Thursday, April 14, 2016


I’ve now seen ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ twice in the theater and once at home. I haven’t reviewed the movie yet, because to be honest I’m tired of talking about it and tired of hearing other people talk about it. Does the World really need one more nerd talking about this movie? Well enough people have requested my thoughts, so here goes….. I’ve broken down the review into 4 parts; Likes, Dislikes, Gripes and Nit-Picks / Additional Thoughts.



* The first act was fantastic! Everything on Jakku was incredible and really captured the fun spirit of Star Wars!

* Rey won me over through and through, as did BB-8. And she lives in the shell of a downed AT-AT?! Yes! The Falcon reveal and Rey piloting it through the crashed Star Destroyer was awesome! And by the film’s end, I had no problem with Rey being the Falcon’s new captain (huge shoes to fill!).

* Poe was a charismatic hero, who embodied both Han Solo and Wedge Antillies. I wanted him to have more screen time (maybe so in later episodes?)

* Speaking of Han, it was fun to see him and Chewie back in action - dig the silver haired Solo! Alas, no silver streaks for Chewbacca.

* I like the few touches that things have changed since ‘Return of the Jedi’, like the Falcon’s rectangular dish or C-3PO’s red arm. I’m starting to love the red arm! I know some people had issues with the line of dialogue that brought attention to it, but I thought it was funny. (I don't care how he got it, so don't tell me)

* The First Order designs were killer, with my favorites being Captain Phasma and the Snowtroopers. Kylo Ren’s ship was also pretty cool.

* I loved how in the Jakku village Kylo Ren Force Stopped-and-Held Poe’s blast. Incredible!!

* The film is filled with super geek-out moments like the Crashed Star Destroyer, Rey's AT-AT home (and her X-Wing helmet), TIE Fighters in action, X-Wings over the water, Dog Fights, nighttime Lightsaber snow duel, Return of Luke Skywalker, etc.

* I’d also like to geek out that both Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb make appearances (and with their original actors/puppeteer!).

* I think my favorite moment of the film is Han telling Rey and Finn that it’s all true. Goosebumps! 


* A 3rd Death Star? Really? When I was 8 years, I rolled my eyes in the theater during ‘Return of the Jedi’ at the rehashed threat. Now 32 years later, they do it again. Will we see a 4th Death Star in later Episodes? Never tell me the odds, but they say yes.

* Captain Phasma does nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G

Ok ok, I suppose I can get past that, to a degree…. I love Bossk, IG-88, Dengar, 4-LOM and Zuckuss and they literally just stand there and say nothing. However, Phasma was sold as a major villain and yet she does almost nothing except walk around holding her blaster in the same position. And the one thing she does do is fold like a house of cards. Phasma is the leader of thousands of Stormtroopers and I would imagine she earned that position with good reasons. However, when a blaster is pointed at her she turns off Death Star III’s shields with no fight. WTF?

* The Death of Han brought little emotional weight, outside the demise of a beloved character. There needed to be more story development about his and Kylo’s relationship and heartbreak. Technically it’s all there on paper, but in execution that storyline was thin and thrown at us a few minutes before the scene. Perhaps Han’s death should have transpired in Episode VIII?

* Carrie Fisher felt like a walk-on cameo. Never once did I feel like Leia, the character, was on screen again. Fisher felt uncomfortable, wooden and delivered her lines like someone was feeding her lines via earpiece. Maybe it was the weird “lockjaw” expression frozen on her face when she spoke. Sadly, there was no emotion or chemistry between her and Han whatsoever (did George Lucas direct her scenes?). 

I didn’t buy she was a leader of anything. All her lines during the Death Star III briefing were, “Han’s right”... “What do you think?”... “Can you tell us anything useful?”. That all aside, it was still good seeing her again.

* Oh how I HATE KYLO REN, let me count the ways... First, I personally hate his lightsaber design. The sizzle is fine, but the overall design with the side energy ports drives me nuts. 

I just don't like it. And it opens the door for sillier versions like LightNunchucks, LightWhips, LightDaggers, LightMaces, etc - it will get ridiculous (and less cool) very quickly. 

As a character, he was more-or-less "fine" when he had his helmet on… that is, when he wasn't throwing temper tantrum like a toddler (he does so twice!).

But when the helmet was off he came across as a sniveling snot-nosed brat from Harry Potter scared that everyone will know how weak he is (Everyone knows, Benji. Everyone). Rey even tells him so. At almost every turn, he was shaking with insecurities. Such a lame villain. 

