up being. This movie could have been a lot worse.

That said, I've taken to calling it Star Wars Episode VII: Han Should've Shot First
Peter G.
Tue, Jun 7, 2016, 10:32am (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

TPM had a very rich a layered story, and even very interesting themes, but was obviously so flawed that these didn't come out properly. The script was basically garbage even though the story was great. Just the character of Qui-Gon alone was amazing, and is one of the few reasons that when I watch it I enjoy myself. It would literally take me a 50 page essay to explain its merits and how I think it failed to properly tell its own story, so I'll just answer your two points directly.

1) There is a main character in the story; it's Qui-Gon. However the film does the very interesting thing of having the story be about him, but not from his POV. Instead we more or less get it from the POV of his two apprentices, Obi-Wan and then Anakin. It is the story of his as a teacher and a Jedi, and the main thrust of the story is to outline how he's different from the other Jedi, who are shown to be somewhat clueless. This in itself is a novel story feature - namely, that the great Jedi order we heard so much about in Ep 4-6, and which I at least was excited to see for the first time, is immediately shown in Ep 1 as being officious, verbose, and their main interaction with the main character is to chastise him. Basically the movie's focus is on a guy who doesn't even have enough respect for the council to want to be on it, which is quite something. Everything Palpatine later says is wrong with the Jedi order, *is* wrong with it. Unfortunately this all gets lost in the mess of the script, which is too bad because it's amazing on paper.

2) I'll admit the Trade Federation angle is impossible for a first-time viewer to understand, which is a major scripting blunder. whereas Ep. 7 gave us no backstory and assumed we didn't care about the state of the galaxy, Ep. 1 did the opposite and gave us a galaxy so full of detail that it required ample backstory to grasp how we get to square one. Much of that isn't given in the film and is unfortunately only given in the novels. The long and short of it is that the Trade Federation, using an illegal droid army (it wasn't allowed to own military equipment), decided to strike back at the Naboo, who were constantly undermining them in the senate. The seizing of Naboo was meant to remove Naboo from prominence, as well as to eliminate one of their competitors. Normally they would never do something that aggressive but Palpatine told them he'd make sure they got away with it. Note that it's subtly indicated that Palpatine was, himself, likely responsible for their problems in the first place, necessitating Sidious to intervene and offer them help to regain their power. Since Naboo was their harshest critic, we should assume it was Palpatine himself denouncing them in the senate, and Sidious likely painted Palpatine as a troublemaker who had to be gotten rid of. Fearing losing their power, the Trade Federation became desperate and became more and more entrenched in doing whatever Sidious told them to do, like being in with the mob. *SPOILER* This is, incidentally, the same motivation Sidious later used to manipulate the Jedi themselves, as they would ultimately choose to stage a coup rather than lose their position of power in the Republic.

In principle this story is awesome, except that the intrigue isn't told properly. The story is mired in scenes with Jar-Jar, too many useless scenes on Tatooine, and where much of the dialogue that technically matters is flat and perfunctory. What we're left with is the shadow of a great story, and a few great moments that resonate. Although the complexity of the intrigue bordered on being too difficult to tell in a film, I think it could have been done if a real writer was put to the task. I wish Kasdan had done that one rather than Ep. 7. He's not good with ideas, but is very good at translating good ideas into a script.
Tue, Jun 7, 2016, 10:59am (UTC -5)
@Peter - Nice defense of TPM. I actually found it to be a rather good, but bumpy start to the prequel trilogy.

In truth the movie I hated was Attack of the Clones, which felt utterly pointless in all 3 of the things it tried to do.

And really, as a SW movie fan I feel like it may have just existed to set up the TV show. Which is sad.

The love story falls flat, Dooku is a stupid villain requiring gobs of back story to get into that I didn't have upon watching and the Fett army feels like a giant fan-service wank.

The only thing I really like in this movie is Anakin's slaughtering of the Tuskens. If the whole point of the prequel trilogy is Anakin's fall this is probably the only piece done well. And for all the crap he gets Christensen actually comes off as he should in part 2 (a cocky hothead) and plays that scene well. If he had half the chemistry with Natalie Portman as he did with Ewan McGregor we might be in good shape. I buy THEIR relationship though.

If TPM clumsily sets all the pieces on the chess board AotC kind of just dicks around with them for 2 hours and doesn't get anywhere. RotS is a mess too, but more in the vein of TPM (it has a lot of great ideas with poor execution) than AotC (a lot of stupid ideas with poor execution).

