SPOILER REVIEW – STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
So after 3 viewings so far here is my Spoiler Review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a review much needed as you really can’t talk about much at all without spoiling the film. If for some unimaginable reason you have not seen the film and still clicked the link A) WHY? and B) Go read my non-spoiler review HERE, then watch the film and return here afterwards. So last warning because below this image is where the spoilers begin…. and here we go. (Get ready for a long one because there is so much to talk about, this could go on for a while).
Lets start with the very first thing you see in the film; the opening crawl. I absolutely loved reading this opening crawl, it is one of the best crawls because right from the first line ‘Luke Skywalker has vanished’ you are instantly engaged and can’t wait to find out more. It did an incredible job at setting up what the current scenario is in terms of what is going on with The First Order, The Resistance and The Republic. You instantly learn that everyone is searching for Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, and that really is the single bit of information that drives the overall plot of the film forward. The final paragraph gives a bit of an intro to Poe Dameron and why he finds himself on Jakku, which worked better as text as it didn’t need to be shown.
The opening scene did a great job at establishing some of the characters who are going to play a big part in this trilogy. You meet Poe Dameron who is The Resistance’s greatest pilot, sent to retrieve part of a map that leads to Luke Skywalker from a mysterious old man played by Max Von Sydow. From what we know his characters name i believe was Lor San Tekka, and we are clearly not going to be seeing more of him going forward, but i want know who he was, and how he managed to come across the piece of the map. Whether it is in a film or a book or comic, i think it would be a very interesting story to tell. But anyway, following that, you see the powerful evil that is The First Order arrive shortly after where you get your introduction to our new Force-Sensitive villain known as Kylo Ren. He looked badass, he was clearly very determined to get that piece of the map and just murdered Lor San Tekka when he didn’t get the info he wanted. But the biggest holy shit moment was when you get to see what Ren can do with his force powers. When he stops that Blaster Bolt in mid air and freezes Poe at the same time i was just like ‘this guy aint fucking around’. You also get introduced to BB-8 who turned out to be a great addition to the film, delivering quite a bit of humour throughout.
How about next we talk about Finn, because he was another one of the new characters who everyone instantly fell in love with. He was a very likeable character who was funny but also very heroic when he needed to be. When you first see him, he is questioning the ways of The First Order, and is refusing to kill innocent people for their cause. He is a very strong minded character who ends up choosing good over bad. I loved seeing him and Poe Dameron interact whilst escaping the Star Destroyer. It was cool to see how they instantly connected and it was like they knew each other for years but it had only been a few minutes. Their back and forth conversations were so damn entertaining to watch and i can’t wait to see more from them together as Poe does go missing for like half of the film which was a little disappointing in the end. Now, Finn was the one in all the advertising as the one who was to be strong with the Force and would lead the Resistance to victory, but you quickly realise that he doesn’t have any affiliation with the Force or the Jedi and is just a Stormtrooper who wanted to do good which i really liked, and was a cool ‘bait and switch’, if you want to call it that.
But as you soon find out, our main girl Rey, the scavenger from Jakku turns out to be the one strong with the ways of the Force. When you are first introduced to her i got a real Luke Skywalker vibe from her scenes on Jakku. She had been left there by her parents when she was young and now she is just waiting for someone to come back and collect her while she tries to make a living selling parts. You quickly learn that she is not just a damsel in distress as you see she can handle herself against some raiders trying to steal BB-8. Her character i felt had the most development throughout the film and progressively seeing her experiment with her Force powers was very interesting to see, also how her reaction to using her Force powers changed was a great element of her character. At first when she gets those very cryptic visions she totally freaks out and has no idea what is happening. Then you see her testing out her force powers on Daniel Craig’s stormtrooper who does succumb to her power after a few tries. Then you see the moment where she pulls Luke’s lightsaber past Kylo Ren in an awesome scene, and then where she harnesses her power in the final moments to finally overcome Kylo Ren. The biggest mystery with her character still remains, who are her parents?…. A lot of the film was hinting towards the fact that she is indeed the daughter of Luke Skywalker, and that will probably turn out to be the case in the next film. But because the film was trying to set it up that she is a Skywalker, i don’t think she is. I think she is just another Force-sensitive human who just has an incredibly strong connection to the force. Most likely wrong with that one but only time will tell.
