Yesterday, we looked at ten things that sucked about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now it's time to explore the light side of the Force. Here are ten things that the new movie nailed perfectly.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead, natch.]
The new guard
For all the fanfare surrounding Ford, Hamill and Fisher, this movie was very much about the next generation of heroes -- and the younglings delivered in spades. The three new principals all have the instant charisma of their forebears and we can't wait to see their stories unfold in future adventures. Rey seems destined to become one of the most iconic characters in the history of franchise, while Finn and Poe both had some great moments. This is probably the most crucial thing that The Force Awakens got right: the passing of the lightsaber/torch could not have been more assured.
With J.J Abrahms at the helm, it was never in doubt that Force Awakens would deliver on the action front. The climactic set piece was a perfect fusion of classic Star Wars combat and Abrahms' kinetic style. Even when hundreds of things were exploding at once it was easy to keep track of who was where and what was going on. We also like how the lightsaber duels were deliberately reigned in: there were no stupid CGI acrobatics like in the prequels.
BB-8 could have been a complete disaster: he's basically an electronic Scrappy Doo shoehorned into nearly every scene. Somehow, not only was the plucky droid not irritating, he was hugely likeable and often hilarious. (The lighter "thumbs up" moment always gets the biggest laugh from the crowd.) The decision to give him a beeping voice box really made all the difference: if he had spoken English in a cutesy/annoying robot voice the entire film would have been ruined. Lessons from Jar-Jar learned.
Spot the cameo!
For cinema buffs, the famous faces behind various aliens and stormtroopers were like fun little Easter eggs. Over the course of the film, Daniel Craig (Spectre), Simon Pegg (Shaun Of The Dead), Iko Uwais (The Raid), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game Of Thrones), Bill Hader (Superbad ) and Warwick Davis (Willow) all show up in one form or another, to name just a few. Crucially, most of them were entirely hidden from view so it didn't become distracting or annoying. It was just a cute thing to tell your friends about.
It was funny
If it's been a while since you watched the originals, you may have forgotten how funny they are. Luke and Han's bickering, Leila's comical toying with of Han, the many one-liners in the face of death: it's a hoot. This is something that the prequels failed at: each scene was either overly dour or filled with juvenile slapstick. The Force Awakens is a definite return to form -- Finn had a bunch of very funny moments, Chewie frequently brought the house down and BB-8 capered like a pro. The "nope!" stormtrooper moment during Kylo's tanty was also hilarious.
The new big bad guy seems to have divided audiences, but we found him to be utterly fascinating. He's one of the most layered villains in Star Wars' history; and we're not just talking about his struggle between the light and dark sides of the Force. He is at turns menacing, seductive, vulnerable, brooding, volatile and hilariously immature. We also like that he has a weird Darth Vader fetish which explains the voice and mask. It will be interesting to see how his character develops over the course of the trilogy. We suspect the spoiled brat moments will give way to something far more sinister. After his encounter with Han, there can be no redemption.
For a story that encompasses hundreds of diverse planets and civilistions, the first Star Wars sure had a lot of white guys in it. The sequels and prequels weren't much better. The Force Awakens bucked this unfortunate trend and was all the richer for it. We love that the two main characters fall outside of the standard Star Wars tropes. The supporting cast was similarly varied. Inclusiveness always makes things better, even in a galaxy far, far away.
By Abrahm's own admission, the look of The Force Awakens was partially influenced by the films of Terrence Malick and John Ford. This is especially apparent during Rey's quiet desert moments which appear to have been shot in the "golden hour" just before sunset. It gives these scenes a tranquil realism that makes you want to be there. (Even though Jakku sounds like a horrible place to live.)
Maz Kanata (AKA orange Yoda)
The scenes in Maz Kanata's bar were among the weakest from a storytelling perspective -- it's all exposition, mystical mumbo-jombo and frustrating visions that reveal next to nothing. But we still love the character of Maz Kanata. Her design, ultra-dry line delivery and sexual penchant for big walking carpets were all wonderful. We just wish the movie hadn't forgot she existed after the First Order ambush. Tch.
The return of old friends
We know we ragged on Han Solo for looking too old yesterday, but we've got to admit -- it was nice to see beloved characters from our childhoods once again. The ending with Luke Skywalker was particularly effective: it was arguably Mark Hamill's best performance as Luke and he didn't even speak! We're excited to see what's in store for the old heroes -- R2-D2 and CP30 better be in the thick of it or they'll be trouble.
What did you love most about the new movie? Tell us in the comments!