Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Spoiler Free)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021


PLOT: Several decades after the defeat of the Empire, a new dark presence in the force rises, and two young people – Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) may hold the key to salvaging the rebellion.

REVIEW: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS may be the most anticipated movie of all-time. In fact, STAR WARS fans have been clamoring for a proper follow-up to the original trilogy ever since 1983, the year RETURN OF THE JEDI premiered. In the interval we’ve gotten plenty of STAR WARS – too much maybe – with the prequels and the re-releases of the original trilogy in increasingly compromised forms (even if it was fun for those of us born too late to see them theatrically on the big screen at last). But now, with George Lucas stepping aside for a new generation of filmmakers, we’ve got a first for the saga – a STAR WARS film by fans, for fans.

Sure enough, you can tell director J.J Abrams is as big a STAR WARS fan boy of any of us. The original trilogy is revered to in such a way that THE FORCE AWAKENS seems distinctly patterned on A NEW HOPE, a fact which both works to the film’s favor and hampers it somewhat. It works in that it’s the ideal form to introduce new characters who’ll anchor the series, with John Boyega as Finn contributing the film’s heart, being a kind of surrogate for the audience, while Daisy Ridley is more instantly iconic as the heroine Rey.

All of us who were lucky enough to see THE FORCE AWAKENS early were asked to sign agreements not to divulge any spoilers, so this review – by necessity – is going to be vague. However, not knowing much outside the trailers is really the only way to properly enjoy this. While the plot is quite thin, Abrams has sprinkled in some almost Shakespearian melodrama that’s exactly in-line with the saga, making this a true “space opera” as the originals were so often called.

The issue is that so many people are introduced that even at 135 minutes, THE FORCE AWAKENS feels like a rushed primer on this new universe. Happily, most of the new characters are excellent, with Ridley, Boyega, and Oscar Issac as a rascally Rebellion pilot named Poe Dameron. And let’s not forget BB-8, which is like a millennial version of R2-D2 and should sell lots (and lots) of toys and – of course – is pretty damn cute.

The bad guys don’t fare quite as well, with neither Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux or Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma having too much to do. The exception is Adam Driver, who makes an imposing villain as Kylo Ren, a figure who should easily take his place in the pantheon of great STAR WARS baddies, although to keep things from getting spoilery, the less said about him the better.

One thing worth noting if how J.J Abrams has tailored his style to fit the STAR WARS format, with little in the way of lens flares and all the classic STAR WARS visuals intact, including plenty of wipes, and some interesting 3D FX. John Williams is back scoring but to my ears the soundtrack seemed to rely less on new themes than on the classics – perhaps giving fans what they want.

So far, I haven’t touched-on our returning heroes at all, and if there’s anything STAR WARS fans have been hungry for, it’s been the opportunity to see their old favorites in action. Most of them are back although it’s really only Harrison Ford as Han Solo and Chewie (Peter Mayhew) who get a significant amount of screen time (but luckily Ford and Carrie Fisher as ex-princess/now-General Leia get a few key scenes together). Ford, for all his reluctance over the years to embrace Han, seems to be having a blast and is exactly how you remember him, with age having not toned him down very much. Ford looks great and gets tons of action, and it’s admittedly a thrill to watch him pilot the Millennium Falcon or blast Stormtroopers alongside Chewbacca.

Being so heavily anticipated, it’s hard to really look at THE FORCE AWAKENS in a totally impartial way, as for many of us STAR WARS is related to our earliest cinematic experiences. Certainly, that’s what kicked-off a life-long love of film for me, and you can’t under-estimate the power of nostalgia. While I don’t think THE FORCE AWKENS is perfect, to me it was a very nostalgic ride and at times it almost made me feel like I did as a kid watching these movies on CBS/FOX VHS tapes. It’s not a perfect film but it’s far superior to all of the prequels and exactly the movie fans have been waiting the last thirty years for. It definitely kicks-off a new franchise that should both please veteran fans and appeal to a whole new audience, and it’s hard not to walk out of this and not be excited to see what else the new team at Lucasfilm has in store for us.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.