IR Film Review: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Star Wars Force Awakens

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-chief

I was born in 1979, too young to see A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back in the theater. But Star Wars had an indelible impression on my childhood. I can literally connect the dots with the Star Wars memories from my earliest years. Perhaps my earliest memory is playing with a lone Obi-Wan Star Wars figure alone in my bedroom. I couldn’t have been more than three at the time. I have no idea where that figure came from. I was fortunate enough to see Return of the Jedi in the theater on its original release in 1983. By then my parents, like many others, had lined George Lucas’ pockets with quite a few dollars trying to satiate my need for as much Star Wars stuff as possible. I vividly remember my mom bringing home a bulky plastic “The Force” red lightsaber. They didn’t resemble the lightsabers from the film but they made a surprisingly accurate sound when swung. I complained that I wanted a green one and she told me it was the only one not dinged up from kids dueling in the store. I remember my cousin, who lived next door, turning five and being jealous that my parents got him a Han Solo blaster that I didn’t have (I never did get one). I can recall another cousin being a jerk about all the Star Wars figures he had that I didn’t and my dad and grandfather taking me to the store and asking me which ones he didn’t have and loading the shopping cart up so he couldn’t make me feel bad again. When I was seven we were at a cookout with someone my dad worked with who had a kid that had outgrown his toys and loaded me up with boxes of figures, a Darth Vader action figure case along with a ton of vehicles. It’s weird how many of those Star Wars moments stick out in my head

Indie Revolver has had a similar journey, coming of age with its own Star Wars milestones. Chances are, if you’re reading this or any of the stuff on the site it’s because of one of the exclusives we ran for The Force Awakens, maybe it was that first day we posted the first Stormtrooper images, the concept art for Han Solo, and the first art depicting an early cyborg version of Kylo Ren. Or maybe you found us with our reveal of a Chrome Trooper, or the art depicting the lightsaber duel with the falcon overhead, or the alternate version of Kylo. Then there was the early concept art of Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke, etc, etc, etc. The truth is, I love Star Wars and was so excited to have the opportunity to share and discuss pieces that were coming from the sequel to Return of the Jedi! With each new piece of art or plot point that I heard, the more I came to realize that J.J.’s approach was exactly what I’d hoped it would be. Not only was he

Now here I am, trying to figure out what to say about J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens. The intention is to tread lightly and not reveal any spoilers. Trust me, I want you to see this thing and then we can dissect the shit out of it. Until everyone has that opportunity though, I’ll speak in vague generalities as best I can.

The film hits the ground running as soon as it opens and doesn’t stop to take a breath until that last shot. The themes are universal as well as powerful, destiny, fate and family. They’re all dealt with here and in very interesting ways.

What you really want to know is if the film is actually good?

Yeah, it is.

How good?

Pretty fucking great, actually.

Sitting there in that dark theater, my attention locked on the screen, out of nowhere the magnitude of the situation struck me. I realized that I was sitting in a theater watching the sequel to Return of the Jedi, a film I watched at least a hundred times as a kid (my grandfather paid a hundred dollars back before sell-through when only video stores usually paid that much. And I watched it a LOT). In that moment I thought about how this was something I’d been waiting to see since I was four years old and now it was happening right in front of my eyes. Then I teared up. I did. Just for a moment. I let myself be taken out of the film for just a moment to reflect on how big a deal this was for me. And then I let the film take me back in again.

Is it possible that our nostalgia or gratitude for having Star Wars back in our lives will skew the way we really feel about the film like it skewed our view of Episode I? I vividly remember a theater of people cheering at the end of that opening night screening only to have the spell wear off when we realized how bad that film was. We were all just SO excited to have Star Wars back that we cheered for The Phantom Menace. That actually happened. And that film was terrible.

