The Revised kesseljunkie Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I seem to be in the process of reposting all my Disney®™©-era Star Wars reviews. With the build to Star Wars: Episode IX: Insert Title Here, I guess it makes sense.

If you want first crack at my reviews, I heartily recommend to link up over on the movie review network letterboxd. We’ll all be better for it!

Some Quick Notes Before You Read the Review

This review for The Force Awakens is a bit brief, especially compared to some of my others. I think it’s largely because I didn’t commit anything to writing until recently. The Force Awakens has been thoroughly discussed and weirdly become something of an afterthought, as well. So I guess this is another one for closing the barn door after the horses have run.

Of course, when the movie first came out, I was caught up in podcasting about it. I wanted to get my two cents in with everyone else who was enraptured with the Rebirth of the Thing We Thought Was Over.

I think I calculated the number of hours I talked on microphone about the movie to something in the neighborhood of 7 hours. One of those shows was 2 hours and 58 minutes long, longer than the movie itself.

More recently, after writing this brief review, I appeared on the Star Wars show I cohost for The Nerd Party, Aggressive Negotiations. The run time on that discussion is about 50 minutes, give or take. I also think it’s a good listen.

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a movie I struggled with mightily at first. My first viewing went poorly. If I remember correctly, I pronounced it “fan fiction” at the time. By “at the time” I mean “as soon as the credits started.”

I don’t entirely retract that sentiment. I got agitated about the number of callouts to the rest of the series on that first viewing; eventually I was able to live with it all in the context of a soft reboot. I’m still annoyed by the fact that it seems to ignore Return of the Jedi‘s core thematic element, though a fair bit less annoyed than how reliant The Last Jedi is on ignoring its importance.

Kylo Ren Star Wars The Force Awakens
“Relax,” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, plays over this moment pretty well, if I’m honest. You’re welcome.

I did find the art in it, though. It is an extremely well-made movie with good characters and some strong performances. The meta-narrative with Han’s character, intended or not, is very interesting. It’s one of the things that I enjoy most about the movie.

Ultimately, while The Force Awakens is well-made, it’s a confection. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is, conversely, somewhat dour in its execution. Solo: A Star Wars Story is joyous in its execution, but then everyone knows that I feel that way. I’ll share my review of The Last Jedi soon, but until then, again, feel free to connect on letterboxd.

And despite all this preamble, I won’t be the least bit surprised if someone gets their knickers in a twist about something. For example, listen to how a dear friend reacted to my critical opinion on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!

Anyway, this note is longer than the review below. Surprise! Told you it was brief.

My Review of Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Rewatched for a discussion on “Aggressive Negotiations” on The Nerd Party!

I really struggle with whether it’s 3.5 stars or 4 stars. There’s so much good going on here, and it builds up so much goodwill with the new characters, that I want to love this movie.

But there are myriad plot missteps, and the big arc with Starkiller Base is completely unnecessary to the story. You can tell it’s just inserted because “we need a superweapon.”

As a result, something that dominates the back half of the movie is maddeningly not even a real motivation for the characters’ actions – those remain and are strong. Starkiller Base is also a concept that would have been massively interesting developed over the course of several films, but then we’re splitting hairs.

There are some magnificently shot and choreographed moments and strong performances, and so…well, there you go.

I guess it’s 3.5 stars but I don’t want it to be.