What I found interesting about the story being told is that while it seems familiar, which was intentionally done, it also has something refreshing to it. It was as exciting and entertaining as it was emotionally gripping. The premise is simple, especially in the universe of Star Wars and a basic hero story, but the way it is presented gives the audience, both newcomers and old, a new sense of enthusiasm of this world again. You want care about what is happening, you want to know more, and because this is the first of a trilogy we're left with much to speculate and theorize about with how the story is going to unfold in the upcoming films.
Perhaps one of the most memorable parts of the film are the characters, and how real and relatable they feel, particularly the new generation of characters that we're introduced to immediately. There is something so human about their experiences, their emotions, their own personal journeys and what they go through, how some of them start out to how they develop along the way. There are tons of heartwarming moments and heartbreaking moments, it tugs at your heartstrings and it makes you want to give these characters a massive hug. And the new generation of characters, particularly our new Golden Trio, is possibly the best addition. They are so lovable and enjoyable to watch, their chemistry with each other is off the charts, I fell in love immediately. But I'm also deeply invested in their stories, how they're destinies are so intertwined with each other, and I can't wait to see what comes next for them.
Rey was a character I knew I would love immediately after seeing her in the trailers and other promotional material, and the film didn't definitely disappoint me as I continued to fall deeper in love with her character. Rey is introduced to us as a lone scavenger on the desert planet Jakku, where she remains by choice hoping that her family who left her behind will one day return for her. Strong, capable and independent, Rey lives alone and fends for herself as a means of surviving on this harsh planet where she basically rummages for parts from fallen ships across the desert dunes. Her journey begins after meeting BB-8 and Finn, and it's a self-discovery kind of journey where she learns more about herself and what she must accomplish, but she is afraid. She is afraid of what this means, and it isn't until the end of the film where she finally accepts her destiny, where she chooses this path for herself. The moment the lightsaber flew into her hand, with that music cue, and she turns it on and is ready to confront Kylo Ren, that was such a beautiful, powerful, important moment that I still get chills thinking about. Because this? This is something most have been waiting for, especially women who have been fans of Star Wars for years waiting for this specific validation of representation. Rey is the main fucking character of this new trilogy. She has the Force, she will be trained to become a Jedi. Rey is going on that hero journey, and I am just so excited, happy and over the freaking moon about this revelation. More than that, but we get a girl hero who isn't sexualized, who is independent and capable but still needs people around her to help and guide her and just be there for her when she needs it, and who is going on this journey that Luke Skywalker did before her, which of course may become relevant if the theories and hints provided are true. Rey is an equal, her capabilities and skills aren't questioned. From the first moment she is introduced we see that she is someone who understand mechanics, who knows how to fight and defend herself, who has had to do a lot to survive for so long by herself. And her story is just beginning. Rey is the hero we need and deserve for this new Star Wars generation. I love her so much. ♥
Finn is an adorable cupcake who escaped the brainwashing oppressive movement of the First Order and help Poe and Rey because, in his own words, "it's the right thing to do." Some have claimed that Finn's change of heart seemed too abrupt, but if you read Before The Awakening it gives details of his backstory that prove that this is just who Finn is. He just had an official wake-up call during his first mission where he basically has a massive panic attack, especially when one of his friends gets shot down. We see him realizing for the first time what is actually happening, the chaos around him, and he understands that this isn't right. So he escapes, he leaves, which is a massive risk and he knows it. Finn plans on escaping and running far away from the First Order as possible. But then he meets up with Rey and BB-8, and their paths are intertwined as they go forth on this journey. Again, like with Rey, Finn has an important personal growth story of self-discovery. At the beginning of the film all he wants to do is run, but by the end, prompting when he sees Kylo Ren take Rey, he is pushed to do something, anything, including returning back to the place where he is so deathly afraid of. He even states that he doesn't have a designated plan of action, he is just doing this for Rey. This continues with his fight with Kylo Ren, something he would never have considered in the beginning because of his utter fear, but as the film progresses you see him gaining more confidence and wanting to do what is right. He fully understands that what is right is never easy, as shown with him defying the First Order in the first place. I love his immediate friendship with Poe and Rey, I love his scenes with Han, I love his determination and most of all, I love that despite being a former Stormtrooper everyone loves and accepts him with open arms. I can imagine that was an unexpected shock, especially once arriving at the Resistance headquarters and Leia pretty much giving him a verbal praise for his bravery and trusting him. I don't know what the future holds for Finn, but I'm hoping that he heals and becomes an integral part of the Resistance alongside Poe (and worrying about Rey, because they were cute).
