This will be spoiler-free.
I cannot promise the comments will be spoiler-free.
Assume that the post will be safe.
But the area below it may be TOXIC WITH SEPTIC STORY SPOILAGE.
Let us begin simply with:
AHHHH OH SHIT I LOVED THIS MOVIE
WHEN CAN I SEE IT AGAIN
BEE BOOP BLURBY DOOP
*flails around with a cardboard tube lightsaber*
*trips on scattered Star Wars LEGO bricks*
I’m back. I’m feeling much better now.
And now, a scattered smattering of thoughts in no particular order:
1. This is a love letter to the Star Wars universe — not just the universe, and not just the characters, but all the intangible narrative stuff that surrounds it. It is very much about how Star Wars feels. And how its stories are told. It is positively honorific of that. This is no small compliment when I say that The Force Awakens just plain feels like Star Wars from the first minute. It’s nostalgic, but not in your face about it, I don’t think?
2. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega need to be in everything together. Hepburn and Tracy, Bogey and Bacall — they had such wonderful chemistry together as these two people flung into adventure. Their characters are intensely fun to watch. You care from them from the first moment you meet each. (I would take more Poe Dameron, though — he’s awesome in TFA, but I want more!)
3. BB-8 is my master now. He is like a baby R2D2. He is like a dog and a kitten stuffed inside a roly-poly Christmas ornament. He’s super delightful and elicits pure joy from me shut up.
4. Kylo Ren is a surprisingly effective villain. Tragic and deeper than the trailers lead you to believe. He is far more than just some mustache-twirler. He is vulnerable.
5. It’s worth talking about how much fun this movie is. That is something that must be stated — fun is not as easy as you think to create. It’s certainly not the end-all be-all of the experience, nor should it be. Fun is a shallow metric. But it’s a vital metric just the same. A Star Wars movie that isn’t much fun isn’t one I want to see again. This film plays fun like a fucking symphony. It knows when to nail those moments of laughter and delight, it knows when to hit on tension and when to create those moments where you want to jump out of your seat, holding your head and screaming with fear or laughter or fear-laughter.
6. Some have noted that the film’s story bears a big resemblance to A New Hope, though I’d argue it’s beyond that — this film remixes a lot of beats from all the films of the OT (though very few from the prequels, I find). It feels designed to remind you of Tatooine and Endor and Hoth. It feels keen to echo archetypes and the Death Star and some of the same twists and turns — but then, at the same time, it twists them and turns them in new ways. It is a remix in the artful way, not the warmed-over rehash way — they’re playing the same notes but making a new, unexpected song with it. Myth, actually, works a lot like this, so I’m on board.
7. Sometimes, these beats become overtly fan-servicey, though. Not too many, but there are few moments that feel more like narrative artifice than genuine storytelling all in effort to elbow you in the ribs and say, EHH? EHHH? REMEMBER THAT OTHER THING? WE ARE REFERENCING THAT! RIGHT HERE! RIGHT NOW! WHAAAAT? ISN’T THAT CRAZY? Sometimes, it works. Other times, it feels like a square peg stomped into a circle hole.
8. The film also occasionally engineers exposition in a way that feels like it’s because the audience needs it — at a few moments, characters exposit even though they should damn well already know what they’re telling one another. And it feels like classic AS YOU KNOW, BOB storytelling. Both characters know the story but we don’t, so somebody’s gotta be a mouthpiece for it. It’s effective in that it does deliver information, but it doesn’t always feel organic.
9. That said, exposition isn’t too heady or heavy — the movie actually doesn’t go out of its way to explain a whole lot. In this way it harkens back to A New Hope. Worldbuilding for me is best when its explanations are cast to the margins — like, A New Hope drops all this stuff in your lap and just expects you to deal with it. “What are the Clone Wars? Enh. Who is Jabba? Whatever. THERE’S SOME SHIT GOING ON YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND, HUMAN.” And then it skips past them, tra-la-la, not caring if you know. That may feel frustrating at first, but that’s a fertile seed-bed where your imagination grows. For years people expounded on what the Clone Wars actually were. It was awesome. And then the prequels came and — okay, listen, this isn’t prequel hate, but it’s worth noting that the prequels took a very different approach to this. The prequels seemed designed to prequelize not just the universe, but to give origin points for damn near everything. “HEY WANNA KNOW WHERE BOBA FETT CAME FROM? OF COURSE YOU DO BECAUSE HE WAS SUCH A VITAL CHARACTER IN THE FIRST THREE MOVIES, IN THAT HE’S A CHUMP WHO GETS TRIPPED INTO A SANDY SPACE SPHINCTER. LET’S PREQUELIZE EVERYTHING. HERE’S SENATOR DIANOGA. HERE’S THE SECRET PLANS FOR THE DEATH STAR TRASH COMPACTOR. HERE’S THE VERY MOMENT THAT HAN SOLO IS MESSILY CONCEIVED.” Episode VII does almost none of this. The 30-year-gap between films is not bridged with a great deal of information. A part of me hopes they never bridge it completely.
