Star Wars: The Force Awakens Discussion/Semi-Review

star wars
*Breathes heavily

So Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted the 18th of December, and from the looks of the reviews, the force is strong with this one. The Force Awakens has received very favorable reviews, right now with 266 reviews it’s at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. All signs point to financial success for the movie as well. Three nights ago (12/17), The Force Awakens earned a combined gross of $57 million, which breaks the record for the highest grossing Thursday film debut of all time (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II). The financial and critical reception for The Force Awakens has been overwhelmingly positive, but is it actually a good film? Bryan, Gordon, and I saw the film, here’s what we thought about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. *There are a couple minor spoilers in this post, but nothing too bad.

To start off, what was your overall impression of The Force Awakens? Did you enjoy it? Was it disappointing at all?

Bryan: I have to say the movie for me gets an A- grade, but for what the movie sets out to accomplish, it gets an A+. My favorite aspect of the film is the originality. The film pays homage to the originals but also sets up the future. We don’t know what is going to happen. I think we all kind of knew what will happen in Return of the Jedi, and we all knew what would happen in 1-3. However The Force Awakens had an element of surprise, and I walked out of the theater hungry for Episode VIII. Anyone could die, quit, or be manipulated by the dark side at any given time. We don’t even know if central characters will turn out to be good/evil. If this was a standalone film the reviews would be mediocre, but instead it is a leap into a new world where anything is possible. That is why the film is perfect because we are so invested in the new characters even though we haven’t really learned anything about them.

Fred: I completely agree with you Bryan. This may not have been a great film, but it really accomplished what the initial film in a trilogy is supposed to do, and that is to reveal the tip of the iceberg.

Fred: I enjoyed some aspects of the film, but there were a couple major issues with it. The cast was exceptional. I previously feared that John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were miscast, but I was wrong. Both actors truly energized the film, I could feel the enthusiasm (the force maybe?) in the roles, and it was infectious. The cast was great, the script was spectacular, but I can’t help but think that The Force Awakens was an unoriginal film. Once you guys see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Watch A New Hope, then The Force Awakens, and tell me that there aren’t a couple of major similarities between both films.

Gordon: I agree Fred, the film was very unoriginal. I get that they were trying to be faithful to the originals, but that doesn’t mean the plot has to be nearly identical to A New Hope.

Fred: It was almost too faithful to the original film, that mistake falls squarely on J.J Abrams.

Bryan: You are wrong there. It consisted of a perfect blend of old and new, I could definitely feel the JJ Abrams vibe in it. The movie reminded me of the first Star Trek (2009), but I’ll admit the humor does not flow as well. As great as The Force Awakens cast is, they don’t have the comedic flow of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban. Those three have really mastered the one liners. Oscar Isaac was great, he is the new Han Solo. John Boyega had great chemistry with Ridley, but overall a lot of the jokes just felt a little too corny.

Gordon: You’re wrong about that. I don’t believe that it was a perfect blend of old and new. I feel they relied too heavily on the source material from the original film. Regarding the comedy, I thought it was great. In my opinion, none of the one liners felt forced like in the new Star Trek films. Karl Urban is not a master of anything besides being a terrible actor.

Fred: I disagree Bryan, Star Trek felt like a Marvel movie in some ways, most of the jokes felt forced. I could pick up a rock outside of my house and it would be a better actor than Karl Urban. However in The Force Awakens, I felt most of the comedy was natural.

Bryan: Star Trek doesn’t make the film feel like a kid’s movie like Marvel does. Stars Wars crosses that line far too often, damn ewoks.

Fred: I felt that The Force Awakens was a serious Star Wars film for the most part, I actually felt that the galaxy was at stake, unlike in the prequels.

Bryan: That is a good point about fear for the galaxy.

Gordon: I was a little worried that the movie would disappoint when I watched the initial trailers. It turns out my fear was wrong, The Force Awakens was a very good film. All of the main characters were great. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley exceeded my expectations. If you can go, watch The Force Awakens right now!

Fred: I didn’t love the trailers either, but the film was good. The Force Awakens isn’t a film in which all of the good parts were revealed in the trailers, thankfully.

