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With Star Wars Episode VII, J.J. Abrams has made a promise. A promise to honor the original Star Wars trilogy while adapting the series to the more cynical and less romanticized world of 2015. A promise not to let that fat white hermit crab, George Lucas, anywhere near the writing room. It’s also a promise to add more much needed humor into the series.  While there are some unbelievably spectacular action sequences, most of Force Awakens seems like set-up for the new trilogy.

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The film spends a lot of time introducing new characters and re-introducing older characters, as well as introducing new plot points for the new trilogy. Unfortunately, most of the action upstages much needed character development on a few key players, namely Rey (a very good Daisy Ridley). It was odd that she just automatically knew how to use the force at a fairly advanced level without any training. The film also doesn’t do much to build Poe (the great Oscar Issac) or his relationship with Finn (John Boyega). Towards the ending of the film, there’s a moment shared between the two that is supposed to have a lot of emotional weight. Unfortunately we haven’t seen their friendship build so it seems really forced and awkward. They’re just all of a sudden as close as brothers and we’re supposed to just shut the hell up, nod and smile. A good contrast to this relationship is the relationship of Han and Luke in the original trilogy. Initially they hate each other (like any hot bromance), and eventually they earn each other’s trust by saving each other’s lives on numerous occasions. Abrams should have added more friction to Poe and Finn’s relationship to make it work.

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A lot of minor characters including a wasted Lupita Nyongo as an old tangelo, Domnhall Gleeson as a beautiful Nazi and one of the aliens from Prometheus (voiced by Andy Serkis) are just kind of there to move the plot forward. On the other hand, the character of Finn minus the suspicious bromance  with Poe, is a really well developed character. Boyega brings a lot of personality and likability to the character as well. The best character out of the new bunch is Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. Most everyone I saw the film with hated him for being a “whiny little bitch”, but I felt that his character perfectly inhabited all of the traits of a person seduced by the Dark Side. Imagine for a second, having Han Solo as a father. Emotionally distant and prone to anger, it’s easy to speculate that Ben didn’t get much of a strong male role model. A villain this unpredictable and emotional played by such a talented and nuanced actor  is what Star Wars needed.  There’s nothing more threatening than an unstable individual. They don’t think clearly, so you don’t have any idea what they’re going to do next.

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The returning cast is a mixed bag. Carrie Fisher is predictably terrible, mushing her words together like a broken garbage disposal. Mark Hammil gives a really dramatic look, and C3PO delivers the biggest laugh of the film. Harrison Ford is far and away the best part of Force Awakens. I don’t know if it’s just his general disinterest in the Star Wars series shining through or a remarkably spot-on portrayal of guy getting too old for this shit. Whatever it is, it works. The character is really well written and the decision to have him die at the hands of his son the best dramatic decision the film makes. He’s the perfect bridge for Rey to Luke Skywalker.

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Star Wars Episode VII is far from perfect but it’s the best film in the series since The Empire Strikes Back. The cheesy dialogue, convenient plotting and forced relationships still exist to a degree, but everything this go around seems more inspired. The cinematography and all the technical aspects are better than they’ve ever been and the performances are actually believable. I could spend another paragraph talking about how all the Nazi imagery is too on-the-nose and possibly triviales the Holocaust. However, I’d rather just wrap things up by saying this is a really good and entertaining film that is well worth your $10. Grade: B+ 





  1. I enjoyed it quite a bit but it didn’t answer the question I had when Disney first announced the new movies, which is “why?” (other than to make a shit-ton of money, of course). Say what you will about “the fat white hermit crab,” (who, let’s not forget, is the ultimate source of everything you enjoyed in this film) but for all their other flaws the prequels had a particular story to tell and vision to express. Whether they did so well is another question, but the story of Anakin’s fall from grace was, in theory, at least, a compelling narrative. What we have here so far is essentially rehashing the arcs of the original trilogy and if the saga continues in this direction it’s definitely going to seem like a business venture in search of an artistic justification. Whatever my thoughts about the individual films, or about Lucas’ missteps over the years, it’s sad to see a mega-pop culture phenomenon go from the management of an individual to that of a corporation. Hopefully Rian Johnson can bring some individual vision and personal style back to the franchise with his upcoming contributions.

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