10. I get chills thinking of a few moments from TFA. Some real strong OH SHIT moments.
11. Listening to the soundtrack now and I like it a lot, though it didn’t stand out overly much while watching the movie? That may have just been because I was all OH SNAP OH WHEE WHIZBANG AAAAAH. That said, the last track just before the credits is magical. Which is appropriate, I think: this film does the impossible and feels quite a bit like magic. And it represents both kinds of magic: it vacillates between the smoke and mirrors of a magic trick, and then when that falls away it delivers something close to real narrative sorcery — a Jedi Mind Trick all its own.
12. Speaking of snap — OH SNAP WEXLEY. That’s right. Snap Wexley, played by Greg Grunberg, is also Temmin Wexley, from a little book called Star Wars: Aftermath. Don’t believe me? Boom! It’s official now, over at Star Wars Dot Com. This of course is the gateway to getting Mister Bones in a Star Wars movie. I PRAY TO MOVIE JESUS TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN.
13. A small complaint about the film — it moves along at a breathless pace. That’s good, for a lot of it. I like that it isn’t there to waste our time. That being said… I don’t mind when a film wastes my time earnestly and with purpose. The Force Awakens doesn’t have a great deal of oxygen. The original trilogy is full of oxygen, and sometimes, quite curiously, that’s a function of budget. You can’t do two hours of whizz-bang stuff, so you pack it full of dialogue and character and tension and mystery. Jaws works because the shark was fucked up and so they had to do a lot of stuff with keeping the mechanical shark hidden. With films now, the budgets are big and the possibilities are endless, and this film takes advantage — as such, it races from set piece to set piece, barely pausing to catch its breath. It’s fine, mostly, but sometimes the film suffers from feeling like it needed to pause, slow down, catch some air. Quieter moments. It has them! It does. But overall, the story feels like it takes place over two hours instead of however long it actually takes.
14. The aliens in this movie are on fleek. Whatever “on fleek” means. Most of the alien species are unrecognizable, which is fun. People have screencapped and dissected the cantina scene from Ep IV for years looking for cool aliens — some scenes in this movie will get similar treatment, I suspect. Nice design. The whole film feels that way, too — everything feels used up, worn in, epic when it needs to be, intimate when it doesn’t. I go back to the word organic in terms of how it all comes together. It feels grown together. A forest of trees instead of a greenhouse of potted plants.
15. The spaceship battles are pyoo-pyoo kaboom awesome.
16. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that lightsaber fights happen. And they are jaw-dropping. In fact, one of the fights in this movie is maybe my favorite ever put to film. FOR REALSIES.
17. So, wait, when is Episode VIII coming out? Not tomorrow? GODDAMNIT
AND NOW WE PLAY THE WAITING GAME
96 responses to “And Now We Speak About The Force Awakens”
That art is by Phil Noto, btw.
Phil Noto absolutely kicks ass. I bought several of the SW kids books because I knew he had art in them. Plus this Greg Rucka guy seems to be able to write…
Putting some comments here for spoiler space in case anybody needs it, so they don’t accidentally SEE something.
DOES WHATEVER SPOILER SPACE DOES
NOT OUTER SPACE
THAT’S A MOVIE WITH MARTIN SHORT
HERE COMES SOME SPOILER SPACE
I agree 100% with your review!
One thing I didn’t like was Snoke, in that he was just another oh-it’s-Andy-Serkis-doing-motion-capture-CG. What for? Couldn’t that have been done with prosthetics and makeup? It kinda took me out of the film a little. Likewise, but to a lesser extent, Maz Kanata. JJ was so good using live-action props and puppets, which makes these two characters stand out a little.
Maz was for me mostly effective — though not so nimble she needed to be CGI, maybe?
But Snoke — yeah, I agree. Maybe it’s because of future plans for him — as in, he needs to be more CGI for some larger function.
I am curious about him, though!
Snoke looked like a giant Voldemort.
That’s fairly accurate, yeah. More fugly, even. Like if Palpatine and Voldemort had a weird giant baby.
I literally leaned over to my SO and said “Oh God Voldy’s back”
I’m really hoping that the reason for the Oz-ian size in the hologram was that he was overcompensating. Snoke is actually six inches tall. His is the only action figure that says “Actual Size” on the box.
We are postulating that Snoke, at some point, is going to call back to another classic movie, from the 1930s, one with a yellow brick road, and that the slight cheeseball feel is purposeful.
I’m convinced Snoke is like the Wizard behind the screen… when we finally meet him he’ll be like 2 feet tall.
And Chuck, I agree 100%. And I want the next movie now! Time to go read some great Star Wars books… I know there are a lot of them I still haven’t read. Time to fix that problem! LOL
Solid review and you hit the couple of things that bugged me a bit too.
My inner Princess Leia was going crazy shooting her blasters in the air during the entire movie! No spoilers from me – great review, spot on with the couple of minor problems I noticed and promptly forgot about again until now. 🙂
Favorite lightsaber battle of all time. Without question, without doubt, and I will tolerate no argument over this. I am in awe of this movie, man… really. I can’t even put words to it yet (likely because I got home at 1:45 and sat up in bed thinking about it). Somehow even more influenced by old Japanese samurai flicks, Hong Kong kung fu flicks, and buddy-cop flicks (in the best possible way). It’s staggeringly good.
