Last night Star Wars fans got to do something that they NEVER thought they would get to do again: travel to a galaxy far far away to see a brand new Star Wars film in theaters.
Ever since Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was announced two years ago there have been all kinds of expectations built up for it, especially since creator George Lucas would have nothing to do with it and J.J. Abrams would be taking over for at least the first film of the sequel trilogy. The prequels had jaded many of us, so many of us were nervous about what would be churned out this time around. That said, J.J. did it. He made a Star Wars movie that was far better than the past three films put together and fans at the premiere were beyond pleasantly surprised.
The Force Awakens had a different vibe than what I usually get from a Star Wars film, but that’s ok. Much of that had to do with the cinematography style, but I was kind of expecting that due to it being almost an entirely different set of people taking creative control over the creation of the film. However, the fact that they brought back Lawrence Kasdan (the screen writer for The Empire Strikes Back) to help do the screen treatment gave it back some of the old school feeling it might have lacked otherwise.
All that aside, it was fun to watch new characters be introduced and then interact with old ones. It was absolutely WONDERFUL to see Han Solo and Chewbacca doing what they do best again, but this time along side the new younger protagonists who will be taking the focus: Finn and Rey. Many of the other old characters like Princess/General Leia, C-3p0, R2-D2, etc. are a sight for sore eyes, but they are implemented rather tastefully and are not meant to be the focal point of the film. Each of them got audience cheer each time one was introduced. Good lord, you should have seen what it was like when Han and Chewie arrived…. I would go more into detail about Luke, but that would give away too much of the plot.
Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), etc. are a fun set of new characters. We don’t exactly know a great deal about their back stories yet, but the way they played off one another as well as the older characters made us like them and really start to care about them and what would happen to them by the end of the film. They make you kind of forget that you wanted more from the original cast. Each of them have different traits of the old cast in their younger days, but they aren’t straight up knock-offs of them.
The acting in The Force Awakens was definitely better than the previous films, that’s for sure. Things seemed to flow more and were less stiff and wooden. Abrams made some brilliant casting choices. It still wasn’t perfect in that regard, but I didn’t expect it to be. Also, there were plenty of good jokes interspersed throughout the movie that were well placed and didn’t detract from the seriousness of the plot.
There were a few things I wasn’t a huge fan of, but I can’t really talk about them without giving away spoilers. That said however, they didn’t ruin the film overall for me. One thing I CAN mention is that I missed the 20th Century Fox fanfare at the beginning. It just wasn’t the same without it. There was no build-up and suspense to make you excited for the Star Wars fanfare like in the older films. It made me kind of sad.
Episode VII didn’t seem to have that huge of a story to it, but you could tell that it was pretty much acting as a launching point for a bigger story to come. Be that as it may it was still a fun adventure to go on. I like that there was a fair balance of nostalgia and new original story. They catered to the old school fans of the franchise while also being brave enough to do something new as well. There are some things that definitely gave me a reaction, but I don’t want to give away spoilers.
Another thing that Abrams did better than the prequels was the return to use of practical effects over CG. The prequels were overly saturated in CG and it ruined the atmosphere a great deal. The return to old school practical effects made The Force Awakens seem a bit more real. When something exploded, you felt it. When you saw an elaborate set, it was really there. There was still SOME use of CG of course, but it was a lot less and a bit more subtle.
All in all, Episode VII is DEFINITELY worth your time and money to go see. It is far better than the prequels by a LONG shot. It has everything a good Star Wars movie needs: action, adventure, dog fights, light saber battles, mystery, wonder, big atmosphere, and more. It’s not quite on the same level as the original trilogy to me, but that’s because those films have had more time to be digested, loved, and become classics. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where the overarching story goes in the next couple of films. Go see it. You won’t regret it.