Spoiler-free Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

We went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night. I enjoyed the movie and wanted to talk about it, but I know I have to tread lightly. Facebook is full of “spoil the movie and I will force choke you” memes.

I enjoy the Star Wars movie franchise. I’m not a superfan like some. Aside from a 3-D effect t-shirt, I don’t have any Star Wars memorabilia. Contrast that to my five Doctor Who t-shirts and the four posters and a crocheted TARDIS blanket in my office. Over all, my feelings about Star Wars are like that of Will Wheaton in his most recent appearance on Big Bang Theory where he goes to the movie dressed in his Star Trek uniform and reminds everyone that it is just a movie and, good or bad, their lives will continue just as they had.

What I didn’t like about Star Wars: The Force Awakens

As I said, I enjoyed it. I think it just might be the best movie of the series so far. And by that, I mean, if somebody in some future date sees Episode 7 before the other two trilogies, and not having the baggage of the previous movies, they would enjoy it the most.

Those who do have the baggage of the previous movies, of A New Hope in particular but of the original trilogy in general, would probably have different opinions.

For one thing, and again, I promise no spoilers, it felt like they spent too much time playing homage to the original series. The parallels between The Force Awakens and the original trilogy were so strong that they almost felt like tropes. I’m limited in the examples I can give. But there is a new evil group building a new giant, planet-destroying device that the rebels have to destroy before it destroys them and they can do it by destroying something on the surface that goes to the center.

Evil group is led by a mysterious, shadowy figure strong in the force and his apprentice is a traitor to the light side and wears a mask. Storm Troopers still can’t hit a target more than a few feet away.

A young man and a young woman pair up with a droid, and a smuggler with his wookie to take on said evil group. On a freakin’ desert planet.

The resistance is called the resistance. Why? In the fall of the Empire, the Republic was restored. The First Order, the name of the new evil group, is a terrorist organization, albeit one with the the manpower and resources to make a military superpower drool. So wouldn’t the resistance simply be the military? The Republic isn’t hiding and supporting an underground rebel movement. They are the government, and not just a figurehead like in A New Hope.

There are daddy issues. But instead of it being a huge cinematic reveal like the ending to Empire Strikes Back , JJ Abrams opted to just spoil it himself by having the character state is plainly half way through the movie. There was a perfect spot for the reveal just a few minutes later when the person we now know is the bad guy’s father sees the bad guy carrying off our heroine. Gee, heroine gets captured by dark force guy in a mask. Where have we seen that before.  He has a chance to take the shot but doesn’t even try. THAT is when to make the reveal. Something like, “I can’t do it. That’s my son.”

Don’t get me started on the science. At least for Star Trek, Abrams consulted with Saturn expert Carolyn Porco to get hiding the Enterprise in the clouds of Titan somewhat plausible.  In The Force Awakens, anyone and everyone jumps to light speed willy nilly. And they call it light speed instead of hyperspace. Light speed is a pretty slow way to travel around a galaxy. It takes over four years for light to travel from Alpha Centauri.

The new death star is powered by the sun, sucking it dry of energy. When it explodes, it becomes a new sun to replace the one it just destroyed. It’s not an actual ship but built on and in a planet. How do you move an entire planet? They never talk about it moving, but how to you get the weapon to destroy worlds if you are on the other side of the galaxy? Okay, that might have been a little spoiler-ish, but the fate of the planet-destroying weapon should be obvious to everyone.

What I liked about Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Equality has come a long way in the Star Wars galaxy. Off the top of my head, I can name two female characters on screen in A New Hope.  The only black guy in the entire original trilogy was a traitor. (So is the main black guy of this movie, but he deserts the bad guys instead). The storm trooper unit commander that we meet is a woman. The hot shot pilot is latino. Rey is a lot more kickass then Leia ever was.

tweet about diversity in new Star Wars movie

Other rebel pilots are also female or different races. On races, Abrams stayed largely true to the aliens of the original trilogy. He didn’t fall into Lucas’s trap in the prequels of inventing a bunch of new but one-dimensional species.

Aside from the issues of tropes and a couple dropped balls, the script was a lot tighter than what we’ve gotten used to. And, as the behind-the-scenes trailer promised, this was a live action film, not a CGI lovefest like the prequels. CGI has gotten a lot better over the past few decades, but it still doesn’t feel as real as real does. And the Millennium Falcon’s weapons guidance system is the same as it was in the original trilogy. Another trap of “We’ve got better effects now, let’s use them” avoided.

And I love the arch-baddie, Supreme Leader Snoke. He’s very mysterious, much more hands-on then the Emperor, and interacts not just with Kylo Ren, but also the military commander.

He’s also like 20 feet tall. I know they are completely different franchises from completely different companies, but I really want to say that he is the Green Lantern Guardian that harnessed the yellow power of fear. Snoke looks just a little too much like those Guardians. Tech Times (they do have spoilers) thinks that his size is just an effect of appearing as a hologram. The thought crossed my mind, but I like my idea better. 🙂

Overall, it was a solid movie. Don’t let the fact that I was more articulate with its faults than its high points fool you. This movie gets a solid 4 stars.