And… come on. COME ON. The storm trooper cameo. COME ON! COME THE FUCK ON! I want to be a kid again and see this through those eyes.
That whole fight was a cascading series of giving me bigger and bigger chills. The whole theater ERUPTED multiple times during that entire fight.
Now, to counter that —
The Starkiller base stuff felt a little gormless? It didn’t have nearly the emotional impact, in part because it was a swift replay of what we’d already seen with the Death Star, and mostly it felt like it was delaying us getting back to that amazing fight scene.
Agreed. When we first saw the super wide shot of the planet hanging out there in the void I kind of groaned a little. “Look! A huge trench! I wonder how that’ll be used!”
Which got us to all the really good bits, as well, so I let it slide.
That final shot. J.J. had that shot in his head for a decade. I’m sure of it.
That Phil Noto art has been my iPhone’s lock screen for months. Sometimes I wonder how many artists Noto sacrificed to bathe in their artsy essence, and absorb their abilities.
Chuck! Chuck! Chuck! I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet, but if you haven’t – LIGHTSABER ESCAPE! Holy crap! I’m sitting at my desk battling storm troopers on my iMac using my iPhone as my lightsaber! 1) I am NOT earning my keep today. 2) Where was this when I was a kid?
It was fun. A lot of fun.
I liked the main characters, the return of old favourites, and especially the villain.
But – I came out thinking, “Is that all?” It followed Campbell’s Hero’s Journey so closely you could tick off the events and beats as they happened. At one point I wondered how long it had to go, and didn’t bother checking my watch, I just assessed how far down the list they’d reached. When I checked my writer’s lists this morning to see who else had seen it, there was a ton of “OMG Campbell!” posts, so it’s not like I’m the only one who noticed.
It’s like he put it in capital letters. “THIS IS THE END OF THE FIRST ACT.” “HERE’S THE REFUSAL OF THE CALL,” were all marked like highlights in a text book.
A lot of great movies follow the Hero’s Journey (look at Toy Story, or any Pixar film). But what makes Toy Story so much fun, isn’t the journey, it’s the asides. You could take the aliens and The Claw out and sub them for something else, but Toy Story without The Claw? Nah.
This is a big franchise, so the marketers will have their paws all over it. So they needed a big director with the clout to control that.
JJ Abrahams is an excellent director, a top notch journeyman. George Lucas was a visionary (who also adhered closely to the Hero’s Journey, but flung all kinds of other things in along the way).
Oh my god, yes. I tend to think Joseph Campbell is basically bullshit, but he’s totally the Star Wars thing, and that works for Star Wars. And I totally loved the movie…
That Refusal of the Call moment was seriously the clunkiest thing. Like, you had two awesome, super-sympathetic, super-intrinsically-motivated characters who had literally nothing better to be doing than this adventure, and then the movie is all LET’S HAVE THEM WALK AWAY FROM THE PLOT BECAUSE JOSEPH CAMPBELL SAYS SO, and then the movie just kind of hangs there for several scenes until it found ways to over-motivate the characters so they’d come back to it. I mean, what?
There’s nothing wrong with a reluctant character if that’s who the character is (that’s who Luke was), but the thing that made these people SPECIAL (and refreshing) was that they were so willing to get involved. Finn in particular was fascinating for exactly how little convincing it took him to leave everything he’d ever known. And then … he’s running away from his new skills and new friends (who may be the only friends he’s literally ever had (and I loved those characters and the scenes they’d had right before this!)) to go the middle of nowhere? Why??? It was especially frustrating because the plot so easily could have given him a valid reason for second thoughts. Like… he’s naively done the right thing, and there are so many ways to gut-punch him into realizing he’s bit off more than he could chew. (Having to kill fellow stormtroopers who were the only family he’s ever known… revelations about the organization he’s pretending he’s part of but actually knows nothing about… seriously, the list goes on.)
Instead, everyone refused to be involved in the plot they were already well-involved in because the screenwriters had a checklist. Aaagh!
Yes, that. The plot overwhelmed the characters. I got the feeling the producers got the main outline with all the steps marked off on a big chart, took it into the writers’ room and said, “There. Work with that.” You’re right, there was no reason for them to Refuse the Call, but it was there, so they had to do it. In the first movie, there were believable reasons why Luke won’t go with Obi-Wan, and it’s not until he goes home and finds the farm devastated that he is forced to commit. It spoke to his character. He loved his aunt and uncle, and while he wanted more, he wasn’t going to run away from his responsibilities. In this version the refusal didn’t make sense.
It was a reboot. I came out of the theatre happy, and glad I’d seen it, but not overwhelmed. The first movie was a serious “What?” moment and it went against the grain of what was happening in movies at the time. This one was following along with the trend.
I think that’s why, on the whole, I was happier with the other big revival of the year, “Mad Max.” It kept the spirit of the original and delivered something fresh. I was too involved with the movie to wonder where they’d got to in the storyline, or if it followed this or that theory. I didn’t care, because I was having a great time watching it.
BTW did you spot Daniel Craig?
