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Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, movie (2015) - Film review by KadmonStar Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie (2015)
image © Disney

Article updated: 2020.05.03

The Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) is a futuristic fantasy film, part of the Star Wars series. The movie was reviewed by Kadmon.

Product: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie (2015)

Original title: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Series: Star Wars

Setting: Star Wars universe

Previous films in the series: Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, Star Wars Original Trilogy

Product type: Film, Genre: Futuristic fantasy, Style: action, adventure

Release: 2015.12.14

Reviewer: Kadmon, Type: Male, 40s, Taste: Immersive, logical story, consistent setting, prefers surprises

Watched: very recent (2016.01), first time

Rating: Average (2 out of 3 points), Enjoyment: Weak (2- out of 3 points)

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This is my review of Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie, a futuristic fantasy adventure movie from 2015. It's about the Resistance rebels trying to protect the New Republic from the superweapon of the First Order. The film is visually okay, the actors and the action scenes are good. The storytelling is lacking, the characters and the story is not very interesting. I did not enjoy the The Force Awakens film, but I can imagine some could find some it good.

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Review (spoiler-free) - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie

I try to watch movies later after the release, so I'm able to read the reviews of others, and I tried to avoid watching this movie as I was afraid of it, but after a while I gave in to the hype, so I watched The Force Awakens film. I've seen the trailer before I've watched the movie.

The Force Awakens film is about the Resistance rebels trying to protect the New Republic from the superweapon of the First Order.

The Force Awakens is not a really good film, but not overly bad either. It's just not very interesting. There were scenes that were somewhat funny, but I don't think that was intentional. The intentional humour was cringy. The creators don’t know how to weave a story that works for most of the audience. What they create works for some people, but the original trilogy was tailor-made to satisfy the widest possible audience. They try to mimic the original stories, but don’t know what worked for those movies. They stuff elements of the previous Star Wars films into The Force Awakens, and hope that the nostalgia factor will make the watchers enjoy the movie.

As I've followed the new canon from Disney (comics and the Rebel series), I was prepared for the slapstick humour, boring and stupid scenes, the lack of tension. Overall they can be fun, but you need to prepare for them to enjoy The Force Awakens movie.

Before you sit down to watch the movie, try to get yourself in a good mood, so you'll enjoy it more. Give up your expectations, try to forget the originals. If you watch it with a group of like-minded people, the film might be more fun.

Visually it's a nice movie, the scenes look good, it's the writing or the direction that makes them empty. The camera work is fine. It's the script of the movie that could have been better.

My experience

As a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy, I was disappointed by the lame story of The Force Awakens film.

Rating: Average (2 out of 3 points). It's watchable.

Enjoyment: Weak (2- out of 3 points). I didn't like many aspects of the film.

Chance of watching it again: Very low. I don't think I'd watch this movie again intentionally, but I can imagine watching it if it would run on a tv channel when I don't have anything better to do.

Rewatchability: High. I think if you liked watching the film for the first time, you liked it because of the atmosphere, not because of the plot.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, movie (2015) - Film review by KadmonStar Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie (2015)
image © Disney

Will you enjoy this?

If you don't mind illogical elements in your movies, you can enjoy The Force Awakens film.

If you haven't seen a single Star Wars movie, this one is not a bad place to start. It takes some time to introduce the characters and the setting.

If you are a fan of the Rebels cartoon series, you won't be disappointed. The visuals are incredible, the story is just as much of a childish fun as the Rebels episodes are.

If you enjoyed the original trilogy, or even the prequel trilogy, it's not as good as that one. It's probably closer to the Star Wars feeling than The Phantom Menace, but that's not enough to save this film.

If you loved the original movie trilogy, watching this movie can spoil your memory of the original characters, as the original characters are not in their top forms.

If you get through the first 20 minutes of The Force Awakens film still interested, you might enjoy the whole film, as the next two hours will be very similar action scenes one after the other.

If you loved the Star Trek reboot from J. J. Abrams, you might like The Force Awakens movie, because it also lacks the background, but has cool action scenes.

Do you need to see the previous films to enjoy this?

It probably adds to the experience, but I don't think it would be neccessary. The movie builds on nostalgia for enjoyment. However, you don't need to watch the previous films to understand what is the story about, I think they managed to make it clear. If you really want to get a primer on the Star Wars universe, watch the original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi), as it builds on the story told in those films. You won't get much extra out of watching the prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace, The Attack of the Clones, The Revenge of the Sith), but if you intend to watch the whole sequel series, watching the prequels too might be useful later.

The opinions about this topic on this forum are mixed though. I'd still recommend The New Hope as the first Star Wars film to watch if you can choose either.

The setting of The Force Awakens film, however, is not well sketched - to understand why things happen in the movie, you'll probably need to read the prequel comics, the novellisation and the background books. Many elements are left to be explained in the supplemental materials.

Watching for plot points

If you are only watching this film because you are curious whether it has some interesting background story or twist - I don't think you'll find any in the movie.

Should you download a pirated camcorder copy of this film?

I advise against this (beyond of course it's being illegal). Most of the joy of The Force Awakens movie comes from the visuals. If you get an inferior copy, you'll lose even that. If you can't wait for the DVD release (so you can pirate that), just go and watch this in a movie theatre. (Even though I fear that would mean you vote with your money that the Star Wars franchise is in the right direction.)

What should you do if you really want to watch this movie, because you are a Star Wars fan, but you are afraid of the consequences?

Wait until The Force Awakens DVD is released. Find a foreign language release (Urdu works great for me), and watch that. This will help you enjoy the movie more, as you won't hear all the stupid things they say, and you can fill the holes with your own imagination, that is guaranteed to be better than the original.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, movie (2015) - Film review by KadmonStar Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie (2015)
image © Disney

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Review with spoilers - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie

The only thing I like in this movie are the visual elements. The action scenes look good.

