Star Wars: The Force Awakens – First Impressions

“There has been…an awakening. Have you felt it?” – Supreme Leader Snoke

I’m going to avoid any major spoilers here and just provide my first impressions of the Star Wars movie that many of us have been eagerly anticipating for over a year. The first goal for any movie franchise must be to leave the viewer wanting to see more. Marvel has done a fantastic job with this important task. A movie franchise will only endure if there are fans who care to see where the story is heading and what will become of their favorite characters.

So, has J.J. Abrams succeeded in holding this fan’s interest? In short, yes.  When the end credits were rolling, the audience erupted in cheers and applause. I take this as a sure indicator that fans indeed want to see where things are heading.

However, this is more than a continuation of the story from “Return of the Jedi”. I think most fans of the original trilogy understand that it needs to press forward with new characters and additions to the Star Wars mythos. Therefore, our new protagonists in the form of the enigmatic force-sensitive Rey, and renegade Storm Trooper Finn needed to be compelling. For the most part, I thought their performances were solid and the chemistry between Finn and Rey was enjoyable, if not a little forced and contrived at times.

As for our antagonists, Kylo Ren is a fascinating character with a backstory the movie only just touches upon. I am left with the desire to learn more about them, even if their performances at times felt a little off the mark. Although, honestly I have the same nitpicks with “A New Hope” so I’m going to cut the performances some slack.

Sorting out the antagonists in “The Force Awakens” is a little confusing as we’re dealing with two seemingly related or allied groups. There is “The First Order” that has stepped in to fill the power vacuum left by the fall of the Empire. Within this order exists a group of individuals known as “The Knights of Ren” that appear to have Sith powers. Their ‘Supreme Leader” Snork is also an enigma that leaves you with more questions than answers. Though one could reasonably argue that’s precisely the point for the start of a new trilogy.

I know many people (mostly adults) were disappointed with the prequels and that’s being charitable. I’m not one of those people, I actually enjoyed the prequel movies especially once the plot really got moving. The real question is whether those disappointed by the prequels will be able to recapture the original trilogy’s magic with “The Force Awakens”? I think fans of the original movies will be pleased, but it’s not a perfect film.

My roommate was hoping for more of a war movie with the kind of epic battles the original trilogy held. Unfortunately, this is one point where “The Force Awakens” falls a little short. While there is no shortage of action, it lacks some of the epic feel of the original films and I suspect some will be a little disappointed by this.

It appears J.J. Abrams wanted to focus on highly detailed smaller scale set pieces. My suspicion is that the scope will increase with subsequent movies and that the goal here was to reestablish the state of the galaxy and set off a chain of events that will carry through the series and in that effort Abrams has succeeded.

Do I recommend “The Force Awakens” to Star Wars fans? Absolutely. I enjoyed the movie and am eager for more. However, the film was certainly not perfect nor do I believe it eclipsed the original trilogy. Yet, it succeeded where it needed to and Star Wars fans can finally rejoice that the franchise is back on track and better things may yet await.

The force has awakened and yes, I’ve felt it.

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