I missed that one, but didn’t I see Martha from Doctor Who? It was quick, only a few seconds, and she’s not credited on IMDB, but I swear it was her, unless I’m totally crazy, which is entirely possible.
I swore I saw her too! Just got back from it. 🙂
I’m glad someone else is as crazy as I am! 😀
I heard he was one of the troopers? And it’s confirmed?
From what I hear, it’s the trooper guarding Ren. Many Bothans died to bring us this information.
So we’re all in agreement that Mr. Bones appropriated Threepio’s original left arm to replace the droid leg, yes?
Oops – didn’t mean to sub-post this. Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along…
Not officially confirmed, and not likely to be, because wouldn’t it work better as a myth? But he’s the one guarding Rey who she tries the Force on. He gets a line of dialogue! No doubt once the DVD comes out, experts will be studying that clip and they’ll spot something (which is why they won’t confirm it. Why spoil the fun?)
Found a report in the Guardian http://is.gd/SUU0D1
I’m still just… I can’t… There’s so much!! Also, #12?? I totally didn’t realize it but HOLY CRAP YES PLEASE MISTER BONES PLEASE!
I loved it all. Every bit of it. All the feels, all the tears, all the cheers. Epic. Amazing. I can’t form full sentences at this point.
And Kylo Ren… love him. He’s like Anakin pre-Vader, but… more. He’s young, he’s vulnerable, he has huge plans, but there’s still hope for him. He wants to be Vader’s successor, but he’s not there yet.
I need to see this movie another six times. Today.
I actually said to my wife that Kylo Ren is what Anakin needed to be, and wasn’t.
Yes! All around stellar cast. This is going to be the longest year and a half ever…
DING DING fucking DING
Amen to that. Anakin didn’t stand a chance. His script was so bad he HAD to fall to the dark side. This movie has restored my faith in the franchise.
I loved it so much. My mind is a whirl. Argh, yes, that final shot! I was floored at my own emotional reaction.
Oh, hey, one of my favourite things?
The fact that, yes, Captain Phasma is supremely evil and kick-ass and is a woman in the greatest Star Wars armour I’ve ever seen… but that there are *other* female Stormtroopers.
And a female X-Wing pilot.
And Fin goes to rescue Rey from being kidnapped only to slide to a halt when he see she doesn’t need help.
Love. It. All!
That whole scene with Rey kicking ass, then running Finn down and kicking his ass was spot-on perfect. Even down to the annoyance at him constantly taking her hand.
I love how Phasma is so badass SHE DOESN’T EVEN TAKE OFF HER HELMET IN THE WHOLE MOVIE. We don’t even need to see her.
I will note here though that Phasma runs the risk of being this series’ Boba Fett — cool armor, kinda chumpy. 🙂
But yes! Tons of BAD ASS WOMEN and a strong foot forward in terms of putting diversity into big Hollywood films.
I had really expected more screen time for Phasma, and was a little bummed out. I have read that Kathleen Kennedy promises “big things” in store for Phasma down the road, though.
I really wanted an end-credits scene of her climbing out of the trash compactor with battle noises in the background.
Worth reading SW author Jason Fry’s thoughts on this, too —
Fry worded it perfectly.
Awesome. That’s a great scene…Finn running to “save” Rey….the look on his face when he realizes this girl is not even remotely in need of saving. Great stuff.
This is my favorite of all the reviews I’ve read so far.
Fantastic, fantastic movie! I already want to see it again. In fact, I’m going to go right now.
Yes, I should probably go and do my Christmas shopping right now like I told my wife I was going to, but Christmas is almost a whole week away, right? Plenty of time for that later on!
My favourite part of the whole thing was those lightsaber fights. They looked like actual fights, like it was taking actual, genuine effort to make those swings and blocks. Made me think of the fighting in Daredevil in that it showed the cost (and just how heavy that physical price is) involved in a genuine fight, whether you win or lose.
Rei stole the show completely and BB-8 is legitimately fucking adorable. My cinema had collectible popcorn tins and drink cups and we all got R2 themed ones because, come on! It’s R2. We left the cinema jealous of the one person who had had to settle for the BB-8 tin!
As noted in another comment, Snoke the Great and Terrible was a little “huh-wazzat” for me, my pet theory is that it’s a disguise and “Snoke” is someone we have seen (or will see) in a different context before the big reveal.
I heard an interview with Adam Driver where he said they were using props as close to real lightsabers as they could get. He said they were heavy and had the feel you would expect from the real thing, so that probably helped a lot with the fight scenes looking as real as possible.
I cried like a baby when the movie was over. Not “at the ending,” not at the movie itself, but after it was done and the credits were rolling, because I felt like I’d just watched a brand-new Star Wars movie for the first time in my life.
I grinned like a Cheshire cat (yes, the rest of me disappeared) through the entire thing, and didn’t even cry when a certain person had a certain confrontation with a certain other person, simply because a) that one thing was obvious to do, for multiple reasons, and served the story well, and b) – a BIG B – I felt like I’d just watched the rebirth of my favorite movie series, FINALLY. The title was apt. I haven’t been that thrilled with a movie since I saw ANH in the theaters when I was seven. I am happier than I have been in months. I need to see that movie at least ten more times.