For future readers: I don't have The Force Awakens film on DVD, I only remember what I've seen on the screen on the premiere week, and what I've read on the WikiPedia and WookiePedia about the story. There might be some points of this movie I don't remember correctly.

Plot summary

Leia is searching for Luke, she sends Poe, his best agent on a mission to find him. When he is on a meeting on Jakku, a desert planet, the place is assulted by the First Order, and Poe is taken captive by Kylo Ren, an evil Force user, who is a leader of the First Order. Before they get him, he sends his astromech droid, BB8 away with the secret informations. A stormtrooper, later named Finn, has a change of mind during that assault, and decides to leave the First Order. Finn frees Poe from the First Order ship, and they escape to Jakku, where they get separated, and Poe seemingly dies.

Rey, an inhabitant of Jakku, finds the droid, and takes it to the local marketplace where he meets Finn, who wears the jacket of Poe that BB8 recognises. They get attacked by mercenaries sent by the First Order, than First Order forces, so they steal a spaceship, the Millenium Falcon, and escape from the planet. Above the planet, a larger spaceship catches them, and Han Solo and Chewie appears, who takes the Falcon for himself. Space pirates board the ship, they start to fight, and in the end, Rey, Finn, Solo and Chewie has to escape with the Falcon.

They go to Maz Kanata's pirate den, where Maz gives Luke's blue lightsaber to Rey. They are found by the First Order. The place is attacked, but then Resistance forces arrive to save them. Solo and Leia meet after a long time. Poe is revealed to be alive. Rey is taken captive by the First Order.

The First Order has a secret base that can destroy planets from interstellar distances, and the use that to destroy the planet where the New Republic senate is seated. The Resistance decides it's time to destroy the secret base. Finn tellls them the design flaw that enables them to destroy the whole planet by blowing up a component of the base. They send the Solo on the Millenium Falcon to disable the shields, Finn and Rey joins him. They reach the First Order base, but Solo gets killed by Kylo, who is actually the son of Solo. Rey is also on the base, and she uses the Force to get out of her jail. She meets with the others and disable the shield. Kylo attacks them, but Rey defeats him in a lightsaber fight. The Resistance fleet arrives, and they blow up the whole planet.

They decypher the secret information in BB8 and the one hidden in R2-D2, and find out where can they find Luke. Rey is sent there with Luke's old lightsaber. She finds Luke, presents him the lightsaber, and the film ends.

The setting

In The Force Awakens movie, we are 30 or so years after the battle of Endor, in the Star Wars universe. The Empire was defeated, now the New Republic rules the galaxy. There's a new evil faction, called the First Order, who try to conquer the galaxy. There's a Resistance, who take it on themselves to protect the New Republic from the First Order. Luke disappeared, Solo and Chewie also, Leia remains to lead the Resistance.

The message of the story

I'm not sure there's any intentional message in The Force Awakens film. These are the ones that might have any kind of meaning:

Stormtroopers are people too: It was nice to see they try to humanise the stormtroopers, so that's one point for the movie. But it is undermined by constantly killling them, as if they are just nameless pawns. Even the former stormtrooper kills them without remorse.

If you turn rogue, your son will kill you: Han Solo left Leia and little Kylo to pursue a career of smuggling. His spice-running days ended by Kylo running a lightsaber through him.

The structure of the story

The scenes are played in sequence. It has the usual arc of the dramatic structure (introduction: Jakku, action, resolution: finding Luke). The resolution is a bit weak, because it ends with a cliffhanger.

Plot points of interests

The New Republic senate gets killed: The whole planet is blown up by the Starkiller Base of the First Order.

The Starkiller Base gets destroyed: Resistance fighters manage to blow up the planet.

Factions

The First Order: They are a major force, try to conquer the galaxy by destroying the senate.

The Resistance: It's not clear who are they resisting, but they are fighting the First Order forces.

Changes to characters:

  • Leia: Separates from Han, but they have a child, Ben Solo before that.
  • Solo: Returns to being a selfish rogue, destroying everything he achieved during the original trilogy. He was not a very good father either, because in the end, his son kills him.
  • Finn: Starts as a First Order stormtrooper, but has aversion against fighting, so he leaves the military, and tries to start a more peaceful life.

Characters killed:

  • Resistance: Solo was killed by his son.
  • First Order: Phasma was killed before she could get a chance to introduce her properly. (Edit: Although later we get to know she survived The Force Awakens film, and lives in The Last Jedi.)

Technology:

  • Starkiller base: The First Order can destroy planets in interstellar distances (probably through hyperspace), using a star as the energy source.
  • You can get through a shield if you are using hyperspace jump: This means the Rebels could have just jumped through the shield of the Death Star 2. They could have calculated the best route. There might have been casualties due to miscalculations, but it might have been worth a try.

New Jedi abilities:

  • Force sleep: Kylo is able to make Rey fall asleep.

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Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, movie (2015) - Film review by KadmonStar Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie (2015)
image © Disney

Fan-service

The whole idea of a Star Wars sequel film is based on fan-service, but in The Force Awakens film, the fan-service aspects are very visible. The whole story is based on the plot of A New Hope (and thus, The Phantom Menace).

The director, J. J. Abrams talks about their decision, that they wanted to do something similar to the original trilogy in this video. They talk about building on the expectation, while trying to surprise the viewers. This means they expect the viewers to first see the previous films in the series to achieve the full experience. Some people accuse Abrams that he made a remake of A New Hope, but he just used every element of that movie, with slight twists to avoid being a beat-for-beat remake.

