Spoiler Alert! This review doesn’t reveal any major plot twists, but wait to read it if you’re trying to stay in the dark about the details and characters of the new movie.
Star Wars fans lining up to see The Force Awakens won’t be disappointed. In fact, they will get exactly what they expect.
And that’s the problem with the new Star Wars movie — it follows the original trilogy’s playbook to a T, leaving little in the way of mind-blowing moments.
To take us back and get new fans in the mindset, of course J.J. Abrams needed to have some nods back to the original trilogy. Those set the stage and give the audience some familiarity to get excited for what’s to come. But this nostalgia ride was on overdrive. In fact, there were so many parallels and similar scenes harkening back to the first movies, it was a bit ridiculous. At times it felt like a cheap, easy ploy to tug the audiences’ heartstrings, and I absolutely despise it when a movie does that.
Speaking of not coming up with anything new, wow, is the First Order on repeat, or what? You would think after a few years and few changes of the guard, there would be some new stuff going on with this regime.
Sadly, it is stuck on the same-old, same-old. Sure, the Stormtrooper outfits are more streamlined, the TIE fighters are a little more sleek, but the Dark Side is essentially relying on the exact same technology, theories and methods to fight its war. Bor-ing.
The new characters are absolutely delightful for the most part. The biggest standout was Daisy Ridley as Rey. Star Wars always had a strong female protagonist with Leia, but Rey is even more front and center, with the scavenger character acting fast and fearless throughout. Scrappy doesn’t even begin to describe Rey.
The film also sets up the next battles between the Light and the Dark Sides beautifully. Kylo Ren has the makings to be a superb villain, and Adam Driver is creepy and dark enough to play him.
Ren differed a bit from Vader, however, showing a bit more humanity early on, which was an intriguing choice since Vader was super evil from the get-go. It will be fascinating to watch how the main struggle between Rey and Ren plays out.
BB-8! I can’t say enough about this little robot. Adorable! It’s amazing how so much emotion can be portrayed with robotics. This little droid provided some much-needed comic relief as well.
If you love Han Solo and Chewbacca, you are in for a treat. They are featured way more in this film than I had imagined they would be. In fact, I figured they’d get a brief cameo and be done, but no way — Han and Chewie are back in fighting style.
Finally, let’s talk technology, which is one of the biggest characters in Star Wars. When looking back at the original trilogy, it’s absolutely mind-boggling to know that they pulled off all those stunts, scenes, special effects and robotics with what they had in the mid-’70s.
Watching this new one, Abrams puts the latest film technics to perfect use. While I did not see it in 3D, everything was more enhanced, vivid, colorful and intense without straying too much from the original series to be out of character, giving a nice modern upgrade to the tech and scenery.
But in the end, it all felt a little too contrived, a little too perfect — like Abrams had memorized the test and knew everything he had to know to make the movie, but there was little creativity or innovation added to the piece. If this were the SATs, he would have easily scored 1600, but his school essay would be a crushing bore to read.
Picking up the franchise, however, was a Herculean task, and in that regard, Abrams did a great job. He just played it a little too safe, trying to keep everyone happy. And when you’re trying to please everyone, you don’t do your best work.
I’m quite curious to see what director Rian Johnson is going to do with Episode VIII. Like the best film of the entire series, The Empire Strikes Back, I have a feeling it is going to go to some very dark places.
All told, you’ll be happy to sit in that seat for a couple hours with some old friends — and you will like the new ones, too. And for your kids, who may never have experienced the first go-round, it will be quite exciting indeed.