TFA is a mixed bag, it has some good ideas and some stupid ones with good execution (though not excellent) . Which is how I'd describe RotJ in reality....
Tue, Jun 7, 2016, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
I sort of concur in that I eventually came to regard AOTC as the weakest of the prequel trilogy. My initial reaction to Phantom Menace was that it was a little disappointing, Jar-Jar was annoying, and Anakin's accidental adventure at the end was silly, but it was a solid 7 out of 10. I saw it again with some family members a month or so later and basically came away with the same fairly mild impression - a decent action/effects-driven sci-fi movie that could have benefited from better writing.

When I first saw Attack of the Clones, I thought it was slightly better than Phantom Menace, but when I sat down to rewatch it shortly before Revenge of the Sith came out, I must have split it up into at least 5 or 6 sittings because I just kept getting so unbelievably bored by it. And not because I need something to explode every few minutes to keep my attention - I *like* sci-fi stories about politics and conspiracies - but for whatever reason I just found it very dry and uninvolving, like reading a Wikipedia summary that was as long as the movie itself. Plus C3PO had some unbelievably awful puns in the big action scene at the end - "This is getting to be a drag!" when yanked across the ground, and "I'm beside myself!" when his head was disconnected from his body.

Amusing tidbit - a friend of mine who was doing a summer program in Germany at the time saw the movie over there and reported that the German subtitles basically took the puns out of the puns. "This is getting to be a drag!" was translated as "I'm being dragged!", while "I'm beside myself" was "My head is next to my body" or something like that. (Not sure whether it sounds dumber with or without the puns.)
Peter G.
Tue, Jun 7, 2016, 4:24pm (UTC -5)
@ FlyingSquirrel,

If you haven't already you really need to download copies of the Phantom edits of Ep. 1 & 2. I don't think he made one for Ep. 3. With a little re-editing and removal of some scenes and dialogue the movies are at least twice as good. It goes to show that the script wasn't the only problem, but that there is a good movie in there somewhere. Apparently making fan edits has become a common thing, but those two were very well done without cutting too much out of the picture.
Wed, Jun 8, 2016, 12:03pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

"1) There is a main character in the story; it's Qui-Gon. However the film does the very interesting thing of having the story be about him, but not from his POV"

I considered that, but aren't main characters supposed have a character arc? Where's Qui-Gon's growth, where's his change? What did we learn from his struggle?

A good arc for Qui-Gon *might've been* that he was a loyal Jedi, but the inflexibility of the Jedi council led him to believe that the light side of the force would be better served in other ways. That leads him to find Anakin, an outsider, with the ability to bring a fresh and balanced Jedi order that could properly fight the Sith.

I'm not pulling this out of thin air, I can almost see the subtext of this arc in the film. However, I'm also making a ton of assumptions that are not in the film. It's not clear what Qui-Gon's fighting for and why he's interested in Anakin. It's not even really clear what's wrong with the Jedi council the way it is. So basically, in order for Qui-Gon's arc to work, the audience needs to add in its own story, which may or may not with resonate with Lucas' vision.

Now, you can say this all exists in the novels, or the comics, or the deleted scenes, or even the earlier drafts of the script. That's fine, and I'm sympathetic to the idea that a better Phantom Menace could exist. It's just that the film, as presented, is lacking important character arcs. The film's more interested in a grand story, one that comes at the expense of the characters.
Peter G.
Wed, Jun 8, 2016, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

"aI considered that, but aren't main characters supposed have a character arc? Where's Qui-Gon's growth, where's his change? What did we learn from his struggle?"

That's why I said TPM did an interesting thing. Qui-Gon is the main character - the one who makes things happen. But the character arc in the piece isn't his, but rather belongs to the people from whose POV we see the film: his two apprentices. It is Obi-Wan and Anakin that change, from watching and learning from Qui-Gon, who is steady and solid.

"A good arc for Qui-Gon *might've been* that he was a loyal Jedi, but the inflexibility of the Jedi council led him to believe that the light side of the force would be better served in other ways."