Similar scenes and parallel elements from previous Star Wars films:

  • A New Hope:
    • Beginning shot with star destroyer slowly advancing
    • Well known face among the cast: As Alec Guiness was familiar to the viewers of ANH, Max von Sydow has a similar effect in The Force Awakens film.
    • Astromech droid carrying valuable information: Poe sends BB8 on a mission, just like Leia sent R2-D2. Also, Luke has hidden a map to his whereabouts in R2-D2.
    • Stormtroopers attack and kill everyone
    • After the Stormtrooper attack, their leader steps out to interrogate the prisoners: Vader on the Tantive IV. Kylo Ren on Jakku as Kallum Zack pointed out.
    • The evil leader starts to interrogate the first prisoner, then executes him before he would get the information
    • The main antagonist is not the highest ranking one: Just like Vader served Palpatine, so does Kylo serve Snoke as Kallum Zack noticed.
    • Rebel agent tortured for interrogation purposes
    • Tatooine: A desert planet, just like Tatooine, that's also a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
    • Luke: There are many aspects of Luke that appear in this film, listed by Left Food Media in this video. There are also parallels with Anakin in The Phantom Menace.
      • Lives on a desert planet: Luke lives on Tatooine, Rey on Jakku. Anakin also lives on Tatooine.
      • Unclear parentage: Luke's foster parents don't talk about them, Rey doesn't remember them. Anakin knows her mother, but has a mysterious father (Palpatine).
      • Does menial work: Luke works for at the farm of his foster parents. Rey works as a scavenger. Anakin is a slave technician.
      • Good mechanic: All of them.
      • Good at piloting: All of them.
      • Gets an astromech droid: Luke has to buy it, Rey just finds it. Anakin builds a droid (although it's not an astromech droid).
        • The astromech droid carries vital information that is wanted by both sides of the war: Luke's droid has the Death Star plans, Rey's droid has a map.
      • Unwilling to go on an adventure, until forced to do so: Luke decides to go with Ben after his foster parents are killed. Rey needs a little more convincing, because she knows that her parents might return for her to Jakku.
      • Receives a lightsaber: Luke gets it from Ben, Rey gets it from Maz.
      • Gets attacked in a den of scum and villainy: Luke get attacked in the cantina, Rey is attacked by Plutt's henchmen. Anakin is assaulted by little Greedo (I think this was cut from the final film).
      • Has mentor killed with a lightsaber by evil Jedi near the end of the film: Ben for Luke on the Death Star, Solo for Rey on the Starkiller base. For Anakin, it's Qui-gon, and it's the odd one out, not happening on a planet sized superweapon.
      • The Force is strong with this one: All of them, although more visible with Rey.
    • The Millenium Falcon: Rey finds and boards the Millenium Falcon.
    • The heroes are chased by the Empire while boarding the Falcon
    • Millenium Falcon has to escape from desert planet, chased by the Empire
    • The Jedi are mythical figues: Solo didn't believe in them, just like the people of Jakku in The Force Awakens film, as Kallum Zack noticed.
    • The Death Star: Although it's a whole planet in The Force Awakens film.
    • Destroying planets with the Death Star: Although it's multiple planets at once, and they were across the galaxy, not in the same system as the Death Star.
    • The Falcon's secret smuggling compartment: Rey and Finn hide there.
    • Mentor figure gives lightsaber to Jedi in training: As Luke received Anakin's old lightsaber from Kenobi, Rey receives the same lightsaber from Kanata.
    • Girl in imperial prison: Rey gets taken to the Starkiller base.
    • Girl escapes from imperial prison: Rey breaks out by herself out of the prison. Leia needed the help of Luke and Solo for that.
    • The Death Star run: Fighters approaching the generator, fighting off anti-aircraft towers.
    • Trash compactor: Leia jumps into one to make an escape. Phasma is thrown into one to be executed.
    • Walkways with no railings: Han is stabbed on one, and falls off, because there is no railing to hold him. Safety is clearly not an issue for the First Order.
    • Fatal design flaw that allows the complete destruction of the Death Star: Destroying a component will blow up the whole secret base planet of the First Order.
    • Blowing up the superweapon just before it would destroy the rebels: Time almost ran out at both the attack at Yavin and the Starkiller base.
    • The evil leader narrowly escapes the destruction of the superweapon: Vader drifts away from the Death Star. Kylo just escapes somehow. Justin Blakeney mentioned this.
    • The evil leader was a student of a mentor character, turned to the dark side: Vader in the originals, failed student of Kenobi. Kylo Ren is a failed student of Luke.
  • The Empire Strikes Back:
    • Imperial walker: Rey lives in one.
    • Problems with the hyperdrive of the Falcon
    • Solo looking for help by an old friend: Lando in TESB, Maz Kanata in The Force Awakens movie. This was noticed by EC Henry in his video.
    • Giant hologram of evil leader: Palpatine in TESB, Snoke in The Force Awakens film.
    • Evil leader is a relative to one of the heroes: In TESB Vader was Luke's father, in The Force Awakens film it is reversed, Kylo is Solo's son.
    • The lightsaber Luke got from Kenobi: Maz Kanata gives it to Rey, then Finn.
    • Old mentor that helps the Jedi wannabe: Yoda on Dagobah, Maz Kanata on Takodana. This was noticed by EC Henry in his video.
    • Jedi wannabe gets visions through the Force: Luke on Dagobah, Rey on Takodana. This was noticed by EC Henry in his video.
    • Stormtroopers attacking the place run by Solo's old friend: Cloud City on Bespin in TESB, Maz Kanata's castle in The Force Awakens movie.
    • During a battle, a major character taken away as prisoner by the bad guys: Han Solo on Bespin, Rey on Takodana. This was noticed by EC Henry in his video.
    • Cool looking character in full armour, doing nothing substantial: Boba Fett and Phasma, as Justin Blakeney pointed out.
  • The Return of the Jedi:
    • Jabba's palace: Maz Kanata's pirate den.
    • McQuarry designs for Jabba's palace: Although I'm not sure they were used in TRotJ, but here several design elements from the McQ artworks cropped up on Jakku.
    • Solo sneaking in the shield generator to blow it up, allowing fighters to finish their job: Solo did it on Endor, just like he did it on the Starkiller base in The Force Awakens film.
    • Lightsaber battle between the evil master and the young Jedi, that is being won by the young Jedi: Like Luke won the fight against Vader, so does Rey against Kylo Ren. This was noticed by EC Henry in his video.
    • While the ground team is blowing up the shield generator, starfighters attack the superweapon, and simultaneously a lightsaber duel is fought: The Battle of Endor, and the battle at the Starkiller base.  This was noticed by EC Henry in his video.
    • Meeting of father and son that ends with the death of the father: Luke and Vader on the Death Star, Kylo and Solo on the Starkiller base.
    • Darth Vader's mask: Kylo has his mask that was recovered from the funeral pyre.
  • The Phantom Menace:
    • Anakin: Listed above, at Luke.

