‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ review: Everything you need to know


Above all else, Star Wars movies provide a feeling. It’s not necessarily a describable one, but for those of us old enough to remember the excitement of the original trilogy of the late ’70s and early ’80s, it is palpable, and it is real. The Force Awakens — to both its benefit and to its detriment — does not stray from its predecessors, and that warmth and familiarity from the original movies is still present, but almost too present.

In some instances, The Force Awakens is nearly a carbon copy of Episode IV: A New Hope, and Star Wars obsessives will easily be able to predict what happens.

From certain lines of dialogue recycled from the original films to plot points literally transposed from New Hope, a lot of it is rehashed content for the modern audience.

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Things are bigger, better, sleeker. For example, instead of the Death Star, we get the Starkiller Base, a larger version of the weaponized orb; instead of Yoda, we get Maz Kanata, a similarly sized creature and former pirate who sizes people up with her gigantic eyes. But she’s an advice-giver, a wise sage character, and newcomer Rey (Daisy Ridley)’s relationship with her has echoes of Luke Skywalker and Yoda.

And the bucket of bolts, a.k.a. the Millennium Falcon, is back, flying (and making it unscathed) through ridiculous situation after ridiculous situation.

WATCH: The galaxy far, far away got a bit closer last night, at the world premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and ET Canada talked with Harrison Ford and Daisy Ridley on the red carpet.

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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Premiere

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Director J.J. Abrams had a tough task with this film. If he struck off on his own, he risked alienating the longtime die-hard fans. If he stuck to the formula too much, he would be accused of wimping out. (Not to mention this is still a Disney/Lucasfilm production, and those two behemoth companies have a lot at stake here). The end result is a perfect blend of old and new, with enough for fanboys and fangirls to debate after the final credits, a modernized take on the legacy story that should bring in a whole new crowd of kids and dedicated faithful.

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So what’s the bottom line, then?
This reporter is a gigantic Star Wars fan; I watched the original trilogy hundreds of times while growing up. I can say that I was on the edge of my seat despite the movie’s predictability. There’s a warm feeling just being back in the Star Wars universe, hearing the soaring music, watching Han Solo (Harrison Ford) reunite with now-General Leia (Carrie Fisher) — yes, that happens — seeing TIE fighters and X-wings doing battle, light sabers being turned on. It’s like returning to a cottage you haven’t been to since you were small.

That said, some people might not enjoy how similar the movie is to A New Hope. In terms of discovery and “new” events, there isn’t much to speak of. But if you just want to be back in the Star Wars universe again, you will be satisfied by the new film. And who knows where Abrams plans on taking the trilogy? There are still two whole films left to make.

Is there a Jar Jar Binks-type character?
Nope. I initially had fears about Maz Kanata, but she’s endearing and even funny. BB-8, the new droid, is as lovable as R2-D2.

Can I take my kids to see it?
If you’re planning on taking kids under 5, I would reconsider. Bad guy Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) can be intimidating in his black mask and cape; imagine a younger, trimmer Darth Vader. He uses his Force to bend will, but doesn’t choke anybody. Still, some of the fight scenes could be considered scary to a child. As with the other Star Wars films, there are no swears and the humour is completely PG. BB-8 makes for a fun sidekick, and the kids will love the eye-candy creatures populating the landscape.

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What about BB-8 and the other droids?
Not enough of them! BB-8 is present for most of the movie, and every time the little bot is on screen, the mood lightens. You just want to pick it up and cradle it in your arms. Or play with it. As for C-3PO and R2-D2, they’re but a speck on the movie’s radar. Honestly, I would have liked them hanging around the Falcon like old times. There’s a reason R2’s not around, but you’ll have to wait and see why.

How do the new actors/characters stack up?
On the whole, they’re very strong. Disney and Lucasfilm knew that they had to cast powerful, charismatic people for The Force Awakens, and they did their job. John Boyega (as Finn) takes the role and runs with it and he has a certain charm dealing with the others, especially Rey.

Ridley, in her first movie role, is spectacular. She’s agile, courageous and your eyes can’t focus on anyone else when she’s on-screen. She hit a home run here. Oscar Isaac, as Poe Dameron, is the stereotypical Resistance member: disciplined, loyal, strong and cunning. He’s BB-8’s owner, too.

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The only weak spot is Driver as Kylo Ren. With his mask on he’s acceptable as the villain, but once that mask comes off so does the evil, and in Driver I just don’t see a maniacal fighter/killer consumed by the Dark Side. And Snoke, The Force Awakens‘ answer to The Emperor, looks like a scarred Gollum (Lord of the Rings) on steroids.

How are the female characters in comparison to the male characters?
This is one of the best parts of the movie. At no time are women weak, subservient to men, or in need of help from a man. In fact, it isn’t even an issue, as Finn finds out in one scene.

There’s no need to ask if Rey is OK, because that girl is taking charge right from the start. As for Leia, she’s a general now. And there are female X-wing pilots taking part in battle; Maz Kanata is crucial to the fight against the First Order.

And don’t worry, there are no gold bikinis in sight.

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ opens in theatres on Dec. 18.

The Force Awakens trailer

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