Starkiller Base left me a little cold (hur hur). I get that Star Wars is OK with zooming past a bunch of stuff without pausing to consider the ramifications, but I would have liked at least 5 more minutes of learning what this thing is. They even take the time to compare it to the Death Star, but the fact it’s a planet leaves me with so many questions. Can it move outside of its system? It uses its sun’s energy to power the cannon, but it looks like it sucked up the whole sun for the pending second shot. Is that just overzealous special effects and the sun would come back “online” to power additional shots, or was this to be the second and final shot ever from this weapon? Also, it’s bad to blow up planets, but the four (or more?) planets we saw the First Order blow up were only introduced to us as they were blowing up. Why do I care about these places except in the most abstract ways possible? And why the hell could everyone in the galaxy see those blasts? Ugh.
Maybe it’s because I’m a big details and specs geek, but I feel like not knowing even a little about the weapon made me unsure of the scope of the danger. I still liked the movie overall, and I’m going to see it again, but that’s definitely a bare patch in an otherwise well-made movie.
Yeah I agree about the planets that they destroyed. There didn’t seem to be that much of a reaction from the Resistance, and we didn’t really see what the ramifications were. I loved the movie though, this was just my one little niggle.
I didn’t even catch which planets they were. That was frustrating. I agree that blowing up planets we know nothing about was silly. I did think that draining the sun was a cool idea, though. Wasn’t that in one of the books, or I am thinking of something else? It’s been too long. They would have to be able to move the planet, or it would be a very expensive one-shot (er, multiple shots, limited power source) weapon. Not very practical.
Sad when you think the Death Star is more practical. 🙂
We knew nothing of Alderan, until it was blown up to make Lea talk, so it’s been done before in the series. Frankly, I had no hold-ups on this
I confess I did realize how hypocritical I was a couple of days later. I gripe when people read my MS and complain that I don’t explain everything RIGHT NOW, or when they don’t get subtext, and here I was griping that they didn’t explain that stuff RIGHT NOW. LOL. I need to go watch it again…
I agree, the details of the workings of Starkiller Base as well as the planetary system destroyed by it were brushed over in the movie. Maybe the Blu Ray release will have some deleted scenes. I did some digging around, and it appears that “starkiller” implies that it does indeed destroy the star that it’s draining for power. That also implies that they’d need to move the base after it gobbled up some random star. A “mobile planet” is perhaps another borrowed idea from the EU – there was a planet called “Zonama Sekot” in a few of the EU books that had the ability to travel through space.
The planetary system destroyed in the movie was something that they should have explained in a lot more detail. Starkiller Base actually fired on the capital of the New Republic, Hosnian Prime, and four other planets in the Hosnian system. The blast completely destroyed the Hosnian System’s planets and the New Republic’s fleet. Not sure what ever happened to Coruscant, but evidently Hosnian Prime was the Republic’s new capital. That’s no small detail either – the New Republic’s fleet was wiped out? So uhh…now what? I guess with the New Republic’s fleet wiped out and The First Order’s Starkiller Base destroyed, the playing field is level? Hopefully this is something that isn’t just glossed over in future episodes.
ellaapollodorus – the thing you are thinking of from the books is The Suncrusher (sounds a WEE bit like “Starkiller” – although I’m also aware of the “Luke Starkiller” reference). It too had the ability to destroy an entire planetary system, but in this case it was done by causing its target star to turn into a supernova, It was also just a small ship no larger than a starfighter.
Loved the movie overall. This was just one area where they might have spent a few minutes giving us some backstory.
So we’re all in agreement that Mr. Bones appropriated Threepio’s original left arm to replace the droid leg, yes?
I came out of that movie so utterly in love with Rey. I hadn’t realized why until later but she truly–theories of her parentage aside–remind me of Luke. Of the Luke we saw in A New Hope. She’s young and she’s energetic and she’s got so much potential, and she can be afraid and hesitant and insecure without ever losing her spirit and courage. When Luke’s old lightsaber flew past Kylo Ren and into her hands, my entire theater exploded in applause, and I realized I couldn’t wait to see where she went.
I’m so excited for the next movie. Especially with speculations that Rey’s actually Luke’s daughter–which was a thought that hit me pretty early on in the movie, as it did with most people, I imagine.
Rey vs Kylo Ren. Epic cousin battle? I can’t WAIT.
We have some strong bets going that she is Obi-Wan’s granddaughter.
Great, great, film. Definitely worth staying up 8 hours past my normal bedtime to see it,. LOL.
J.J. Abrams did his usual magic and recreated the vibe of the original 3 movies. Brilliance.
It’s not a spoiler to say there will be another movie, but the setup is pure Star Wars.
I’ve gone back and forth on how I feel. On the one hand, I loved the new characters and thought the performers knocked it out of the park. But I was bothered by how much of story consisted of a rehashing events from the original trilogy. I understand the need/desire to get us back into that world, but the list of references became almost comically long:
parentless, force-sensitive dreamer on a dessert planet; hero dressed as stormtrooper rescuing another hero; stashing the macguffin in a droid; father-son conflict; death of a major character while other major characters look on; bigger death star; spectral, demonic dark side figurehead; pompous nazi-like generals; force chokes; Maz’s hideout = cantina; Maz = Yoda … I could go on.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved seeing the old gang again, but couldn’t we have given them something more to do?