Things I liked

  • I like the new stormtrooper armour. Although the grills of the old one gave a more sinister look, but the new ones look nice.
  • I liked the look of BB8.
  • Having a safety cable holding the TIE-fighters on the Star Destroyer was a good addition. Although the implementation is questionable, as it didn't really hold the TIE in the hangar for long, and they didn't need to disengage mechanically, or by hacking the system. That would have made more sense to me.
  • I like the basic concepts of the characters of Rey and Finn, yet I dislike their execution.
  • There are some humorous scenes, and I liked them.

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How does it compare to the other works of the creators?

The Star Trek reboot films from J. J. Abrams was a lot better than what he did with Star Wars. The Force Awakens film was a letdown compared to those movies.

How does it compare to the other films in the series?

The Force Awakens film is not as good as any of the original movie trilogy. It's probably on par or better than the prequel trilogy, but it's hard to compare them. (Edit: It's better than the movies that follow this (The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker).)

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Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, movie (2015) - Film review by KadmonStar Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie (2015)
image © Disney

Problems with the story - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie

There are some updates to the writeup that contain minor spoilers to The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. I don't think they would change your experience of The Force Awakens film or its sequels, but nonetheless - if you want to avoid them, don't read the parts that have the indication of Spoilers!.

The title - The Force Awakens

What does the title of the film mean? How did the Force awaken? It is mentioned in the movie "there has been an awakening" by Snoke, but it's not the Force that has awaken, it's something (someone?) else. It might be possible that this is about Rey's awakening, but she is not the Force, just one of the Force users. (Edit - Spoilers!: Confirmed by the creators after The Rise of Skywalker movie, Finn is also Force sensitive, it just never came up in the whole series. So it might also be about him. But it still unclear.)

The setting

We don't get to understand the setting of the film, before we get thrown into the plot. If you didn't watch the original trilogy, it might be more confusing. Last time we have seen the story, the Rebels won over the Empire, and they could start their new reign of doing something better than the previous regime.

Yet, during the opening crawl we get informed that none of those mattered, the Empire (renamed as the First Order), still tries to get its hand on the galaxy, and the New Republic is helpless against them. During the whole film, we don't get any more information about the New Republic, what went wrong with the formation of it, and why did they let the First Order grow.

The original trilogy was about Leia, Luke and Han, and by the end of the story, they have reached their goals - Luke became a Jedi, Leia and Han found each other, so they could live happily ever after. Yet, in The Force Awakens, everything changed abruptly - Luke is missing, Leia and Han are bitter old people, living apart. And we don't get anything that would tell us how or why did this happen.

These missing elements make the fans of the original trilogy feel like they were cheated, that something important is missing from this movie.

Stupid elements thoughout the story

I list things that are illogical, or breaking the previously established rules. If something seems stupid at first, but there might be some convoluted logic behind it, I list it in the unanswered questions.

