Film Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

For those of you who have been encased in carbonite for the last year or so, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released this month after much anticipation. All across the country fans of the series went to the theater in droves on the night of December 17 to see if J. J. Abrams could do what the prequel trilogy couldn’t—bring back Star Wars and have it feel right. Thankfully, the Force was with him.

The plot, like that of the previous films, is a simple one. Boy meets girl, girl has robot that needs to get back to its master, both end up joining a war they didn’t anticipate taking part in, and someone is going to discover their true destiny. The Force Awakens takes place some thirty years after Return of the Jedi, and the galaxy is still in chaos. The First Order has risen from the remnants of the defeated Empire, and they are waging war against the Resistance, which is the former Rebel Alliance/New Republic trying to bring peace to the galaxy. There’s a Sith Lord, a mysterious Emperor-like villain, a ragtag bunch of heroes with cute robots trying to defeat the bad guys, and lightsabers.

If this sounds familiar, congratulations! You’ve seen a Star Wars movie before.

In fact, fans of the series will find that much of the film feels familiar, which is great for nostalgia, but at some points one can’t help but think, “I’ve seen this movie before.” A minor difference is that women have joined the Empire 2.0–well, two of them anyway. You don’t want to break the glass ceiling too much when you’re in the vacuum of space, after all! The space battles are a bit zippier and we see some new Force tricks, but the main objective for the protagonists is exactly the same as in one of the original films. SPOILER ALERT: it rhymes with Blue Soap. This might be a sticking point for some fans, but in the moment it doesn’t matter much.

Of course, one can’t talk about the movie without mentioning the “Big Three,” better known as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia. If you’ve been paying any attention to the buzz surrounding the movie, you probably already know that these three are going to act as supporting cast for the new main characters. While the new characters are genuinely likeable, most fans have a deep attachment to their predecessors, and I spent much of the film just wanting to know what my favorites had been up to in the last thirty years—which could have been a whole new series of movies on their own (a feeling that is amplified now that the Expanded Universe books have been stricken from the canon). I suspect, however, that fans will get more information about them as the trilogy continues, so don’t worry, folks, you only have to wait a few more years for answers! (Providing any specifics about them in this film is difficult without spoiling something, so all I will say here is that Han, Leia, and Luke are in the movie, and it was good to see them again.)

Overall, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fun romp through familiar territory: a well-worn security blanket that will please established fans of the series while paving the way for new ones to join the excitement. If you’ve never seen a Star Wars film, this movie probably isn’t going to mean much to you, so don’t be surprised if you don’t get the hype. If you’re a fan, however, know that this is a worthy successor to Return of the Jedi and that you will have fun. And if you’re a super fan, go see it with a huge crowd to hear cheering at all the right moments and love every second of it. Then go see it twelve more times so you can completely over-analyze the movie and complain about it on the Internet. It’s okay, we all know you really wanted more Jar-Jar Binks!