Nick’s Spoilerific Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

A word of warning: If you haven’t watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens that was released on Thursday of last week, stop reading anything Star Wars related and go see the God Damn movie already. I had to wait until Saturday to see Star Wars and I have to say that it was worth the wait. I went on an internet blackout to avoid any plot spoilers and I’m glad to say that it paid off. Star Wars is now back on my good side. I can finally come out to all of you and say that I am a huge Star Wars geek and this movie did a really good job of correcting the mistakes of the prequels.

All this movie had to do was not be as bad as the prequels. JJ Abrams when above and beyond making sure that the next two movies were just as anticipated as The Force Awakens. This isn’t a money grab by Disney. This is a full fledged Star Wars film that’s going to make a boat load of money for Disney.

Before Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released, I like other Star Wars fans, had some serious reservations. We’ve been hurt before. The prequels broke our nostalgia goggles and we were left wondering if there was ever going to be a film that was an original story and captured the magic of the original trilogy. 10 years ago George Lucas told 60 Minutes that there was never going to be an Episode 7. And with only a handful of Star Wars related cartoons, I had given up any hope that there would be a new movie showing what had happened to our beloved characters. If you don’t want to read the synopsis that I put in, you can click here to skip down to my thoughts about the movie.

Overview

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in the same way as the other films minus the 20th Century Fox intro. The story crawl announces that Luke Skywalker has vanished and there are people looking for him. One side is the Resistance headed by General Leia and the other is the First Order headed by Kylo Ren and General Hux. After we’re all brought up to speed, the movie starts on the planet Jakuu where we’re introduced to Poe Dameron and BB-8. Poe gets the map that leads to Luke Skywalker but Kylo Ren and the First Order are hot on his trail and capture him just after he sends BB-8 away with the plans. Kylo then orders the village purged and one lone Stormtrooper doesn’t fire. It turns out that it’s our new hero, Finn.

Now we meet Rey. She’s a scavenger that gets paid in food. Every haul she brings in is literally her meal ticket so she does her best to get what she can. During her dinner, she’s hears droid sounds and guess who it is: BB-8 has been captured by another scavenger and she sets him free as the other scavenger goes on her way. Rey feel sympathetic to the little guy and offers to let him spend the night and then send him on his way in the morning. While turning in her scavenge haul, she’s informed that BB-8 is worth a ton of food; enough to feed her for weeks. She considers the offer and then turns it down stating BB-8 is not for sale.

Finn helps Poe escape in spectacular fashion, Kylo Ren gets super pissed,  and they wind up back on Jakuu after their stolen TIE fighter is destroyed. There are no signs of Poe as the TIE fighter is devoured by a sand monster and Finn must trudge on to the nearest city for help. Finn is dying of thirst because duh, he’s been in the desert without water and decides to drink out of the watering hole where all the space cattle drink from. He turns his head to see Rey getting hassled by some bad dudes and decides to be a hero and save her. But Rey can handle her own and easily defeats her would be assailants. That’s when BB-8 notices that Finn has Poe’s jacket and tells Rey that Finn is a killer and must be destroyed. Rey doesn’t think twice and attacks Finn before getting told that Finn helped Poe escape but unfortunately he didn’t survive the TIE fighter crash.

Suddenly, Finn realizes that he hears the feint sound of TIE fighters approaching and grabs Rey’s hand to get out as soon as possible. Rey fights this because she doesn’t need saving, but quickly realizes that Finn has her best interest in mind and decides to get out as well. They need a spaceship and Finn points to a ship off screen, but Rey says it’s a hunk of junk and runs towards the new one. That one gets blown up and so they move toward the junk ship which just so happens to be the fabled Millennium Falcon. Rey flies it well while Finn shoots and they escape in typical Millennium Falcon fashion.

Now Kylo Ren has been let down twice and he’s not very happy about it. So he goes to his mentor for advice. Supreme Leader Snoke. We don’t really know much about Snoke much like we didn’t really know anything about the Emperor until Return of the Jedi. Turns out Snoke is pretty powerful in the dark side and knows that Kylo is conflicted but for right now we don’t know why.

Flashback to Finn, BB-8 and Rey: they’ve escaped in the Millennium Falcon and now learn their names. Just as they’re about to get further in their stories, the ship suddenly gets caught in a tractor beam and Finn is pretty sure it’s the First Order coming to take them away. They decide they’re not going down without a fight and decide to hide in a smuggling bay and gas whoever comes in. Turns out it’s Han Solo and Chewbacca! Nostalgia fills the theater and Han’s heart as he’s finally home in his glorious ship. Han quickly finds out that the ship isn’t empty and discovers Finn, Rey and BB-8 hiding and quickly askes them how they got the Millennium Falcon. Apparently it has changed hands quite a bit in the past 30 years.