What you describe isn't an arc, but rather an attitude, and I think this is one aspect of his character that does come across in the film. There's even a nice, short exchange between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan where Obi-Wan begins to mention something Yoda told him "But Yoda said..." and Qui-Gon cuts him off and tells him to mind the 'living force.' He obviously has a deep disagreement with the council about the correct way to use the force, but again, this is backstory, not an arc.
Wed, Jun 8, 2016, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

I was saying how Qui-Gon's attitude came to be and what made him to act the way he did could've made for a character arc. I am trying to buy the whole "protagonist by proxy" concept, but frankly it's convoluted.

Shakespeare once wrote that brevity is the soul of wit. In TFA, I don't need to define the protagonist, Rey jumps out and grabs the role. Her motives are developed right in front of our faces as she learns of the Force and sees the evil of the First Order. There's layers to her past, but they don't cloud what she's fighting for and why we root for her.
Peter G.
Wed, Jun 8, 2016, 2:41pm (UTC -5)
Chrome, I already said TPM was seriously flawed, and all I was doing was answering your charge that it had no substance. I never said that substance was portrayed effectively, although at times it does reveal itself.
Wed, Jun 8, 2016, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
I get that, and I appreciate you mitigating some of the problems of a movie that's certainly not all bad. Indeed, I too cited Liam's Neeson's character as one of the better parts of the movie in my TPM comment.

I also think Mace Windu is a great character that is underused in all three films (though he shines briefly in ROTS). Mace and Anakin too could have been shown to have some teacher/student relationship, for example. That way, him killing Mace in defense of the Emperor would've been all the more poignant.
Sun, Jul 24, 2016, 3:15pm (UTC -5)
There are some valid criticisms about this film, but Daisy Ridley having a British accent is hardly one of them... Also, wasn't there a scene where Kylo Ren and Snokes actually discussed her unique talents? Before the "bring ... her ... to ... me" line?

I've seen this one four times now, including three cinema viewings -- a record for any film, so I did like it. When I saw it on DVD it felt a bit flatter, though. Perhaps it was the smaller screen; perhaps the already-derivative plot was wearing even more thin. But there are too many things to like about this movie, I think. Rey is awesome -- perhaps in a too perfect way, I can see that, but for some reason I genuinely don't care. There's something endearing about her. I could put this down to Ridley's fine work, or maybe like Finn I'm too enamored to see the flaws in her relative lack of them. That scene where she was able to save herself from the attackers early on, as FInn was running to save her, was brilliant I thought. And why not? It's the perfect counter to Leia's relative passiveness in A New Hope, where to be sure she stands up tall to Vader but otherwise falls quickly when attacked and spends a lot of the time in a cell or otherwise powerless while the men do all the hard work. What that means for TFA and feminism is anyone's guess but I seriously enjoyed watching it -- although as a counter to her all-round badassery in this film it seems clear that she has to come off worse in the next confrontation with evil.

I think her complexity, though, will come from discovering who she is and where she comes from, and that is useful because Luke already did the "flawed hero" thing in this story, so it serves to differentiate the two. Prior to the famous line in Episode V, Luke's background was a relative non-issue (indeed if I remember correct, it wasn't established that Vader was Luke's father until after ANH anyway) so it's a different way of developing a character. I hope it's not too predictably resolved -- although on the other hand as Star Wars was initially meant to be a story about the Skywalker family (and not Qui-Gon...), it's hard to see her being anything other than a Skywalker.

I also loved Kylo Ren, and think he's one of the finer villains I've seen. Oh, hes not intimidating as Vader is for sure, but then isn't that the point? He's intimidating in a different way as he's totally unpredictable and out of control. I suppose there's an allegory to be drawn with the different nature of modern societal "villains", essentially randomers who draw on the experience of the far more sophisticated and, while never in total control, still end up being deadly. I enjoyed him all the same, his "wannabe badass" nature played off well. Again, this is kind of the point -- when he removes that mask you aren't supposed to be intimidated; perhaps even, feel a little sorry for someone obviously so young nevertheless being so evil.

I also liked Finn, although his set-up is rather too rushed and I don't think the film does enough to explain what drove him to reject years of mental conditioning. But he seemed well-intentioned and also had some decent comic material. Well, it made me laugh anyway.

The only real weakness of the film -- aside from that monster-in-the-tunnels scene that I think should have gone for a more nuanced introduction of Han Solo -- is the plot, of course. Too derivative. They sort of try and get out of this by even openly admitting it: "oh, just like the last [two!] Death Star[s] then?", but StarKiller Base goes down too easily anyway, and it would have been better for it to either have still survived the film if it had to be included at all. On the other hand, I think some of the character dynamics make it a better film in some ways than A New Hope was. They end up being paced very similarly, and TFA is (unavoidably) more convincingly connected to its world's past than ANH was.

