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Star Wars: The Force Awakens review: Does it live up to its name?

Star Wars. Those two simple words have set records as one of if not the most long lasting and beloved franchises of all time. For almost 4 decades, Star Wars has captured the imagination of audiences everywhere, whether they be young or old, avid movie fans or casual viewers. And now, Star Wars has made its long awaited return to theaters with The Force Awakens, but is it worthy of its name?

(Potential spoilers inbound, you have been warned. Skip to the end for an abridged review.)

Let’s just get the negatives out of the way first

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has a run time of roughly 2 hours, give or take a few minutes. From the most objective, non-biased standpoint possible, it definitely felt like The Force Awakens would’ve benefited from being just a bit longer. At times, the movie felt slightly rushed, as if certain characters were unaware that they were in a full length movie and not a trailer.

The First Order: not overly fond of subtlty
The First Order: not overly fond of subtlety

In fact, the debut of the First Order’s Starkiller Base lasted roughly 5 to 10 minutes, and that’s including the obligatory speech by the almost comically angry General Hux. As a result, there isn’t really much of an impact when Starkiller Base utterly annihilates several planets, despite shots of the population looking towards the skies in terror.

Oh look, another destroyed TIE figher, nothing new to see here
Oh look, another destroyed TIE figher, nothing new to see here

Speaking of comical villains, the First Order seems to have inherited almost every possible trait needed for a ruthlessly inefficient enemy. Foot soldiers that are dispatched with ease by the main characters? Check. A reputation that is more fearsome than their actual performance? Yup. Woefully ineffective armor? You betcha. By the time Finn and Rey leave Jakku, it is clear that the First Order Stormtroopers are incredibly good at massacring poorly armed civilians, but they rarely pose much of a threat to the protagonists.

Full speed ahead to the positives!

Rey and BB-8, your obligatory charming droid companion
Rey and BB-8, your obligatory charming droid companion

While not explicitly a reboot, The Force Awakens borrows heavily from A New Hope. True, Kylo Ren (more on him later) isn’t nearly as intimidating as Darth Vader, but The Force Awakens shares so many similarities with A New Hope that their plots are almost 1 to 1 replicas. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as The Force Awakens proves to be a much more refined version of A New Hope.

Kylo Ren and his fellow Knights of Ren
Kylo Ren and his fellow Knights of Ren

Take Kylo Ren for example. He’s clearly supposed to play the same role as Darth Vader, but he’s not nearly as skilled nor as disciplined as the iconic enforcer of Sidious. Some characters even mock him for being a pale imitation of Darth Vader, but that’s what sets Kylo apart. Vader may have been robotic, calm, and ruthless, but Kylo is human, often showing his frustration when things go wrong, yelling and wildly swinging his lightsaber in ways that even the Sith would find reckless. A pivotal moment he has with another character showcases his human side greatly, exhibiting a range of emotions that serve to pull everyone closer to him before showing his true colors.

And while everyone knows that there will be more Star Wars movies in the years to come, The Force Awakens does a fairly good job of avoiding the unbearable cliffhangers that plague other stories. Granted, there is a cliffhanger ending, but The Force Awakens does not end abruptly and the immediate conflict posed by the main story is resolved by the conclusion.

(Spoilers end here)

Even if you (for some reason) have no idea what Star Wars is, there is no reason not to watch The Force Awakens. Ok, fine, some parts of it are slightly groan inducing, but the story is satisfying, the music is great, and the visual effects aren’t too over the top.

Final Verdict: 9/10

About Anson Chan

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