In a somewhat last minute decision, I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night, since my buddy Rob had a couple extra tickets. Though I enjoy Star Wars and intended to see it at some point, I didn’t have much interest in seeing it on opening day (or even in theaters) because, well, the movies haven’t really been worth the admission price recently.
But! I’m happy to say that that’s not the case with this movie. It’s entertaining, funny, and honestly a lot more human than I had expected. While it didn’t leave me reeling like Fury Road, it was enjoyable from start to finish, and left me with a host of new characters to care about.
The movie introduces actor John Boyega as a reluctant young stormtrooper, FN-2187, raised from birth to fight for the Empire, who begins to question his place when he’s forced to fire on innocent victims. At the start, he’s distinguished from the rest of the faceless stormtroopers by a bloody hand print smeared across his mask by a dying comrade. He makes the hasty decision to free a captured pilot, Poe Dameron, and escape to the barren desert planet Jakku. Poe, startled by FN-2187’s lack of a name, christens him Finn.
After crash landing on Jakku, Finn meets solitary scavenger Rey (played by Daisy Ridley), who’s barely scraping by, selling the scrap that she finds in exchange for meal rations. She has found Poe’s adorable little droid BB-8, who contains valuable information for the Rebellion. Though she’s offered a fortune in meal rations in exchange for the droid, she refuses, staunchly believing in BB-8’s autonomy. Rey meets Finn, and both are forced to flee as Finn’s betrayal and Rey’s new droid companion make them the target of the stormtroopers.
There are a number of cameos in the movie, starting with the ship that Rey and Finn steal to escape their pursuers. The Millennium Falcon got as big a round of applause from the audience in the theater as any of the actor cameos later on. It was refreshing to see Han Solo and Chewie get extensive, plot-driven roles in the story. Battle-weary General Leia Organa, too, had a place in the story that fit her character more than just a wink at the audience.
The villain is the lanky, vicious Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. He’s got a delicious voice and a powerful presence, and even in full black robes and that sexy mask (did I just make this weird?), his fanaticism and internal conflict are vividly clear. He doesn’t do any typical villain posturing, and that’s what makes him great. And at the end of the movie—well, let’s just say his heartfelt ‘thank you’ is chilling.
The thing that this movie has that the prequels lacked is a strong sense of character. The dialogue is snappy. The comic timing is perfect. Even Chewie has more character development and personality than I would have thought possible. Finn is a lot more likable than Luke Skywalker ever was (sorry guys, but you know it’s true). Rey’s quiet, competent personality and growing Force powers are fascinating to watch. (And was I the only one who was waiting for her last word in the movie to be “Dad?”)
Yet there was still something about the movie that kept it from being my favorite. It’s great, certainly, and I’ll watch it again, but all the explodey chase scenes and laser battles were just not exhilarating. Rey and Kylo Ren’s solitary fight in the snowy woods was far more engaging than any of the big budget battles. The scenery was gorgeous but the planet-sized Starkiller was not nearly as jaw dropping as it could have been.
Overall I’d give it four out of five stars. A solid movie, something I’ll definitely be seeing again, though maybe not in theaters. I highly recommend it, and I hope the next movie maintains this momentum.