Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD
Part VII of VIII of My “Skywalker” Binge
I have an interesting relationship with The Force Awakens—like probably most fans of Star Wars have. The first time I saw this seventh episode in the Skywalker saga, I believed to have loved it. In fact, I thought I had loved it so much that I saw it four times in the theaters—more times than I’ve seen any other movie in the galaxy in theaters for that matter. The hype was unbelievable at the time for its anticipated release—if you were there, you would know—and sweetly enough, this also happened to be the first live-action Star Wars movie I ever saw in theaters.
But then came the fifth viewing. And, after that fifth viewing, I began noticing TONS of flaws. I genuinely was so perplexed that the movie that I had once defended for some time wasn’t really all that exquisite. And then a sixth viewing came along, and at that point, I was kind of sick and tired of the movie. I’m not someone who rewatches movies very often, and due to this fact of life, the viewing had left me quite somber to know that this movie I had beaten to death with my eyes was no longer fun to watch. Fast-forward two years later (AKA, December 12th of 2019) I decided to watch the seventh live-action Star Wars movie for the seventh time leading up to my review of The Rise of Skywalker.
So, what do I think of The Force Awakens now after four years of varying rewatches?
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is fine. I personally am not the biggest fan of J.J. Abrams when it comes to his writing, but when he’s behind the camera directing, he proves to be a controlling expert at the craft. To me, J.J. Abrams’s reinvigoration is a supreme example of a blockbuster with fantastic execution but a weak story.
• This is easily the best looking Star Wars movie next to A New Hope and Empire. Shooting on film certainly helped with this scenario, but the fact that the movie had so much time to be made, giving cinematographers, set designers, and VFX artists extra things to perfect, really shows in this movie. The production is just magnificent, as well. Love the mix of practicality and top-notch CGI.
• J.J. Abrams directing in The Force Awakens is nearly Steven Spielberg-level good. From the smoothly assembled action sequences, the shot compositions, the clean and inventive camera movements, this is objectively the best directed Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back.
The editing in this is PRETTY NEAT too! Effective, indeed!
• FINN. Such a refreshing character! I have my gripes for Rey and Poe Dameron, but Finn I personally think steals the show in The Force Awakens. Just from the early on shot where we see his friend die in front of him and wipe blood on his helmet, you know that we’re going to receive a character with a more challenging background than usual. I also admire how dorky he is but also how rebellious he is. Yes, Boyega!
• The many amazing sequences: Kylo Ren catching the blaster beam mid-air. Kylo intimidating Poe. Han’s return being a Rathtar smuggler which is so him and just flat out badass. Rey’s trippy-ass “vision” sequence when she touches the lightsaber, which was just visually absorbing. Kylo Ren reading Rey’s disturbed mind. Han and Ben Solo’s confrontation. The sharply executed lightsaber battle between Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren (which everybody hates now because Rey beats Kylo, but we’ll get into that later).
• The forced, generic comedy. Some of it is deft like BB-8 giving the thumbs up with a lighter, or when Max refers to Chewbacca as her boyfriend, or just about anything that comes out of Han Solo’s mouth. But a great majority of it you can tell was artificially written on purpose for a one-time theater experience that would get temporary laughs out of audience members. There’s a limited prioritization on replay value for the comedy bits in this film.
• THE PLOT. This is easily my main quail I have with The Force Awakens—one not big enough to ruin the entire experience for me, surely, but one that obviously keeps this movie from being entirely spectacular. The narrative here is indisputably uninspired. It’s dead set on being mimic of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. From the Death Star III (Starkiller Base) to R2-D2 II (BB-8) to The Emperor II (Snoke), the properties of the original trilogy are certainly hearkened. Most importantly though, the movie follows similar checkpoints to A New Hope like giving a crucial message to a droid, to going to a Cantina to get help, to blowing up another Death Star as a finale. This is undeniably a soft reboot of A New Hope—but at the very least, it’s a “good” reboot.
• How dare they waste the two main stars of The Raid!!!!!!!!!
In terms of the “Rey is a Mary Sue” argument, I have mixed feelings on the affair (here comes my rant). In many cases, I do whole-heartedly agree that Rey is a Mary Sue. However, for fans to use her oddly talented character qualities as an excuse to uphold the original trilogy and prequels on some higher-up pedestal from The Force Awakens is paradoxical. If you were to actually unbiasedly examine all the Star Wars movies, you’d notice something very interesting: Every single main hero we meet starts off as a Gary Stu/Mary Sue.
I find it absurd that we could forget how much of a Gary Stu Luke Skywalker was in A New Hope. It’s as if we totally forgot that this dude was able to take out two tie-fighters without ever using the weaponry on a ship before, use a blaster for the first time and hit a good amount of stormtroopers, be the two out of the dozens of other pilots who didn’t die trying to blow up the Death Star while also seamlessly shooting those ball thingies into the Death Star’s hole (HAHA I’M TWELVE). Let’s not forget that this dude also spent most of his life farming on a desert planet with his uncle and aunt. Groovy.
To Rey’s defense, we learned in The Force Awakens that she was a resourceful ship scavenger who had to learn to exclusively fend for herself during most of her life (just like how we learn Luke was trying to become an excellent pilot), so was it really that surprising that she understood the inner workings of a ship and could pilot one as well? Early on, we also figure out that she could effectively fight with a staff, so was it really that surprising that she could beat a recently, and might I add, seriously wounded Kylo Ren?—cause those bowcasters cut DEEP. Okay, so Rey learning to use the force through a Jedi mind trick without any training was a bit sketchy, but Luke also using the force to shoot balls into a death hole was semi-sketchy, as well. So there’s that.
Also, in The Phantom Menace, young Ani takes out the entire fucking Control Ship (AKA, The Death Star -1) carelessly. Like if that doesn’t top any evidence of somebody being a Gary Stu/Mary Sue, then I don’t know what will. And don’t you dare try to tell me he could pilot and work the ship like a champ because he knew how to pod-race. And if it was mostly “autopilot” controlling the ship, remember that “autopilot” only steers the ship; it didn’t shoot the damn canons that would ultimately blow up the entire base.
So that’s my defense against the whole Rey controversy. Would it be nice for her character to not be a Mary Sue in these movies? Hell freaking yeah! Has this Mary Sue formula been quite present in previous Star Wars movies, though? Yes, indeed.
Conclusively, The Force Awakens isn’t written exceptionally nor is it anything remotely original, but I can damn well tell you that it was planned out excruciatingly well. With admirable directions, some strong new characters, and enthralling action sequences, The Force Awakens may not be anything special or beyond “good,” but it was a smart maneuver to awaken this franchise securely.
Now, onto The Last Jedi…
“Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” is now available to stream on Disney+.