Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015): The Biggest Blast in the Galaxy

Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! It is the final day in the epic Scene Before event, 7 Days of Star Wars! We finished the prequel trilogy! We finished the original trilogy! And now, it is time for the sequel trilogy! Now as you may or may not know, I already reviewed “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker” on this blog before. Therefore, I will not be diving into those movies here because doing so would be somewhat repetitive. And if you are unfamiliar with the “Star Wars” franchise by any means, this implies that today I would be talking about “The Force Awakens.” This film has been one of the most impactful I have ever seen in my life. It is the only movie I have watched four times in the theater. It is the first film that I bought on Blu-ray in Steelbook form. And like many people, it revitalized my interest in “Star Wars.” Not to say I wasn’t interested before, but it practically gave me “Star Wars” fever in the same way that the original movie did to people back in 1977. The question is… Does it hold up five and a half years later? It is time to find out in the final episode of a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8) and stars Harrison Ford (The Fugitive, Air Force One), Mark Hamill (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Batman: The Animated Series), Carrie Fisher (The Blues Brothers, Family Guy), Adam Driver (Lincoln, Girls), Daisy Ridley (Silent Witness, Casualty), John Boyega (Attack the Block, 24: Live Another Day), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Sucker Punch), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1), Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Max von Sydow (Minority Report, Flash Gordon). This film is set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi” and follows a group of people trying to seek the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi. At the same time, an ex-stormtrooper, a desert scavenger, and a BB droid must unite with Han Solo and Chewbacca to search for said Jedi all the while dealing with the currently enormous threat to the galaxy, the First Order, which is in control of the Death Star planet hybrid, Starkiller Base.

Imagine this… You are a mega fan of “Star Wars.” You saw all the movies. It’s been ten years since the prequels came out, when it seemed as if this franchise was done for good. But since Disney bought Lucasfilm, they’ve had plans to expand it since. This is where “The Force Awakens” comes in. Maybe one thing comes to mind, and that one thing is hype. After all, the trailers seem to promise a sense of direction that relates more to what we’ve experienced in the original films as opposed to the prequels, which have seemed to divide fans over the years. I think the hype that has been built up going into “The Force Awakens” is almost unlike any movie I’ve seen in my life aside from “Avengers: Endgame.” For the record, I think only one “Star Wars” movie surpassed “The Force Awakens” in terms of all time hype, specifically “The Phantom Menace,” but I was not born yet. But in the time that I’ve been alive, I remember the feeling I had going into “The Force Awakens.” I bought tickets in advance for what would end up being my SECOND screening of the film, which was for Tuesday December 29th, when I went to see the movie with my father. My first screening was purchased around the weekend it came out, amazingly there were still tickets available. I went with a few people I know, including one of my close friends who was mainly a Trekkie, but she watched the original films in preparation for this event and she enjoyed them. The hype was F*CKING REAL. Was “The Force Awakens” worth all that hype? Or was it something that would let me down in the end?

You bet it was worth the hype. And having rewatched it in preparation for this review, if anything, it has gotten better since my first viewing. I will admit, part of it may be because I watched it for the first time in a while, whereas in a year like 2016 I would watch it almost every other night over the spring, so it almost maintains a feeling of freshness, but this is a film that evokes the feeling of excitement. If the prequels have style and the originals have substance, then “The Force Awakens” probably has both! When this film came out, it was by far one of the most presentable “Star Wars” films yet. Granted, a lot of it has to do with maybe a greater sense of detail that has been built up over the years and better effects. But I look back at the original “Star Wars” and also notice that in this film, they do a lot more movement with the camera and attempt to make this newer installment slightly more immersive. The flight sequences in “The Force Awakens” are probably the most dazzling in the franchise. We see the camera attached to the side of an X-Wing, maybe we’re inside an X-Wing, maybe we’re flying in the air and the camera goes through an explosion as we head into it. There is a lot to love in this film in terms of flight. And it’s not just the craft we fly like TIE Fighters and X-Wings, but the characters we meet along the way.

Poe Dameron : What’s your name?

Finn : FN-2187.

Poe Dameron : F… What?

Finn : That’s the only name they ever gave me.

Poe Dameron : Well, I ain’t usin’ it. FN, huh? Finn, I’m going to call you Finn. Is that alright?

Finn : Finn. Yeah. Finn. I like that. I like that.

Poe Dameron : I’m Poe. Poe Dameron!

Finn : Good to meet you, Poe!

Poe Dameron : Good to meet you too Finn!

