Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens!!!

star-wars-the-force-awakens-poster

Don’t worry!  I’m not spoiling anything.  In fact, I’m not even going to reveal much of the storyline, so you can just calm down.

First, let me tell you where I was coming from when I went to my press screening:

I pretty much had Star Wars in my life as far as I can remember.  I was only a year old when A New Hope came out, so I didn’t see it on it’s first release.  However, I did see the 1979 reissue when I was 3, and I loved it.  I still remember seeing it too.  Since then, I was hooked.  I saw Empire Strikes Back on my 4th birthday.  I saw that a few times in the theater.  I also saw Return of the Jedi when I was 7, 4 times in the theater.  Those movies were so big for me and my family.  My little brother and I had most of the toys, and would play with them constantly.

Over the next 10 years, we watched them literally hundreds of times.  Me and my brother have so many inside jokes, and quote random lines from each of the films daily.  Then when the prequels came out, (I was about 23), we saw those too.  Seeing a new Star Wars movie was a HUGE deal.  Everyone was excited about it.  I remember after the midnight screening of The Phantom Menace, everyone loved it.  There wasn’t one person at my screening that hated it.  In fact, everyone I knew loved it.  I don’t remember too many negative comments.  It wasn’t until right before Episode 2 came out that the backlash for Phantom Menace began.  Friends that said they liked it upon first release (including Film Geek Central’s own Scott Davis), were now changing their tune.  I never did change my tune.  I still love all the prequels.  Now….. are they flawed…. yes.  But do I love them warts and all?  Absolutely.  Maybe I’m just that big of a Star Wars fan.  I don’t know. Anyway….

When it was announced that there was going to be another trilogy, with the original cast members…. I lost my mind.  Just the thought about being able to bring my kid to see a NEW Star Wars movie in the theater…… WOW!  Amazing!  I love Star Wars so much that I run a Star Wars club at a local Middle School here in St. Paul, MN.

So yeah…. that’s where I was at going into this.  Love Star Wars, with no apologies!  I did my best not to seek out any spoilers, but I did watch the trailers multiple times.  Excited is too tame of a word for how I felt about this upcoming Star Wars film.

When I sat down for my press screening, I was pretty laid back.  It didn”t really feel like I was actually about to see the new Star Wars movie.  I closed my eyes, and almost drifted off to sleep.  Then the studio rep announced that they were going to start the movie.  I opened my eyes, and sat up in my seat.  This was it….. finally…..Episode 7.  I get to see Luke, Han, and Leia again!  Then, the Lucasfilm logo appeared.  I got a lump in my throat.  “A long time ago…. in a galaxy far far away…..”  appeared before my eyes.

BAM!

STAR WARS!

The familiar logo pops on the screen and shoots backwards as John Williams legendary score blares out of the speakers!  I started getting lightheaded.  Was this really happening?  For a moment, it really felt like a dream.  But this was real.   I really did see The Force Awakens!!!!!

So….. how was it?  Could it actually live up to it’s unbelievable and unrealistic hype?

It’s incredible!   And yes, it definitely lives up to its hype!

Here is all I will say about the story.

It follows new characters Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who lives on a wasteland of a planet, and Finn (John Boyega), a Stormtrooper who doesn’t want to be a Stormtrooper anymore.  When their paths meet, they decide to help each other.  They meet Han Solo, find out about the resistance headed by General Leia Organa, and learn about Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), an evil ruthless Jedi (I’m not sure if the word Sith was ever mentioned).  There’s also a great fighter pilot named Poe (Oscar Isaac) who crosses paths with the new heroes.

That’s all I’m going to say.  So there!  How’s that for no spoilers.  If you’re afraid that they have shown too much in the trailers….. stop worrying.  You ain’t seen nothing yet.

I can’t go into too much of what I thought without spoiling things, so I’ll do my best to be vague.

J.J. Abrams has done it.  He’s made a Star Wars movie that is at the same time nostalgic and fresh.  While the prequels were kind of flat, as far as energy was concerned, J.J. brings the FUN back to Star Wars, mixing high octane action and humor into the story.  Fans are going to have so much fun with this movie that they’ll be seeing this countless times .  I really do believe that this will be the highest grossing film of all time.  And it deserves to be.

Folks that hated the prequels won’t be disappointed.  Will they like this as much as the original trilogy?  Possibly, but that’s hard to say.  I don’t think I could rank this just yet, though I can honestly say that this is better than all 3 prequels, no question.

The acting is great across the board.  Newcomer Daisy Ridley makes a stunning impression.  She handles the heavy emotional stuff just as well as the lighthearted stuff.  John Boyega, who I loved in Attack the Block, brings urgency and gusto to the role of Finn.  Oscar Isaac is great as Poe who can even make a joke during an intense situation.  My favorite new character is probably Kylo Ren.  A great villain played by Adam Driver. His different looks add to his already intense performance.  His scenes were among my favorite, and some had some surprising moments of humor in them.

It’s not really a performance but the new droid BB-8 is adorable.  He is so full of life that he makes R2-D2 seem like a tin can (though I still love R2).  The way he movies and interacts with characters feel so surprisingly genuine.  Love this droid!

How about the returning cast?  They’re terrific.  Harrison Ford settles into his old character like a well worn show.  Every time he smiles in this movie, it just lights up the whole screen.  The interaction between him and Chewie is pure film geek goodness.  Carrie Fisher, looking appropriately aged, does a great job showing the pain her character has gone through over the years.  And it’s just cool seeing Mark Hamil on the screen again.

Other familiar characters?  Yes, there are.  But you can find out who for yourselves.

The direction is solid.  Different from Lucas’s static, but epic approach, J.J.’s direction is more intense.  I’m also glad he toned down his usage of handheld cameras (like in the first Star Trek… yuck!).  There’s also some great stedicam shots, my favorite being a shot that shows all these strange characters in a cantina (an obvious nod to the original).  His approach gives the franchise the burst of life it needed.

The script is very good.  I like that the story is driven by action, not explanation.  Things are explained through actions, not words.  Some of the best scenes in the movie have no dialogue at all.  But the dialogue is also really well written.  J.J.  and writer Lawrence Kasdan have found a way for Star Wars to have some much needed levity again.

And John Williams….. well…. his music is iconic and the work that he’s done here is very memorable.  It’s so nice to hear a new John Williams Star Wars score on the big screen.  A real treat.

The special effects are a perfect mixture of practical and computer generated.  It’s nice seeing creatures made of latex and not pixels.  Obviously, some things are going to be CGI these days, but it was used appropriately.

I felt many things while watching The Force Awakens.  Happy, sad, excitement, fear, nervous, relief, and most of all…. joy.  I was so full of joy while watching this movie.  I felt like I was a kid again.  And for a movie to make me feel that way is a major feat in my opinion.

So yes… I loved this movie!  It’s got great performances, treats familiar characters with respect, has great action set pieces, is full of wit, and most of all…… feels like Star Wars.  Yes, it is different.  It has a different feel, but at the same time feels like Star Wars, if that makes sense.  Also, the way it sets up the next two movies is breathtaking.  I can’t wait for what’s coming next!

I think that kids (8-12) are going to REMEMBER seeing these in the theater.  Who they saw this with and where.  This movie will be iconic to them as the original trilogy was to me and many other fans.

This movie should not disappoint you.  It will restore your faith in the force.

DO NOT MISS THE BIGGEST MOVIE EVENT OF THE PAST 2 DECADES!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a 4 star movie!!!!!

**** (out of ****)



Categories: Austin Kennedy, podcast

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