Since ANH came first it remains the better film in the end, but I would rate TFA higher than the prequels and possibly on a par with, or even slightly better than, ROTJ. Although that would appear to depend on whether I'm judging it by my second viewing of it or my fourth one. Better than the prequels, anyway, that could have been awesome but were poorly executed.
Sat, Apr 22, 2017, 3:44am (UTC -5)
One of the weak points of the story, for me, is Snoke. He feels pulled out of thin air to be a copy of the Emperor and not an organic character in any way. I mean, seriously, where the frak did he come from? What hole was he living in during the original trilogy? "Snoke" just *sounds* like a phony name to me.

He'd better be someone we know or have heard of (please let him be Darth Plagueis, please let him be Darth Plagueis). Heck, I'd even accept him being a horribly mutated version of Jar Jar. (Kidding - I'm not that desperate.)]

But seriously, where the FRAK did Snoke come from? Hope we'll get the answer in VIII and IX.
Mon, Jul 24, 2017, 7:16am (UTC -5)
I just saw Rogue One--FINALLY! I immediately went to Jammer's site to read his review and all the comments. I have been making a list of all the points I wanted to discuss and noting what other commenters had said. And then I thought, "I don't recall commenting on The Force Awakens? I'll go over to that review and see."

So I read this review, and these comments, and refreshing my memory of the film reminded me of why I hadn't read them before, or commented myself. I enjoyed TFA while watching it, and loved seeing old friends again, cried at Han's death, enjoyed the good protagonists, and when the movie was over I said to myself, "Ah, I get it," and no further exploration seemed necessary.

I felt it was clear as crystal that Abrams was wiping out the existence of the prequels with this film, which was just a redo of "A New Hope." I was grateful for that, because I am one who finds the prequels to be complete garbage, but there didn't seem to be much to say about this film since it was basically just a new ANH to restart the series under new leadership. The whole film was screaming "WE LOVED THE ORIGINAL SERIES AND WE HATED THE PREQUELS SO HERE WE ARE SHOWING YOU HOW MUCH WE LOVED THE OLD ONES." It was enjoyable, but I didn't feel there was much to discuss about it since that motivation seemed so obvious to me.

I also strongly suspect that somebody involved with this film is a fan of Red Letter Media's prequel-trashing reviews (which I have watched more times than the actual prequels). Certain things Mr. Plinkett pointed out in those reviews were front and center in this film--even down to how the protagonist was presented and characters were carefully given motivation, and how NOBODY sat on a couch to talk. Just a suspicion.

There were two things about this that bothered me -- one was Snoke.

NCC1701-Z said it perfectly: "One of the weak points of the story, for me, is Snoke. He feels pulled out of thin air to be a copy of the Emperor and not an organic character in any way. I mean, seriously, where the frak did he come from? What hole was he living in during the original trilogy? "Snoke" just *sounds* like a phony name to me."

Indeed. And if my theory above is correct, then Snoke WAS just a copy of the emperor. That was taking the "return to OT" just a bit too far because it made no sense. And you are right about the name, NCC, but at least it wasn't "General Grievous." Sheesh. I literally facepalmed when I heard THAT name.

The other thing that bothered me was the new death star. Star Killer? Whatever they called it. The Empire was almost destroyed at the end of Return of the Jedi, but they had the resources to build this? Come on. (Interestingly, this ties in to part of my hatred for the prequels--I wanted more about how the Death Star was actually conceived and built and how they were able to get enough materials to build something the size of a moon. And whoot! That is part of what Rogue One has done.)