Obviously, The Force Awakens is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise, where do you guys think it ranks?

Fred: 1.The Empire Strikes Back 2. A New Hope 3. The Force Awakens 4. Return of the Jedi 5. Revenge of the Sith 6. Attack of the Clones 7. The Phantom Menace. The Force Awakens is a breath of fresh air for the Star Wars franchise, and I believe it is the best one since The Empire Strikes Back. Although it definitely isn’t an original film, The Force Awakens successfully rekindled that special sense of wonder and awe like only Star Wars can. The Force Awakens is better than Return of the Jedi simply because George Lucas wasn’t involved. Return of the Jedi was not a true Star Wars film at heart, The Force Awakens is.

Bryan: I agree but I would flip Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi. It was a good movie but I thought there was misplaced criticism mostly due to Hayden Christenson. Both Christenson and Natalie Portman were awful in the prequels. Both are competent actors, but they were anything but in episodes 1-3. I’ll admit I’ve only seen Hayden in Shattered Glass, but he was pretty good in that. Natalie Portman is an Academy Award winner but I just feel they had no chemistry, and an awful script. I honestly believe Lucas told them to act wooden because the script is what people care about. But let’s get back to the new movie.

Gordon: Revenge of the Sith was NOT better than Return of the Jedi. Although Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels, it does not beat out Return of the Jedi. I enjoy some aspects in Revenge of the Sith, there are just too many issues with the film (mainly Hayden Christenson).

Gordon: 1. The Empire Strikes Back 2. A New Hope 3. Return of the Jedi 4. The Force Awakens 5. Revenge of the Sith 6. Attack of the Clones 7. The Phantom Menace. I really liked The Force Awakens, but it didn’t reach the level of the films in the original trilogy. Return of the Jedi is slightly ahead of it because of the final duel between Luke and Darth Vader. It was a climactic battle between father and son, the dramatic payoff was incredible. I for one didn’t expect Vader to throw Darth Sidious over the railing and I’m sure it surprised many moviegoers who watched it for the first time. It was a close call but I favor Return of the Jedi slightly over The Force Awakens.

Bryan: I disagree with Gordon’s logic, Return of the Jedi was all about closure and putting the trilogy together, but it had major flaws. I didn’t hate the ewoks like most, but my issue was the development between Luke and Darth Vader. Their final duel was great on an emotional level, but not choreographically. A second death star and Lando’s role as a hero just rub me the wrong way. The script felt hastily put together. I don’t think there was any part of The Force Awakens that seemed lazy or cliché.

Fred: So you’re willing to give The Force Awakens a pass even though it had some of the same problems that Return of the Jedi had?

Bryan: The new death star pays homage to A New Hope and explains Kylo Ren’s fanboy attitude towards Vader. Ren knows it will fail, but he follows in the footsteps of his idol. What’s the definition of insanity again?

Fred: I don’t think Abrams decided to create a new death star simply because it fits Kylo’s obsession with Vader. I think Abrams was tasked with not only providing closure for the original story (as Bryan said), but also creating a new universe, obviously it may have been too difficult for him. However not many directors could successfully reinvigorate the Star Wars franchise like Abrams has, so he should be commended.

Gordon: I don’t really see how the new death star pays homage to A New Hope. It blatantly copies off of it. It made me cringe to see another death star in The Force Awakens after watching Return of the Jedi a few days ago. I wanted a little bit of originality, anything but another death star.

Bryan: Gordon, everything about Kylo Ren is copying Vader. From his suit to his voice, why wouldn’t he try to finish the job he never finished?
Fred: Well it would be nice if Kylo Ren learned from Vader’s mistakes….
As you know John Williams returned as composer for The Force Awakens, what did you think of the score?

Gordon: It wasn’t memorable at all. I can’t even remember a single song from the film. Unlike the originals which had an amazing score, The Force Awakens soundtrack was bland.

Fred: The soundtrack was sadly forgettable in my opinion. During periods of action, the musical pieces took a backseat, whereas they are supposed to complement the scene. Unfortunately, it sounds like father time has defeated Williams.

