Spoiler-Free Review! Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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It’s the movie everyone’s been talking about all over the internet the past few weeks: the new Star Wars movie.  After the mess that was the prequel trilogy, I know a lot of us Star Wars fans (myself included) were wondering what J. J. Abrams would do with the series.  Would he ruin it or change it beyond recognition, like the Star Trek films?  (Don’t even get me started on the Star Trek films by J. J. Abrams – I like them, but… yeah.  Don’t get me started.)  Would he fill it up with lens-flares?  Would it be more of the unpleasantness that was the prequel trilogy?

I’ll admit, I was nervous about seeing this movie.  I’ve seen the prequels.  I’ve watched Episode I too many times to count, mostly because it was the first movie at the drive-in every freaking week during the summer of 1999.  I didn’t see Episode II and III more than once, though, because they were mediocre.  They felt weird, compared to the original trilogy.  I was worried that The Force Awakens would be more of what happened in the prequels.

However, I was pleasantly surprised.  Very pleasantly surprised.

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To sum it up:  It felt like Star Wars.  The original trilogy, the stuff most of us grew up on.  It kept the combination of humor and seriousness that I loved from the originals, and had me sitting on the edge of my seat during the action scenes.  During my first watch of the movie (I’ve seen it three times now!), I spent almost the entire movie with a grin of wonder on my face, from when the trumpets blared in the intro and the story rolled on screen to the very end of the movie.  This must have been what it felt like to see Star Wars when the first movies came out.  (I was barely a year old when Return of the Jedi came out, and I didn’t end up actually watching the original trilogy until I was in high school, so I missed out on a lot of the first wave of Star Wars fun.)  I loved every second of this movie.

I don’t want to give away the story for those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, but I will tell you what I enjoyed – the first big thing is that there’s minimal CGI.  BB-8, for example, is either a puppet or a fully-functioning robot, depending on what the scene needs.  And it looked like many of the aliens visible were wearing makeup or masks, and weren’t digitally inserted.  When computer graphics were used, they were done so well that it wasn’t obvious that things were computer generated.  And that’s how good CGI should be done.

I’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge that the main characters from the original trilogy – Luke, Leia, and Han – are a part of this story, too.  And I was originally worried that they’d be shoved in awkwardly, or just have a brief cameo.  I was, again, pleasantly surprised – the characters are an integral part of the story, and their appearance felt natural, not forced. (And no, didn’t mean to make a bad pun there, haha.)

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There are a lot of story elements that feel like they’re mirroring the original trilogy – and that’s not a bad thing.  They’re well executed in this movie – even if they’re a little predictable.  It’s more like settling into a comfy chair with a familiar book you haven’t read in a while, as opposed to watching a formulaic sitcom or something similar where the same things happen every week.  You kind of expect things to happen in the way that they do, but it’s not an exact repetition of events that happened in movies in the original trilogy – there are still surprises, and things are done very well.  So well, in fact, that I’ve gone back to see the movie multiple times.  I haven’t done that since How to Train Your Dragon 2 came out!

If you haven’t seen it yet because you’re nervous about seeing how J. J. Abrams handles the story and the characters we’ve grown to love over the decades, go see it.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.  I know I was.

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