  • The assault lander of the First Order is a bad design on multiple ways. The troopers just try to stand straight while descending to the planet - strapping them in seats would be the proper way. By the time they reach the planet they would be already tired from keeping their balance even if the pilot can keep the ship's flight smooth enough. Then, the ramp that opens forward is just a sure way to have everyone killed on board, because it creates a death trap for those inside. They can't dodge, there's no cover, and blaster bolts ricochet from the walls to finish those who were missed by the shots. I though they would avoid showing this design flaw, but the creators actually went and shown us how their opponents kill the troopers while they are still in the lander, and their shots hit the insides of the lander.
  • As MauLer mentions, there's also the problem of flickering lights in the lander - is there some technical problem with the lander? Or is the First Order intentionally try to make the Stormtroopers nervous?
  • What is Poe's plan in the beginning of the film? He got to the planet in a one-man spaceship, so he can't take the old man with him. The spaceship he flies is an obvious starfighter, so if he get caught, he can't claim he's just travelling with his droid buddy. When the First Order attacks, instead of trying to repair his starfighter to get away, or running away and hide, he starts attacking the Stormtroopers, until he gets caught. Also, before they split, he tells BB8 that he'll come back to him - yet, in the movie, we don't see him until the final reunion.
  • What is Kylo's plan in the beginning of the film? He lets his troopers kill and destroy freely in the village, even though his mission is to get a map. So it's either something one of the villagers know, or an object that contains the map. When he finally find the person who knows what he is looking for, he quickly kills him. Is he intentionally stupid? (Lucky for him that Poe was stupid enough to attack him, so he could get imprisoned and interrogated, otherwise the movie would have been cut pretty short.)
  • Why doesn't the First Order scan the area of the village for escaped residents? They could have found BB8 before he could get away. We know that they could have scanned for life-signs, I'd assume they could also scan for signs of droid technology.
  • As MauLer notices, what happened to Finn is not a unique case. The Stormtroopers of the First Order often change their minds, and break their conditioning. However, we see that even though they realise that Finn has problems with following orders, they expect him to do just that. When they find out someone starts to rebel, they shouldn't leave him alone - some Stormtroopers should escort him to the brainwashing center to correct his mind. Otherwise the First Order is made to look incompetent, and incompetent antagonists weaken the accomplishments of our protagonists.
  • Finn putting on Poe's jacket is only there because the plot demands it. Otherwise it wouldn't have been noticed by BB8, so he wouldn't have met Rey, and they couldn't get away from the planet in the Falcon, to meet the Resistance. As Finn already had more than enough clothing when he crash landed, putting on additional, warm clothing in a possibly hot desert is probably unneccessary.
  • I find it unrealistic that a single TIE fighter could escape from a Star Destroyer. There are plenty of guns and missiles on the Star Destroyer that should be able to handle one ship. If a capital ship can't focus on a lonely fighter, then they could send a squadron of TIEs after them. If a Star Destroyer cannot handle one ship, it's not a very useful design. A remote off switch should be a standard equipment on First Order vehicles, as we know that their soldiers are not as well indoctrinated as the Imperial forces were, and when they rebel against orders, this would be very useful.
  • MauLer questions, how is it possible that the First Order don't find either Finn or Poe after the crash landing. They know the location of the crashed fighter, and Hux sends TIE fighters after them immediately after they escape. Poe might be able to get a couple of miles away from the crash, but Finn was just laying there, uncosciously. And even a couple of miles is not that much distance to cover in a TIE fighter, so they couldn't have escaped.
  • After the crash landing, Kylo Ren doesn't really do anything beside idly waiting for the Stormtroopers to find Poe, Finn or the droid. All the while, his only goal is to finally find Luke Skywalker. He doesn't use the resources at his hand, even though he is the second in command on the entire First Order. This makes it look like he doesn't really want to find Luke.
  • Kylo's plot is cut short when BB8 escapes from the planet. In a deus ex machina, Snoke reveals to him that the map he is looking for is on the Falcon. If Snoke is this omnipotent, there would be no need for the whole search. (This makes most of The Force Awakens film pointless in retrospect.)
  • The First Order is very careless about recovering the droid. Whenever they are close to finding it, they start shooting and blowing things up. In A New Hope, they already had the Death Star plans, R2 carried a copy, and it wouldn't have been a loss if they destroyed it. But in this movie it's the only copy of the map that Kylo desperately needs.
  • The stormtrooper that attacks Finn with a baton drops his blaster to draw that baton instead of shooting Finn dead.
  • It was cheesy to see Solo shoot a stormtrooper without even watching.
  • As Matt Zoller Seitz points out, it is unlikely that the main characters are just running into each other on the Starkiller base, as it is the size of a planet. Yet, Solo and his crew meet Phasma, Rey, then Kylo Ren.
  • Phasma is supposed to be the ruthless leader of an evil army. Yet, she just gives up and helps Solo and friends to disable the shields of the Starkiller base, in exchange of a horrible execution by a garbage compactor.
  • When Solo is killed, Chewbacca shoots Kylo with his bowcaster. That weapon is shown to shoot down armoured stormtroopers previously. One shot by Han with the bowcaster was pushed back flying in the air. Yet, for Kylo it's just a minor inconvenience. He'll even have a lightsaber fight a bit later.
  • When Rey and Finn have a lightsaber duel with Kylo Ren, the lightsaber wounds are somehow just slight cuts that do not cause permanent damage, like it did in the previous installments.
  • Finn is called a traitor by First Order members multiple times during The Force Awakens movie. This was his first combat mission, before that he was a janitor. Do every member of the First Order know every janitor, or was Finn the most special janitor who caught the attention of everyone?

Unanswered questions

A lot of things are not very clear in The Force Awakens film. I tried to get answers from supplemental materials and from interviews with the film crew.

  • As MauLer points out, why does Kylo bring Poe to the Star Destroyer, before using the Force to read his memories? Did he need to rest or meditate before he did that?
  • How was Rey able to pilot the Falcon so proficiently? She seems to be very skilled in whatever she does. (Edit: According to The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary, she practiced a lot with flight simulators.)
  • How did Maz get Luke's lightsaber?
  • Why does Maz give Rey the lightsaber?
  • Why does Maz give Finn the lightsaber when Rey refuses to take it with her? Han would be the obvious choice if she really wants to have the lightsaber taken away.
  • Steve Fry's question: What happened to Maz Kanata? She seemed like an important character up to the bombing of her castle. After that there's no mention of her.

Bad choice of protagonists

Finn is the one that looks to be the main protagonist, and he would be a good choice. I consider him the best part of The Force Awakens movie. He is not only an outsider to the Resistance, but he was one of their enemies, a member of the First Order. This would give a potential to express feelings about other members of the First Order - if Finn is has feelings, if he is a normal human under the armour, we could start to see the other stormtroopers through his eyes now. However, this part is never taken into consideration - Finn never thinks twice about killing his former comrades, and that makes him look kinda psychopatic. That is one thing that Luke tried to kill Imperial troopers, but he hated them, they killed his foster parents, blown a whole planet, and he didn't see them as humans. Luke got Ben as a mentor, but Ben really stayed in the background, he didn't overshadow Luke. In this film, Finn got not one, but two mentors, Rey and Poe, then Solo also appeared, and they just took over the story. That meant that we couldn't really delve into the character arc of Finn. When Finn finally joined the Resistance, we could have explored how do they accept new members, especially ones who were former members of the First Order, and as he is a deserter, there's always a shadow of suspicion how long will he be loyal to this cause. They could question where his true loyalties lie. But this was also forgotten in The Force Awakens film. I liked the cowardly nature of Finn, I've found it fun, but I don't think it's really believable after all those years of First Order brainwashing and indoctrination. (Edit - Spoilers!: Unlucky for him, the creators didn't know how to use this otherwise great character, and Finn couldn't get a proper character arc through the sequel trilogy. Even in the final episode he is still a sidekick, who doesn't do anything substantial.)

