How I rate movies? I go by a tough criteria of plot, characters, directing, and writing. I am tough, but fair, and if I don’t like a movie, if it is a good movie, I will give it, it’s due (The Godfather is an example of this). I rate on a scale from 1 star to be horrible, to four stars, which means an incredible experience that should not be missed.
Welcome to the first review of my Entertainment blog. No movie has been more anticipated than the new Star Wars movie. After being nervous and after a positive reaction the first time I saw it, I decided to let some time pass and re-watch it again just to see if it still holds up. I am happy to say, that yes, The Force Awakens is a fast-paced, funny, heartbreaking and gripping movie, that will leave you breathless at the end of the movie. Let’s get to the good and the bad of my favorite movie of the year.
The Plot: Here is a hotly debated topic about the movie, the plot. Some people love it, and thinks it reminds them of a New Hope, others thought it was too much like New Hope, but the truth is, that there is some truth to both arguments. Yes, we have a bigger base that can’t wipe out solar systems, (by blowing up five planets instead of one) and there is the droid that the First Order is trying to catch. But, and these are big buts. No1, the young Kylo Ren, is not complete in his training unlike Vader, who was a full-blown Sith. Another thing, it is a young girl this time (not a farm boy like Luke) that the adorable BB-8 droid (he is so cute, you want to adopt him as a pet). Ray was abandon on a planet, unlike Luke who had his aunt and uncle to take care of him. Kylo is well, for those of you who have not seen the movie, I will not tell, but needless to say, he has some family issues that need to be worked out. Finn is not like Luke, Leia, or Han, so who is he? Also, we did not get to meet the emperor until Empire Strikes Back, the enigmatic Supreme Leader Snoke, (played with sheer enthusiasm by the wonderful Andy Seirkis), and the plans are not for how to destroy the new Star Killer base, but it shows well, I will not say for the people (all 12 of you) who have not seen the movie. All I will say is, is that it is not like a New Hope. There are a lot of similarities in the plot, but there is also a lot of new and fresh ideas to keep the plot interesting, and the screenplay knows when to add more to the plot. There is enough twist and turns to keep the plot from becoming boring and thin.
My grade for the plot? 4 stars Familiar, but also fresh as well. A good starting over point.
Characters: This is were Star Wars has always been one of the kings in entertainment. Think about these names. Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Yoda, Lando, Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kanobi, etc. There are not many entertainment properties that can claim that long of a list of legendary and beloved characters? Star Trek? Buffy? Yep, and in this movie, the characters are diverse, well-rounded and complex to add an extra lawyer of depth, to keep the characters interesting and fun. The best new character easily belongs to Daisy Ridley, who won turns in a star making performance as bright as the Texas sky in the middle of July. She radiates confidence, sweetness and toughness. A girl power anthem that will have men and women cheering and rooting for her to find out who abounded her on the planet Jakku (Jakku looks a lot like Tatooine) but, Jakku does not have big cities like Taooine, but without the big cities like Mos Eisley), so it gives Jakku enough personality, to distinguish itself from a new hope. Probably one of the best new characters is Poe Dameron, (A Han Solo type of pilot who is played with playful skill and charm by Oscar Issac) who hurls joke as fast as he can smile in the face of adversity. Poe is the best pilot in the Resistance (the new rebellion), and he backs it up too.
Another great new edition is Finn, played with intensity and confidence by John Boyega, who runs through his scenes like Miley and cloths. Finn is a Storm Trooper who sees something to horrible, that he starts to change his mind about what he is doing and he soon finds himself on Jakku where he meets up with Rey and BB-8. Finn is a great character who is the eyes of the audience who is not used to the first order. Finn lets you know that the First Order is not the empire, they are worse. Boyega, shows a good touch for comedy, as well as the more dramatic scenes as well.
The other big new character is Kylo Ren, whose identity has been a secret, and Adam Driver does a great job of showing the conflict within young Kylo, his anger is intimidating and Adam shows enough vulnerability to make Kylo human to the audience. When Ren goes off on his temper tantrums, the Storm Troopers just walk away and let him finish, it is a very light touch that helps break up the darkness and intensity. His mentor Supreme Leader Snoke, I am not going to talk about much, because his agenda and what he is like, I want to be a surprise to the audience, so they can see how bad Snoke really is. I do wish we could have gotten more time with General Hux, and Captain Phasma, but what i have seen of them so far, has me really excited.
The old standbys like Solo, (Harrison Ford should get an Oscar for his scene destroying performance), Fisher is Leia to a tee (a wiser and more clam Leia), Luke, well, he is Luke. I do hope we find out more what Luke is up to in the next movie. Of course, I cannot forget about R-2 and 3PO. they are as charming and funny as usual. They really bring a lot of innocence and positivity to the Star Wars universe.
Characters: 4 starts
JJ Abrams has always been a good writer, so I knew that he would deliver the goods and he did in spades. There is enough comedy, drama, action and even scary scenes (Snoke anyone)? To keep the scenes alive and the dialogue crackles with wit, charm and tenderness for the sweeter moments.
Standouts include the adorable comedy of BB-8 who gives Finn a thumbs up (not the bird lol) and Solo who tells Finn that the force does not work that way. Rey has the sweetest scene, just sliding down a hill after she gets done looting a Star Destroyer, shows that JJ has a modest touch for the little moments. The movie has a good vibe of hope and it is not too light or dark.
Writing: 4 stars
Directing: JJ Abrams is one of the better directors in Hollywood and he does a great job with the camera work in this movie. The moment I talked about with Rey sliding down the hill and eliciting an emotional response is one of the reasons why he is a good director, the scene was shot with such detail and love that you felt like you were speeding down the hill with Rey. The action scenes are incredible and the camera does not jerk away too much, the cuts are not too quick and JJ does a good job with the quiet moments as well. When Maz Kantana, walks across a table to take a “look” at Finn, the camera does a good job of staying with Maz and the look on Finn’s face, is perfect. The only problem with the directing is that JJ does love his lense flair, and some shots like the intense light on the laser blast from one of the characters gets blocked by Kylo, well, needless to say, if you look at it too long, you could go blind. (Not really, but it feels that way). However, there is so many good shots in the movie, (my favorite being a real heartbreaking scene involving Kylo and someone from his past, that is all I will say), thank you JJ for putting a lot of quite moments so characters can develop, and thank you for not making the movie too action packed, Star Wars has always been about characters more than action.
Directing: 31/2 stars
Star Wars the Force Awakens is a triumph of movie making. The characters are incredible (especially, the wonderful Rey, I dare you not to fall in love with her). The writing is crisp like a fall wind blowing to the north. The action scenes are clean and easy to follow, the plot is familiar, but with enough new elements to keep it fresh, and the feeling of nostalgia will sweep you up like a F5 to make you feel like you did when you first saw one of the other six movies, (I am a prequel fan, get over it lol). The Force Awakens has humor, sweetness, and sad moments, that it transcends being “just” an action movie, and it becomes more like the great movies that give you a whole experience. If you have never seen a Star Wars movie, or you don’t think it will be for you. If you love to laugh, cry, be on the edge of your seat and be transported to another place (another galaxy that is) then Star Wars the Force Awakens is the movie for you. Don’t be close minded just because you don’t like sci-fi, or you have never checked out Star Wars. The Force Awakens is the perfect movie to get newbies into Star Wars, after all, the universal message of liberty, acceptance and struggle is something we can all relate to.
My grade 4 stars.