Also, I’m glad the they learned from the prequels not to delve too much into galactic politics; but I needed a little but more about the status of First Order, Resistance, and Republic. Maybe I didn’t read enough of the new canon stuff, but I was a little confused about the balance of power on the playing field here.
Last gripe: I wanted soooo much more about what went wrong with Han, Leia, Ren and Luke. As gorgeous as the dogfights were, I would have traded some of them (and certainly the Ranthar sequence and the death star retread) for a bit more development of that story. I think it would’ve upped the payoff of the climactic father-son confrontation.
All this said, I can’t wait to see it again. So mission accomplished I guess.
I always enjoy reading your posts-this one in particular! Thank you!
Wow. You sir captured all the thoughts I’d been having and articulated them perfectly.
Thank you for this, Chuck! Saw it last night and felt all the feels, and then some. As someone else above noted, it felt like seeing the original Star Wars for the very first time, complete with dropped jaw, impossibly-wide eyes, inability to breathe properly, and wild applause. Awesome.
Agreed on Snoke… Very Wizard of Oz-ish, and uncomfortably so. I felt like I was seeing behind the curtain a bit, and what was there wasn’t something anyone would want to see. For whatever that’s worth; speculation, maybe.
It was satisfying, and it was nice to have a Star Wars movie that felt physical & real. I watched II & III earlier this week and the CG dominated sets were just blah. As was the acting (not just Hayden)(some of that flat acting was there in VI too).
And the characters weren’t one-dimensional. Max Von Sydow showed more personality than Liam Neeson did (an indictment of Lucas, not Neeson). There’s not a single character in the prequels that’s relatable so having several (Ridley, Boyega & Driver) was like going back to the OT.
And I’m still feeling emotional about it.
[…] you want to see how to write a review without giving anything away, take a peek at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds review of The Force Awakens. Chuck did a great job of telling you how he felt about the film without letting […]
[…] And speaking of books in general, author Chuck Wendig on the movie – and which Aftermath character we saw on […]
While I am vehemently an eternal fan of you, Chuck—no matter the circumstances—as a human being first (you always know when to tell people to step off) and a writer second, I’m curious if you have any investment in this film. As the writer for the first official piece of Star Wars canon following the film, doesn’t it behoove you to warrant this movie as a fun, thrilling successcoaster of awesomeness?
Overlooking the plotholes and—I think it can be said with some admirable clarity— the uninspired plot as a whole (blow up the big death machine by scurrying down the trench!!!!!!!!!! We’ve gotta start Moff Hux!), I thought the movie was.. just okay.
Do you have a soul?
There were more than a few moments where both my wife and I were giggling in joy during the movie. The appearance of the Falcon being just one of many. One sad moment that I knew was going to come (It just made sense to me) but overall, fantastic movie.
Felt like being a kid all over again.
Let the shipping wars commence.
To me, Darth Emo was a bit too pathetic at times, losing the battle too easily. I hope they bad him up for the next movie.
Yeah, well. Dude needs to finish his training.
Much as I love Luke, I gotta say it… look who originally trained him. 😉
Oh – that was in reference to you calling him Darth Emo, btw. LOL
I absolutely loved it. Picked my six-year-old son up early from school, and we got to the theatre painfully early in light of the fact that we were in a reserved seating situation. Because, yeah…I just needed to be there. Waiting. We were throwing our hands in the air, shaking each other from excitement. It was just an amazing experience to share with him, and I hope it sticks with him forever.
One gripe: soooo many great lines from the trailers that didn’t make it into the film:
– “Who are you?”…..”I’m no one”
-“The Force is calling to you….just let it in”
-“I’ve seen your eyes….I know your eyes”
-Finn’s line about having “nothing to fight for”
-Han talking to Finn and Rey and saying “it’s true” instead of “they’re real”.
Minor complaint, and I know these things happen over the course of editing. The ones from Maz Kanata, though…they seemed so weighty in the trailers, so I was bummed to not hear those lines in the finished film.
Also, now all I can think of is how many stories there are to tell in the upcoming books. So many questions. I know you said you don’t want all the gaps bridged, Chuck, and I agree. But there’s gonna be some awesome fucking bridges coming our way. Obviously the Ben Solo to Kylo Ren transition being one of the more interesting ones.
Could there be a better time to be a Star Wars fan?
1977 was pretty good.
Aw, the waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry, Hungry Hippos!
We’re American expats with our kids here in Ireland and saw the film on opening night in Galway, with assigned seating, which is TITS so to speak — why they don’t do that in the US — and commented on how much we enjoyed Kylo Ren’s evilness, his good lookingness, oddly large ears — and for me, how much I like JJ’s playfulness, like with the Jedi mindtrick scene, and Kylo Ren’s slashing apart the command center with his saber, pissed off. My wife is from the theater world and really enjoyed his casting choices. Thank heavens for a fresh POV, it needed it. And we’re so geeked-up we’re going to drive out to the Dingle Peninsula tomorrow, not far from that final scene.
