When it comes to literature and film, there is always one thing which can be better relayed to the audience in film rather than literature: emotion. Words can describe an emotion (and can even create a dramatic scene for that emotion), but an actor, or set piece/visual effect can give that emotion the energy and dramatic impact necessary to elicit a desired emotion from the audience. When I write, “I GOT TO SEE A FREAKING STAR WARS MOVIE IN THE THEATRE!!!!!!” It can only “say” so much, but I can definitely confirm that those words (and the emotions behind them) are genuine, and that walking into my AMC to see what is possibly the most hyped-up sequel of all time was something special indeed.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is directed by J.J. Abrams and written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt. Stars-John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, Domhnall Gleeson, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. Premise-Set 30 years after the final events of Return of the Jedi, a new evil empire has risen from the ashes and plans to take over the galaxy. Only a small group of people (combined with the help of the resistance) could possibly stop them.
I’m just going to start with saying that the amount of information and things I have to say is going to require a follow-up review much farther down the line. This isn’t me weaseling out of writing an in-depth, 2,000 word review (school is over so I have the time), it’s just that most of what I have to say would spoil most of the movie, and I want to wait until the public’s craze over this movie has subsided. Seriously, this movie did a lot better than I think anybody thought it would. It achieved a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and ranked #21 on IMDb’s Top 250 Movies of All Time! Ok, I’m three paragraphs in and I haven’t even gotten to the actual review yet (I did say I had much to talk about?).
How about this, I’ll go over the negatives first and end with the positives because no one wants to feel angry or annoyed during Christmas! The most glaring problem with this movie is the plot. Essentially, it is a complete recycling of A New Hope, I mean it! I won’t go over every plot point (spoilers and the sort), but I will say that at least 75% of this movie’s plot was directly taken from A New Hope (when you see the movie, you’ll notice some of them). I blame Lawrence Kasdan on this because he wrote two of the originals (Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) and I believe they hired him to write the movie to provide the tone and feel of the originals (not a bad idea), but what we got instead was A New Hope again! Come on man, you’re a three time Oscar nominated writer, come up with something new! The rest of the story isn’t much better. This movie confuses “world building” with “adding unnecessary settings/characters and idiotically executed side-plots involving poorly CGI’d aliens and a cameo of that kid from The Raid movies.” There are a few subplots that go nowhere, and definitely some alien designs which look awful! It doesn’t help when the CGI makes them look even worse when they actually move around.
On the technical aspects of this movie, the camerawork is very shoddy. What this movie could have benefitted from was more wide and long tracking shots (like in A New Hope) during action scenes. I blame Abrams for his slight use of shaky cam and quick cuts (because that is his style and he is the director). Abrams, this is Star Wars, not Mission: Impossible 3! These kinds of cuts and camerawork don’t fit with the vast landscape shots necessary to capture all the details of space and the designs of the ships. They also spent no time building suspense for the iconic title crawl, the Lucasfilm logo takes three seconds and the even more iconic “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” line takes two seconds and then the title crawl arrives. This may sound like nitpicking, but guys, we haven’t seen that title crawl in theatres in a decade (and I’ve never seen it there)! This is quite a momentous, well, moment that needs to be built up (I guess that time was spent merchandising the heck out of that silver trooper who does absolutely nothing in the movie).
The last thing I want to talk about is the characters. For one, the villain is not threatening at all, quite the opposite in fact! They try to make him like Darth Vader, but the actor playing him (Adam Driver) is not threatening, and his voice is not intimidating in the slightest. The other characters, while not horrible, are also not nearly on par with what the Star Wars franchise has created. I was not expecting another Luke Skywalker or Han Solo in any of these new heroes, but some of the decisions these characters (even Luke and Han) make are just moronic! I’m going to have a field day ripping through them in that follow-up, but when you consider those decisions after watching the movie, it really makes the characters look stupid.
Considering this is a Star Wars movie, it should have some spectacular F/X right? Well, yes and no (again, the alien designs). The Force Awakens’ F/X are (for the most part) pretty dazzling, but not revolutionary or anything really special (at least every set piece isn’t an obvious green screen). Harrison Ford gets the funniest lines throughout his screen time; many of those jokes poke fun at flaws in the originals. Boyega’s and Ridley’s acting is more than up to snuff, but the best actor in this movie is by far Domhnall Gleeson. I won’t spoil what character he is playing, but whenever he is on screen, he is giving it his all! There was one thing I wanted from the cast in this movie: to try their absolute hardest because this is the role of a lifetime. This is STAR WARS, and I can certainly say that Gleeson’s performance was brilliant. John Williams’ score is (as it should be) phenomenal, the action scenes are extremely exciting, the cinematography (while not breathtaking like in the original trilogy) does help create a sense of wonder, and there are many funny moments scattered throughout. The new designs of the ships, costumes, and aliens are detailed and not completely pointless, and the sound design is just as good. And of course, seeing these characters and familiar set pieces on the big screen did provide one of the best geek-splosions I have ever felt.
I think it is obvious that I don’t like this movie as much as everybody else does (critics and general audiences alike). However, all things considered, I still recommend this movie to everyone! After all, it is Star Wars, merely seeing these characters after all these years will entertain anyone enough to be worth the price of admission, and there are enough positives to keep this movie far from Episodes 1-3 levels of atrocious. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B.