Check out Josh and Violet’s male vs. female perspective reviews of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the highly anticipated seventh episode in the Star Wars franchise!
His Movie Review of
Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
So the anticipation is finally over. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is finally here. A movie Star Wars fans have been waiting a long time to see. Trying to wrap my head around the movie had been difficult walking out of the theater the first time, but after seeing it a second time, I actually liked it a lot more. Right now, I think I would put the movie around an 8 out of 10. I think a couple more viewings will be required for me to make a firm commitment to this number, but for now I will go over what I think worked and didn’t work for the film.
So, first off a little background on me and Star Wars. I do not bleed Star Wars like a lot of people do. Growing up, Star Wars was not a staple movie for me as it was with most people in my generation. Now, I enjoy the movies, and I do think it is a cultural phenomenon that has had a massive effect on pop culture, and really enjoy the lore of the films, but there are certain aspects of the movies (including most of the prequels) that really turned me off. Having said all that let’s get into The Force Awakens!
As any Star Wars follower knows, Episode VII was directed by J.J. Abrams, and has several returning cast members from the original trilogy: Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa, Anthony Daniels as C-3P0, and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Additionally, the “new generation” characters of the Star Wars universe is introduced in this movie as well: Daisy Ridley as Rey, Jon Boyega as Finn, Oscar Isaac as Poe, and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. The movie takes place 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and revolves around the First Order (essentially the new Empire) trying to defeat the Republic (the Rebel Alliance).
Trying to remain spoiler free for now, I will go over what I enjoyed. One of the first things I noticed in the film was the score. That was definitely a return to form with the score. Secondly, the filming of the movie was really exciting. The space combat was thrilling with the way the camera would flow the combat. And of course the special effects were top notch. There were very few times where there were “CGI” feeling elements, unlike the prequels, which feel like all CGI, especially as the movies further age.
The nostalgic feeling when the old cast shows up was amazing too. This is almost a guaranteed way to get Star Wars fans to cheer for the movie, but it was totally worth it. Seeing the scene where Han Solo says, “Chewie, we’re home” felt amazing again seeing it in the context of the film. Seeing him “back in the saddle” as Han was great too, using his dervish tactics to his advantage, just like old times. But not only did the old cast add weight to the film, the new cast did so as well. I was particularly impressed with Oscar Isaac in this movie. He was a new character, but he fell right into the universe as soon as he showed up on screen. Jon Boyega and Daisy Ridley also did really well in their performances, and their relationship worked very well on screen.
But my favorite character in the movie is probably BB-8. That little droid has as much personality as the rest of the cast. Every scene he is in is just a lot of fun, and most importantly, doesn’t feel too CGI. He is just as good as the rest of the droids, namely R2D2 and C-3P0.
As for disappointments, there are a few that I unfortunately have to bring up. These mostly revolve around story elements, so from here on out you have been warned!
POSSIBLE SPOILER TERRITORY AHEAD!
A big issue I had with the film revolved around Daisy Ridley’s character. It was pretty clear that she was going to end up being force sensitive at some point in the movie. How it first happens, with her mind battle with Kylo Ren, I actually liked and I found that completely believable. I can explain it as she accidentally tapped into something that would stop him, completely inadvertently. But then things go a bit off the rails with her abilities. Her use of the Force becomes way too proficient for someone who literally just found out they have these new abilities. She winds up in a battle with Kylo Ren to which she has the ability to hold her own. How does this even make sense? Now, as I talk about a bit later, perhaps she is just really in tune with the Force, and that explains it. Or maybe she has had her previous training wiped from her memory, and that is why she is able to stand toe to toe with Kylo. But it is a little difficult to swallow still because we have seen Kylo Ren literally stop a blaster shot in mid air, without even thinking about it, yet he cannot stop this less-than-padawan level Force sensitive person.
Kylo Ren is a character I am having a hard time reconciling in my mind. In the beginning I really liked him. His intensity with his emotions felt menacing. But as the film progressed on, he started to feel more like Anakin Skywalker from the second and third prequel films—a bit pouty and childish. One interesting aspect of his character was it seemed that Snoke was trying to prevent Kylo Ren from being seduced—by the light side. I thought that was a strange, yet interest taking on the Force, but the sort of whiny feeling Kylo Ren gave off in the latter half of the film really was a problem for me. The second viewing of the movie I felt a less annoyed by Kylo, but I still had some aspects I just really didn’t get with him.
I also didn’t care for a lot of the misdirection that J.J. had used in the movie. The movie felt like it was playing a game with the audience—who is the force sensitive one? Rey or Finn? Or Both? Maybe neither? It was a little too on the nose for me. Additionally, in the beginning of the movie, there is a question as to a certain characters fate, and there is literally no answer about this until about half way through the film when Finn happens to run across this character again. This again felt really odd, and out of place. This event also made the film feel a bit formulaic, meaning this incident was clearly a way to get Finn alone again on Jakku so that he can meet up with Rey alone, rather than having this third party show up too.
Another thing I wish the movie had done a little more of would be explained the past of both the Star Wars universe for the past thirty years, as well as a little more background on the newer characters, particularly Rey. This might be something that comes up more in Episode VIII, but the film really doesn’t give us a reason to believe that she can pilot the Millennium Falcon, given she has been stranded on Jakku for however long she has been there, and doesn’t seem to have had the chance to really learn to fly a ship. Given how well she had flown in the scene on Jakku, you would think she had been training as a pilot her entire life. Again, something that felt a little unbelievable.