I like your review. I must say that the idea of the next one was a bit overtly served in the last scene. But, hey, I had a lot of fun watching the film.
[…] of my reaction to The Force Awakens was already captured in Chuck Wendig’s post with his usual flair. Some […]
Loved loved loved it all….except (and thanks Chuck, for giving us this space to hash out these intricacies and plot points) what was up with Leia? FER GAWDS SAKE she’s only friggin’ 58 or 59 and she was moving around like someone more in need of a walker than a working general. She was so stiff! What gives, Carrie? Where’s your spunk? Take it from someone who knows: 59 ain’t old. Unless she’s recently had some sort of injury in real-life maybe? (if so I feel like an asshole)(an old asshole).
JJ Abrams–thank you.
L. Kasdan–thank you.
Sorry, I’m going to be a detractor here. I’m with the person above who said it was too much of the same. I felt like I could have listed the most popular elements out of the original trilogy and gone down the checklist. You could probably make a fun Bingo game out of it. “What’s Disney Reheating this Year? Bingo,” (patent pending).
I was flat-out depressed at how it’s been 30 years and this universe is basically in the same state it was at the beginning of Luke’s struggles. Basically the empire? Check. New Dark Vader stand-in (who looks like Severus Snape)? Check. New emperor stand-in (who looks like Lord Voldemort)? Check. Scrappy resistance? Check. Basically the Death Star? Check. Humble hero from a sand planet? Check. It just goes on and on. It all made the difficulties and victories of the original gang effectively pointless, if we’re just going to check in at the 30-year mark and find NOTHING’S changed. They changed some surface details to throw off the mouth breathers and it worked.
If I’m going to see a new Star Wars film, I want to see a NEW Star Wars film. I’m hoping that now everyone’s had their fix for their nostalgia boners the next films can contribute to the universe in deep, original and meaningful ways, because this movie did not.
It was love/hate for me. I loved how it felt, well, RIGHT. You know? But at the same time, I groaned when I saw the third incarnation of the Death Star. It was like, “What? This again?” And Rey seemed a little too perfect, but this series has a history of that so I was happy to relax on that issue. Loved it, but some new stuff would have been even more awesomerest.
Watching my kid during the movie made it perfect. On the edge of his seat. Unblinking. Talking to the screen without knowing he was talking. Flinging himself back into the chair in disgust when bad things happened.
Ok speaking for the generation who saw Star Wars IV the day it came out at the Cine Capri, I do agree that much of TFA was similar and it did twinge nostalgic with a few minor pokings of annoyance at the parallels. But that said, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! And when the credits rolled and my kids turned to me with wonder in their eyes, I told them,
“Now you know how I felt the first time I saw Star Wars.”
That’s how the similarities worked for me and I feel JJ put those in for us older folk to remember our love and hopeless adoration of the movie when it first came out, and yet made it different and appealing to also hook the younger generations. I mean come on. Even those with grumbles are still going to go see the next one.
I agree with you so much Chuck (and others).
Personally…..this is a big, glorious movie, with some clunky bits & reflections, but overall awesomeness.
Watching this movie and now (drat it!!!) having to wait for the next stuff makes me feel a real sense of fandom. This is the first time I’ve had to wait for a Star Wars movie! I’ve had to wait for other things, but not Star Wars (too young, that I can remember). The fact is: I’m excited/nervous for the next one so am impatient, instead of dreading it like I’d have done had it been bad.
And that was felt from the very first moment, too, when the screen became a starscape and the gold and blue writing rolled up the screen.
(This got away from me, so tl;dr: Glorious movie with great acting and good plot. And J.J. – brave, good decision, but how could you? (*meep*).
Sure, some of the stuff was a reflection of ANH, but twisted. I do hope that there’ll be less of that next time, as things are different (teacher-mentor stuff needed, yes; exposition of Rey’s past, yes; but in different ways …and the other stuff is up in the air.)
I hope the “sameness” decreases, and that we get a little bit of background/ bridge-building. … So I’ll be hunting out books. As someone else indicated, I’d have traded a few battle scenes/ some of the breathless pace, for a liiiittle more Han, Leia and Ben (nope, he’s not Kylo Ren when talking about family, I’m following Han’s lead, *sad noise*) time/ explanation.
Also, Rey. Oh my goodness, *Rey*. Bang-on target. I really connected with her during the movie. I loved her. I have some ideas about her parentage, based on the EU Legends stuff I’ve read. (Btw, eeeeee, extra squeal for the tips of the hat to EU Legends things…..) Anyone else think she’s a closer relation to Ben than cousin? Anyone else (especially if you remember a certain set of twins in the EU Legends, both with first names starting with J.) think that?? She really worked. I actually thought it was realistic for her to cut-and-run after her first touch of the lightsabre. That was her breaking point; remember, at first she didn’t want to go beyond Jakku and kept wanting to go back? She was scared – as she would be.
The overall representation of women was good too, as clearly they exist in a relatively broad spread in both Rebel and First Order ranks. I love the fact that Phasma is so badass too.