But anyway--the short version of all this is that this film might have been subtitled "WE HATE THE PREQUELS TOO!"
Mon, Nov 20, 2017, 11:41pm (UTC -5)
Not a bad movie but definitely nothing special. Too much of a rehash of ANH. The villain was a pimple faced brat and a CG gargoyle that didn't resonate at all. Rey defeats the villain after learning about the force the day before. The movie had a feeling of political correctness that seemed hollow. I probably expect too much from these new Star Wars movies as nothing will recapture the feeling that the originals gave me in my youth.
Dan Bolger
Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 9:18am (UTC -5)
I think that the force awakens is overall an engaging but often pedestrian film, as far as the star wars canon goes. As has been pointed out, it has very much a feel of A New Hope- story similarities, scenes formula, diametrically opposed sides and all. It's certainly polished in all scenes, bright and breezy, much less CGI oriented (which is a blessed relief), generally good acting, funny in places, and an always stellar score by the great john Williams. Rey's theme is a favourite piece. Slightly mediocre happenings of this installment would be the lack of chemistry of the onscreen reunion between Han and Leia, the seemingly effortless genius that Rey exhibits in being an expert at everything the script entails. Piloting the millennium falcon at breakneck speed with effortless aplomb, and despite being force sensitive, and of presumably distinctive bearing, happens to be an expert at wielding a lightsaber against kylo ren. Last few seconds with rey imploringly gazing at a jaded, aged, broken looking luke atop a grand atol on Ach To is effectively grandiose. However, I enjoyed the film, in lieu of seeing the last Jedi.
Jason R.
Mon, Dec 11, 2017, 11:22am (UTC -5)
"and an always stellar score by the great john Williams. Rey's theme is a favourite piece"

Rey had a theme? There was a score? Huh
Sun, Mar 18, 2018, 5:47am (UTC -5)
Bringing back the Death Star in RotJ was super lame. Bringing it back (along with the entire Empire, under a new name) in TFA was a complete fail. The same is true of the depiction of Han Solo and his son Ben.

So even though I liked the new characters Rey and Finn, I just can't get behind this movie.
Dr Lazarus
Thu, Apr 19, 2018, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
I'm a huge Star Wars fan. But I didn't like this movie the first time I saw it. I didn't like it the 5th time I saw it two years later. It's been on cable a lot so I've seen it about 10 times now. I still don't like it much, but after multiple viewings it kinda makes more sense, sorta.

I don't know how the girl could do the the things she does, but it does bring to mind Episode 1 and Anakin. He said he was a podracer, and was the only human who could do it. Qui Gon said he must have Jedi reflexes. Anakin knew absolutely nothing about the force, but knew what a Jedi was, just like the girl. She was pretty good with that staff. Much to good for a skinny girl. I never saw where she used Jedi mind tricks before though. If she had, she may had been able to get more food portions.

I still I say it was a rehash of A New Hope. And how many Zillions will the Galactic Empire spend on a bad design like a death star or planet? They need to go to India and get some better engineers so they can build a planet killer that can't be easily exploited. Perhaps more screen doors over the thermal ports?
Sabatoi Elim
Mon, Nov 5, 2018, 11:41am (UTC -5)
I'm late discovering your reviews and I've been binging on them--and getting little sleep because of it, thanks! I agree with most of your reviews and when I don't agree I find your point of view entirely reasonable and cause me to re-consider certain angles. Delicious brain candy!

As for The Force Awakens, I feel like it was a huge missed opportunity. I mean, if you're going to get rid of the EU why not really break out with something unexpected that goes in an entirely different direction than we've seen before--and at the same time, make sure that our beloved heroes Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie are all together again?

Instead we have this entertaining but highly derivative, coincidental, and ludicrously contrived episode to kickstart a sequel trilogy.

Why not make a REAL sequel trilogy? As in, have it take place only a year after the events of Return of the Jedi. Say that the destruction of the original Death Star had an unintended side effect--everyone within the blast radius at the time contracted a rapid-aging disease. The heroes of the rebellion are all aging and dying, leaving the fragile new peace at risk.

Surely a competent screenwriter could use this premise to kick start one last terrific adventure with our main heroes searching the galaxy for new talent before dying heroically at the end of the first episode, letting the new characters take over?

Besides being a wasted opportunity to get our main heroes all together again before they died, my main problem with this sequel trilogy is that it comes across more like television than film--the episodes are serial and can't stand alone on their own, unlike the original trilogy, or even the prequels. J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson both have television mentalities that don't do a huge cinematic experience like Star Wars many favors.
Dark Kirk
Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 8:57am (UTC -5)
After seeing this movie several times with my sons, I just realized the writers developed Chewbacca's character more in this movie than in any others. He may have a life debt to Han and may be his best friend, but he does not revere Han. Great moments when Finn asks Chewie if Han was a war hero, when he disagrees Han talks his way out of jams, when he confirms that Han twice stiffed the two gangs before, and when he was getting treated and called brave by the medic. And Chewie was the one who ultimately blew the charges on the Starkiller base.
Tue, Jul 9, 2019, 7:59am (UTC -5)
@Jason R.