The issues I had with Rey did clear up the second viewing though, as I can sort of attribute her abilities to the Force, and with the fight with Kylo, he was clearly pretty injured, and it makes sense that he could be given a run for his money, given Rey seems pretty strong in the Force without any training.
To wrap things up, I really liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens. After seeing it the second time, I actually enjoyed it a lot more. Things fell into place a little better, and I didn’t have any baggage of worrying how good the film would be the second time around, since I already had seen it the first time. One last quibble I had with the movie was probably not the fault of the movie itself—the 3D really was not working well for me. On the edges of the screen, the image would shift out of focus, unless I turned my head a certain way. It was a little distracting, and is a big reason I do not care for seeing movies in 3D. My next goal is to try to determine where this ranks with the rest of the Star Wars movies. It is most definitely better than all of the prequels, and could even be better than Return of the Jedi, but I need to have a few more viewings to make that determination.
Her Movie Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh in the Star Wars franchise, has been breaking records left and right since its debut on the evening of December 17, including biggest domestic opening weekend ($248 million) and fastest film to cross the worldwide $1 billion mark (12 days). The Force Awakens is directed by J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek), and stars familiar faces, such as Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, as well as new faces, including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac.
We were fortunate enough to be able to see the film in IMAX 3D at the first showing on Thursday, December 17, with reserved seating. It was pretty awesome being in a theater with other nerds who fought tooth and nail for those tickets, despite the internet essentially breaking as we all tried to buy tickets! However, we decided to wait until after we saw the movie a second time before writing our reviews. The second time around was on Christmas Eve, this time in 2D, so that we could have both perspectives.
By now, since the movie has been out almost 2 weeks at the time of writing this, you’ve probably already seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But I suppose there may be a few of you who have not seen it. Therefore, I’m going to stick with our normal format of writing a reviews that’s largely spoiler-free. If you haven’t seen it yet, and you’re of the opinion that the general plot is a spoiler, and don’t want to know what that plot is, skip the next paragraph.
The Force Awakens takes place about 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. In the opening crawl, we find out that Luke Skywalker has vanished, and that the bad guys, formerly known as the Empire, but now known as the First Order, are on a mission to find and destroy him. Leia is now a General who leads the Resistance, which is also trying to find Luke. Under the direction of the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo Ren uses the Force to lead the charge in seeking out Luke Skywalker by trying to track down BB-8, a droid who is in possession of a map containing Luke’s whereabouts. BB-8 soon befriends Rey, a scavenger on desert planet Jakku, and Finn, a defected Stormtrooper. With the help of some old friends, the trio tries to get the map to the Resistance, and avoid letting the map fall into the wrong hands.
The first time around, I enjoyed The Force Awakens quite a bit. Sure, I had my nitpicks with it, but overall, it was great fun, and definitely a step up from the prequels. The second time, I liked it even more. It’s a film that everyone can enjoy, whether you’re from the generation that saw the original Star Wars trilogy when it was in theaters, or if you’ve only just recently gotten into Star Wars. For diehard fans of the original trilogy, there is a lot to love about The Force Awakens, not only in seeing familiar characters, but also seeing several throwbacks to the originals. In that way, nostalgia plays a significant factor in winning over the older crowd. Additionally, the storyline in The Force Awakens feels like it somewhat parallels that of the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you talk to. Personally, overall I’m fine with it, because it’s not like it’s exactly the same story, though I would have preferred if some of the elements were changed a bit more to make it more of its own story. However, I can also see it from the perspective of history repeating itself. As for the newer crowd, The Force Awakens has all of the sophisticated visual effects and action sequences that the younger generation has come to expect of a modern film, and new characters introduced that are sure to become the new Star Wars favorites for this generation.
I put myself into both categories. I know that I saw the original Star Wars movies when I was little, but I didn’t remember them very well. We didn’t own the movies, so I didn’t grow up watching them over and over again, but I had fond, albeit vague, memories of them. As I got older, I saw the first prequel when it came out in theaters. Then I didn’t see the other prequels until we did a marathon of all the Star Wars movies early this year. It was at this point that I actually had a full appreciation for the original trilogy. So while I had some nostalgia, it wasn’t to the degree that most people had.
Nostalgia aside, one thing that I really appreciated about The Force Awakens was the use of a strong female character as the main character. Rey was a character who really held her own, could take care of herself, and didn’t take any crap from anyone. Daisy Ridley offered a great performance as Rey, and being a relatively unknown actress before this, I’m sure we can expect great things to come her way. In fact, all of the acting was pretty amazing, and kept me engaged throughout the entire movie due to their believability as their respective characters. I must admit that the characters were so great that I felt like some of them were underutilized. Also, I was a little surprised by how much comedy was employed throughout the movie, though, and while I enjoyed it, it felt like maybe just a little too much for a Star Wars movie. However, the comedic tone was set early on, and kept to a relatively small level.
Overall, I thought Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a fun, enjoyable film that had pretty much everything one could want from a Star Wars movie, and keeps you wanting more when you reach the end. It’s definitely a step in the right direction to future Star Wars films and to keeping Star Wars a beloved franchise for years to come.
My rating: I’ve been going back and forth between 8 and 8.5, so I’m just going to average it out and go with 8.25