Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie Review
Sadly, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is worse than any of the prequels. Thankfully, I'm also a compulsive liar. The J.J. Abrams-directed sequel largely brings balance to the Force, a highly entertaining and fast-paced action film full of spectacle and humor, an experience that is hampered only by unrealistic expectations.
To review Star Wars: The Force Awakens so soon after watching the movie for the first time is not the best way to critique such a film, for any Star Wars movie is designed to be watched over and over again and last the test of time. In that regard, The Force Awakens does the trick—it's a fun movie to watch, largely absent of the stilted dialogue and boring politics and green screen visuals and Jar-Jar Binks-esque characters that plagued the prequels. It's a solid sequel to the three original films; J.J. Abrams captures the grit and feel of Episode IV, opting for real sets and props and dusty, rugged worlds over glossy, CGI-glazed ones.
But for a movie where expectations have been rampant for years before the first scene was ever filmed, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was bound to offer some disappointments. Most are nitpicks—while John Boyega's character is a solid addition, for example, the frantic style of humor bestowed on him doesn't always fit the world the Lucas of George created decades earlier—there are some broader issues that keep this movie from being the amazing piece of work we all hoped it would be.
There is plenty of action throughout the film and all of it is very entertaining in the moment, but the movie lacks that killer sequence that defines the film. Abrams comes close a few times—the first chase scene involving the Millennium Falcoln is arguably the best of the bunch—but even The Phantom Menace has more truly memorable action sequences (the Darth Maul lightsaber battle, anyone?).
Abrams cuts a few corners, like he has in other movies. For example, how does a certain character know how to use the Force without any training whatsoever? And like with Abrams' Star Trek, the director seems unwilling to slow down to explain things if it sacrifices pace and action. How did the First Order come to be? There's a functioning Republic government now, allegedly, but there's still a Resistance? What happened immediately after the death of the Emperor all those years before? Abrams could have spent two minutes world-building at the macro level, but as is it seems as though nothing has changed since Episode VI, which at best is uninteresting and lazy. Speaking of which, why do we need another world-destroying space station that is "bigger and badder" than the Death Star? Couldn't the filmmakers come up with something more original and different?
Despite these things, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a solidly entertaining action film, well written for the most part with interesting characters, some of whom may not be so black-and-white as historically has been the case. The new cast is great—Daisy Ridley is fantastic, John Boyega is strong and Adam Driver is fun to watch—and integrates well with the old (Harrison Ford slides back into his Han Solo role like a well-used glove).
Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn't quite live up to its lofty expectations and may not be as good as the original three, but it's a worthy sequel. In time and after repeat viewings, its faults will fade and deservingly so, because The Force Awakens is a movie that deserves to be seen more than once.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.