I just finished answering the responses (including yours) to my recent comment on TLJ, so then had to go check up on what I'd written originally about TFA. And then I realized I never wrote a reaction to Rogue One when I first saw it because I went here and wrote THIS one (you can see above) instead, and then forgot, I guess. And then TLJ sucked all the hope out of me again.

I finally realized something--you may have noticed I am not terribly analytical, lol--I've only seen TFA once, and I didn't feel inspired to comment on it at the time. I didn't feel inspired to comment on it until after I got excited by Rogue One. Looking back more objectively, and now especially after TLJ, I see how lame TFA was. What I said above is still true, to some extent, but looking back at it more clearly, I realized that all TFA did was give me a little glimmer of hope going forward that the prequels were forgotten and we were heading in a good direction. But I had no desire to see it again (with the original Star Wars--it wasn't "Episode IV" then--I saw it 5 or 6 times in theaters) because it wasn't good. But it felt like Star Wars, so it was okay. It was actually my excitement about Rogue One that was buoying me when I wrote the comment above, lol

Anyway, you and I are of one mind on many things--Abrams included.
Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 3:05pm (UTC -5)
A WOEFUL film. TFA is wrong on so many levels and JJ truly scuttle the ship of Star Wars saga.

TFA does not act like an Episode 7 of a saga. It doesn't continue from Episode 6, let alone Episodes 1 to 6.

It doesn't have any context whatsoever. Nothing is explained - either the galaxy, or backstory of anyone, or anything.

It doesn't feel galactic.

Thing just happen just because, not for any plot reason. Compare the fact that the Death Star is an integral part of the plot of Episode 4 and 6. Not just randomly appearing just because. Compare the intense tension of Alderaan being destroyed, or the countdown at Yavin versus the destruction of a random planet in TFA that we have zero connection to by a weapon that just appears without any context.

The random characters are uninspiring, uninteresting and irrelevant to what should be the Skywalker saga. The original characters bear no resemblance or any continuity to their character development of the Lucas era. No Force ghosts appear and nothing makes sense.

I can't even call this fan fiction, because surely no true fan would write something so mediocre and irrelevant. The acting is really bad except for Harrison Ford.

Frankly Han's line "That's not how the Force works!" can be paraphrased to describe this entire film and the Disney sequels. That's not how the Star Wars saga works.

The biggest insult, disrespect and stupid thing they did was NOT using the creator's scripts. George Lucas gave them a sequel outline of his definitive story. To not use that is madness.

I would much rather see George Lucas' actual sequels and a cohesive story. From what I hear on the media, something like this (with a suggested cast list):

ORGINAL HEROES (Luke, Leia, Han, Lando, the droids) - original cast
FORCE GHOSTS (Yoda, Obi Wan, Anakin, Qui Gon and other prequel Jedi like Windu and Aayla) - original cast. For Obi Wan, do CGI of Alec Guiness voiced by Ewan Mcgregor
Kira Skywalker (Luke's daughter) - Naomi Scott
Jaina Solo - Olympia Valance
Bail Solo (who turns dark) - Ben Barnes
Mara Jade Skywalker - Gal Gadot
Jedi students - Anna Akana, William Mosley, Emma Watson, Katie Leung, Dylan O'brien, Kee Hong Lee, Veronica Ngo
Kyle Katarn - Robert Downey Junior
Jan Ors - Kelly Hu
Jedi Bourne - Matt Damon

THE WHILLS - Judi Dench, Denzel Washington, Kevin Costner, Jackie Chan
QUI GON - Liam Neeson
Plageuis the Wise - Anthony Hopkins
Red Twilek Jedi Hunter - Chloe Bennet
Mandolarian Deputy - Colin Salmon

Naboo Queen (Leia's cousin) - Catherine Zeta Jones
Pandoran King - Antonio Banderas
Black Sun - Constance Wu, Jessica Alba, Zac Efron, The Rock
Vigilantes - Jim Caviezel, Sarah Shahi, Russel Crowe, Georgina Campbell,

BILLIONAIRE ALLIANCE ALLIES: Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Kristen Kreuk

Imperial Vizier - Jeff Goldblum
Marisiah Fel - Sybilla Deen
Thrawn - Benedict Cumberbatch

Jedi ghosts from prequels and Padme (original prequel cast)

Irritating brat who gets humiliated by a Gungan - Daisy Ridley.