About (*sad noise*) Han’s death: I saw it coming, from the moment I saw that they had to split up and then how the room was set up – it reminded me both of ANH with the catwalk and RotJ with how dark it was. I should’ve seen it coming before that; Han was the “old mentor guy” for Rey and to a lesser extent Finn. But b/c he was an established character I was lulled into a false sense of security!
In-cinema, it worked really well for me, because —
a) we know him and have known him for three movies prior to this (unlike Obi-Wan, who died and *then* we got to know him). This is the BIGGEST REASON, tying the rest together;
b) Leia – when they said goodbye, I wanted them to *kiss*, drat it!, kiss like the old days! and that was my first “Bad Feeling”, a small voice whispering, “You better come back to give her that kiss!”, especially at the look on Leia’s face (I wonder if she had a Bad Feeling too?) – also the way Leia felt it in the Force (*meep*), as she *should* given she has some Force sensitivity and loves him;
c) the sense of dread building (and my beginning to whisper “no, please no” repetitively) as you realise it’s a twisted reflection of ANH and the “will J.J. do it or won’t he?….Please, don’t!” thoughts, repeated over and over. Especially when it seemed like Ren was going to become Ben again – the fleeting thought of “yes, *please*…” coupled with “but Han said ‘anything’…oh, careful, please!” and “no, it’s not that easy” combined into a massive “NO!” when Ren did it;
d) the character acting was marvellous; Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Adam Driver did beautifully (for instance, Han pausing and steeling himself before stepping forward to meet Ben – you could see his thoughts written across his face and I have to wonder if he saw the parallel to Old Ben and Vader too)
e) playing into (d), the character arcs of Ren and Han through the movie; I feel that Han’s last action (of cupping Ren’s cheek; the amount of emotion etc. in that one gesture!) – I have a strong Feeling that we will see that the sequence haunts Ren – that’s right former Solo, it’s not over yet.
f) the sheer gumption of J.J. for killing off a character as established as Han, coupled with the way that he did it, is something to note. I mean, I knew it was possibility, but…..it was simply heartbreaking and left me reeling.
That is how & why it works – and more importantly, why it makes sense in-universe.
I predict that in the next movie, there will be a fuller explanation about the Ben-to-Kylo-Ren unhappiness. I also predict (and sort of hope, based on Legends things) that Luke will need to heal while teaching Rey. Perhaps we’ll also get a few hints of Rey’s family. I can’t wait!!!!
….and I’m going to stop now, lest this review/comment get any longer.
Oh, my friend Mr. Chuck, I will need to disagree with you in most things TFA. I saw ep. 4 when it was first released, that summer in 1977…in a suburb of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on a visit to rels.
It changed my life. Of course I fell in love with Luke but, far more profoundly I fell in love with story – Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, the epic arch, et al.
This film was….good, OK. I am not a fanatic and maybe that’s the prob, but the original story is beloved to me and it had magic. This did not. It is a wonderful, solid film, but where was the character development? Rey and Finn’s relationship/response to each other seemed so very shallow and inauthentic. And seriously? Leia, with her abilities within the force, never realizes that Rey is her daughter? It’s all “our son.” Speaking of which, um, yeah, I felt he was miscast. He also bears no physical resemblance to his parents, which I found utterly bizarre.
What I did like was the silence. Rey doesn’t speak for quite a while. And the flight/fight scenes – loved them.
Way, way too much homage to IV; I mean, the Empire/First Order didn’t learn the many lessons of design flaws???? Lame. And I come from a long line of engineers, which I am not, but heck, even I get it.
For me it was just way too much retred. And I did not feel invested in the characters at all.
So where did you get your confirmation that Rey is Leia’s daughter?
This. Exactly. Lots of width, not much depth.
Not sure if Rey is Leia’s daughter – seems like she would know if she had more than one kid (I know in the books they had 3, but Disney discided to through those)
And Kylo looked more like his grandfather with the hair and such – and I have seen kids not look like thier parents – though I thought he was more fo a pissed of teen in the movie than a truely bad guy.
Enjoyed the movie, was curious about a few things
Why is the army that fights the First Order, called the resistance? They fight for the republic, shouldn’t it be the “protectors” or the Republic guard or something? “Resistance” sounds like they are fighting the government.
What happened to the rebel’s spy network? – the rebels had no problem knowing about the first 2 death stars, but this super weapon seemed to take them by surprise. Didn’t any notice a planet being remodeled?
And since it eats (well ate) stars, you don’t really need to shot anything, move into a system, destory the star and all the planets would fly off into space, turning into ice cubes in the process. Then you could fire the cannon as a victory thing (or I guess shot the planets in another system – sort of 2 for one desctruction wise.)
And maybe they (Resistance) should figure out who the builders are, stop them from building these massive weapons. in the first place. The Storm Troopers(?) – mostly fight, so there has to be someone else actually building this stuf.
Agreed with this except for #12…
The new Star Wars does not need a replacement for Jar Jar Binks.
[…] it. If you want a more detailed opinion, I basically agree with most of the positive reviews like this one and this […]