‘STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS’
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The Ways of the Force
The ‘Star Wars’ saga continues…again!
‘Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens’ is the seventh film in the ‘Star Wars’ movie saga and was the seventh made in the series! The film was released in 2015. It was directed by J. J. Abrams (of rebooted ‘Star Trek’ fame) with the screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams and Michael Arndt.
I saw this ‘Star Wars’ movie at the cinema in January 2016! It was my first ‘Star Wars’ movie-going cinema experience! I greatly enjoyed seeing this movie! As I said before, I’m not really a ‘Star Wars’ fan, but I enjoyed watching the preceding six movies that were set a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away.
So I knew I was going to enjoy seeing this movie at the cinema. ‘The Force Awakens’ is the beginning of a new chapter in the ‘Star Wars’ saga for a new generation of fans. This was exciting for me, as I could get to watch these ‘Star Wars’ movies and to experience what they’d be like on the big screen.
I waited to see this movie after Christmas 2015 after the hype building up to its release. I saw it in the New Year of 2016. ‘The Force Awakens’ brings back the best that was in the original ‘Star Wars’ movie trilogy. It includes the space battles; Stormtroopers and a Jedi lightsaber battle at the end.
The film is well-directed by J. J. Abrams, who directed the 2009 ‘Star Trek’ film and ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ of the rebooted ‘Star Trek’ film series. I think J. J. Abrams is more suited to the ‘Star Wars’ film series compared to ‘Star Trek’, since he can direct fast-paced, action-packed movies in this one.
When I came to re-watching and reviewing the first six ‘Star Wars’ movies for ‘Bradley’s Basement’ in 2017, my Dad purchased ‘The Force Awakens’ on DVD for us to watch as a family in November. This was great for me as I got up-to-date before watching ‘The Last Jedi’ at the cinema in December.
Like I’ve done before with previous reviews on the first six ‘Star Wars’ films, I will identify what’s good and what’s bad about this movie. There’s bound to be plenty of positives and negatives identified in this review as well as sharing nostalgic memories of watching this movie at the cinema.
‘The Force Awakens’ takes place 30 years after ‘Return of the Jedi’. Luke Skywalker has gone missing and a remnant of the fallen Galactic Empire called the First Order is looking for him. I’m guessing the First Order is like a rogue group of Empire glory-seekers who want to bring back the ‘good old days’.
On the planet Jakku, Poe Dameron, a pilot for the Resistance, backed by the New Republic, acquires a map to Luke Skywalker’s location. The village on Jakku gets attacked by Stormtroopers, commanded by the mysterious and evil Kylo Ren. They capture Poe before they kill everybody else.
But Poe has managed to give the map on Skywalker’s location to a little droid named BB-8. Escaping with the map on Jakku, BB-8 runs into a scavenger named Rey. Rey soon meets up with a defective Stormtrooper named Finn and they both go off with BB-8 on a mission to search for Luke Skywalker.
Now there’s something I’d like to address here with regards to this movie. Jakku is a desert-like planet, very similar to Tatooine in all the other ‘Star Wars’ movies. So why couldn’t they have just called this planet Tatooine instead of Jakku? It would have made sense concerning Rey’s backstory.
It was good to see some new faces in the ‘Star Wars’ movie saga for ‘The Force Awakens’. These new characters are ones for a new generation of ‘Star Wars’ fans to engage with and to see how their journeys develop. This is well-balanced by having the addition of characters from the original trilogy.
Adam Driver stars as the villainous Kylo Ren. He’s like the new Darth Vader for the ‘Star Wars’ sequels movies. He’s a masked leader of the First Order and even aspires to be like Darth Vader from the ‘good old days’. Kylo Ren has this bad temper and lashes out, especially when things fail as planned.
Kylo Ren lashes out with his cross-bladed red lightsaber, ruining a room’s walls in the process. 😀 He also happens to be a good-looking guy with no disfigurements or scars, which begs the question “Why does he need to wear a mask?” Perhaps his obsession to be like Darth Vader has gone too far.