So how about Kylo Ren (aka Ben Solo). He was definitely my favourite character of the film and by far the hardest one to talk about because so much about his identity was kept hidden, and for good reasons. What i didn’t want to happen with this character was for him to just be a Darth Vader ripoff. But you quickly learn a lot more about him and as well as just a villain he also becomes a very interesting character. We know that he was at one time being trained to be a Jedi by Luke Skywalker and he felt that he wasn’t making the most of his power and so he turned to the last remaining Sith; Supreme Leader Snoke to further his training. One thing i loved about him is that he is a very motivated character, blind, but motivated. He wants to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and eradicate the galaxy of any threat that could stop him and so goes to drastic measures to ensure that he succeeds. As soon as you give your masked villain a face, he instantly becomes not as menacing and so you have to establish some other reasoning as to why he is the way he is. And by making him be the son of Han Solo you set up this opportunity for him to show the world what he would do just to increase his power. This is why i loved the moment Han kicked it, because it wasn’t just for shock value. It made sense with the plot because you know that Kylo Ren can still feel the light pulling him in, and Snoke knows that he cannot get any stronger unless he is strong enough to let go of his connection to his parents. And the only way to do that is to show that he has the inner strength to kill his father.
Han Solo was just great in this film, he was exactly how you would expect an old Han Solo to act. My biggest fear was that he would just be like an old Harrison Ford and would lose the traits that made him Han Solo. But Harrison and J J Abrams made sure they did this character perfectly, right down to the small traits and unique sense of humour that made him one of the most memorable characters of all time. Even though he wasn’t the main focus of the film he had a lot of screen time and really was a big part of the plot. You see that he is guiding our new cast and essentially passing the baton to this younger generation who is going to take the franchise forward. He was funny and he was just as daring and courageous as he was in the original trilogy but you can tell that he now has another 30 years of experience behind him. When he was killed by Ben i honestly did not see it coming, they did definitely set it up in a way that made it look like he was going to die but i didn’t think the film was going to have the balls to kill off such a beloved character. But even though that scene leaves me motionless and in shock every time i see it, it was something that had to happen sooner or later and i’m glad they did it now.
BB-8 was also a great addition to the film, they needed another droid that everyone would love and would be just as entertaining as R2-D2 and C-3PO in the OT. They nailed it with this character. It was a really cute droid and did have some of the funniest scenes of the film. Such as the moment where he uses his lighter to give a thumbs up, i cracked up laughing because of how genius that was. What amazed me is that they were able to get so many emotions out of this little droid. You know when he is sad, happy, excited and scared all because of the way they use various beeps and tones in combination with the movements of his head. A really fun droid to watch and the fact that he is an actual physical working model made it that much more enjoyable.
Another mysterious character i also want to go into a little is the one known as ‘Supreme Leader Snoke’ who appears to be the grand master of The First Order, and the one everyone must follow and report to. This is a character i know will be featured a lot more in future films and i cannot wait to learn a lot more about him. We know so far that he has been around for a while and seen some lightsaber action as we can tell from the massive scar on his head. You also learn that he was the one who convinced Kylo Ren to abandon Luke and his Jedi trainings to become his apprentice and learn the ways of the Dark Side. And he is going to turn out to be normal sized, the giant effect was likely just to make him have a huge presence. Now for some speculation time, there were very few quiet rumours circling this character before the films release that believed that Snoke may in-fact turn out to be ‘Darth Plagueis The Wise’. Now if you don’t know who Darth Plagueis is, re-watch THIS SCENE from Episode III where Emperor Palpatine talks about the tragedy of Darth Plagueis. In short, he was the master of Darth Sidious, the one who taught Sidious everything he knew about the Force. And at a time prior to the events of Episode I, he was killed by his Apprentice in his sleep. Now you may be asking, well if he did die then how could Snoke be Darth Plagueis? Well, in the expanded universe stories Plagueis was the only Sith to ever utilise the force to cheat death and create life. So somehow he could have cheated death and gone into hiding, much like how Yoda went into hiding.
