Each week, leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, we will ask certain Matrix team members for their takes on every Star Wars film in chronological order. Last week, we discussed Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
(Catch up if you need. We’ll wait…)
This week, we will unfold our thoughts on The Force Awakens. This film was a landmark film in cinema. It wasn’t the most original film ever, but it was the return of a franchise that was said to be complete. After years of hiatus, the entire cast returned to their respective roles. This will forever be one of the biggest film releases.
The Force Awakens follows a new band of heroes, Rey, Finn, and Poe, as they fight to prevent the First Order from becoming the next Empire. There’s so much to talk about in this film, let’s see what our members at MoviesMatrix have to say…
Q1. General Thoughts?
Marsellus Durden: From the buzz-inducing teaser where Finn frantically rises into frame in his Stormtrooper guise to the tense battle in the snowy forest of Starkiller Base, this film was a rousing success for Star Wars fans and especially for myself. I loved every single frame of this picture from the nostalgic story framing, to seeing familiar faces/ships, and to our new band of misfits to root for in Poe Dameron, Rey, and FN-2187 (Finn). By the time we — at long last — get one brief yet epic glimpse of a grizzled Luke Skywalker, I was standing on the edge of my seat hollering for more.
Logan Slavin: I love this movie. The buildup to it was extremely fun and it was great just to have a new Star Wars movie coming out! The movie itself was great. It reminds me so much of everything I love about Star Wars.
Owen: This movie is right up there with Empire as my favorite Star Wars film. The pacing is absolutely perfect, it feels like Star Wars, and the characters are so interesting. Everything about this movie is just pure Star Wars adventure and I love every second of it.
Michael Colan: The Force Awakens is a really good movie. J.J. Abrams crafts a film that is full of energy and excitement, visually dynamic and able to introduce new and exciting characters in fun and creative ways. There are critiques to be had of the movie (some of which I’ll get into later in this article), for example, it does a poor job of setting up the new status quo of the galaxy and giving strong context to the viewers. It still works but the Star Wars Novel Bloodline does a better job of setting up the galaxy than Force Awakens does. Either way, the movie itself is very good.
Q2. Too Much of a Retread?
Marsellus Durden: I loved the callbacks to A New Hope and felt the story balanced the new and the familiar well. As far as I was concerned, this presented Star Wars to a whole new generations of fans who might have never seen the orginal films. I think this helped pull in the audience, both old and new, into this immense world of epic fantasy.
Logan Slavin: I don’t think there was too much of ANH in it. It does retread a bit, but despite having somewhat similar surroundings, Rey is nothing like Luke. She was abandoned on the planet and had to learn to work for what she could get. Luke was left there with family and, while he did work on a farm, he didn’t have to work too hard for his livelihood. And I think it goes without saying that Kylo is NOTHING like Vader.
Owen: No. Structurally it is a retread, but there is so much new stuff here. The characters are new, the chemistry is new, and it puts everything we’ve seen before in a new light. Like Abrams said, the bones of this film is the same, but everything else is different.
Michael Colan: Yes, it was. Despite my enjoyment of it, it retreads far too much. I didn’t mind it through the first acts, the way it sets up the characters and moves the plot is reminiscent of a New Hope but didn’t feel like a retread. If I have one thing I hate about the movie it is Starkiller Base. The Death Star in Return of the Jedi is already a retread and they did it again. That’s when the movie becomes too closely linked with A New Hope. All the action on Starkiller base between Han, Kylo, Rey and Finn is amazing. I just don’t like it as a plot point.
Q3. Favorite New Character
Marsellus Durden: When I first saw the film, I was enamored with Rey and I loved her journey through the film. However, over the last few years I honestly love their inclusion of Finn as an ex Stormtrooper who had no choice in his life until he escaped the First Order with Poe. His story arc was the most compelling for me, at least in this installament.
Logan Slavin: I really like Rey and BB-8. Rey is a good protagonist in my opinion. She’s tough because she had to be, but not so tough that you feel she’s invincible. Some may say she shouldn’t be as good with a saber, but she’s had years of experience with her staff, I think some of those skills could transfer, especially with the help of the Force.
Owen: Kylo Ren because he is so intriguing. Everything about his dynamic with himself, Rey, Luke, Han, Snoke, Vader is so interesting and something we’ve never seen before in Star Wars. He’s conflicted and it makes sense. He’s not bad for the sake of bad, he’s bad because of his situation and expectations.
Michael Colan: That is a tough question, I like all the new characters especially Rey, but if I had to pick, Kylo Ren gets the edge. Between Adam Driver’s committed performance and the strong writing around the character Kylo Ren has instantly been propelled into one of my favorite Star Wars characters.
Q4. Were Returning Characters Used Well?
Marsellus Durden: Seeing Han & Chewie again warmed my heart but overall I thought all of the original Rebels played roles that felt natural and true to their characters. General Leia leading the Resistance, Han smuggling rathnar’s and Luke mysteriously in exile melded with the other stories just right.
Logan Slavin: I loved how it handled the returning characters. Han has never felt more like Han, and Chewie is great too. Leia is still in charge of the rebellion, as she should be, and C-3PO is as funny as ever.
Owen: Yes. Leia could’ve been more in the forefront, but overall, I loved Han and Chewie’s roles as well as how they incorporated Luke into this. Making Luke this idolized legend whom the story is revolving around was epic.
Michael Colan: The Force Awakens handles it’s returning characters in spades. Harrison Ford comes back and to his credit doesn’t phone in the performance, he feels like an older Han Solo. This has some of my favorite Chewbacca moments as well. I do like that the trilogy ultimately wasn’t exclusively about them. Star Wars is a generational story and J.J. Abrams did a good job of positioning them as supporting characters without making them feel sidelined.
Q5. FAVORITE Scene
Marsellus Durden: This is extremely difficult for me but I’m ultimately stuck between the Millenium Falcon chase on Jakku and Rey using the force to retrieve Luke’s lightsaber. Both scenes ignited huge applause by the crowds I saw it with and they both reminded me of the magical and euphoric joy Star Wars can bring to us. That feeling right there… THAT is Star Wars.
Logan Slavin: My favorite scene is the fight in the forest on Starkiller Base. It was our first legitimate lightsaber fight in the film and it was really fun. It was cool to see Kylo kick Finn’s butt and then Rey to come in and fight off a wounded Kylo.
Owen: Finn & Rey vs. Kylo. The choreography and the way the lightsabers look, sound, and react with one another is so perfect and feels so satisfying. Plus, the character work that is being done for those three characters is perfectly intertwined with the action. And you can’t forget about Rey getting Luke’s lightsaber instead of Kylo. Amazing!
Michael Colan: It’s hard to pick, the movie is loaded with great scenes, for now (it could change) I’m going to have to pick Han Solo’s Death. I think it’s masterfully done, the acting from Harrison Ford and Adam Driver carries the weight of both characters along with the lighting cues that signal the shift in Kylo’s decision making. Couple all of that with Chewie’s screams of pain and him laying waste to Stormtroopers and shooting his best friend’s son and you got a scene full of emotion, action and a final goodbye to an icon.
Make sure to read last week’s article on Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and check back to MoviesMatrix next week for a similar breakdown of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
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