Review: Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

Note: This review is free of the Larger Spoilers - but does cover some other specific story points, reveals and events. Read at your own risk.
     Disney bought STAR WARS from George Lucas for 4 billion dollars - give or take a few hundred million. Disney took on the task of making a movie that would fit in the universe while avoiding the errors of the past (cough *Jar Jar* cough.) Disney had to make a movie that would appease a rabidly loyal, world-spanning fan base or their investment would go down the drain. To ensure they recoup their $$$ as fast as possible, Disney had to do this while making a movie that would lead them down a path which would allow those at the helm breathing room to be creative with the material in the future and not feel constrained by the universe they work in. In a nutshell, Disney had to make a movie that was both safe and good or potentially damage their image as relatively consistent purveyors of quality family entertainment. 
"Dude, nobody found our stash!"

    That is exactly what they delivered.

     It is clear to me that JJ Abrams, who did an excellent job, looked to the original trilogy for inspiration, liberally taking cues from them when needed. As a result, STAR WARS VII feels both familiar and new from beginning to end. 

The story both ties the original characters to the next movie or 2 either thru physical presence or by bloodline, and creates what seems to be a familiar a path to the future with new cast members. 

"All these laser swords are making it hot in here..."
    The movie is not without its flaws, however.

     The original trilogy cast members are looking their age and in an action movie, that is not a good thing. Han Solo moves around like he forgot to apply the Ben-Gay before the shoot sometimes and Leia sounds old and tired at times, as well as looking like the make up person applied her foundation with a trowel to hide wrinkles. Kylo Ren seems like a huge wuss. This is probably for character development. I believe in the next film he'll become more evil due to events in this film but him being a bit of a weakling here, did take away from my enjoyment a little. Also, this film opens similarly to Episode 4: A New Hope, so when I saw him for the first time I was expecting to see those in scene fear him the way Darth Vader was feared. New cast members Finn, Rey, Poe, and BB-8 are all solid, reasonably well developed for this point in the story line and bode well for the future. By movies end you’ll know who’s role each is replacing from the original cast and you'll be looking forward to seeing more of them.

"We're NOT clones? I could have worn something different?!?"
   Let's talk about other changes made. The “evil empire” (used here as a general term) has been reborn in a new form and the way storm troopers are created is quite different. Assuming these weren’t George Lucas’ original ideas, both change the universe in ways that are potentially significant... and both of these bother me for different reasons. The storm trooper change wasn’t needed in my opinion and ultimately reduces Boba & Jango Fett into story extras. I tend to think the change of the “evil empire” would/should lead to different looking ships - but we get the same tie fighters and battle cruisers. 

"Without you BB, we'll never win the volleyball championship."
    Another area of contention is the mechanic of using a new “death star.” There are differences of course but the use of this plot mechanism for a 3rd time in the series deflates this movie. There are other little issues with this movie as well, mostly concerning science, communication logistics, etc some of which would not be noticed by the average viewer since we are usually too busy enjoying the ride.

     The bottom line is that this is the STAR WARS movie Disney had to make. It’s flawed, yet it’s fun, it tells a story that is both familiar and new. People will either love it or hate it because of this, but it will lead us into the future of this franchise. It’s because of this, I choose to look at it as a good film and an overall positive experience which I believe will take us on another great ride. 
"OK, I get it! You guys are better at cammoflage! Gaahh! Leaving!"

As someone who tends to be a picky movie viewer, I went into this one only looking to enjoy the ride and after seeing it I think you should too, but because there is so much in it that can be contentious to some, if you go in looking for that stuff, it will be enough to potentially have you feeling like disney screwed up. 

Enjoy it for the good (and there is plenty) and you will leave hopeful for the future of the franchise which is what this movie set out to do. Pick apart the next one. Be sure to see this one at least once on the big screen. 


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