I had already drafted my original review to this film two weeks after it came out but felt the need to watch it a second time without influence from all the buzz it was generating. Let me first say, I am a Star Wars fan and my fandom goes to the extent of some of the video games, comic book lore, animated series and of course, all seven films. And like most Star Wars fans, not only do I love the franchise. But I expect nothing but the absolute best.
There was no avoiding the hype this film received. Not a negative comment was said about the new film like it was a godsend. Being the contrarian that I am, I wanted to find all the flaws I can about the film to bring it down and shut up the lovefest that only makes people not see the film for what it truly is. But I didn’t want to do a review with this mindset as it would just be as flawed if I were hopelessly in love with it.
So I waited and now that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is officially streaming on Netflix, I rewatched the film. It’s as close as you can get to a masterpiece and I am tempted to say it’s the best Star Wars film ever… but one glaring flaw keeps it from being the best: it is too much like a clone of the original Star Wars film (A New Hope) from 1977.
The two films are similar in a lot of ways. Derek Ruths from Wired.com created an elaborate map just outlining how eerily similar the two are. In a sense, Episode VII is a reboot of the Star Wars franchise and I get it. The prequel series in the early 2000s all but ruined the legacy of the original trilogy. But did the film really need to build the plot exactly like the original?
Star Wars (Episode IV) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens Major Similarities (SPOILERS):
- The two protagonists come from a desert world; Luke from Tatooine and Rey from Jakku; both are orphans, salvage machine parts and eventually realize they have immense powers from The Force
- The two protagonists both come by a droid who holds an all-important message
- Wildcard characters in Han Solo from the original and Finn in FA happen by the protagonist and despite initially wanting no part of the war becomes a main player
- There is a turning-point scene from both films both taking place in a bar
- Both films have a resistance fighting an evil empire
- Both films’ evil empires have a weapon of mass destruction: the Death Star in the original and the Starkiller in FA
- The main villain is a black figure with fearsome Force powers who both report to a higher authority: a mysterious Sith lord (both of them old and ugly as well)
- The female leads are kidnapped in both films prompting the Resistance to the final act
- The heroes from both films destroy these global-sized weapons using a combination of fighter squadron attacks and lightsaber duels
- An elderly mentor passes away from both films
There are more similarities I won’t bother going through but if you were to say Force Awakens is the unofficial remake of the original Star Wars, you’re not that wrong.
With all of that said, the movie is crafted extremely well. The film is the most mature of all the Star Wars films. By this we’re not talking about having darker themes or a more complex narrative but the way everything is done shows how much respect director J.J. Abrams has for the franchise.
The two leads, Daisy Ridley playing Rey and Jon Boyega playing Finn are lovable even if Rey is a Mary Sue. They both give impassioned performances without going overboard. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the film’s main villain manages to be both menacing and vulnerable. And the reunion between old timers like Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Leia and Chewbacca (Chewie) are kept understated but the few moments they have harken back to the old trilogy.
The lightsaber battles were what really made the film stand out from the original (apart from the modern effects and all that). The final duel between Ren and Rey was more sensible and because of this it became a lot more intense than the choreographed lightsaber dancing they had in the prequel trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed all the epic lightsaber fights. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn taking on Darth Maul with his double-bladed saber is an all-time classic and the final lightsaber duels from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith were majestic in their own rights. But the Ren-Rey lightsaber duel leaves just as lasting a memory without most of the pizzazz.
Force Awakens is as close to an all-time classic as you can get. By my preference, I would’ve liked to see more new elements like more involved alien races, new ideologies about The Force but instead we get a rehash of the original film’s plot. But in the end, it’s promising to see the franchise return to being the epic space opera we continue to love. ★★★★