I think the only time he should have removed his helmet was when he was on the catwalk with Han, after Han telling him to take it off with his commanding Dad voice. 

While Kylo Ren does demonstrate how powerful he is by stopping and holding Poe and his blaster fire, he later struggles to defeat a rookie Stormtrooper in a lightsaber duel. Soon after, he gets his ass handed to him by a desert scavenger with no lightsaber experience whatsoever. Sure she can fight, but she has ZERO lightsaber experience. Kylo spends the movie searching for Luke Skywalker… to do what? It’s clear a lightsaber duel would not go well. Kylo Ren’s character arc goes from Super Badass to Tantrum Throwing Brat to Inexperienced Rookie. And don’t say, “But he was wounded” or you get the hose.

God I hate everything about Kylo Ren including his waddle, voice and stupid face. My hatred goes deep, despite trying my hardest to like him. Kylo Ren reminds me of PJ from ‘Grandma’s Boy’:


* The Force Awakens isn’t that incredibly original and is very similar to the beats of ‘A New Hope’ (I won’t use the word “remake” as that causes many fans to go into defensive, asshole offensive mode):

Personable droid finds itself stranded on a Desert Planet, desperately trying to get secret data to the Resistance/Rebels while being pursued by Evil Forces. It meets up with a young local hero and escapes the planet via the Millennium Falcon and eventually succeeds getting the information to the good guys with the help of Han Solo. There, they devise a plan to destroy a Death Star by shooting a specific area and send X-Wings to do the job. Near the end, the old mentor/father-figure is cut down by lightsaber in front of the hero’s eyes. The Heroes succeed their mission and the Death Star explodes, but the main villain escapes to fight another day.

We even have a hero sneaking/climbing around the death star… a hero removing their Stormtrooper helmet to inform someone they are being rescued… a cantina scene full of different aliens…  and an intense conversation between Father and Son on a tall catwalk, resulting in one falling off and down a chasm. Star Wars!

Say what you will about the Prequels, at least they were semi-original stories and not rehashed plots and moments.

I think this fan-made homage poster is perfect:

^Some of those are admittedly reaching pretty far, but overall it gives a quick glance at some of the similarities between 'A New Hope' and 'The Force Awakens'.

* The Resistance has no plan about defeating the Death Star III, and seem to be surprised by it’s very existence. They then are given a plan by a rookie stormtrooper (whose job is sanitation duty) who somehow knows high level intel about the Death Star’s weaknesses and implement the assault all within 60 seconds. And succeed! Come one, write something better than this!

* What was the Political Landscape? There’s the New Republic, The First Order and The Resistance. It seems that The Resistance is not part of the New Republic? Leia isn’t an active leader in the New Republic? Why does the First Order throw a [seemingly jealous] tantrum that the New Republic supports the Resistance and not them? (“They like them but not us! Activate the Death Star!”). In the original Trilogy and Prequels, it was easily established and understood “Empire vs Rebellion” and “Republic vs Separatists”. If you point me to comics, interviews, novels, games, etc I’m going to scream. The movie should stand on its own.

* Finn was funny and started off strong, but in the end had very little character growth as a protagonist. 

I found it difficult to believe that a Stormtrooper raised by the First Order since he was a baby, raised with no self identity outside of a designated number, would then have such strong moral convictions and then risk everything to go AWOL. Unless a friend's speculative theory is correct - that he is a plant by Phasma/The First Order and will be "activated" in a later Episode, betray the Heroes, only to then break from the conditioning and redeem himself.

I also felt his dialogue was at times too similar to current pop culture dialect ("Droid, please!"). While humorous and endearing, it often pulled me back from a galaxy far, far away.

* Speaking of sniveling young Slytherin brats… General Hux also came across like a kid playing grownup. He was trying so hard to be bad. I need good villains in my movies, and TFA’s main villains were weak. Give me a Tarkin, Vader, Palpatine, Tagge or Veers. Hell, even a Motti.

And Hux refers to the Stormtroopers as "MY Stormtroopers" and argues with Kylo Ben about "His Stormtroopers versus Clones". He seems very proud of soldiers he must have inherited, because he's only 10 years older than Finn (based on actors' ages), who was taken as a baby and enrolled into the First Order Youth Program. And Finn is a rookie, so I would imagine there are older Stormtroopers who are atleast as old as Hux (who's approx 32, based on the actor). When did Hux assume command of all Stormtroopers? Point being: Hux was cast too young.