Poe Dameron was criminally underused in the film, but from what we do see of his character he was utterly fantastic. From his introduction to seeing his immediate chemistry and connection with Finn, including naming him and then complimenting him as they were making their semi-successful escape to their later reunion in the film, I mean seriously that was adorable and I need more of it in future films please. I love how Poe is so affectionate with BB-8. Poe just seems like an overall stand-up guy and I honestly want to see more of his character in the next film, and preferably more Poe/Finn scenes and Poe and Rey being in the same scene together, especially since they're setting these three up as the next golden trio.
Kylo Ren was an interesting presence because he started off intimidating at first, but then you notice there is something different about him. Some criticisms I've seen were that he wasn't menacing enough, especially after he unmasked himself, and that he wasn't holding himself up to being that villain that mirrored Darth Vader. But that's kind of the point. It's even mentioned when Rey got inside his head, stated his ultimate fear that he can never live up to Darth Vader's legacy. Everything Kylo Ren is, is wanting to repeat the past. He was seduced by the Dark Side and is modeling himself after Vader, idolizing him, even mirroring his look. No, Kylo Ren isn't Vader 2.0, but that shouldn't mean he is less scary. Just look at his erratic behavior in the film, he throws temper tantrums when things don't go his way, he has massive insecurities which are tempting him from both Dark and Light. Kylo Ren is an antagonist that feels human, and there is something more terrifying about seeing a villain having these range of emotions, seeing him kill his own father because he felt that would cure that pull back to the Light. Kylo Ren is both an immature child who has anger management issues and is trying to be someone he isn't, and also someone who is a villain in the making, someone who could very well become that calm, intimidating baddie that Darth Vader was in the original trilogy, especially after Rey defeated (and injured him) during their final confrontation in the film. Snoke even mentions that it's time for Kylo to continue his training, meaning that Kylo wasn't even fully trained at this time. Needless to say, I enjoyed Adam Driver's performance as the emotionally unstable Kylo Ren, and I'm curious to see what they do with this character in the next two films.
Han Solo, perhaps the most anticipated appearances since we saw him and Chewbacca in the trailers, and definitely the most heartbreaking because of his death, which the more time goes on the more it hurts. But as devastating as it was, it was understandable and it made sense given the context of the story, and it wasn't done in vain either. There was a strong emotional response from characters who witnessed it, driving our new characters into action, and we saw Leia's reaction as she felt Han dying, we saw Chewie's emotional roar and his utter devastation at the end after everything went down. So his death wasn't a throwaway, it had purpose. Aside from that, everything about Han Solo thirty years later from Return of the Jedi is exactly as it should have been. He is older and wiser, but still wise-cracking and has some great comedy lines. His scenes with Rey were my favorite (and I swear, he knows something about her just from the little looks he gives her at times, and I have my theories and suspicions about that), and I loved the riffing he and Finn did, along with Chewbacca, who was so great in this film as well. Plus, the moment when Han is united with Leia (General Leia Organa). I know some were hoping for more of them together before what happened, but regardless that same chemistry and spark was still there. Even if you hadn't seen the previous films you could immediately tell there was history between these two, and it was so great seeing on the screen again. It's sad that there won't be another reunion of these characters ever again, not even with Luke, but I felt like the film did Han's character justice.
Luke Skywalker was barely in the film, only the last fifteen seconds and didn't even say a single word, which is more of a teaser of what we're expected to see in the next film, but regardless I liked how it was done. The film opened with the credits revealing the plot of the film, that Luke Skywalker has disappeared and both sides were trying to find his location. By the end of the film, after everything that happens, Rey is the one who must deliver his lightsaber back to him, hoping to get him back to those who need him. But it's also setting up the next film, which is definitely him training her to become a Jedi. Along with possibly revealing that she is his long lost daughter. No matter what happens, I honestly can't wait for Luke and Rey to interact with each other, and I want to know and understand Luke's side of everything.
Other things that I liked about the film + theories:
** The popular theory regarding Rey's parentage, which I firmly believe until proven otherwise, she she is definitely Luke's daughter, which makes sense given that there are the obvious clues and hints throughout the film itself pointing in that direction. And of course there are theories wondering on how this could be, and why Luke would leave her alone on a desert planet for so long without anyone. I have several theories going into this: A.) Luke was unaware that he had a daughter, B.) he had a young Rey and her mother go into hiding to be safe while dealing with Ben, which considering that Rey is nineteen in The Force Awakens and Kylo Ren is reportedly in his thirties, it would seem rather plausible.