Bryan: I have to say I heard the classics but nothing new really stuck with me. I’m sure there was something good in there but can’t recall anything memorable. The strongest musical piece of the prequels was “Battle of Heroes”. I think it is best song of the saga. That still gives me goosebumps today and it really elevated the third movie for me.

Fred: Yeah there was no “Battle of Heroes” type theme in The Force Awakens, it was pretty disappointing

Bryan: In The Force Awakens, the scene where Han and Leia reconnect is emotional however. This is where the film was exceptional, Abrams gave us the scenes we want and showed us everything great with the originals, while surprising us in the process. This also goes along with soundtrack, but there is no PIVOTAL SCENE. In A New Hope we get Luke staring into the moons on Tatooine with the theme playing. That is one of the greatest combinations of soundtrack and scene of all time.

Gordon: I agree with you on those points. The soundtrack in The Force Awakens didn’t really add to the mystique of the film like it did with the originals.

Fred: I agree, The Force Awakens was missing the IT factor in terms of the soundtrack, and it’s hard to pin point what exactly went wrong.

Final question, what was your favorite scene/aspect of The Force Awakens?

Gordon: My favorite scene in the film was the final lightsaber battle. The snowy background made for an intriguing showdown between the people involved. The special effects in the scene were top notch. Just like in the original films, the lightsaber battle in The Force Awakens was expertly crafted in that there was a great contrast between the light of the sabers and the dark surroundings. It was a fitting end to the film and the climactic battle left me craving for more.

Fred: I enjoyed the final battle as well, regardless of how unoriginal the story was, The Force Awakens was well directed/choreographed.

Bryan: I completely, 100% disagree. There should have been no lightsaber battle in this film. I know that is not a popular opinion. This movie was about being exposed to the force, dare I say the awakening of it? Sorry. The hero is on the path of becoming a Jedi, and that should be the focus. A lightsaber does not make one a Jedi, it is the weapon of a Jedi. I hate the fact that someone who is not a Jedi is using a lightsaber. Don’t give me the “force sensitive” argument. Is that the right terminology because I’ve used it a lot lately? We would all be pissed if Leia started using a lightsaber in A New Hope without training or understanding the force. This reminds me of a similar complaint in that Yoda should have never used a lightsaber in the prequels. He does not need a weapon to become the most powerful Jedi. His relationship with the force is what makes him unique.

Fred: I’ve changed my mind, maybe a lightsaber battle wasn’t necessary in this one. I definitely agree with you in that it was weird that non-Jedi’s used lightsabers, it felt awkward.

Gordon: Keep in mind a certain character had the power of the force on their side, it’s not like Han Solo just picked up a lightsaber and used it. I believe the lightsaber duel was necessary, and the lightsaber appearance in the film was fitting with how it connected to the story.

Bryan: Gordon you are missing the point. It’s not the weapon itself, but what it represents that makes it one of the most iconic tools of all time. Don’t miss the point; I’m not saying that the lightsaber isn’t important. The introduction to the lightsaber and the force is my favorite scene of the movie. That was not only enough, but efficiently describes all we need to know about it.

Fred: I hated the over-reliance of cgi in the prequels, so I was worried about its prevalence in the new film. Fortunately, most of the action scenes (on ground) and weird lifeforms in The Force Awakens were created with real effects. This completely sold the film for me, I was able to get back into the universe again, it all felt real. That reality was part of the fun in the originals. Sadly, a living/breathing universe was scrapped in the prequels in favor of a lifeless, cgi built universe.

Bryan: Exactly, the over CGI hurt the prequels films. From The Empire Strikes Back on Hoth or Jaws, we find the monster scarier when it is left to our imagination; this will be clear after Solo’s introduction. While I didn’t think the lightsaber duel should have been in the movie, I thought it was shot exceptionally well. I agree that the realistic and dark setting made me more invested in the scene.

Gordon: The over-reliance on cgi was definitely one of the big problems with the prequels. It just didn’t feel right. It was nice to see a return to the use of practical effects in The Force Awakens. Although you can’t do a Star Wars movie without using some cgi, J.J handled it well. The special effects as a whole were incredible, even the cgi use was fitting.

Fred: George Lucas and cgi are synonymous with disappointment and regret.

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