The current characterisation of Finn is also problematic. He currently only exists in The Force Awakens film so he could give information about the First Order to make it easier to continue the plot, and none of his stormtrooper past plays a role in any way. We are told that he was taken as a child, and raised to be a stormtrooper - a ruthless enforcer of an evil regime. He was brainwashed to believe that the First Order is the only way, and he was trained to be the best soldier. However, in the film, he is anything but competent, and in mentality he seems like just an average local. For me, it would have been more believable, if he had frozen by the stress in his first non-simulated mission, and being afraid of the repercussions, he chose to desert the First Order. As he was surrounded by like-minded - brainwashed fascist - people, he wouldn't know how to socialise with normal humans. He should have problems with approaching anyone, and talking to them. Romantic relationships might be allowed in the First Order army, but I'm almost sure asking about boyfriends directly would be a taboo. He should have been utterly loyal to the First Order, and when he left them, he should have been confronted by the reality of the outside world, that there are alternatives to how they do things in the First Order. It would have been up to Finn to like those ways, or refuse them, and try to continue to live by his proper First Order standards, possibly even trying to enforce them on others. He should have been a fish out of water, but what we got is an ordinary guy, whose only character trait is that he is a coward.

Rey would not be a bad choice, it was the script that made it so. She was an orphan, with no ties to either the Resistance nor the First Order. Joining Finn in his search for the Resistance wouldn't be a hard choice for her, as she didn't have much to loose. The problem with her was that she could do everything better than anyone else. She was a better fighter than the mercenaries, she could drive and repair the Falcon better than Han, she could use the lightsaber better than Kylo. As she was a one-man-army, her presence made every other character unneccessary. Her skills and abilities also made any character arc moot, as she is already the best in whatever she tries. Although she didn't receive any kind of Jedi training, she is already more powerful by the middle of The Force Awakens film than Luke was at the end of The Return of the Jedi. (Edit - Spoilers!: This tendency will continue in the rest of the series, as Rey will receive unlimited power by the final episode. I've found a good analysis video about the problems with her, from The Critical Drinker.)

There are many abilities of her I can accept. She has good athletic skills, she is a good mechanic, she can be good with droids and vehicles. She can fly a speeder, although we don't get any info on how good she is in that.

Rey's surprisingly good skills in The Force Awakens, with no background:

  • able to understand droid
  • able to understand Wookie
  • able to fly the Falcon at least as good as Han
  • able to repair the Falcon better than Han
  • able to resist Force mind reading
  • able to use Jedi mind trick without being taught
  • able to defeat Kylo Ren in a lightsabre duel without being taught

Rey's personality seems kind of simple. She is naive and trusting, easy to befriend others. This is exactly the opposite what she should be under the circumstances. She lives among criminals, who should quickly teach her never to trust anybody, anymore. She should expect double-crossing and treachery everywhere. The naive personality might be believable if she were living in an otherwise good place, not being an orphan in a backwards planet.

Poe is the best agent of the Resistance, and an excellent pilot. Basically, we get a replacement for Han Solo after the battle of Endor. He is capable, good looking, good leader. He was good as a catalyst to the story - Finn had to help him, then they got separated, and we could have watched Finn continue his journey. However, as he is already the best, he doesn't have anywhere to advance. When Poe returned after his apparent death, he took over the flying scenes, while Rey took over the ground scenes, and they didn't leave anything for Finn to do. (Edit - Spoilers!: Later, in The Last Jedi movie, they introduce weeknesses for him, to make him look like Luke from The Empire Strikes Back, so he can get an own character arc. But as it is already established in this film that he is more competent than that, it doesn't really work.)

Weak antagonist

Kylo Ren is a bad antagonist. He is a joke to both the Resistance (see Poe's reaction to him) or the First Order (they can see his impotent rages, they even show stormtroopers quickly leaving the scene of one his fits). However, the protagonist is just as good as their opposition. If the antagonist is weak, the accomplishment of the protagonist is not a big thing. Including him in The Force Awakens movie made the whole story weaker.

The character is not a bad choice per se - he is interesting as a fanboy to Darth Vader, he tries to imitate his chosen ideal, he is just not very good at being a dark lord, and he is looked down even by his own people. My problem with him is that he is chosen by the creators to be a leader of the First Order, because he doesn't have any quality that would allow him to become a leader.

Another thing I don't particularly like is that he is the grandson of Vader, for me it would have worked better to have a Force user who is obsessed by Vader, but I can accept that his lineage haunts him.

There would have been two good ways to use this character in The Force Awakens film efficiently:

1) Make him an independent power: He could be separate from the First Order, an evil Force user who'd like to build his own empire, just like Vader did. He could be a rival to the First Order, or he could ally with them. He already has the Knights of Ren as flunkies, so he has no need for First Order troopers. This would leave way to make Phasma a more proper Vader-substitute in the First Order forces.

2) Make him a proper leader of the First Order: Throw away the temper tantrums, impotent rages, and give him a sense of dread, make him someone others would follow. However, this would make him just like Darth Vader, and this wouldn't make an interesting character.

The actors of First Order members

I didn't find them believable as members of a ruthless, opressing force. In The Force Awakens film, they looked like models, college freshmen, or assistent teachers - they were far from anything we have seen in the original trilogy. They were not soldiers, nor military leaders - they were just some random people, who happened to work for the First Order. And that is a strange point, as I don't think you'd join the First Order because of the good company or job security.

