Sunday, December 20, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review


Title: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Distributor: Lucasfilm (Disney)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer(s): Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt  
Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Peter Mayhew, and Gwendoline Christie.    
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.
Running Time: 135 min
Synopsis: Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

What Others Are Saying? 

Rotten Tomatoes: 95% "Fresh", Top Critics: 91% "Fresh", Audience: 93% "Liked It"

Metacritic: Critics: 81 out of 100, Users: 7.6 out of 10
MRQE: 82 out of 100

My Review

Preface: I'm going to try my best to do this review spoiler free, but I may spill the beans if being vague become too complicated of a taste. So for those who haven't seen the film yet, you have been warned, there may be spoilers ahead. I also want to note that I'm writing this after only seeing the film once, so my opinion will most likely change after seeing it a couple more times.   

Source Material: Original story by Lawrence Kasdan, characters by George Lucas.

Entertaining Value:

  • Action Elements: Star Wars is back! It may not be action-packed from open crawl to end credits, but there are a good amount of action sequences. These sequences actually move the story along, making for an exciting film.
  • Comedy Elements: The comedy in this film works. The jokes are witty and come at the right moments in the film.
  • Dramatic Elements: This is still the weakest aspect of Star Wars in general, but with that being said, I believe this film has some of the best dramatic scenes in Star Wars.
  • Sci-Fi / Fantasy Elements: Star Wars has always been more of a fantasy in space than Sci-fi. Don't get me wrong, there is more than enough sci-fi elements as well. This film brings out those classic Star Wars tropes we were missing in the prequels.
Cinematic Value:
  • Acting and Dialogue: 9: Let's be honest this is by far the best acted Star Wars film. I want to highlight the new talent in this film. The first is Daisy Ridley. This film was basically her frist movie. All her acting gigs before Star Wars was small screen and indie flicks. For me, Daisy Ridley turned out a great performance. The next one is John Boyega. I had a slightly bad feeling that Boyega was going to be the weakest link, but he is actually one of the strongest. I suggest watching Boyega's frist film Attack the Block, it's a fun sci-fi film. Every good fantasy needs a strong villain and Adam Driver is that villain as Kylo Ren. Adam Driver brought out the inner struggle that Kylo Ren was dealing with perfectly. Another face of evil is General Hux played by Domhnall Gleeson, who give one of the best speeches in the film. To bridge the gap between old and new is Oscar Isacc. Oscar Isacc is beginning to become a household name in Hollywood. I think this role is going to rocket ship himself there. Poe Dameron was my favorite heroic character. Now on to the old guys. Han Solo is back. You could tell Harrison Ford had a blast revisiting the Star Wars universe. Carrie Fisher, on the other hand, was the weakest link.
  • Cinematography: 8: For me, one of the main reasons The Force Awakens felt like a Star Wars film was its use of cinematography and how it matches up with the original Star Wars trilogy. There was just enough fan-service to keep us fans happy without watering down film with a bunch of easter eggs and nods to the original trilogy. I personally, like action scenes where I can be a part of the action without being a part of the action, meaning the action unfolds before my eyes without the sensation of a first-person account of the event.
  • Direction: 9: J.J. Abrams knows how to work with actors, bring out their strengths. This cast was primarily compiled of relatively new actors, and for the most part, you couldn't really tell. That's how you do your frist job as a director, getting the best performance out of your cast and crew. J.J. also excelled at the second job of a director, telling a good story.
  • Editing: 8: I liked that they stuck to old school Star Wars transitions. From an editing standpoint, the film was ever so slightly too fast on its pacing. Overall it is well edited.
  • Screenplay: 9: I love the story of this film, granted like the cinematography there are a lot of beats from the original trilogy woven in. I have heard some say the similarities to the original trilogy, story wise, was the weakest aspect of this film. I personally disagreed. I think the similarities creates a space of familiarity, drawing the audience back into the Star Wars universe. I'm glad that the writers retaught us with the Star Wars mythology, especially The Force. The film's title, after all, is The Force Awakens. The other positive aspect of the screenplay was the character development for the most part. Really, only two character that I can think of could have used a little more explanation: Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). I felt that Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), who had just as much screen time as those two characters, had more impact on the story, overall. Then again, that's just a bit nitpicky.
  • Sound and Music: 10: The two major themes of this movies is Star Wars is back and mixing the new with the old. The sound and music follow that perfectly. John Willams mixed old iconic Star Wars themes with new themes, which brought me back to Star Wars even more than seeing Han and Chewie on screen.
  • VFX: 9.5: Star Wars screams a lived in "future." I liked that J.J. made an effort to use as many real set and props as possible. I think using those types of effects brought depth to the scenes. I also like that every little detail had a story, for example, Kylo Ren's lightsaber was built to be dangerous. There were a few moments where you say to yourself, "that is 2015 CGI."
Overall: 9: As of right now, I would rank The Force Awaken as either the second or third best Star Wars film right behind The Empire Strikes Back. Hopefully by the time you read this review you have seen the film, if not go see today...May The Force Be With You.

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