There’s no explanation given on why Kylo Ren is so obsessed with wanting to be a part of the Dark Side of the Force, although he’s clearly misguided, torn between good and evil and has been seduced by Supreme Leader Snoke. Kylo Ren also happens to be the son of Han Solo and General Leia Organa. 😮
Originally named Ben Solo (I assume Han and Leia named him after Obi-Wan Kenobi who was also called Ben Kenobi), Kylo Ren used to be a Jedi apprentice under Luke Skywalker’s guidance. But it all went horribly wrong and Kylo Ren turned to the Dark Side of the Force. Thus why Luke has vanished.
The lovely Daisy Ridley stars as Rey, a scavenger on the planet Jakku. For your interest, Daisy happens to be the great-niece of Arnold Ridley, who played Godfrey in ‘Dad’s Army’. I enjoyed seeing Daisy in this ‘Star Wars’ film. She was also in the 2017 movie ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.
Rey is waiting for the return of her family and has been scavenging on Jakku for a long time. She meets up with the droid BB-8 and soon meets up with Finn as they go off in the Millenium Falcon to escape the First Order chasing them. Rey also happens to be a trained pilot as she and Finn escape.
In this movie, it transpires that Rey has the Force within her. This is demonstrated when Luke’s blue lightsaber calls out to her and she receives visions from it. One wonders though why the lightsaber’s blue and not green. Didn’t Luke lose that when he fought Darth Vader in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’?
Rey’s connection with the Force is also demonstrated when she resists Kylo Ren’s Force mind-tricks on her, as he interrogates her and she questions his motives. She also manages to use a Jedi mind-trick on a nearby a Stormtrooper to set her free. I actually laughed once I saw that tremendous scene.
John Boyega stars as FN-2187, a defective Stormtrooper who is reformed and renamed as ‘Finn’ by Poe Dameron in the movie. Finn is shocked and horrified once he sees his group of Stormtroopers kill the villagers on Jakku. Not wanting anything more to do with the First Order, Finn soon escapes.
Finn helps Poe Dameron to escape from the First Order’s spaceship in a stolen TIE fighter before they crash-land on Jakku. I like Finn as a character. It’s interesting how one Stormtrooper manages to see his way through the horrors of what the First Order are doing and he decides to defect them.
Getting rid of his Stormtrooper uniform and donning Poe’s jacket (when he disappears), Finn soon meets up with Rey and BB-8. Finn accompanies Rey and BB-8 aboard the Millennium Falcon as they escape Jakku from the First Order. Finn is not a pilot and gets easily anxious when getting into trouble.
I like it when Finn is given the blue lightsaber and he tries to use it to fight against Stormtroopers and Kylo Ren during the movie. Finn at least has a good go in trying to use the lightsaber, but he clearly isn’t one with the Force. So it isn’t a surprise that the lightsaber ended up being held by Rey.
I really like the friendship formed between Rey and Finn during the movie. There’s a close attachment developed between the two in the movie. Finn is ashamed when he reveals to Rey he’s not one of the Resistance but a defective Stormtrooper. He receives a hug from Rey when rescuing her.
It was great to see Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher return to their original roles of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa in ‘The Force Awakens’ after 30 years. It brings a nice balance for those who are new to the ‘Star Wars’ films as well as bring back nostalgia for the hardcore fans.
It was exciting when Rey, Finn and BB-8 find the Millennium Falcon, which they steal from a junkyard on Jakku. The Millennium Falcon is still the same cranky old spaceship that can fire weapons on enemy ships, especially when Rey and Finn use it to fire upon the First Order ships that chase them.
Very soon, Rey and Finn meet up with Han Solo and Chewbacca, who come aboard the Millennium Falcon when they acquire it inside their new larger ship. Rey and Finn ask for Han and Chewy to help them out with getting BB-8 back to the Resistance base. Han and Chewy help out through obstacles.
Harrison Ford returns as Han Solo in the movie. Han is now older compared to when we last saw him in ‘Return of the Jedi’. He’s gone back to his old ways of being a smuggler, especially when he has angry men coming aboard his new ship who want their money as well as a gigantic octopus monster.
Han Solo however seems to have become wiser and is almost like a mentor for Rey and Finn during the movie. It turns out that Han and Leia broke up, following the fall of their son Ben Solo who became Kylo Ren. Han reunites with Leia and attempts to win their son back when off to rescue Rey.