Makes the original trilogy pointless

The original movie trilogy was the story of rebels who try to defeat the evil Empire. When they blow up the Death Star and kill Palpatine, it looks like they have achieved victory. We would expect that it means there will be peace in the galaxy, or at least it would be the New Republic that rules, with small pockets of the Imperial remnant systems.

Yet, in The Force Awakens film we see that we are back to the state of the galaxy at the start of The New Hope. The Empire (called First Order now) destroys the senate of the Republic (New Republic here), and takes over the galaxy with a Death Star (Starkiller Base). The Force Awakens movie makes the whole original trilogy unneccessary.

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Possibilities of improvement

  • Don't let the First Order find out the Finn has problems with the system: The movie could show us that Finn has second thoughts about the whole fighting, but it should go unnoticed by his superiors. Otherwise it would make us question the competence of the First Order.
  • The First Order could let Poe escape: MauLer came up with this idea. The escape of Poe and Finn is unrealistic, yet it is required for the plot to happen. If the First Order would use the same trick Tarkin used, they could order a Stormtrooper to pretend that he wants to defect, free Poe, and it would make more sense that they are able to leave the Star Destroyer, while not being shot down. They are probably able to track the TIE fighter, so they will be able to find Poe, who will be looking for BB8.
  • Kylo Ren should act against the orders of Snoke: This would make it more plausible that he only sends a couple of Stormtroopers and two TIE fighters to find the droid. If he lacks the resources, this would explain why isn't he order the army of the whole Star Destroyer to search the planet. If Snoke would order him to let go of this chase, and he would have to do some chores for Snoke beside finding the droid, it would make it more believable. It could also show us that he is an underdog to Snoke, and it would allow Hux to be more on a level with him. It could be similar to the status quo of Vader and Tarkin in ANH.
  • Cutting the parts with Rey's unlimited power: Most of her skills and abilities do not add to the overall plot, they are just there to make her better in everything she does.
    • Change the scenes when she can understand droids: It's enough that she talks to the droid, or guess what BB8 says, but being fluent in droid is unneccessary.
    • Cut the scene when Rey flies the Falcon into the wreckage: It's not believable that she can do this when she first sits in the pilot seat of a starship. It should be enough that she is able to take off, then fly close to the ground for a little while to get rid of the TIEs, then steer the Falcon skywards, and puts the pedal to the metal to escape the TIE fighters. (The Falcon in the wreck scene is awesome, though, so it might be inserted somewhere else, not to waste it.)
    • Cut the part when she can understand Wookie: It's not neccessary, and there's nothing to back this skill.
    • Change the scene when she repairs the Falcon: It looks like she knows the Falcon better than Han does. If Han would recommend the change, and she would fix the ship, that would make sense.
  • Change the stormtrooper Finn duels with to Phasma, and have Finn lose: Vito mentioned this idea, and it would work to make Finn's character arc more complete. Finn trying to defeat his former boss, and failing would parallel Luke's first fight against Vader, and it would show us that Finn is eager to win, yet he needs to learn more to defeat Phasma. Finn would need to be saved by Solo, or by Poe shooting Phasma with his X-Wing. When Phasma would show up later, it would foreshadow that Phasma is able to survive some heavy beating in her armour. Moving his defeat of Phasma from The Last Jedi to The Rise of Skywalker would also make a better story.
  • Time the destruction of the senate during the attack on the Starkiller base: I'm almost sure I've heard this idea before, but this change would give tension to the assault - just like adding the threat of destruction to Yavin IV did it in A New Hope. The Resistance would get the information about the planned destruction, they scramble their forces, and assault the Starkiller base. Yet, no matter how hard they try, the Starkiller base is still able to shoot its planetkiller beam. It would be probably a good point to have the base overload due to the damage already done on it, so the shot would also destroy the Starkiller base.

How it could have been better?

It's true that it's hard to imagine a Star Wars film without Rebels fighting an evil Empire, so sticking to that might not be a bad choice (otherwise it could have been renamed Star Peace). However, the way The Force Awakens film did it disrespects the original trilogy. The Dark Empire storyline and the Thrawn trilogy from the Expanded Universe is probably the best way to do it - the Rebels won, killed the leader of the Empire, but there are still remnants of the Empire that hold out in several parts of the galaxy, and the New Republic, lead by the former Rebel Alliance tries to free the people who live under Imperial rule. Most of the story of this film could have happened even using this setup.

The character arcs are lacking in the film. We get introduced to characters, but some of them are already at the peak of their life, and the others just don't change through the story. I've listed my main problems with the protagonists and the antagonist above, and some of the possible solutions to them. Finn should have been the main character, similar to Luke, instead of becoming a sidekick to Rey, to make him relatable. Poe should have been a mentor character in the background than an action hero, so he wouldn't overshadow the others. Rey should have been mysterious instead of super powerful, to keep her interesting.

Turning Han Solo into a smuggler was a bad choice - this destroys his story arc in the original Star Wars movie trilogy. He was a criminal at the start of A New Hope, but step by step he redeemed himself to become a proper hero by the end of The Return of the Jedi. Yet, we see here that didn't matter, the change was not a lasting one. If he were on a mission for the Resistance, and he was just tricking the criminals, instead of being a real smuggler, it would make the The Force Awakens film better. I'm not sure though how would it be possible to hide the criminal background, and imply this by cutting or swapping shots.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, movie (2015) - Film review by KadmonStar Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie (2015)
image © Disney

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Appendix 2 - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie: What the defenders of the movie get wrong

There are many fans who like the movie, and feel that if they like it, it must be good, and they try to come up with reasons, why the critics who point out the flaws are wrong.

"Rey is not a Mary Sue, because...": Although I wouldn't say she is a Mary Sue, the definition of Mary Sue fits her perfectly. She is more skilled, and overall better than anyone we have ever seen in the series. She is a kind, nice person, with no physical or personality flaws. People love her at first sight.