Peter G.
Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 3:13pm (UTC -5)
Well, I personally thought they were crazy not to just pay Zahn royalties and make the Thrawn trilogy as a film series. But that wouldn't have hit all their committee marketing points, would it. Where they are woefully lost is the idea that to make money you need to pander. No one believes any more that good art can generate its own appeal.
Jason R.
Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 6:19pm (UTC -5)
@EmpressHoshiSato JJ and Disney heard that the prequels sucked because there was too much "politics" and not enough pewpewpew. So they decided that "politics" = story, character development and logic and set out to craft a film free of those.

Let me ask: where were you back when TFA came out? Because I was calling this POS movie for what it was while the fandom was too busy lining up to give JJ blowjobs for supposedly restoring the franchise and showering it with 2 billion dollars and 4 star reviews.

Looks good on you. You all reaped what you sowed. Bite me.
Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 7:57pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G

They could have used the excellent Zahn trilogy , or indeed made films based on the numerous wonderful novels written by good authors during the George Lucas era. Such as Luceno's Dark Lord, Rise of Darth Vader.

Either that or use George's sequel scripts. It seem completely senseless to not use either. I doubt that people truly went to see Episode 7 to watch the adventures of random rude Rey!
Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
@Jason R.

You and I are in agreement. Firstly I have said this since TFA came out. I didn't discover this website until recently whilst reading reviews of Star Trek TNG and Voyager which I enjoy a lot. I then noticed the Star Wars section.

I 100% disliked TFA since it came out. Sad thing was I went in spoiler free so DID NOT KNOW that they weren't using George's story. I went in thinking that they were. Afterwards when I learned this I realised why the film felt so empty and not like the Saga I loved.

TFA is awful and completely ruins George's majestic saga. It is not the creator's vision, not what the saga deserved and utterly disrespectful to good storytelling and the franchise. Whereas Episodes 1 to 6 are timeless classics and one overarching story and whereas I am sure George's sequels would have been part of an overarching 9 episode story arc, the Disney sequels are an unimaginative abomination. Insulting to the creator, to the saga, to the franchise and to human ingenuiety.

I also detested what they did to Star Wars. And I found it appalling so many fools saying we had to wait for the next movie or that Star Wars needed a reboot. The only reason this movie made $2 billion (which is less than ANH when you account for inflation), is the anticipation for what happens next after ROTJ. If I'd known it wasn't George's sequels before going in, I wouldn't have gone in.

The only film I have liked post the sale, is Rogue One which seems to have been made by someone who consulted Lucas and who actually likes Star Wars. Great story and the irony is it gave us new things in the time period of the Empire.

It saddens me to think of what could have been if someone like say Nolan, or Edwards had directed George Lucas' actual sequel scripts. Could have been a timeless set of films.

This has to be the most monumental missed opportunity in film making and the worst ruination of the golden goose imaginable.

I find it laughable the claims that the prequels were unpopular by the so called critics when there was no such real opinion in the real world. And the prequels and originals form a wonderful story. The Disney sequels were garbage glorified by many of the same critics as gold when it was nothing more than the Emperor's invisible clothes. They have to eat their words now. To hell with Rey.

These clowns couldn't write a good story to save their life. Let alone a story like George Lucas - a visionary. I believe that the only sequels we should have ever seen if there were going to be any at all should have. Even his. From a business standpoint. I genuinely cannot believe how stupid they'd have to be to not use his scripts and then not even have a plan or understand what the hell they were doing. I would venture to suggest that they'd have made $4 billion if they'd made a real Episode 7 instead of mindless TFA.

TFA and the Disney sequels are frankly garbage. The only one good thing about them is Paige Tico.
Emma R
Mon, Sep 5, 2022, 9:50pm (UTC -5)
Laughable that this film got more stars than the Prequels. Utterly laughable.

This film was a Bad Reboot and nothing more. Masquerading as a sequel despite throwing out the saga creator's script.

Nobody cares about Rey. It's meant to be a family saga. If the main story isn't continuing as part of a wider plot, there is no point of a sequel. What a waste of a film and potential if a franchise.

And no one needed to see Episode 5 or Episode 2 to make sense of the prior movie.

This film was Zero stars.

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