Now initially i didn’t really think anything of this rumour, i thought it was just something fans built up in order to get more hype going for the film. But after seeing the film i am more than convinced that Snoke actually is Darth Plagueis. One reason being that he has very similar physical features to Darth Plagueis, the large/long head and the long arms, grey skin. All that seems to point towards him being Darth Plagueis and i reckon we will get that revelation possibly at the end of Episode VIII or during Episode IX. Another reason is because if you listen to ‘Snoke’s Theme’ on The Force Awakens Soundtrack, it sounds almost identical to the music that is playing whilst Palpatine is explaining the Tragedy of Plagueis to Anakin. Now i could be dead wrong about all this and he could just turn out to be a completely new character, but if this turns out to be true it would be just an awesome twist and revelation to see unfold.
Han’s death was definitely a very powerful scene and was the big HOLY SHIT moment of the film that some people….. i mean assholes, thought would be the perfect plot point to spoil for those who hadn’t seen it. I’m just glad i saw the film before they even got a chance to spoil it. But as i mentioned above i did believe this was a very necessary moment, especially to further Kylo Ren’s character. But what made it an even more emotional scene was when you see Leia in pain after feeling the death of the man she still has feeling for and also when you see Chewbacca’s reaction. He looked like he not only lost a friend, but also a brother, those two had been partners in crime for around 30-40 years, so when he goes full crazy shooting Ren and annihilating stormtroopers left and right, you understand the full effect his death had on him, and represented how the audience felt at that moment too.
Apart from the main plot points that take inspiration from the original trilogy i want to talk about some of the homages i thought were really cool to see for fans of that trilogy. What i loved most is that for almost all of these, the film doesn’t stop to say ‘Hey remember this scene’, it just happens and then they move on to the main plot. So lets go through some of these. One of the more obvious was the iconic line that everyone knew was going to be there; “I have a really bad feeling about this”. I knew this line was going to be in there and who better to say it than Han Solo himself. One of the slightly more subtle ones that only fans of the OT will understand is when Han asks Finn whether Star Killer Base had a “garbage chute, or a trash compactor”. This line had me laughing so much because of how subtly it was thrown in there. For those who need a little reminding, Luke, Leia and Han were trapped in a trash compactor that almost killed them in Star Wars. Getting into some seriously nerdy shit here. Another really cool and funny line that again only OT fans will get was when Rey mentions that the Millennium Falcon ran the Kessel run in 14 parsecs, but we all know that it actually ran it in 12 parsecs and Han corrects her. You also get that one moment where Finn accidentally activates the table in the Millennium Falcon and the board game that Chewbacca played in the OT shows up, something cool for the fans. Probably the most subtle one was the Training Remote that Luke uses on the Millennium Falcon in ‘Star Wars’ shows up for a brief second when Finn is searching through a box of junk. Another cool one was how Rey’s reaction to seeing the Millennium Falcon was calling it “garbage”, similar to Luke’s first reaction calling it “a piece of junk”. Probably the best of these moments was when we get Han walking in to the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon for the first time in 30 years and it is a moment for the fans to take in the fact that ‘we’re home’.
Now for just a couple of the things i was a little disappointed with before i get to the big finale. One character i was really looking forward to seeing after seeing her in the trailer was Captain Phasma. She looked badass and i thought she was going to be a fairly large influence throughout the film. But she was really only in two or three scenes and did practically nothing for the entire film. I was very disappointed at how underused she was but i’m assuming she will have a bigger part in the next film, that is if she made it out of the garbage chute and off the planet before it exploded….. Another character who i thought was underused but quite interesting was Maz Kanata. Clearly she has lots of knowledge about the Force and somehow managed to come across Luke’s lightsaber and i wanted to know more about who she was and the information she knows. This is a charcter who will definitely be returning later on because you don’t get a talent like Lupita Nyong’o for just 10 minutes on screen max. I thought we also could have gotten a little more of Poe Dameron, because he was gone for a lot of the film, after the crash you don’t see anything about him until the battle at Kanata’s bar. Even though not seeing these characters much disappointed me, i gotta remember that there were a lot of characters in this film, and there are still other films they could use them in so it isn’t a big negative.
