Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Movie Review: Everything You’ve Been Waiting For

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: anytime you catch a “fan service”-style reference (this one is subjective).

Take a Drink: for Wookie exclamations

Take a Drink: for every moment Domhnall Gleeson does his best SS Officer impersonation.

Do a Shot: knowing that any squibble here is minor at best.

Do a Shot: for classic Daddy Issues

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Bill Arceneaux (A Toast) –

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“They turned a whole Planet into a NEW Death Star!?”

Note: NOT a moon, and more than a space station.

Depending on your tolerance threshold, the above exclamation/question will be a positive or a negative. No in-between. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the 7th Episode in series continuity, has been seen as a soft reboot or remake of A New Hope – the 4th Episode and original movie. Again, depending on your threshold, this is either good or bad. It’s either “a love letter to the magic” or “a rehashing of the familiar”. And, quite frankly, I can see both sides as clearly as Obi Wan and Luke saw Mos Eisley from atop that sand dune.

Is this a case of your attitude going into the movie? Impossible to meet expectations? Remake/Reboot overload? Hollywood has really put the target audience in a bad situation, creating hype for a series after YEARS of over-saturating the market with sequels, spinoffs and the like galore. The fervor over The Phantom Menace was intense, but The Force Awakens has been a bit scaled back. Maybe we’re just weary eyed and cautious – as we should be.

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Never forget.

A Toast

Having seen the movie twice over opening weekend – both times in 3D (one in IMAX 3D) – with plans for more showings, it can be safely said that I HIGHLY enjoyed this movie, by itself and as an installment in the overall story. What the Disney Empire and the daring/dashing rebel J.J. Abrams have given us is, in my opinion, more than simple fan service or loving familiarity. The Force Awakens does operate that way, don’t get me wrong, but it also works as a fine continuation of the original themes of friendship, family, and legacy, in black and white terms. Clearly defined good and evil, complexity and conflicts as you would expect, and mysteries waiting to be unfolded. Space soap opera at its finest.

The visual language of the film retains the dynamic and progressive spirit of A New Hope and the Original Trilogy – even going so far as cleverly repeating some images – while being completely different from its predecessors. The wheel hasn’t been reinvented, but the style of capturing moments has been updated. Aside from J.J.’s usual sweeping camera movements between and around characters, there were three sequences that were realized in ways that took me off guard. 1) The opening star destroyer shot, eclipsing a moon. 2) The stormtroopers preparing for battle. 3) Chewbacca about to detonate some bombs. Each one of these have different meanings in the story, but are all wholly foreign from the other films. The use of lighting, colors, snappy and timely edits, zooms, etc. all evoke various feelings for various moments. And they are used perfectly throughout.

More importantly, the characters and their relationships with one another are as strong as ever. In the opening battle, we see new baddie Kylo Ren share a stare with a lone and shocked stormtrooper, Finn. Both have helmets on, so we can’t see their immediate expressions, but somehow, are able to feel exactly what they are experiencing. Body language, musical cues, and surrounding environments are VERY important here. All the information in the movie expressed between and about people are best stated without words, without the crutch of verbal exposition. More than the plot, more than seeing old and new faces, THIS is what brings a tear to my eye.

While I can see how moviegoers might have issues with The Force Awakens, it’s hard for me to completely understand. This is exactly what Star Wars fans – ever since the ending of Return of the Jedi – have been wanting and waiting for. This is exactly what audiences – sold out and stolen from – have been yearning to view for years. The Force Awakens is wonderfully great. Exactly.

Verdict

Is this a Marvel’s The Avengers level miracle? Probably as hyperbolic as that, yes. Absolutely.

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Hulk approves with a fist pump.

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About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

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