Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Review (Hoop Edition)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Star Wars!

The name jumps on the screen, the music drops and everyone in the audience knows that shit is about to go down. The opening scroll crawls across the screen and you’re just happy that you can read it fast enough before the words disappear.

And that’s only the first two minutes of the movies. Those are the givens.

What separates each of the Star Wars films are what happens after the scroll shrinks into the stars. I’m here to say that post-scroll, Episode VII: The Force Awakens does not disappoint… Actually, in a stunning turn of event, I saw it three times on opening day and it got better each time. The movie is awesome.

The story is straight Star Wars and it uses a lot of the plot beats from Episode IV. Without spoiling anything significant, an evil empire-esque regime led by a red lightsaber-touting figure, is searching for something that is stowed away in a droid. The droid escapes the clutches of the baddies and eventually runs into our heroes. This gets the ball rolling on what happens the rest of the movie.

Sound familiar yet?

The similarities to A New Hope are obvious, but the parallels work by both paying homage to what made the first film great and serving as a nice transition into the new generation. And that’s what The Force Awakens is all about. The meeting ground between the old and the new.

There’s enough references to previous films to meet the criteria of a research paper, spanning from the home that newcomer Rey lives in to great lines by Leia to Han regarding the Death Star. They’ll all make you smile and I found myself snapping to a lot of them like I was at a poetry slam.

The desert-planet-scavenger Rey and the stormtrooper-gone-rouge Finn are the faces of the new trilogy and I thought the two were excellent. Easily, some of my favorite characters of the franchise after just one film. Their complete backstories are shrouded in mystery, especially Rey’s, but they give you enough to have you on board. Honestly, some of the best parts of the movie were just Rey and Finn meeting, the two running around, the two helping each other, them bickering, and just being around one another. Their on-screen chemistry never faulted throughout the movie, and I could write a whole review on it alone.

The true star of the movie though, as his spotlight-stealing-self usually is, is Han Solo. He stars in a different way than previous installments. He’s no longer the all-out badass, but an older and wiser Han with some badassery still left in him. It works as some of the best dialogue are what transpires between him and Rey, him and Finn, and really him and anyone. I think this is the film that solidifies Mr. Solo as one of the most endearing characters in movie history.

I can’t talk about the characters of Star Wars without spending time on the film’s villain, Kylo Ren. People are going to to compare him to the likes of Darth Vader or Darth Maul on the evil and intimidation scale. But its a trap! Don’t do it. In a fourth wall breaking way, that’s what Ren wants you to do. He wants to be up there with the villains of old and wants to be better. It creates a great on-screen dynamic and presents Ren as his own and unique antagonist. Add on to the fact he’s still a menacing figure, twirls his lightsaber like he’s playing with a plastic toy, and loses his temper like a five-year old and I couldn’t get enough of him. I was sold as him being another key foundation for this new trilogy just as much as Rey and Finn. Honestly, I think he has a strong shot at surpassing Darth Vader as the greatest Star Wars villain when this trilogy is all over.

Ace pilot Poe Dameron seems to be the third member of this trilogy-hero-trio. While you don’t spend as much time with him as Rey, Finn, or Kylo, he kicks enough ass in the air that he’ll be the one kids emulate on the playground in their imaginary X-wings.

The other characters slide right into their roles as well. Faces from the past all get different levels of screen time, but reprise their parts like they stopped playing them yesterday. Other newcomers will remind audiences of characters seen before, but are all welcomed additions.

Plot and characters aside, the movie needed some great action to be great and it delivered.

The visuals are so jaw-dropping that you will wonder how they fit it all on screen. The lightsaber duels will have you clench after every clash, and the arial dogfights will make you wanna cheer. It’s all filmed spectacularly and its impossible to get mad at the audience clapping in the middle of scenes because it’s all so cool.

If I had one gripe it’s that the similarities to Episode IV may have been too noticeable, and made you question if they could have come up with a more original plot. But Episode IV is one of my favorite movies of all-time and damn near perfect in my eyes, so I won’t hold it against VII. After all, I came back to the theater twice the same day to watch it, so I guess it didn’t hold it back too much.

Overall, it’s a dope ass movie and one I’m sure I’ll see a couple more times before it leaves theaters. It gives you a lot, but leaves you with enough questions that you’ll want to re-watch it. And that’s what movies are suppose to do.

Here’s just hoping that the anger caused by having to wait a year and half until Episode VIII comes out doesn’t lead me to the dark side.

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