Review of the Force Awakens – In Which We Discuss Spoilery Things.

rey sun jakku
She's not no one.

This review contains spoilers and discussion of them so hit the jump if you dare.

The Hollywood stars had literally aligned for this movie. The ‘big three' of Luke, Leia and Han were back (despite some fan's concern Luke wasn't featured in promo for the film). Peter and Anthony were also back to play C3PO and the Walking Carpet.  JJ Abrams had gotten some ‘practice Star Trek films' under his belt and was given the job of being the brains and face of the new Star Wars production company. Empire and Jedi scribe Larry Kasdan had come back to the writing team after Michael Ardnt set the ball in motion.  New acting talent had been found and a true mix of the old and new ways of making movies was often spoken of.

And the trailers were beautiful. But, so was the trailer for The Phantom Menace and many Star Wars fans to this day still cry that that film destroyed their fondest childhood memories (get over it – Ed).

So, should we have been brave enough to truly believe in this movie?

Yes, Virginia, you can believe in The Force Awakens.

The Force Awakens is arguably the best Star Wars film that has ever been shown on the silver screen. While we dare say such a thing, we can only say it as we acknowledge that if it has seen further, it was because it stood on the shoulders of the mighty visionary, George Lucas.

Mirroring A New Hope before it in so many ways,  Force Awakens opens with a firey escapade for Poe Dameron but in short time we  with a figure stranded on a sandy planet called Jakku, with dreams to leave the planet but is held back by other forces. People are burnt, friendships are forged, escapes are made and so begins the great journey of the first female lead in a Star Wars movie, Rey. The movie's title refers to her discovery of the Force. It's pretty cool.

“Who are you?” asked new alien character, Maz Kanata of Rey in the trailer. She's one of the best things about this movie. A strong female lead was what many a fan had hoped for, and they got it. Rey has been set up perfectly as the new Luke Walker. Expect her character to evolve into a Jedi over the next films.

Let's talk visuals for a moment. The CGI in this film is arguably the best work that has ever graced a silver screen. The first set piece of the Millennium Falcon dancing a mean tango with some Tie Fighters through a fallen Star Destroy is a beautiful work of artistry. Superbly directed, this is the true promise of Star Wars fully realised.

1 first order tie attack
The Castle never stood a chance as these pilots can shoot

The set pieces are wonderfully Star Wars, TIE Fighters and X-Wings have never looked better on the big screen. As Captain Phasma, Gwendoline Christie's fame in the Star Wars realm is assured as her character is sure to become a cult classic in the same sense that Boba Fett is. Not that she actually did much. Which means she's exactly like Boba…

And what of the big bad guy, Kylo Ren? He had incredibly large shoes to fill, indeed he claimed in the movie he wanted to finish what Darth Vader had started. Does he? Let's say he got the ball rolling and that ball is as big as fast as the ball that chased Indiana Jones in the original Raiders of the Lost Ark.

We warned this was a spoilery review so are you sure you wish to continue?

Which means we now need to talk about Han Solo

Han Solo is more than just Han Solo to me. He is Harrison Ford, and thus is also Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, Richard Kimble, James Marshall and Rick Dekkard. And what's the the common thread between all those characters? They never died on screen. Never. Until last night when Han Solo was sent to the great gig in the sky at the hands of his and Leia's son, Kylo Ren.

It hurts.

There probably has never been a more loved screen character die in a block buster movie. There have off course been some other great noble deaths, John Miller in Saving Private Ryan, The T-500 in Terminator 2, Jack Dawson in Titantic and even Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. 

The difference though is that these were one off characters in one movie. Han Solo, as defined above, has already been in 3 Star Wars movies and his aura felt across countless more, particularly Indiana Jones so this hurts. In all the movies I've seen, there has never been a loss this big. Having guessed this character's death a year ago, we did speculate it would be good for movies in general and we still hope that proves to be what happens.

It hurts really bad, but it makes for a great movie. Solo had a very strong send off and his death serves to act as the handover for the Star Wars franchise to Rey, Finn (a fine performance from Jon Boyega) and that murderous Kylo Ren whose going to have to answer to mummy (Leia).

Ren's character arc was telegraphed to us – he's struggling with turning to the light side of the Force so it's open that he could be redeemed, like his grand father was in Return of the Jedi.

All this created more questions. Who are the Knights of Ren? This was not answered. Who is Rey's family? Is it even important? What is Snoke's game plan? He didn't seem to care what happened to his Star Killer base? And why the heck was he so similar in appearance to Gollum from Lord of the Rings – surely the producers saw that coming a mile away when they chose Andy Serkis to play him?

And what of Princess Leia? This was a nothing role for Carrie Fisher, I suspect she'd pretty disappointed with her part in this film. She does nothing much of significance. Her part could have been played by any generic movie general.

TFA had about 50 references to the past movies. Some were visual, some thematic. They were all great.

We also need to talk about Luke

“Where's Luke?” many a fan cried out when he failed to materialise in the third trailer for the film, seemingly forgetting he featured as the voice over for the second trailer and we saw his arm….

For those of us who had a pretty good idea of the plot due to internet sleuthing going into the film, we knew not to ask this. Just as Han Solo's death is the handover to the new story and characters of Star Wars, Luke's place in the movie is actually the bridge on which Rey can cross over to become a Jedi.

BB 8 forceawakens
In many ways BB-8 stole the movie.

It was a bold strategy to keep Luke Skywalker from looming large over the film, his effective 15 second cameo in the movie only adds to his legend and sets Episode VII quite ripely for what will possibly be Luke's last hurrah.

Time will tell.

The Verdict?

We talked about how we could believe in this movie. While we never stopped believing in Star Wars (what ever that really means), there's a renewed er.. hope for Star Wars. This is a shot in the arm for the franchise that Revenge of the Sith first administered, check the reviews, Sith is bettter critically reviewed than Return of the Jedi but is an adrenaline shot like no other before administered to a film franchise (James Bond's recent adventures would be the closest things).

JJ and his team of designers, artists, prop makers, sound engineers and editors and the like deserve a medal ceremony of their own for this movie. It's a great ride, strap in for VII.

This review has been written in the small hours of the morning from Wellington NZ so forgive this author for sounding too excited (or not!) and any mistakes made. In the light of the day, we'll let you know how the digestion of this movie is feeling.

Paul Rose Jr has worked as TV News Producer, Forensic Analyst, and Train Conductor, among many other things. He’s the former TV Editor for and owns more books, DVDs, and comics than most people have seen in their lifetimes. When he’s not writing articles, he exercises his creative muscle writing screenplays and acting in film and television in Los Angeles, CA.