Star Wars Franchise Reawakens

“Star Wars: Episode VII” was able to live up to expectation and may just be one of the best movies in the franchise yet.

Addy Bennett, Editor of Campus Life

Yes, I saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on three occasions. And yes, it was completely worth it, each and every time.

Having been raised with Star Wars, particularly the original trilogy, I was extremely excited about the new movie. Of course, after Episodes I through III and that awful mess of chemistry between Padme Amidala and Anakin Skywalker, I had my doubts, but it seemed like the new movies wouldn’t make the same mistake.

And they didn’t.

*MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD*

The story begins as such: the Resistance’s best pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has arrived on the desert planet Jakku to retrieve a map to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who has disappeared. He is accompanied by his droid BB-8, who is as charming and helpful as can be.

But let’s focus on Poe for a second. So far, there isn’t much to be said other than that he’s smart, brave, friendly, and daring. In other words, he’s exactly what you’d expect of one of the Resistance’s most valuable assets. Hopefully he’ll be able to become more prevalent in later films, because I did like it when he popped up every so often. I guess I’m a sucker for a bro archetype, but I loved watching him interact with other characters, too. He was genuinely appealing and it was fun to watch all of his reactions.

And then there’s Finn (John Boyega), a former Stormtrooper. When he felt that there was something wrong in the way the First Order (a.k.a Empire No. 2), he betrayed them and escaped to the planet Jakku. I’ll go ahead and tell you that I adore his personality and that he was great and courageous and constantly concerned and in general very sweet. He was definitely interesting and amusing, but there was a lot of information that was left unexplored with him. It was never truly explained what made him different from the rest of the Stormtroopers (although that might appear in later movies) and caused him to defect. He was brainwashed in the same manner as every other soldier, and while personality can play a part, what inspired him to leave? Especially if it was so dangerous for him?

Naturally, Finn later goes on to fight and kill Stormtroopers that he himself might’ve been friends with. One might say that friendship doesn’t exist within the First Order, but Finn very obviously showed concern for another Stormtrooper in the beginning of the movie. And he shows little to no remorse over the dilemma, which seems very dry to me. I mean, supposedly he’s been raised with these people. If he refused to shoot at the First Order’s enemies, what makes a Stormtrooper (who, again, he might’ve known) any different?

There’s a heckuva lot that could’ve been explored there, and while the next movies might go deeper, it was still a bit of a letdown.

But moving on to the next character: Rey. Rey absolutely rocked my world. She was tough without having to brag about it. She was sweet without having to be sickeningly so. She was tragic without having to be annoying.

After being left by her parents at a young age, Rey became a lonely resident of Jakku. While this piece of her past is brought up, it’s never exaggerated more than it needs to be. Rey remained hopeful that her family would return, she realized the truth in that they wouldn’t, and there wasn’t any time wasted on the topic. That doesn’t mean, of course, that she lacked sadness over this, but it wasn’t over the top.

Anyhow, another thing I loved about Rey was her confidence. You don’t see too many female characters that are confident for something besides their superior skills or sex appeal, and Rey seemed to be the perfect remedy for that. While she was a fine fighter, she could rely on her personality and strength of character to give her conviction.

But something I really enjoyed about Finn and Rey was the lack of romance. While Finn did inquire if she had “a boyfriend, a cute boyfriend?” that was really the biggest offender. It could have gone either way, and that was perfect. Their friendship was very tangible, but never over-the-top.

Sadly, I have to say that Han & Leia (Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, as per usual) were pretty lacking. I think the writing was the main factor, and I wish that they would’ve made it less homage-y (at least for Han, although he certainly had his moments). And Leia just lacked solid reaction to anything she was told. She felt pretty basic and unlike her sassy self, which was disappointing.

Also, shoutout to Lupita Nyong’o for providing voice and motion capture for the space pirate Maz Kanata. Everything about her was wonderful.

And then we have the villains: Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

I was so happy when I had heard that a woman was being cast as a Stormtrooper leader, but by the time the movie had finished, it seemed like Phasma had only spoken three lines. This was a huge letdown, and didn’t really give an opportunity for much character development either. So maybe next time?

Hux, with that seemingly permanent sneer stuck on his face, was interesting, angry, and necessary to convey the vibe that the First Order gives off. He proved to be a nice little issue that Kylo Ren butted heads with, and the speech he delivers to the Stormtroopers was so passionate that I was pretty inspired myself.

Snoke will play more into the rest of the movies, I’m sure, but for now, I’m only impressed because he’s played by Andy Serkis and that they animated some intense peach fuzz on his face. That’s pretty much all that you get to know about him, other than the standard “I’m really strong with the Dark Side of the Force and I want to rule the world” bit.

And then Kylo Ren! Yes, he’s a bit of an emo kinda guy (do yourself a favor and check out Emo Kylo Ren on Twitter), but he’s just so interesting to watch. He’s intimidating and powerful, ruthless and cunning, but at the same time lacks certain social graces (but, then again, what can you do when you lop off people’s heads for a hobby?) and occasionally comes off as creepy. He’s really complex as a person, and hopefully we’ll be able to better see what his motives are later on.

Now I realize that that’s an awful lot of information on the characters, but they are what create the story. Still, I commend J.J. Abrams for not putting too many lens flares into the film but still retaining his cinematic stylizations. I enjoyed each and every special effect that popped up (down to the different species and the sound effects) and I can safely say that the visuals were all stunning.

The Episodes IV-VI had the story, and Episodes I-III had the effects, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens proved to have the best of both worlds. I’m happy to give this one a strong 4.5/5 stars, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.