Just before we get another plot advancement, Han is confronted by some bounty hunters who are of course demanding money that Han owes. Han of course tries to sweet talk his way out of it, but it doesn’t work because Han Solo is now notorious for being a terrible liar and weasel. Just when it appears that Han and Chewy are screwed, Rey inadvertently unleashes the smuggled cargo which are squid looking meatballs that go around eating everyone. Finn gets pulled off but is saved at the very last minute by Rey. Everyone gets back on to the Falcon and they escape leaving time to speak to each other and get the audience up to speed.

In this conversation, Rey lets on that they’re in possession of a droid that has the map to Luke Skywalker. They then say that some bad dude named Kylo Ren is searching for it too. That’s when we’re given the bombshell that Kylo Ren is actually Han Solo and Leia’s son who was trained by Luke Skywalker and turned to the dark side forcing Luke to go into hiding as there are no Jedi left in the universe to help him. Han offers to take Rey and Finn to someone who can help and that’s where were a new planet and swatch of characters are revealed.

It also should be noted at this time the Resistance and the First Order know what BB-8 has and has put out an APB to everyone in the known galaxy. As soon as BB-8 is recognized in the bar, both sides are alerted to his presence. While we’re waiting for the battle to start, Finn decides to peace out and leaves Rey to live her life with Han and Chewy. As Finn leaves, Rey hears some cries for help in the basement. She follows them to a room full of junk and a small chest with some artifacts in it. One being Luke’s original lightsaber that was last seen falling down a bottomless pit in The Empire Strikes Back. Once Rey touches the lightsaber, she hallucinates everything in the previous trilogy and some of her own fears as well. When she finally comes to, Maz, the little alien oracle tells Rey that the lightsaber has magical powers that have been awaken in her and she must find Luke Skywalker and before she goes any further, Rey says “nope” and runs away.

During Rey’s force trip, the Starkiller base (AKA Death Star 3: Bigger and badder) fires up its super laser and takes out not one, not two, but 4 major planets including what looks like Coruscant, the capital planet that was a major scene of the prequels. Maybe Jar Jar is finally dead. OR IS HE!? Well since these lasers are huge and everyone on Maz’s planet sees other planets explode, they all collectively lose their shit. But they don’t have time for that because the First Order is here for BB-8 and they’ve never been afraid to cause collateral damage. While they’re destroying everything, the Resistance X-Wing squad shows up fashionably late to the party and a giant battle ensues. Also we discover that Poe is very much alive.

During the battle, Finn decides that he needs to save Rey and goes back to the bar to find her but instead finds Han, Chewy, and Maz left wondering what to do next. Finn decides it’s time to fight, but he doesn’t have a weapon. But Maz does! Luke’s lightsaber is now in Finn’s hands and he has no problem using it on his old work buddies. While he’s fighting off Stormtroopers, Han and Chewy kick ass and kill plenty of First Order troops.

Flash back to Rey as she’s running aimlessly into the forest trying to come to terms with what she just experienced. This is where she runs into a very real Kylo Ren who senses that she has seen the map to Luke Skywalker and decides to take her instead of BB-8 to extract the information. Finn and Han look on helplessly as Kylo loads her up into his ship, and then a resistance ship shows up right at their footsteps. Out steps General Leia who greats Han and Chewbacca. It’s clear that they haven’t seen each other in years and it’s all because of Kylo turning to the dark side. They still have feelings for each other obviously and this romantic moment is interrupted by none other than C-3PO. Proving once again the droid has no social awareness.

Back on the Starkiller base, Kylo has Rey in the torture chair that seems to come standard on every evil base. He tries to break into her mind and try to steal the map that she saw. Rey tells him to take off his mask and Kylo obliges. The face of actor Adam Driver is revealed and we find that Kylo is just as fresh faced as his rival Rey.  Kylo attempts to extract the information from Rey but she uses her new force powers to get into Kylo’s head and find that he’s worried that he’s not going to live up to his grandpappy Vader. This freaks Kylo out and he storms out of the room to seek advice from Grand Supreme Taco Leader Snoke. This leaves Rey alone to use her newfangled powers to convince a Stormtrooper to let her go so she can escape. When Kylo returns to the empty chair he gets understandably angry and destroys the room.

