Its strongest ‘force’ is that it retains the heart of the original Star Wars trilogy by presenting friendships and camaraderie in the face of evil. The best scenes are those of the characters meeting, befriending, and trusting one another based on a mutual belief and standpoint against the First Order. Poe and Finn immediately become friends while escaping the First Order. The camera revolves around them, back to back (literally and figuratively they cover each others back), as they express new friendship, trust, and even a new name to christen Finn’s new path. Another great scene of camaraderie occurs when Rey and Finn escape on the Millennium Falcon and they excitedly cheer about both their escape and Rey’s newfound abilities.
It is unfortunate, and perhaps ironic, that friendships derived from the original series are flat and emotionless, with the worst interaction of the film existing between Han Solo and General (Princess) Leia. Neither Harrison Ford nor Carrie Fisher seem to believe their characters’ predicament, nor do they seem to care. Their goodbye feels incredibly forced and inauthentic, and perhaps it is due to J.J. Abrams focus on the ‘new’ team. Focus on them takes it away from the original cast, whose prior 30 years are explored only through exposition. Did Leia even learn to use the Force beyond being able to intuit Solo’s death?
The Force Awakens is most critiqued for its re-visionary nature. This was expected, as the film is derived from the original series, but there are some glaring commonalities between The Force Awakens and the original trilogy which make the contemporary film appear no more than a mere remake. But since the film touts the notion that history repeats itself, perhaps Abrams’ re-visionary point of view is a measure of depth and homage rather than laziness and commercial appeal (remakes always have commercial appeal since they are derived from already-proven-to-be-successful films), but it would be difficult to defend this.
An Obi Wan Kenobi type character, played by the great Max Von Sydow, gives vital information to a trusted ally (Leia/Poe) who places it in a robot (R2D2, BB-8), which begins a chase and rebellion. The droid ends up on a desert planet and is taken in by a young orphan who was abandoned by parents, including a father whom she has never known. Her origin is nearly identical to that of Luke Skywalker, and much of the film suggests that she herself is a Skywalker.
Then there are the narrative arcs which are almost lifted from A New Hope, and a father/son exchange which reverses that in Empire Strikes Back. After joining Han Solo, Rey slowly learns of her hidden powers. They attack the First Order, and an aerial battle to destroy the death star by attacking a specific weak-point occurs. This is followed by hand to hand combat. Both of which occurs in A New Hope, in similar fashion.
A Darth Vader type character named Kylo Ren dons a mask and orders minions around a Death Star, now much more powerful as it yields energy from the Sun. He takes orders from a Supreme leader, akin to the Emperor in A New Hope. Ren is Darth Vader’s grandson and, played by Adam Driver, he is an uncontrolled, temper tantrum having spazz who clearly resembles a young Anakin rather than a fully formed Darth. He needs further dark side training. And perhaps this is what Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens is to its predecessors: a fanboy with the excitement, drive, and intention to rise up to the same level and beyond. And, for the most part, it does an admirable job.
79/100 – Very Good.