Peter Mayhew returns as Chewbacca, the long-time Wookiee friend of Han Solo. I’m not sure if Chewy has become older as well as Han since the last time we saw him. But it was good to see Chewbacca back in this movie and he still gets to help out Han with his outer-space smuggling here.
Chewy also assists Han Solo when they plant detonation devices all over the Starkiller Base in order to blow it up. I liked it when Chewy gives a bear hug to Leia once they reunite on Takodana. Chewy gets really upset when something terrible happens to Han. He joins Rey when they go to find Luke.
There’s something else I’d like to address here with this movie. The First Order’s terrible weapon in this movie…is the Starkiller Base. Which is just like the Death Star except bigger. What is it with evil Empire and First Order weapons that look like giant spheres that kill planets? Can’t they be square?! 😀
Carrie Fisher returns as General Leia Organa in the movie. Not sure what happened to her title of Princess, unless it’s to do with the prequel films. ARGH!!! Anyway, Leia is again in charge of the Resistance fighting the First Order. She desperately wants her brother Luke Skywalker to help them.
I like how the reunion between Leia and Han Solo is handled in the movie. It’s uneasy, but it’s not done with the two bitterly arguing with each other. They share how they had good times during their relationship before they lost their son. I like how Leia seems wiser and strong during the movie.
It was good to see Anthony Daniels return as C-3PO in this movie. C-3PO now has a red right-arm. What happened to his original gold right arm is unexplained. Perhaps it got blown-off. Anyway, C-3PO is still the same over-polite, protocol droid. I liked it when he first appears between Han and Leia.
C-3PO also becomes instrumental in relaying vital information to Resistance forces in destroying the Starkiller Base. I liked those scenes where C-3PO informs BB-8 that R2-D2 has been asleep for a long while and doesn’t know when he’ll wake up. I liked it when C-3PO was very pleased to see R2-D2 back.
R2-D2 returns and is now played by Jimmy Vee, well-known for many roles in the new series of ‘Doctor Who’. R2-D2 has been asleep for some time and was with Luke Skywalker between ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘The Force Awakens’. R2 reawakens to give the complete map to Luke Skywalker’s location.
I like the new little droid BB-8 in the movie. BB-8 is like the new R2-D2 for the ‘Star Wars’ sequels but not to replace him. BB-8 is a combination of a rod puppet and a remote-controlled robotic unit, since he’s spherical with a free-moving domed head. The special effects for BB-8 are very impressive.
Oscar Issac stars as Poe Dameron in the movie. For me, Oscar Issac played Joseph in ‘The Nativity Story’ film in 2006. Poe is a Resistance X-wing fighter pilot who gets rescued by Finn when they escape from the First Order. He vanishes for most of the film when he and Finn crash-land on Jakku.
But somehow he returns in the second half of the movie when he leads a group of Resistance X-wing fighters to rescue Han Solo, Chewbacca and Finn on the planet Takodana from the First Order. How he survived is not fully explained, but he’s pleased to see Finn and the two become good friends here.
Lupita Nyong’o stars as Maz Kanata in the movie. Maz Kanata owns an interstellar tavern in a castle on the planet Takonda. She was once a former pirate and smuggler and is over 1000 years old. Oh and Maz Kanata happens to be CGI character, voiced and performed via the motion capture method.
Maz happens to know Han Solo pretty well when he, Rey and Finn come to her tavern on Takonda. She helps the three in their search for Luke Skywalker and has been keeping his blue lightsaber in a small chest. Maz offers the blue lightsaber to Rey for her to take since the Force is very strong with her.
Andy Serkis stars as Supreme Leader Snoke in the movie. For me, Andy Serkis is very well-known for playing Gollum in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movie trilogy as well as in ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’. Here Andy Serkis plays the new Emperor-like character for the ‘Star Wars’ sequel movies.
Snoke appears gigantic when Kylo Ren and General Hux talk to him. But it turns out they happen to be talking to him via a gigantic hologram, which was disappointing. I wonder what Snoke really looks like in size and whether he’s a spawn of Darth Sidious. Snoke had seduced Kylo Ren to the Dark Side.
