It Was Okay: An Honest and Spoiler Free Review of Star Wars the Force Awakens

I did it.  I stood in line for hours in an overcapacity cinema lobby waiting with great anticipation to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  We followed every command of the movie theatre manager directing traffic as if we were kindergarteners waiting to go to recess.  As the lights went down and the LucasFilm logo came across the screen cheers rang through the auditorium.  Louder ones would come at the end as the credits rolled.  As the cheers and applause subsided and the lights came up, I sat there with one thought on my mind; is that is?

I’m not going to win over any friends with this one, but I’m going to get it out there.  I believe that hype, anticipation, and nostalgia are going to skew everyone into believing Star Wars: the Force Awakens is better than it really is.  Is it a good movie?  Yes!  Is it worth seeing on the big screen?  Definitely!  Is it the best movie of the year?  I don’t know.  But let’s face it; this is a much anticipated reboot of possibly the most cherished film franchise of all time.  Because we have waited so long for redemption from Jar Jar Binks I don’t believe we are viewing it with an unbiased eye.

In a year that saw amazing big budget films hit theatres like Mad Max Fury Road, Avengers Age of Ultron, and Jurassic World; Force Awakens fits right in there as your average big budget sci-fi movie.  Its acting, effects, plot points, and viewing experience are right where they should be.  As many will agree it undoes all of the disappointment and non-sense George Lucas brought us with episodes one through three.  However, was it groundbreaking and deserving of the title “Biggest Movie of All Time”?  No.  That title to me will always belong to movies like Titanic, ET, Jaws, Lord of the Rings, and the original Star Wars; groundbreaking, cinema changing works of art that rocked our imaginations and changed the world.

With the Force Awakens there was nothing that should have blown anyone away who has watched movies recently.  The effects were on par with Star Trek and any Marvel movie.  Where the original Star Wars movies blew people’s minds with effects and worlds never seen, Force Awakens feels like we dusted off the same old concepts and updated them with modern design and animation.  There was not the mindblowing moment of the star destroyer cruising across the frame.  Parts of the space flight scenes felt like I was watching JJ Abrams Star Trek where he simply swapped out the Enterprise for the Millennium Falcon.

The movie felt the same as the original.  I know a lot of people were afraid it was going to change.  That Disney would mess it up or Abrams would veer in a new direction.  To be clear, every Star Wars fan is going to be extremely happy with how true JJ Abrams stayed to the themes and feel of the George Lucas created universe.  However, and maybe I’m the only one, but I actually wanted some sort of reinvention of the characters along the lines of Daniel Craig’s James Bond.  But everything felt the same, like we just picked up from the ending of episode 6 even down to Oscar Isaac’s ‘70’s style hair.

Then there was the predictability of it.  I won’t give away any spoilers, but after you’ve seen it I’ll simply ask “did anything that happened shock you?”  I felt betrayed in every reveal and every major plot point thinking that I could have written that script myself. With lots of new characters and directions you could go, it felt like it was Luke, Leia, and Vader all over again.  The trailers which I watched over and over again led me to think there was going to be this major plot point like finding out Vader is Luke’s father.  I waited and waited, and while some things may have caught many in the theatre, when it finally came my reaction was “really, that’s all?”

The Force Awakens followed a pretty predictable modern script for trilogies.  It had plenty of homage moments to the fans who will appreciate the tributes to the classic.  Then it just wandered through without really pulling me to the edge of my seat.  It gave you more questions than answers so that you’ll come back to the next movie, slowly building to the third installment.  Sure the originals left some questions to be answered, but they ended with somewhat of a resolution.  Force Awakens felt like they needed to keep everything just out of reach so that you’ll buy a ticket to the next movie.  I wanted to yell out “you can’t end it like that” the way my dad did at the end of Fellowship of the Ring.  The anticipation and fan theory over the next two years will be frustrating to say the least.

In the end Force Awakens is nothing more than a place setting.  It reintroduces us to the world we loved and restores our confidence in the stories and characters we have longed to see again.  It sets the stage for what is to come.  And like the Lord of the Rings or Godfather movies I’ll look at Episode 8, the second in the trilogy, to do the heavy lifting.  I know that is where JJ Abrams is taking us.  I know that all the predictability of the first was to build our trust again in the directing, acting, design, and effects that we felt betrayed by in episodes one through three.  The movie was good.  Worth being out late with friends and worth going back again to see with my son.  But for a Star Wars movie is was a bit pedestrian.

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