Star Wars Rewatch: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens is really the film that motivated me to bring my Star Wars fandom to the next level. At the point this movie came out I had gone through my Star Wars phase. When the Disney purchase went down and they announced new movies I was a little skeptical. Its not like Star Wars had a flawless reputation at that point anyway, but they did have the great ending in Return of the Jedi that is sort of ruined if the conflict resumes.

This watch of The Force Awakens, which is easily the Star Wars movie I’ve watched the most in the last decade was done with one of my friends, who has never seen it. He decided now (at the last minute) that he wants to get caught up on Star Wars before the final movie. I’ve shown him the original 6 movies before, back in like 2014 or 15 before The Force Awakens came out, but he never went to the sequel trilogy movies.

In retrospect JJ Abrams seems perfectly suited for The Force Awakens. Sure, its the start of a sequel trilogy, but its also a reboot. JJ had already revived two franchises prior to this one. Mission Impossible III was probably the strongest entry in that franchise to that point and it sent the franchise in the direction it is in now. JJ still gets producer credits for those movies. Then he revived Star Trek effectively as well. I’m not the biggest fan of the franchise, but I really enjoy that reboot. JJ also had a great reputation for getting properties off to a good start. He created LOST, Alias, and Fringe, before handing them off to showrunners.

I have far more fond memories of seeing The Force Awakens than I have watching any other movie. The hype going into that movie was huge. There was some time where the movie was even stressing me out a bit. What if it sucked? Chances are if the sequel trilogy got off the rails right away there would be no getting back on.

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The Force Awakens sets up our new characters very well right from the beginning. I remember hearing someone say that there was more character development in the scene where Finn and Poe steal the TIE fighter than there was in the whole prequel trilogy. Not sure I agree, but I latched on to these characters right away. I had seen a few of Oscar Isaac’s performances prior to this, but John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were both obscure names at the time and both became big deals immediately with this film.

One of the biggest criticisms of The Force Awakens was the resemblance to A New Hope. Personally I hardly noticed the similarities until I went home and started watching Youtube reviews. It obviously does resemble it quite a bit, but who cares? At the end of the day I cared about the characters.

Luke Skywalker’s involvement in the story was a mystery from the outset. The end result is just seconds of screen time without a single word spoken. I remember all the speculating that Luke had turned to the dark side because he was so sheltered from the marketing, but it was just that Luke was essentially a human MacGuffin and the First Order and Resistance were in a race to find him. The crawl immediately sets the stage with “Luke Skywalker has vanished”. When the lightsaber started to tremble in the snow after Kylo kicked Finn’s ass I honestly thought Luke Skywalker was going to be the one to catch it. Mark Hamill had this thought himself while reading the script. Nope, Rey. Still a cool moment, and I don’t know how they would work Luke into the story if he did catch the lightsaber. Chances all the back of the theater seats would all be covered in jizz if that happened though. So maybe that choice was for the best.

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It may be explained away with Palpatine’s involvement in The Rise of Skywalker, but it bugged me a little bit that the First Order resembled the Empire so much in design. They do say that the First Order rose the ashes of the Empire in the crawl. It just seems like a lazy way to stick with what is familiar. I guess its just that the Rebellion became the New Republic, which supported the Resistance and the First Order is the evolution of the Empire. We learn in the Aftermath books that this was part of the Emperor’s contingency plan.

Kylo Ren became an immediate favorite for me leaving the theater. The character reminded me a lot of Anakin Skywalker from the prequels, but far better executed. Adam Driver had caught my eye a bit in some of his earlier performances, but this the big coming out party for him as an actor. He was far more established as a character compared to Darth Vader after one movie.

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Starkiller Base was something a lot of fans hated on. I think the resemblance to A New Hope would’ve been much calmer if it didn’t exist. The destruction of the Republic, which is like 5 planets has far less of an effect on the audience than seeing Alderaan destroyed  in A New Hope. Even though destroying 4 more planets and millions more people were probably killed.

I find that most Star Wars films end with one side being a clear “winner”. The Force Awakens doesn’t really have that. The First Order definitely still has the upper hand at this point even though they lost the race to Luke Skywalker. There is no governing body to stop them from trampling over everybody.

4 years have passed now, and I’m still a pretty big fan of this movie. What do you think of The Force Awakens?