Back to the rebel/resistance/republic base – we don’t really know what’s the resistance is at this point because they keep using different descriptions of it.  Finn catches up with Poe and gets to keep his sweet jacket. We also find R2D2 covered up and collecting dust. It turns out he’s been in low power mode since Luke left and everyone just accepted it. BB-8 senses that R2D2 has the rest of the map to Luke, but everyone writes him off because he’s a droid. And droids don’t know any better.

Leia brings everyone to the command center where we now have schematics of the Starkiller base and Han says what the audience is thinking “How do we blow it up?” Good question, well it turns out that Finn knows a ton about the Starkiller base and how to defeat it. How does he know so much? Do all Stormtroopers get a manual on how the Starkiller base works and what its weak points are? Well that’s really a moot point right now because Admiral Akbar says that the shields can repel any attack that’s thrown at it so we’ll need a rag tag team of crazy guys to go to the base and disable the shields so a full on attack can commence. Of course that team is Finn, Han, and Chewy. Just before they leave, Leia reconciles with Han and asks him to bring their son home.

The Millennium Falcon jumps into light speed and it’s going to come out of light speed right on the Starkiller base because the shields pulse and can’t block anything going that fast. They get to the snowy base, crash into some trees and slide to the edge of the cliff stopping just short of falling off. Phew. All three walk to the nearest entry point undetected and proceed to look for a way to disable the port and prevent the base from firing off another super laser. They find Captain Phasma and force her to disable the shield. Phasma then tells Finn that they’re pretty stupid and their plan won’t work to which Solo replies- isn’t there a trash chute to throw her down? We never see her again and the search for Rey continues. As Finn is ranting about finding Rey, Han sees her conveniently climbing outside and to another corridor.

Rey is quickly reunited with the gang and they move forward with their plan to disable that one area of the base that will prevent the entire base from destroying planets. Outside the Resistance is kicking ass and taking names. They’re moving closer to the trench they need to destroy the base and deal a huge blow to the First Order. I have no idea how this architect of Death Stars keeps getting work if he keeps putting in one fatal flaw in each one of his designs.

Kylo is on the hunt for Rey because he’s been humiliated three times now and he’s not going to let her get away this time. He wanders into a big empty room where Han and Chewy are placing thermal detonators and still can’t find anything. It’s now time for Han to confront his son and try to bring some sense to him. Han calls him out by his real name “Ben” and approaches Kylo casually. Kylo unconvincingly tries to tell his father that Ben is dead and there’s only Kylo to talk to. Han sees through his bullshit and tells Kylo to take off his mask. Kylo again takes off his mask and tearfully explains to Han that he needs help and only his dad can help him. He places his lightsaber in Han’s hands, looks at him and then turns it on and thrusts it through Han Solo’s chest. Han is shocked, but not surprised, he touches his son’s face one last time and falls into the abyss. Chewy lets out a vicious roar for his fallen friend and obliterates any Stormtrooper in site, then detonates the explosives opening the way for the Resistance.

We’re now outside and still reeling from Han Solo’s death. Kylo catches up with Rey, force throws her into some trees and knocks her out. Finn fires up Luke’s lightsaber and fights Kylo Ren cutting down trees as they go along. Finn ultimately loses and looks to be dead. Kylo goes to pull Luke’s lightsaber to him and it looks like he’s going to succeed but it’s actually Rey who grabs the lightsaber and starts to fight Kylo. The intense battle goes on for what seems like 15 minutes and Kylo tries to bring Rey to the Dark Side. It’s unsuccessful, Rey cuts Kylo’s face and runs away just in time for part of the base to create a huge chasm between them. Luckily Rey is on the side where Finn is. She picks him up and they run to the Millennium Falcon where Chewy is waiting to take off. They leave the base just as it explodes revealing a sun underneath the crust.

The ride home is bittersweet. Rey, Finn and Chewy have succeeded in their mission but at the cost of Solo. When they arrive back to the Resistance base, Leia knows Han didn’t make it but also knows that he died trying to save their son. When Rey gets to the base, R2D2 decides to wake up and project his part of the map which is conveniently only missing the part BB-8 has. We now know where Luke is located and Rey goes with Chewy in the Millennium Falcon to find him. She climbs up the mountain where a robed hermit is standing. He turns around and it’s Luke Skywalker with a glorious beard and Jedi Robes. He says nothing as Rey reaches out to hand him his old lightsaber and the credits roll.