Domhnall Gleeson stars as General Hux in the movie. General Hux is like the new Peter Cushing/Grand Moff Tarkin character for the ‘Star Wars’ sequels. He happens to be a ruthless commander of the Starkiller Base and is in a power struggle with Kylo Ren for the First Order leadership.
I’m not sure whether General Hux will become a vital character to the ‘Star Wars’ sequels, considering he’s that of a typical Empire/First Order ruthless character by this point. But he seems to communicate a lot with Snoke in the movie, even when the Starkiller Base gets blown up by the end.
Max von Sydow stars as Lor San Tekka, a retired adventurer on Jakku who’s aiding the Resistance in locating Skywalker by giving the map to Poe Dameron. Sydow has appeared in many films and TV shows over the years. He was in the cult film ‘Flash Gordon’ and the James Bond film ‘Never Say Never Again’.
So it’s rather shocking that Max von Sydow has a seemingly small role in ‘The Force Awakens’. It would have been interesting to learn more about why Lor San Tekka is helping the Resistance and how he knows about Kylo Ren’s history when he comes to attack the villagers on Jakku at the film’s beginning.
The cast also includes Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma and Simon Pegg (I didn’t realise it was him in that monster make-up for the movie) as Unkar Plut. The film also features Harriet Walter as Dr. Kalonia. I was delighted to see Harriet in this, especially when she was tending to Chewy’s wounds.
The movie features a shocking twist. Han Solo attempts to win his son Kylo Ren back. But in the process, Kylo Ren stabs Han Solo with his red cross-bladed lightsaber. I didn’t like that scene when I saw the movie at the cinema. It will mean no more Han Solo in the rest of the ‘Star Wars’ movie saga.
It also shows how cruel Kylo Ren has become and how he dismisses his past life and wants to hold onto the Dark Side and become like Darth Vader. It seems Kylo Ren isn’t clear on the facts about the circumstances of his grandfather. He’s become a monster, but he doesn’t seem to realise that fact.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a good ‘Star Wars’ film without a lighsaber duel between Rey and Kylo Ren in a snowy forest. Rey is not used to fighting with a lightsaber, but she soon manages to become one with the Force and overcome Kylo Ren and resist his offer to be trained by him to learn the Force.
The movie ends with Rey, joined by Chewbacca and R2-D2, as they journey to the planet Ahch-To. There, Rey finds Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker on top of a mountain, older and bearded like Obi-Wan Kenobi. The film closes with Rey handing out Luke Skywalker’s blue lightsaber for him to take.
I was disappointed we didn’t get to see enough of Luke in this film. He’d been talked about and it was great to have that build-up in revealing him at the end. But for my first ‘Star Wars’ movie at the cinema, it was disappointing since he didn’t say anything. I hope to see more of Luke Skywalker in ‘The Last Jedi’.
John Williams returns to compose the music for ‘The Force Awakens’. I’m pleased John Williams came back to do this seventh instalment of the ‘Star Wars’ movie saga. He reuses some of his classic ‘Star Wars’ music from the original trilogy as well as introducing new themes for the new characters.
There are sadly no special features for ‘The Force Awakens’ DVD. This is very disappointing for me since all the special features are on ‘The Force Awakens’ Blu-ray. I know how times have changed since then, but the producers could’ve kept things consistent with the previous ‘Star Wars’ movies on DVD.
The special features on the Blu-ray are as follows. There’s the four-part ‘Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey’ making-of feature; ‘The Story Awakens: The Table Read’; ‘Crafting Creatures’; ‘Building BB-8’; ‘Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight’; ‘ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force’; ‘John Williams: The Seventh Symphony’; deleted scenes and ‘Force for Change’.
‘Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens’ is a great new beginning to a series of sequel movies in the ‘Star Wars’ saga. I enjoyed this movie when I saw it at the cinema. I’m very glad to have seen it again on DVD, especially since I’ve been able to revisit and review the ‘Star Wars’ saga from scratch.
I wondered what would happen next and how the ‘Star Wars’ saga would continue with all of the unanswered questions left hanging in the air involving characters like Luke Skywalker; Rey; Kylo Ren; etc. I didn’t need to wait long though as the next instalment in the ‘Star Wars’ saga was about to come!
Rey is now with Luke Skywalker! Will she become a Jedi like him in the next movie?
‘Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens’ rating – 8/10
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