* I’ve heard people say Supreme Leader Snoke is a good villain, but honestly I thought he looked like a bad CG character from the Prequels. My god, why wasn’t Max Von Sydow cast as Snoke instead? And the nod to North Korea’s Supreme Leader was a bit too much - Palpatine wasn’t referred to as “Führer”. All the villains were lame in this movie.

* Side note: Speaking of Snoke, his origin revealed:

* Those Rathgar creatures Han was smuggling are quite possibly the dumbest creature designs I’ve ever seen. Personal opinion, I know. They look like Beholders from D&D. They’re stupid looking in D&D and they’re stupid here.  And why did the Rathgars kill all the bad guys, but then abduct Finn and carry him around the corridors? I assume so Rey could then locate him on the security cams and use her plan to remotely shut corridor doors. 

Additional thought: The Rathgar/Gangs scenes felt more akin to ‘Firefly’ than ‘Star Wars’, which I found interesting.

* I love Rey and her character arc, but she learns and “masters” using the Force more in a single movie than Luke did in the span of the original trilogy. How would she have the lightsaber dueling skills to hold her own against the trained Kylo Ren? How would she know to use the Jedi Mind Trick on Stormtrooper 007? Maybe it will be revealed she’s naturally ridiculously strong in the Force (like say Anakin or Yoda) and/or had been exposed to Jedi tricks at a young age….

* So Han and Luke both quit and walked away as the galaxy was engulfed in Darkness? That sucks. At least Leia had the conviction to stay in the fight.

I wish Chewie had been the one to hug Leia after Han’s death. It’s what us older fans needed. Instead he walks RIGHT PAST her. They don’t even acknowledge each other. Instead she hugs Rey, the girl she barely knows. Apparently Chewbacca doesn't get medals or hugs from Leia. The more I think about this, the more it irks me.

[ strangers ]

* TR-8R. Yes, the internet’s favorite fighting Stormtrooper. I do not share, nor understand, the fandom for this guy. During a firefight, he throws away his blaster just so he can have a physical fight with Finn? And I thought the spinning energy batan was dumb, akin to the Grevious’ dumb droid bodyguards and their energy batons.  His scene was forced and cliche. All the scene needed was a “kung fu come here” hand gesture and a cocky crack of the neck.

Personally I would have preferred if the “Traitor!” was yelled by Phasma, no batan, and Han has a blaster fight with her before making their escape.


* I assume Kylo Ben is named after Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi. If so, why would Han and Leia name their son after him? Han only knew Kenobi for a few hours and didn’t think much of him. And Leia never even met him. It would make sense for Luke to name one of his kids after Ben Kenobi, but not Han and Leia. Also, from henceforth his name is "Kylo Ben"

* Observation: In the original trilogy its established blaster fire instantly cauterizes the wound. In TFA, there’s blood (the Stormtrooper on Jakku who wipes his fingers on Finn’s helmet, and Kylo Ben’s wound from Chewie).

* Sure I’ll go with the idea that Han has never used Chewie’s bowcaster in 40 years. But to use the joke (that Han really likes it) twice was weird and forced. Nit pick!

* Another nit-pick: Anakin/Luke's lightsaber is not a hot potato. There seemed very little reason for Finn to wield it outside of throwing first-time viewers off that the trail that Rey is the Force Sensitive character. Maybe give him the one scene, when he's desperate to defend agains Kylo Ren in the snow - he's quickly dealt with and then Rey grabs old of her destiny.

* I mentioned it briefly earlier, but if I'm to take Kylo Ren seriously, don't have Finn get a lick in during the lightsaber battle. Even injured, Kylo Ren should have been able to take Finn down without further injury. Snoke says its time to complete Kylo Ren's training. I think its safe to say he means LIGHTSABER training.

* Ok Ok, I’ll buy Han jumping to lightspeed from inside his junkard ship. But coming out of lightspeed in between the Death Star III’s shields and planet surface? I’m not sure even Jedi Reflexes could pull that off. Doing a crazy jump-to-lightspeed trick (for the first time, mind you) TWICE is lazy writing.

* For the most part I’m cool with the regular Stormtrooper designs (despite looking like Kia cars). But there’s something about how their helmets rest on their heads. The Stormtroopers look like they have no necks and therefore look stocky and shrugging.

