Star Wars The Force Awakens review

Force Awakens is like homecoming for Star Wars franchise

Rest assured Star Wars fans. You won’t have to complain endlessly about how Director J.J. Abrams further ruined your childhood. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is everything we initially loved about the franchise and exceeds expectations that will likely leave a new generation obsessed about a franchise from a galaxy far, far away. 

I’ll have to see it a few more times to get a better sense of where Awakens slots in with the series, but it’s safely in the top tier alongside Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens..First Order Troopers..Ph: Film Frame..? 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

In this instance, it’d be a disservice to reveal too much of the plot details. There’s some major spoilers in the film so it’s best to see Awakens as soon as possible so you don’t read about the big reveals online rather than in the theater.


Thankfully, most of the online speculation and rumors were way off-base. And whoever cut the film’s trailer deserves a raise for whetting fans’ appetite to insatiable levels while preserving the film’s major moments.

Thirty years have passed since the events in Return of the Jedi. The First Order, the remnants of the Galactic Empire, are hunting down Luke Skywalker led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Clad in all black and wielding a red lightsaber, Ren’s similarities to Darth Vader are not a coincidence. Opposing the First Order is the Resistance led by Leia (Carrie Fisher) along with some old friends.


Through a series of random events, Finn (John Boyega) meets Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) before the pair separate and Finn meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger on the desolate planet Jakku. Rey already stumbled onto Poe’s droid BB-8 and the trio attempt to return BB-8 to the Resistance and reveal the important information it carries.

For all the pre-Force Awakens hype, pretty much everyone is going to want a BB-8 of their own [Sphero BB-8 App-Enabled Droid] after seeing the movie. Eventually the trio meet up with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca, who have an inside track in getting BB-8 to the Resistance provided they can outwit Kylo Ren and the First Order. Ford hasn’t been this much fun in a movie in years and his chemistry with Boyega and Ridley as the wily mentor is tremendous.

Star Wars: The Force AwakensPh: Film Frame© 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

Awakens just feels like Star Wars in a way most of the prequels felt somewhat detached. This is the same lived-in Star Wars world of Tatooine, Hoth and Endor with large scale sets that don’t have that CGI-refined coat of polish from the prequels.


In one especially telling action sequence, the Millennium Falcon’s targeting display retains the same old school grid look from Star Wars.

There’s a lot of humor as well to further endear the characters and recapture that sense of regular folks in a galactic conflict, not like the stuffy Jedi and aristocratic politicians from the prequels.

While Star Wars creator George Lucas lost his way at times introducing new characters, creatures and concepts, Abrams takes a back to basic approach. Alien characters are added to help flesh out the story first and sell action figures second, not vice versa. Most intriguing were Han’s pal Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) and the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). The humor isn’t forced and marketing doesn’t seem to influence storytelling decisions.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens..Ph: Film Frame..? 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

On the action front, Abrams delivers flawless Star Wars excitement from the space fights to lightsaber duels. While I’m equally excited about Rian Johnson tackling Episode VIII, Abrams shows he could have just as easily handled the entire new trilogy.

Sticking so true to the saga also brings a few legacy issues such as the underutilized cool looking henchman or henchwoman in this case with the towering Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and an overdone space dogfight to topple the enemy’s ultimate weapon. It may be overly familiar, but when it’s done this well, it’s hard to complain.


Interestingly, Abrams and co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan incorporate a decent amount of plot themes and ideas from the Star Wars expanded universe in the film. Going forward, it’ll be interesting to see what other plot threads are explored.

One major issue I had, and one I suspect will be shared by other fans who grew up with the franchise, is that Awakens isn’t so much the continuing adventures of Luke and company, but a passing of the torch to the new generation.

Luke and the gang already had their epic trilogy and Awakens leaves little doubt this is not their story. It helps immeasurably that this new crew is so likable. Abrams gets  passionate performances from his cast to help ingratiate them easier.


Finn is a lot of fun getting the bulk of the laughs in some terrific scenes with BB-8 and Chewbacca. Rey is all but guaranteed to become the new icon for young girls and woman of all ages while Ren provides a villain fans will have a tough time embracing — in a good way.

As the film unfolds, there is definitely the sense that we missed one heckuva trilogy detailing the events that led to where Awakens begins. I found myself just as intrigued as learning more of those events as I did the current situation.

There was just one decision I strongly disliked — it’s a spoiler — that I’m curious how it will impact the rest of this trilogy. Unlike both the original trilogy and the prequels, Awakens ends on a mild cliffhanger.


In several ways, Force Awakens felt like the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. It’s not like the fanbase won’t be breathlessly counting down to the next film, but the story isn’t hardly complete.

For now, it’s time to sit back and watch a gloriously well done Star Wars on the big screen a few more dozen times.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: 2014 Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Pictures

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  • Barry Murray

    I was a bit underwhelmed. It seemed more like a fan made movie on my first viewing. Like you say, it will likely take a few more viewings to get into it.
    I wasn’t expecting Kylo Ren to be Luke…

  • LOL
    I actually can understand exactly where you’re coming from.The common themes between this and the original are hard to ignore.

    Ultimately, the old characters and seamless introduction of the new ones won me over. What would you rank it?

    Hey, did you see Brooklyn? Curious what you thought.