 

Thoughts about some the characters

Han Solo

I liked the movie very much and while I’m disappointed that Han Solo died, I’m glad that he went admirably. There’s nothing worse than a major character dying with no other reason than the writers thinking “wouldn’t it be cool if we killed off this guy?” Han’s death helped Kylo Ren’s story progress and now we’ll find out if he’s going to go deeper down the Dark Side or not.

Kylo Ren

I can’t help but think that this is how Anakin should have been portrayed in the prequels. And maybe that’s why they made the film 30 years after Return of the Jedi and not something like 5 or 15 years afterwards. It’s clear that Kylo is still conflicted, but JJ Abrams avoids the awkwardness of the prequels by just putting Kylo on the path to the Dark Side and letting the audience decide for themselves how that happened. One of the flaws of the Prequels is that there were no surprises because we knew that Anakin becomes Darth Vader and we know that all characters not in the original trilogy had to die or disappear. With the new trilogy set after Darth Vader’s timeline, we can establish new characters and have them grow without worrying how we’re going to write them out of future movies that the audience has already seen.

Finn

Finn is a great character and he is quickly a fan favorite by being a wannabe hero and also a wise cracking smooth talker that kept the tone of the film lighthearted even though it had some serious parts. It’s still hard to say what Finn actually is and that leaves a lot open in the next two films to see how he fits in the overall plot. He was a Stormtrooper raised from birth to kill, but all of a sudden he realizes that what he’s doing is wrong and decides to defect. The good thing is that there is so much that Finn is that is all speculation. He lies a lot so maybe he’s lying about his past as well.

Rey

I’m glad that we have a human female protagonist prospective Jedi in the film. While Prin.. excuse me.. .General Leia was a strong female role in the original trilogy she was constantly getting rescued. Times have changed and it’s perfectly acceptable to have a female lead in a film that was originally marketed as a boy’s wet dream involving saving the girl, and thus the day. They don’t even focus on Rey’s gender playing a big part in the movie because no one cares. All progressiveness aside, it’s clear that Rey isn’t a token character and she’s going to be fun to watch when she’s under Luke’s tutelage. Just like with Finn, there’s a mystery about her character that leaves the writers plenty of room to show how robust Rey can be.

Captain Phasma

Anybody else peeved that she didn’t get much on screen time? It seems that she was just a plot device so that we could get a Stormtrooper to shut down the shields. She doesn’t have any real character development other than she’s Finn’s asshole of a boss. Even when Finn gets up in her face, it’s like a bullied employee who finally gets to say he quits. I really hope Phasma returns in the next movie, because she needs proper development.

Poe Dameron

Poe is another character that I felt was just an afterthought. Poe disappears for the majority of the movie and really feels just like Phasma: we need to put a name to the commander of the army but we also need to make him/her look cool. Let’s do it. Again – let’s hope that Poe is solidified as an integral character in the next film.

Thoughts about the film:               

Overall the film is great. It’s clear that JJ Abrams and crew took this seriously and knew there was a lot riding on this. Star Wars fans are fickle and messing with the nostalgia of an iconic film is risky. The results have been disastrous in the past and now the healing can begin with this new age of Lucas free Star Wars Films. While watching the films, I was filled with the same feelings that I had with the first three films. I think I had even more of those feelings because I was in the epic space of a theater and not my small bedroom and TV. I’m glad there’s a new Star Wars film that managed to capture the feel of the original three. There were throwbacks, but not in a way where you got sick of them. The humor was also on point which seemed to be missing from the original trilogy. Sure there was Jar Jar, but I’m talking about smart, quirky jokes that aren’t slapstick like Jar Jar was.

The actors and actresses of the film also did very well. I am very impressed with the new characters and I’m excited to see them in the next films. One of the best indicators of a good movie is that you forget that these are people playing characters and actually start to feel attached to them. It’s really been a long time since I’ve seen a movie like this. Sure I care about some characters, but I was actually upset that Han Solo was killed. I’m passionate about Star Wars again, and it’s all thanks to this film.

I do have some beef with the film, however. I’m not too thrilled with the ultimate cliffhanger and I really don’t like that they didn’t include more of Phasma. I thought they were going to find Luke Skywalker in the middle of the film and go on from there. I’m also a bit heartbroken about Han Solo’s death because he’s such a loved character. I’ve grown attached to him and to have him around for such a long time and now he’s gone, it feels like a real death has occurred. Overall these are just superficial beefs and the film didn’t have plot holes like the prequels did. I look forward to seeing it again so I can catch the little quirks that I missed the first showing.