* Lucasfilm has now said BB-8 is a girl. Okay, that’s fine. But in the film, BB-8 is called “him” and “he” by Poe. BB-8 is also voiced by Bill Hader. So what’s the deal?

side note: Did you see R2-KT? Yay!

* So Leia’s not a Jedi or atleast a Force User. It was implied pretty heavily in ‘Return of the Jedi’ that Luke intended to show her the ways of the Force. She is the daughter of Anakin Skywalker after all. I liked how she sensed Han’s death, which showed she’s tapped in on some level. But I was hoping for something more akin to her in Dark Horse’s “Dark Empire”, which would have been sweet.


The First Quarter was absolutely fantastic! Up to and including Han's "It's true, all of it" had me smiling ear to ear! With the 2nd Quarter, the storytelling begins to wobble a bit and the weakness of the villains begins to shine through.

The 2nd Half felt a bit disjointed, as if important parts were cut and laying on the editing room floor. And at the end, we’re revisiting previous Episodes - once again watching X-Wings and Ground Heroes destroy a Death Star.

Way better than the Prequels (but not as original) and a fun ride (despite rehashed ideas/ plots and weak villains) it looks and feels like the Star Wars you fell in love with with the Original Trilogy.

It’s a highly entertaining outing, but doesn’t really hold as its own, unique movie. It’s more of a setup for the next ones (where they have to destroy Death Star IV?). The new heroes are great and are welcomed as the next generation. Give me more Rey, BB-8, Poe and Phasma! 

The Force Awakens hits all the notes and is very polished, but in the end it’s just a really great cover band. I’m looking forward to Episodes VIII and IX, but can wait patiently for them to arrive.

Thus concludes my "review".


David said...

Excellent review Jim! I agree 100% with your conclusions. I am looking forward to Rogue One.

Hobgoblin238 said...

Couldn´t agree more. One more thing I would add is I felt so old after it´s viewing. You and I came at a time in the world where there was NO Star Wars. We loved it as little kids and wanted to be luke etc. I saw Luke with beard and Solo with grey hair. It made me depressed. Gone were my heroes. It made me think I was closer to dying...

Jeyl said...

I'd like to add two of my points to your thoughts. Let me know what you think.

What I liked:
* The "Finn has a secret" resolution. Let's face it, we've all seen the movie where our hero is keeping a secret from the person they love until something bad happens. When the truth is out, the hero's love interest becomes angry and distrusting of our hero who must now embark on a personal quest to redeem themselves in their eyes. It's all over the place in Disney movies and when I saw this trope play out in Avatar, I wanted to rip my own head off. When Finn comes clean with Rey about who he is and why he left, Rey's understanding reaction was a breath of fresh air. Anyone else would have probably made her angry at this confession and have Finn's rescue of Rey be that redeeming moment. But they didn't, and for that I'm grateful.

What I didn't like:
* The Starkiller Base fighter battle. Holy lord. This is by far the worst starfighter battle in Star Wars. You get Poe and these other pilots 'with attitude' attacking Starkiller Base, but they come across as extremely incompetent. After their failed attempt at doing any damage to a structure, everything turns to crap. Take the editing for example. We see Greg Grunberg call for help he's got a tie fighter on him, Jessica Henwick saying "I'm on it", than next cutting to her avoiding missiles left and right, seeing an X-Wing get hit, and cut to Greg again saying "Watch out for surface fire!". Weren't you being chased a second ago? And haven't you guys been fighting here long enough to note that the structure you're attacking is shooting back? Do you guys have any plans at all besides shooting at ties? At least in ROTJ, Ackbar wanted to retreat but Lando convinced him to push on because he knew Han would bring the Shield down eventually. Here, no one says anything about why they should stay. And while I get Poe is the 'best pilot evar!" schtick, it's kind of annoying how he is the only one who can do anything. No one ever comes to his rescue and he's the only one who flies in to shoot at Starkiller Base's weak points. I felt like if I had the time, I feel like I could edit out every X-Wing fighter that is not Poes out of the fight and it would all play out the same way.

Chris said...

Good review, Jim. I concur with your gripes, but they were kind of washed away for me by seeing that universe put back together again. The Rathtar bit was the only part that took me out of the movie, just felt like a scene from a sic-fi tv series. Apart from that, I really loved it.

Tim Pro said...

I disagree with everything you said.

Just kidding.

woobot said...

I enjoyed the level of detail in this review... and want more! Please do one for SvsB and/or Civil War.

IsuzuGeek said...

JP from Grandma's Boy...EGGGGGZACKTLY.