  • "...because Rey is just as good as Han is, when flying the Falcon": Sure, but Han is a space smuggler, with years of experience with the ship.
  • "...because Luke also made the impossible shot against the Death Star, in an X-Wing that he never flied before": But we got informed that Luke was the best pilot on Tatooine, he was preparing to go to flight school, and that he is the son of the previous best fighter pilot. Also, he got help from the ghost of Kenobi.
  • "...because Leia also withstands the Imperial interrogation": That's true , but Leia is an agent of the Rebellion, she was probably trained how to do just that. Also, we never see Darth Vader ever using the Force to mind probe people, unlike Kylo Ren.
  • "...because Luke also defeated Darth Vader": Yeah, in the final installment, after years of training. The fight with Kylo Ren was the second time Rey had a lightsaber in her hand.
  • "...because Han was also able to shoot Greedo": I assume Han was more experienced than poor Greedo was, and I feel that comparing Greedo to Kylo Ren is not very useful in this case.

Also, while either one of those is possible, having all of those traits and skills is very improbable. She basically has the best skills of every person in the series up to this point.

  • "...because she is a good mechanic, that's why she is able to repair the Falcon, while Han can't": You might argue that this is true, but I'd assume that Han has a better understanding of how the Falcon works, than someone who has never been on board.
  • "...because she doesn't succeed in everything immediately": That's true, however she always succeeds. There is nothing in the whole sequel trilogy that would stop Rey, at most the problems might delay her.
  • "...because she is not a proxy for the screen writer!": Sure, there is a part in the definition of Mary Sue that such characters are often wish fulfillment inserts of the writers. Although at first it would be obvious that Rey is not a wish fulfillment of J. J. Abrams, one can never really be sure.

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Resources - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie

IMDB: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015): Database article.

WikiPedia: Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Database article.

WookiePedia: Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens: Database article.

Rotten Tomatoes: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens : Database article.

Metacritic:  Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens 2015: Database article.

Creation - Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie

ILMVFX: ILM: Behind the Magic of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Behind the scenes video about The Force Awakens film.

Variety: 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Visual Effects - Variety Artisans: Behind the scenes video about The Force Awakens film.

Parental advisory information - Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie

Raising Children Network: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens: Parental advisory information article.

Sandie Angulo Chen (for Common Sense Media ): Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens: Parental advisory information article.

Reviews with no spoilers - Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie

Chris Stuckmann: Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Movie Review: Review video of The Force Awakens movie with minor spoilers, not more than the trailer.§

Grace Randolph (for Beyond The Trailer): Star Wars The Force Awakens Movie Review - Beyond The Trailer: Review video of The Force Awakens movie with no spoilers.§

Jamie Graham (for GamesRadar): Total Film magazine's Star Wars: The Force Awakens review: Review article of The Force Awakens movie with minor spoilers, not more than the trailer.

Manohla Dargis (The New York Times): ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Delivers the Thrills, With a Touch of Humanity: Review article of The Force Awakens movie with minor spoilers, not more than the trailer.

Mark Kermode (for The Guardian): Star Wars: The Force Awakens review – consider me conquered: Review article of The Force Awakens movie with minor spoilers, not more than the trailer.

Michael Roffman (for Consequence of Sound): Film Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Review article of The Force Awakens movie with minor spoilers, not more than the trailer.

Peter Travers (for Rolling Stone): Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Review video of The Force Awakens movie with no spoilers.

Robbie Collin (for The Telegraph): Star Wars – The Force Awakens review: 'the magic is back': Review article of The Force Awakens movie with minor spoilers, not more than the trailer.

Reviews with spoilers - Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie

Ben Child (for The Guardian): Star Wars: Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Han Solo, family connections and plot holes – discuss the film with spoilers: Review article of The Force Awakens movie with spoilers.

Chris Stuckmann: Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Spoiler Review: Review article of The Force Awakens movie with spoilers.

Grace Randolph (for Beyond The Trailer): Star Wars The Force Awakens SPOILERS Movie Review - Beyond The Trailer: Review video of The Force Awakens movie with spoilers.

Matt Zoller Seitz (for Roger Ebert): Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens: Review article of The Force Awakens movie with spoilers.

Analysis - Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie

CinemaSins: Everything Wrong With Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens: Analysis video of The Force Awakens movie.

Craig Newton (on Slide Share): Analytical film review of the force awakens: Cinematical analysis of The Force Awakens film.

EC Henry: The Force Awakens is NOT a Remake of A New Hope: Analysis video about the plot of of The Force Awakens film.

Films&Stuff: The Force Awakens | the Importance of Masks: Analysis video of The Force Awakens movie.

How It Should Have Ended: How Star Wars The Force Awakens Should Have Ended: Parody video about the possible outcome of alternative timelines in the movie.

Lebeau's Le Blog: How The Force Awakens Invalidates the Original Trilogy: Analysis video of The Force Awakens movie.

MauLer: A Critique of Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

Quora: How would you rewrite Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be better?: Forum about ideas to make the The Force Awakens film better.

Qoura: What were the flaws of Star Wars: The Force Awakens? How could the film have been better?: Forum about ideas to make the The Force Awakens film better.

The Critical Drinker: Star Wars, and the problem with Rey: Analysis video about the narrative problems with the character of Rey. Contains spoilers about The Last Jedi movie.

Thor Skywalker: The failure of a perfect character: Rey's Journey to The Rise of Skywalker: Analysis video about Rey's narrative. Contains spoilers about The Last Jedi movie.

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Buying the product - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens movie

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Have you seen the Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens film? How do you like the movie? Would you recommend it to others? Do you know reviews or resources you'd like to add? What further thoughts do you have about it? Tell your opinion in the comments!

 

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