Thankfully, The Force Awakens does not resemble anything from the Prequel Trilogy in any way, shape or form. J.J. and his trusted crew have given us a worthy successor to our beloved Original Trilogy, with a masterful mix of humor, heart and horror that should satisfy even the most skeptical of fans. The Force Awakens deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder with the films in the Original Trilogy. This is a Star Wars film carefully crafted by so many artists who not only understand, but also LOVE Star Wars. The Force Awakens delivers in all the ways I needed it to. I’m reasonably certain you’ll agree with me.

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are the standouts of the new cast as Jakku scavenger, Rey and the evil Kylo Ren. Oscar Isaac’s hotshot pilot Poe Dameron and John Boyega’s AWOL stormtrooper Finn are also noteworthy. The new cast members are all great, including new droid BB-8.

Most importantly, Abrams has not only created one thrilling cinematic rollercoaster ride, he and screenwriter Larence Kasdan have set up plenty of plot points that can be mined further in the next chapters. I’m intrigued to see where Rian Johnson takes these characters in Episode VIII.

If you weren’t already aware, The Force Awakens opens Thursday 12/17.

Thank you for taking this journey with us. It’s been one helluva ride. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

One thought on “IR Film Review: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

    With an infinite selection of planet environments in the Star Wars universe to choose from, and with only the limits of the storyteller’s imagination to stop them, why are we back on a desert planet? Each of the previous 6 episodes introduced us to a new environment to play in. We’ve seen sand; we’ve seen ice; we’ve seen forest. Why not take us somewhere we’ve truly never been before? Is it because Rey is a Skywalker, and so there’s a symmetry to putting her on Jakku? Nice idea, but it’s Star Wars. If you’re going back to the desert, then at least take us back to our favorite sand planet: Tatooine.
    Captain Phasma did nothing in this movie. What is the point of her. Seemed like she was going to be the new “Boba Fett”, but instead she was a waste of space. Is she just being set up for something greater in VIII? If so, then why not introduce her in VIII, instead of taking up precious screen time in the Star Wars movie that I’m watching now?
    Everybody loves Andy Serkis, but why was his Snoke character motion-captured? Seems to me his look could have been achieved easily and more effectively with modern prosthetics, and without losing any of the performance. Snoke is seemingly a vital character to this story, and I don’t believe he’s real. Also, where did he come from anyway, after the fall of Palpatine and Vader? Will that be explained later? In my opinion, he should be Darth Plagueis, who was introduced in Episode III. I hope that’s the case. It’s the only thing that would make sense, and would tie all the Sith we know from the movies together.
    Finn should not have been able to wield a lightsabre as well as he did, or hold his own as well as he did against Kylo Ren, even if Kylo was injured, conflicted, and holding back. It’s just not believable for a non-Jedi, let alone someone who’s never seen a lightsabre before.
    Same thing goes for Rey, though she obviously has the Force in her. But still – no training with the Force or a lightsabre, and she basically beat Kylo. Come on man.
    And Rey’s ability to pilot the Falcon the way she did, even poorly, and with the Falcon in as bad shape as it was in, and EVEN considering her (untrained) Force-sensitive skills, was unbelievable. It’s a miracle that she didn’t destroy the Falcon. Speaking of, the Falcon took so many BAD tumbles in this movie (I cringed every time) and somehow kept going. This movie tested my suspension of disbelief beyond it’s limits.
    Shouldn’t powerful Jedi (Master) Luke Skywalker have forseen the death of his friend Han Solo, and come to the rescue? In Empire he’s a barely trained Padawan, yet Luke foresaw the pain of his friends on Bespin. I think Luke should have arrived and intervened during the Rey/Kylo battle, saving Rey (which I would have loved, and which would have been more believable than Rey doing as well as she did). It would have also been such a better intro to Luke Skywalker in the movie than that final scene was. Only thing I can think of is that Luke did foresee Han’s death, but remained in hiding for fear that he would be captured by the First Order, preventing him from bringing the Jedi back and defeating them for good. If that’s the case, they better sell the shit out of that in VIII. I need to BELIEVE it was worth killing Solo for.