** "The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. And you have it too..." This voiceover was from one of the trailers, which can be a heavy indicator about Rey's parentage as well, but it wasn't spoken in the film. Assuming that this isn't just a voiceover specifically for the trailer itself, perhaps it will pop up in the second film. Now the question is whether he's talking to Rey or to Ben Solo.
** One other theory that is becoming popular is that Finn may be Force-sensitive, which wouldn't be too much of a stretch. Remember, Leia is also Force-sensitive. While a family trait among Skywalkers, it wouldn't be too implausible that Finn would also be Force-sensitive as well.
** Another theory going around is that while Kylo Ren has the Force, he's probably not as strong with it, hence his insecurities and childishly violent behavior. This may change over the course of the films as he'll become more experienced with more training from Snoke, but it would make sense considering that Kylo Ren literally has had nobody else to be an equal opponent during fighting. He seriously got his ass handed to him during that last fight between himself and Rey, and Rey had only just learned to hone in the use of the Force, something that Kylo probably never learned or was too impatient to learn. Should be interesting to see how the trilogy unfolds in that regard. All I know is that I want Rey to beat his basic ass during their final final showdown, which will inevitably happen. Whether or not he can be redeemed is debatable, but after killing Han I think he closed the deal on any redemption arc. Unless, of course, Leia gets through to him and he turns over to the Light, but is rightfully punished for the crimes he committed and he willfully surrenders, feeling genuine remorse. That is the only acceptable scenario I will allow a redemption arc from this character.
** I love the symbolic theme of unmasking in this film. Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren all wore masks during their introductions, which when taken off reveals the person underneath, and it's very telling of their characters.
** I also love that both Rey and Finn's introductions mirror each other. Aside from the mask/unmasking moments, they literally don't speak for a good five minutes of their introductions, their actions and body language say all that needs to be said about who they are and what their surroundings and world is like. I like that while their experiences are completely different, they are able to connect with each other; two lost souls, searching for something and finding it in a brand new found family as their lives and journeys intertwine with each other. It is perfection, I love it so much.
** BB-8 is adorable and I want one of my own. ♥
** PRACTICAL EFFECTS! REAL SETS! REAL LOCATIONS! While there was still CGI present, it didn't overpower the film and it actually helped the look and feel that this isn't our world or universe, but at the same time look realistic and believable at the same time. Also, the costumes and clothing items were practical as well, which I appreciated.
** TRIVIA: Lin-Manual Miranda, the man behind and star of the Broadway musical hit Hamilton, actually co-wrote the music during the updated version of the Cantina.
** ALL THE WOMEN! So many women, from both sides; women in the background doing stuff, women fighter pilots, women Stormtroopers, Rey being the main freaking character. What an extraordinary time to be alive, seeing all these women present. (✿◠‿◠) Never mind seeing the diversity of the people, making me believe that this is something I can relate to. It's not just white men with some minorities sprinkled here and there.
** Speaking of which, the fact that our new golden trio is also diverse. We have a girl who will become a Jedi (no straight white male lead), a black man and a Latino man. Just. What a time to be alive, is all I'm saying. ♥
The Final Verdict: The Force Awakens is the revival of the Star Wars franchise many have been waiting for. It delivers on the nostalgia that hits you in all the right emotional places, and it also presents an exciting new installment for the next generation of characters, leaving the audience filled with a sense of enthusiasm and excitement that hasn't been felt with this franchise in a long time. As someone who has only ever been a casual fan, this is probably my first time reacting so strongly to any installment of the film series and excitedly awaiting the next one, including the Rogue One film that will be released later this year. And when a film can do that, you know it's something good. J.J. Abrams may have a strange track record when he does things, but with this one, he did it right. Thank you, J.J. and everyone who worked on this film (and continuing with the rest of the sequel trilogy). It was absolutely fantastic. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
I would also like to recommend Star Wars: Before The Awakening, Rey's Survival Guide and the novelization of the film, plus the visual companion guides as well, all which give background of the characters and further explanations of things that some may still have questions about after seeing the movie. These tie-ins won't answer all the burning questions people have, since this is just the first in the trilogy and we're supposed to be left pondering until the time comes for things to be fully unveiled, but they will at least shed some light on things not fully explained in the film and some other interesting world-building tidbits. Also, I think the script of the film was leaked or released somewhere? I keep seeing people posting excerpts from it. Either way, they're all great reads.
And this is when you know you are a newly converting fan, since I've been kind of investing and devouring anything and everything I can after seeing the film.