The scene where Finn an Poe first meet is up there with one of my favorites in the franchise. Because after a series of three movies where we see semi-unrelatable Jedi who almost have no emotion whatsoever, we get these two individuals who let out any single sense of emotion they have within them. There’s this moment where Finn takes out a couple cannons on a Stardestroyer and the next thing we see is them cheering out of satisfaction. Finn just lets himself loose and Poe soon joins in. They’re having the time of their lives. While it is noticeable that Anakin and Obi-Wan have become good friends over the years, they honestly don’t feel like “buds” or actual people with things in common other than the Jedi way. These two in just a matter of moments let out more emotion than we’ve seen in a couple of entire prequel movies.

In fact, that is something I really want to talk about. This movie, much to my delight, goes into a direction that truly humanizes “Star Wars.” And it is not to say that the series has not done that already. “A New Hope” is about being a larger than life individual and the steps that a hero takes to get to that larger than life status. But here, they go as far as to humanize Stormtroopers, who we find out are actual people who can remove their helmets. To be fair, this should not be TOO surprising, as Darth Vader had a helmet that could be removed, but it is something that at least in the movies, has never been seen in “Star Wars” before. There is a scene Finn removes his helmet and we see his pain, his exasperation. He just finished his first battle and he is clearly not thrilled with what he has witnessed. I feel like writers J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt were in a room together and constantly asked each other what ways they could evoke more actual human emotion into the franchise, because they not only manage to do that with something as robotic as Stormtroopers, but with the brand new villain, who I would argue is my favorite of the Disney “Star Wars” characters, Kylo Ren.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

When it comes to “Star Wars,” Darth Vader is seen as the biggest of all baddies. That is written in stone. None of the prequel villains like Darth Maul ever surpassed Vader’s legacy in terms of how they were represented in the movies. There are days that I look at Kylo Ren however, and see something in him that makes him come off as more likable than Vader. And I’ll tell you why… He’s not exactly fearsome. He talks a good game. He wields a sparkly red lightsaber that almost looks like it’s on life support, but somehow it looks pretty badass. He stops blaster bolts with the force, which provides for one of my favorite shots of the film where we see Poe getting dragged to Kylo by a couple troopers. But he is so busy fanboying over Vader’s legacy, trying to be him or surpass him. After all, as people, we all look up to someone and hope their qualities that we may take from them will lead to a successful path in life. And Kylo kind of reminds me of myself a little because he sometimes will lose his temper and take his anger out on electronic devices. He kind of feels like an angry gamer playing “Cuphead” and he can’t make it past the one boss that will lead you to the next island. It’s HILARIOUS. I don’t know how this statement will be received… But aside from Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren may be the character in the “Star Wars” franchise that I relate to the most. Feels weird to say, but it is true. In fact, that is part of the humanization of this film that really stands out, the humor. “Star Wars” is one of those franchises that comes off as funny to me without the characters exactly being funny. That has stood true in films like “The Empire Strikes Back.” But this film takes the humor to another level.

Poe Dameron : Wha- why? Why are you helping me?

Finn : Because it’s the right thing to do.

Poe Dameron : You need a pilot.

Finn : [chagrined]  I need a pilot.

There is so much that goes on in this film in terms of attempts at comedy that honestly don’t feel forced. They feel like a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie where every humorous quote blends naturally into the conversation or scene. Every shining character from Finn to Han to Chewbacca to Rey has at least funny moment in the film, even if it is minor or something that could be glossed over. And speaking of Rey, let’s talk about her.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

I went into “The Force Awakens” during my initial screening thinking I’d like Rey, but after multiple rewatches, I practically admired the character more and more. Kind of like Luke Skywalker was, she seemed somewhat hesitant to go on her journey, but also like Luke, it made the character somewhat relatable. She was emotional, sometimes giddy, observant of her surroundings, and she has great chemistry with Finn. I think the first three to five minutes with her are some of my favorite in recent “Star Wars” history because it comes without any dialogue, at least none out of her specifically, and in those moments, I have practically learned the base of what I need to know about her. She lives in a slightly ruined, but also civilized desert, she lives by herself and makes the most of what she has, but she’s looking for an escape at the same time. This is well established by her exiting her unusual home, sitting in the sand, and watching a spacecraft fly up. She clearly longs for a way out of her life and the movie did a great job at encapsulating that.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