    Speaking of that final scene, it didn’t fill me with the emotion that I think was intended. The whole movie was leading up to that moment, and there was no satisfaction for me when I actually saw Rey find Luke. It was too predictable, and didn’t feel organic. I would have at least had Luke take the lightsabre from her hand – some interaction. He just stood there. As much as I wanted to see Luke Skywalker again, it would have been better I think to give us the Empire ending, with Rey and Chewie flying off in the Falcon to look for Luke.
    Han Solo. Shit. I’m still working out the good and bad of his dying, and the only thing that makes me okay with it is something that I haven’t seen anyone else mention: Han risked his life to bring back his son — for Leia. That kind of makes me okay with it, though it’s a hard pill to swallow. Maybe if he went out a little more heroically, saving someone else’s life in the process, it would have been easier to accept. But as I’m writing this, I think I’m becoming more accepting with how it happened. I said going in that in order for Kylo to be taken seriously as a dangerous character, he’d have to kill somebody important. Well, he did. (But HAN?!?) And I guess it’s fitting that Kylo had to face his father and kill him in order to advance as a Sith lord, much the same way that Luke’s final test was to face his father before he could become a Jedi.
    Most of the movie “looked” pretty good, but the CG creatures that Han and Chewie are transporting stood out like a sore thumb.
    Star Wars usually introduces us to a memorable new species of creatures: Jawas, Ewoks, TaunTauns, etc. What was the memorable new species from TFA? Can’t think of any.
    I’m amazed that soon after Disney bought Lucasfilm, they officially de-cannonized all of the Expanded Universe stories that came after Return of the Jedi, only to STRIP MINE many key elements from it for use in this movie! – In the EU, one of Han/Leia’s force-sensitive kids (Jacen) is trained by Luke, and then turns to the darkside. In the EU, Luke has a kid named Ben. In the EU, the Empire builds a Death Star like weapon called the Sun Crusher that can take out multiple planets at once by destroying their sun. Why, with all of the money and creative talent available for STAR WARS EPISODE 7, is there a need to take from other sources? They can literally write any kind of story they want, but instead opt to re-use elements from other writers who will get no credit or $ for their ideas that have ended up in one of the biggest movies of all time.
    Not only were important elements reused from EU content, but the overall plot of TFA, as many have pointed out, is basically the plot of the original Star Wars: A New Hope. The Empire = The First Order. Rebels = Resistance. Death Star = Starkiller Base. Unsuspecting Force-Sensitive desert-living protagonist Luke = Anakin = Rey (all Skywalkers I believe). I want originality, especially in a brand new Star Wars film. They basically pulled a Jurassic World. Such a waste of an opportunity. Taking risks can pay off – just ask George Lucas how his risk called “Star Wars” turned out. And bringing something new to this Star Wars film isn’t even a risk (financially) because the movie is going to be a huge success no matter what.
    There are plenty of proven Star Wars motifs that I do like to see again and again in every Star Wars film, like a good cantina scene, but the cantina scene in TFA was not very memorable. There are so many memorable scenes from the original trilogy; cantina, trash compactor, trench run, Hoth battle, Dagobah training, carbonite chamber, Jabba’s palace, Sarlaac pit, Endor battle, Luke vs Vader vs Emperor climax, etc. How many memorable, original scenes have you taken away from TFA? Most of what I took with me was based on nostalgia from the originals, not so much new ideas, themes, visuals or emotions.
    Lastly, many of my reservations I’ve mentioned can be traced to the movie’s apparent dependence on Episodes 8 and 9 to fulfill satisfaction. As Part 1 in a new 3 Part series, though it’s okay to set some exposition up for the following Episodes, EVERY MOVIE should stand on it’s own as satisfying from beginning to end, without exception. Even Empire, which ends on a bitter note and leaves several important loose ends, manages to succeed as a satisfying standalone film.

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