  • Pierre V. Mooney

    Jeff, you guys have gotten me even more excited than I was before it opened. By the way it open in HANOI and Saigon, Vietnam the same day as the U.S. It will open this weekend where I live in DANANG CITY. However I have duties at the ANNUAL CHRISTMAS PROGRAM of the ENGLISH CENTER so I will have to wait until next TUESDAY to go see it. I will as you guys indicated have too see a few more times anyway so waiting a few days more to be united with one of favorite films is not a problem. At least I know it was worth the wait.

  • “In several ways, Awakens felt like the first chapter of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. It’s not like the fanbase won’t be breathlessly counting down to the next film, but the story isn’t hardly complete.”

    Could not agree more with that sentiment, and it bugged me a little. I wanted this to feel more like a complete movie. It instead felt the most “episodic” of any of the Saga Episodes. It was really good,much better than the Prequels but not quite as good as the classic films. And it was not nearly long enough. The pace needed to slow down a few times to take it all in, and while it definitely avoided the plodding pace of the Prequels, it went by a bit TOO quickly, not quite giving the proper weight to some of the really important moments.

    On the major plus side, it was the best acted of any of the Star Wars movies. I found myself enjoying the new cast more than the old a lot of the time. If anything, I felt like it went to the nostalgia well a couple too many times when really the best parts were actually what was new about it (and I say that as a famously huge Star Wars fan from the old school).

    I agree with the other Barry that I feel like I need to see it a couple more times just to wrap my head around it completely. It’s definitely worth the price of admission a couple of times over, but it’s not perfect. Still, it definitely got me ready to see Episodes VIII and IX, and isn’t that really the best thing you can say about the first chapter in a new trilogy?

  • Jace

    I have to agree with Barry E. that this one felt more like a Lord of the Rings than a Star Wars trilogy opening movie. Since this is only the first week, I’ll save some of comments for a few weeks after everyone has seen it. I did like the acting and no character intros just to make a figure or two.

  • I saw it again last night and it was crazy how fast it went by. I really enjoyed the new cast members and they managed not to get overshadowed by the old guard.

    I kinda wish it didn’t have that to be continued feel though. I was all down to keep watching them without the hook 😉

  • I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it my friend. Think you’ll definitely find it worth the wait!

  • Hey, I said that! ;-p
    Yeah everyone felt essential. I did like seeing Ackbar and Nien Numb still with the Rebels/Resistance.

  • Barry Murray

    That was supposed to be Nien Numb? I assumed it was just a younger member of his race! That was a nice addition then. Shows what i know, lol.

  • I didn’t realize it until later too, then the second viewing I was obsessed with making sure he survived (he did)

  • Barry Murray

    I laughed at the “You must have been very brave” line from the medic treating Chewie.

  • Chewie was so great in all of his scenes! I really wanted to see more of Han and Chewie’s exploits.

  • Barry Murray

    I expect we will see more exploits. Although this was a true passing of the baton from Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie, i am hoping for Luke to be in the Obi-Wan role next movie.

  • Me too. Hoping Luke is safe and doesn’t get the Ben treatment next time…

  • Barry Murray

    They won’t kill off Luke. He must train our new budding Jedi. Or at least begin the training. I foresee a way it could go.

  • I’m thinking he’s safe since his pal is gone. Still bummed we don’t see the OT Big Three together for at least one scene in this new trilogy.

  • Barry Murray

    My thinking is that Luke is either in hiding alone, or with some Jedi hopefuls. He takes our new Jedi under his wing, and begins the training. Meanwhile, Snoke will be training Kylo Ren.
    I can’t help but feel that the seeds of Ren’s uncertainly have been sown and that in the third movie, he will turn on his master to find redemption.
    It just seems like the most likely way for it to go.

  • I hope they don’t go that way with Ren. Since we knew Darth Vader hadn’t fully killed Obi-Wan, his redemption was tolerable. Killing his father who doesn’t have that connection to the Force would be too similar and I’d have a hard time rooting for his turn away from the Dark Side.

  • Barry Murray

    It would have to be totally last minute. But it’s just a thought. I have messaged you on FB with another idea…

  • Sean

    I absolutely agree with your assessment Jeff! The passing of the guard was truly seemless and…needed. I’m in agreement with Barry M. It was somewhat underwhelming though. I was looking for the huge Star Wars plot twist, but left with a feeling of…”I guess I’ll have to wait for Star Wars VIII…”

    It was nice to see fight scenes return to original trilogy form and meaningful sword fights that was intentionally slowed down for added nostalgic emphasis…

    I’m gonna say 7.5 out of 10

  • Great review, the film was a joy, I took my 4 year old and he loved it, I think that experience for him has set him on course to be a lifelong star wars fan, everything is a lightsaber right now, even the Christmas wrapping paper.
    I could write for ages about this film but you have put it far more succinctly than I could, plus I’m busy with a 4 year old who keeps knocking decorations off with his lightsaber.

  • Thank you Alex. This is easily one of my favorite comments of the year. So cool hearing you’ve made a new Star Wars convert and the image of you picking up decorations from the lightsaber put a big smile on my face. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks Sean. What did you want to see more of that this one didn’t provide?

  • Matt

    Thought the movie was really good. I’m interested to see if Kylo Ren will get redeemed by the end of the trilogy.

  • Glad you enjoyed it man. Curious though, why do you want to see Ren redeemed?

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