But this film is not all about the new characters. Because these new characters get to journey alongside Han Solo and Chewbacca, and every time I watch this movie, I think Han Solo gives a good performance, but it is arguably his worst when it comes to this specific character. Maybe it’s because the character is not in their prime and seeing a grizzly Han admittedly takes a little getting used to, but it’s nice to know Harrison Ford is still going strong in these films. As for Chewbacca, he is played by two people. In some scenes, he is portrayed by Peter Mayhew, and in others he is played by Joonas Suotomo. It’s nice to see Han and Chewie back together because I think their relationship, and this was also highlighted in the “Solo” spinoff movie, has been one of the franchise’s biggest standouts. To see them both together feels natural and fun. There’s also a great gag where Han Solo tries out Chewbacca’s gun, and he seems to be quite impressed with it. Admittedly, as fun as it is in the movie, one SLIGHT nitpick I have with that, and it is a very small one, it does not take too much away from the film itself. It feels very weird to know that in the extended number of years that they’ve known each other, Han has supposedly never tried Chewbacca’s gun out. Maybe there’s a reason. Maybe it’s the typical instinct thing that Wookies have that kind of makes them go wild. I mean, if Chewbacca can tear off somebody’s limbs after losing a friendly match of a holographic game on the Millennium Falcon, or as LEGO Batman calls it, “Space Checkers,” you can only wonder what would happen if somebody touches his gun. Then again, he probably trusts Han after many years of standing by each other. Who knows? Just something I wanted to bring up.

We also have Leia, who as of this movie, has been deemed a “Disney Princess.” But in this movie, we see that she and Han, somewhat unsurprisingly, have stuck around over the years. And I will admit, when it comes to “The Force Awakens,” the first scene that we see of her and Han in the same frame is the one that arguably gets me the most nostalgic about the “Star Wars” franchise aside from Han admiring the Falcon cockpit and Han referring back to the old days where he remembers his skepticism about the Jedi and how his thoughts have changed since. And speaking of nostalgia, let’s dive a little further into it.

“Star Wars” has become part of many people’s lives. And for lots of them, their first exposure was the original movie, which is phenomenal even by today’s standards. “The Force Awakens,” according to many people, feels like a ripoff of “A New Hope.” To me, I do not like to use that word. Because to call it a ripoff would mean that I did not like the movie. To me, this film took the plot lines of “A New Hope,” tinkered with them, and successfully made an extremely effective picture. To me, “The Force Awakens” is more like a homage and tribute to what makes the franchise great than anything else. “Star Wars” has always been revered mainly because of the success of the original trilogy. People like it for other things too, but mainly the original trilogy. So I have a feeling that J.J. Abrams or Lawrence Kasdan or Kathleen Kennedy wanted to consider the people who did not like the prequels, and give them something that they’re probably more likely to enjoy. And to do that, there was a sense of nostalgia every other step of the way between X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Death Stars, characters we already knew from prior films, and so on. In a way, this is basically a VERY WELL DONE “Star Wars” greatest hits album. It takes everything people like about “Star Wars” and puts them all into a beautiful package. And I’m surprised that people feel like this movie is too familiar. Yes, some of the story beats are similar to the original trilogy. There’s a big planet killer, a guy with a red lightsaber and helmet that wants to destroy the galaxy, there’s someone else with a blue lightsaber trying to save the galaxy, there’s a space battle towards the end, there’s a scene where the Millennium Falcon gets caught in a tractor beam. There’s a lot that this film takes from entries prior. But I’d say that it is, as people say, similar to the original “Star Wars,” and I’ll add, it comes with a hint of darkness from “The Empire Strikes Back” sprinkled in between. There’s even blood in this movie! I like that little detail they added in!

If anything, and I say this as a huge fan of “Revenge of the Sith,” this feels like a “Star Wars” reunion party that has been built up for years. One that in a way, semi-apologizes for the prequels. Disney is the host, the mass audiences are all invited in, we go to the theater, head to the auditorium, and once that opening crawl commences and we get to the nitty gritty of the film, the movie is basically screaming “WELCOME BACK!” to all of our faces. This film is most certainly nostalgic to the tenth degree, but manages to interweave that nostalgia with a brand new story and set of characters that I have grown to admire over a couple of hours.

One last thing before we get to the final verdict. I really need to know this. If John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, or anyone else who worked on the film can confirm, I have a question about… This scene. Because I think I may have interpreted it much differently than a lot of other people who saw the movie.