One sequence of the film i didn’t like was where those weird round tentacle CGI monsters escape their cages and rampage around Han Solo’s freighter. In a film where practical effects were used on any occasion they could, moments of high use of CGI like this stood out like crazy. This was the closest the film ever got to the prequel level of CGI so thankfully the scene only lasted for like 5 minutes because it really wasn’t intense or anything because i was taken out of the film for a little.
Another thing a lot of people seem to be using as their main argument for why they may not have liked the movie as much is that it played out almost exactly like ‘Star Wars’, and had a lot of the same plot points that are in that film. It is a perfectly valid opinion to have, the film does play it very safe by sticking to the same formula that made the first film so successful. But for me this was almost an incredibly necessary decision to make. One thing J J Abrams wanted to emphasise and explain to the fans is that they are returning to what made the original trilogy so successful. They already tried to do something different with the prequels, and we all know how well they turned out… So going back to the original film and incorporating a lot of the same plot points that are featured in ‘Star Wars’ for me worked very well and was somewhat necessary, but to some people it may have come across as lazy, and they aren’t wrong. It is perfectly fine, all film is a matter of opinion and is totally subjective so if you like it that’s great, and if you don’t well then good for you, just don’t say other people are wrong for not agreeing with you.
Now for the big finale, i loved the final lightsaber duel first between Finn and Kylo Ren and then between Rey and Kylo. What made this fight so great is that it was not choreographed at all compared to some of the fights in the prequels. Not saying the battles in the prequels were bad, but it made sense because two of the three people fighting had no experience and Kylo hadn’t actually completed his training and was badly injured before the fight. It was a very gritty battle, you see the hilt of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber being used to cut into Finn’s shoulder shutting down all the people calling it useless. And then you see Finn get brutally sliced up the back, an injury that i thought killed him at first. Even when Rey gets a hold of the lightsaber, it is still very much the same type of battle, Kylo Ren is weakened by his blaster wound and being cut by Finn and Rey but he is still able to just hold off Rey and force her back. For those saying it is dumb how they could stand up to Kylo Ren, as i mentioned, he had not yet completed his training and on top of that he just took a shot to the hip from Chewbacca’s crossbow, and you clearly saw from the rest of the film that thing can do some serious damage. And both Finn and Rey were not dominating Ren at all, you could see that they were just smashing the lightsaber around hoping to get a lucky shot. It is only when Rey focuses and uses her Force powers that we see her overpower Kylo Ren, as we know that she has more power inside her than he does.
And finally, we close off with the reveal of the man himself, the last remaining Jedi, Luke Skywalker. I gotta be honest, with the way the film was wrapping up after the destruction of Star Killer Base i thought they weren’t going to even show Luke at all. But Rey does make her way over to some mysterious island on a distant planet and confronts a hooded man who reveals himself as Luke. This was such an awesome moment to finally see the character everyone loves once again on the screen 32 years later. It looks like he has clearly spent a lot of time alone on this island and needs a good shave and haircut. Even though it wasn’t much, i loved the short 30 seconds we got of him just looking at Rey who is holding his lightsaber with an expression on his face that could mean literally anything. From what we learned, it appears that Luke fled to this island after Kylo Ren was turned to the dark side as he probably was ashamed of the fact that he had failed to protect his nephew from the pull of the dark side. We are definitely getting more Luke in the films to come, and hopefully we see him get some lightsaber action once again, maybe in a final showdown against Supreme Leader Snoke….. Well now we need to wait a year and a half to get the continuation of this story, great.
So finally, that is my Spoilers review finished. There was a lot to talk about in this film and there is still a lot that i have missed here, but if i go into detail about everything i will be writing until the release date of Episode VIII. So i hope you enjoyed my dissection of this film and i will see you again after the next Star Wars adventure.