In this moment, is BB-8 giving a thumbs up or is he flipping Finn off? I know the video title goes with the former, but still! When I saw this film at the theater, I always thought BB-8 was flipping Finn off. After all, when you present a light of fire at somebody, it almost signals a threat. Besides, BB-8 originally tried to electrocute Finn on Jakku. And yes, he’s kind of warmed up to him, but it’s almost like BB-8 smells a rat and is telling Finn, “I’m onto you.” At least that is what my interpretation is of what is going on. So if anyone involved with Lucasfilm or “The Force Awakens” could confirm this to me, please do.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

In the end, “The Force Awakens” puts the fun back in “Star Wars” after years of emotionless movies with somewhat dull characters. We now have humanized individuals, including the big bad villain who unlike Vader, is much more man than he is machine. If anything, this almost reminds me of an animated film because you know how in animated films like “The Lion King” or “A Bug’s Life” they’ll take creatures that are not human and personify them by giving them human voices? This reminds me of that because they took characters like Stormtroopers and others who are robotic and gave them all personalities. Every single character in this film feels like they have some understanding of the human condition and have at least a single ounce of relatability. The film looks amazing and one of my nerdy pieces of nostalgia I’ll bring to the table, this movie was shot in 35mm, although there is one sequence, specifically the escape from Jakku, that was shot on IMAX film, which was marvelous to watch on the IMAX screen the two times I saw it in that format. Plus there is also footage shot with an Arri Alexa XT. The film is funny, it’s happy, sad, everything in between. It has everything I could want in a “Star Wars” movie. Is it familiar? Sure, but again, familiarity in this case is not a weakness. For this movie in particular, it is used as a technique to get us to appreciate the joys of the past in “Star Wars” while also looking to the future. When I first reflected on the film, my one hope was that when Episode VIII comes out, it is not a copy-paste of “The Empire Strikes Back,” because this copy-paste technique worked in the favor of “The Force Awakens,” as it was trying to remind people what “Star Wars” *is*, but the next film also had to differentiate itself from what came before in the franchise.

Well… It was different alright. But it doesn’t mean it was great.

I walked out of “The Force Awakens” as a 16 year old geek in 2016 with a feeling that could only be described as orgasmic, and each time I watch the film, I enjoy it as much as the first. I’m going to give “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” a 10/10.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did everything it should have done and more. It made me feel like a kid again in the best possible way. This movie is so good, that I almost forgot to put in my obligatory statement where I appreciate John Williams’s score. And by the way, John Williams killed the score in this film, if you must know. I love his theme for the Resistance, Rey’s theme is soft and smooth, and Kylo Ren’s jingle has been catchy since early viewings of the film.

Much like the original trilogy, “The Force Awakens” has an insane replay value. I saw it four times in the theater, many more times on home video. In fact, I’d watch it almost every other night in April, May, and June of 2016, and I’d occasionally watch it on television. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a fantastic setup for what was to come. Unfortunately, what came after was not so fantastic, and I say that despite giving “The Last Jedi” a positive review. I was in a much different mindset when I saw the movie compared to long after it. That’s the power of thinking things over and watching a movie a second time.

Thanks for reading this review! This concludes the 7 Days of “Star Wars” event! I want to thank everyone for reading this review, along with those who read my reviews for Episodes I through VI. If you want to read any of my other “Star Wars” movie reviews, I have links for them down below. I have always wanted to talk about these movies to an extensive length, and I finally got the chance to do it, so I hope you enjoyed reading these reviews as much as I enjoyed making them, even if it did take a lot of time for me to sit down and complete, but it was worth it. I do have plenty of reviews for new movies coming soon including “Wrath of Man,” “Army of the Dead,” and “A Quiet Place Part II.” I do apologize if I end up getting these out somewhat late, but I have mainly been focused on the 7 Days of Star Wars event in regard to my recent goings on here at Scene Before. Therefore, everything else has been put on the backburner. Although I am also excited to announce that I will soon be doing another Blu-ray collection update. In all likelihood, this will be done in June, but depending on my schedule and how things go in life, I may end up doing it in July.

I also will share with you that my next review series, which is being done in preparation for the Disney ride to film adaptation “Jungle Cruise.” This series is going to be focused on “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I have admittedly not watched these movies in YEARS. I have also never seen even a minute of the fourth and fifth installments, and I don’t think I have any memory of watching the third one either. I could be wrong though. Find out my thoughts on all five sea adventures this July in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account or like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens?” What did you think about it? And I’ll end with three more questions… One, what is your favorite “Star Wars” film? Two, what film have you seen the most times in the theater? And three, what is your favorite franchise continuation or reboot? And I don’t just mean sequel, I mean a sequel that has been long-awaited like “Jurassic World” or “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “Blade Runner 2049.” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

May the force be with you. Emphasis on the May.

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

REVENGE OF THE SITH: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/25/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-2005-my-favorite-star-wars-prequel-ever/

STAR WARS/A NEW HOPE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/26/star-wars-1977-an-ageless-adventure/

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/27/the-empire-strikes-back-1980-i-love-you/

RETURN OF THE JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/28/return-of-the-jedi-1983-i-see-the-good/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

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