Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been out for a whole six and a half days and it's already on track to be the highest grossing movie of all time. Thankfully, the film is also utterly mesmerising in every way and if you want to find out my thoughts on the film without having any of the plot points spoilt, you can read my original review here. It's time to talk spoilers, though, going through practically every nook and cranny of this soon-to-be classic.
If you read my reviews for the original Star Wars films (here), you'll know that in those reviews I discussed every single plot beat. I went through the films from start to finish, sharing my opinions on all the events that took place. Obviously, with The Force Awakens I couldn't do that. But now it is time. After seeing the film 5 times (and I'm sure I'll be seeing it again plenty more times in cinemas), it's safe to say I know what I'm talking about. Grab some power converters, some blasters and your favourite droid and get ready to hear my thoughts on every single little detail about my favourite film of 2015.
The Force Awakens opens like every other Star Wars movie: with the opening crawl. As soon as the words 'A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away' came onto screen, I instantly got chills. The auditorium was dead silent. Then.... 'Star Wars' came bursting onto the screen, accompanied by the theme song. A single tear came to my friend's eye and I will admit, I almost shed one as well. It was truly beautiful to see this franchise's triumphant return, and the crawl hadn't even started yet. The first words on screen were 'Luke Skywalker has vanished.' I could not think of a better way to open a crawl. It had me hooked, and as it kept going, it just got better and better. Truly, the crawl in The Force Awakens is one of the best crawls yet. Right from the get go, J.J. Abrams was telling us that this was Star Wars. This is the Star Wars movie we've been waiting for.
The film then moves down to the desert planet of Jakku, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) meeting up with Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow), who gives him the map that will lead to Luke Skywalker, who is currently in hiding. It's a great premise for the movie and explains why Luke's been missing from the advertising and promotional material for this film. No, it's not because he's Kylo Ren. That's Adam Driver. And I'm so glad it is because he kills it. It's in this opening scene that we also get our first look at Ren, as well as Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and Finn (John Boyega), who at the current time is only known as FN-2187. This opening scene shows that the First Order means business, and that Kylo Ren is not somebody you want to mess with. When a masked man wielding a cross guard lightsaber stops a bullet using the force, you know he's somebody you'd rather be fighting with than against. But damn, that bullet stop sure was cool, and it was definitely a side of the force we have not seen before.
From here, Poe is taken prisoner and tortured, and we got a brief glimpse of this in the third trailer. Kylo Ren's methods of torture? The force. We've seen Jedi mind tricks before (and again later on in this movie), but never have we seen anything like this. Kylo Ren was using the force to break his way into Poe's mind, finding the information he needed and causing Poe a tremendous amount of pain. I've seen this film five times and that scene still looks painful. Kylo Ren is unstable. He's a force to be reckoned with, and I don't know how many times I'm going to say it, but Adam Driver is perfect. Absolutely perfect.
While these events are unfolding, FN-2187 is beginning to discover what the First Order is all about. They're a despicable group of men and women, and this hits him the most when his friend is shot, reaching up and wiping a blood-smeared hand on his helmet during the opening attack on Jakku. It's an unexpected moment that already allows for emotional attachment to a character whose face we haven't even seen yet. At that point in the film, he's just a stormtrooper like the thousand other stormtroopers he's fighting alongside. It's this event that makes him realise the First Order is not where he wants to be.
FN-2187's change of opinion leads to a thrilling escape sequence through space. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fast paced movie, events constantly happening that propel the plot forwards. It's action set piece after action set piece, but there's plenty of quieter, more personal and touching moments in-between. It really is a perfect Star Wars movie. Not a perfect movie, but a perfect Star Wars one. Plus, this scene allows for the bond to grow between Poe and Finn, and I really did love their friendship in this movie. The two of them just clicked right away. It was brilliant. It's also in this pulse pounding escape sequence where Poe gives FN-2187 his name, Finn, to which he responds very positively. If you give someone a name, they instantly become more than just a categorised group of numbers. They become a human being.
What I didn't expect about this movie (besides all the twists and turns) was how much we got to learn about stormtroopers. Before this movie, they were just white soldiers with bad aim. Now, we know where they come from, how they're treated, if they have families and even a few insights into the design of their suits, including an interesting fact about how the masks are able to filter out smoke, but not toxins. As a Star Wars fan, it's stuff like this that really excites me and interests me. I like knowing all I can about this universe and with The Force Awakens, it only furthered my knowledge.
The two are now on their way to Jakku, where they're about to meet up with Rey (Daisy Ridley), the protagonist of this movie. At this point in the film, we've already started to learn a bit about Rey, her story intercut with the outer space action. She's a scavenger waiting for her family to return, who we later discover left her there when she was just five years old. Who exactly is a part of her family? We don't know. If I were to guess, however, I'm going to go with Luke Skywalker. It just makes sense, especially since young Rey here is gifted with the powers of the force, as she discovers in the film's third act. But we'll get to that later.
Rey is easily the most fascinating character in the movie. She has a child-like look at the world, the scene where she's playing with a Resistance helmet being a very sweet moment. Rey meets up with BB8, who has been sent away from his master, Poe Dameron, with the map to Luke. This brings Rey into the adventure as well, and thank god for that. Rey isn't just one of the strongest female characters of 2015, but she's one of the strongest characters. Period. 2015 has been a great year for women in film and with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this isn't close to coming to an end.
Poe and Finn crash land on Jakku, barely escaping Kylo Ren's Star Destroyer alive. Finn attempts to rescue Poe from the sinking TIE Fighter, but only his jacket can be found. With the TIE Fighter buried in the sand, Finn presumes that Poe is dead and makes his way to a nearby town in search of water and the droid Poe put the map in. Does he find BB8? Oh yes he does, and do you want to know who else he finds? Rey, who's just finishing up beating a few locals who attempted to kidnap the scene-stealing droid. The two don't get off to a good start, Rey and BB8 attempting to get information about of Finn in rather painful methods. But it's all a big misunderstanding, Finn explaining where he got the jacket from and that he's from the Resistance.... which is a lie. John Boyega is brilliant in this scene. He's full of charisma and manages to bring both an intensity and a sense of humour to it.
It's not too long before stormtroopers come looking for them, and again, the scene is handled incredibly well. Thanks to this film's fast pace, it's insanely difficult to be bored when watching it. There's always something new and exciting going on, one thing leading to another, and J.J.'s cinematography is glorious. The camera moves with the scene, holding off information until necessary and looking graceful as it does so. The action sequence in Jakku leads Finn and Rey to stealing the Millennium Falcon, which has apparently been sitting unused for years. Seeing Rey at the cockpit and Finn at the blasters put a massive smile on my face. It's been thirty years since we last saw this happen and I can't tell you how happy I was to see them sitting in those iconic seats.
This Jakku sequence is the only scene in the movie to be shot on IMAX cameras, meaning when you go and see the movie at the IMAX (which I would totally recommend as it's a wonderful movie-going experience), the frame will be almost twice as big. It does a good job at showcasing the spectacle of the scene and it immerses you into the movie even further. While I would've liked to see other sequences filmed in IMAX as well, the final lightsaber fight would've been insanely cool, I'll take what I can get and I love what I got. It's still insane to see this movie at an IMAX theatre, even if it's not always utilising the entire frame. After all, shooting on IMAX is both difficult and expensive so I don't blame J.J. for only shooting one sequence.
Once in space, we get a moment of downtime where Rey and Finn exchange character details, and BB8 gives the single cutest thumbs up ever put on screen. Not long after this, their ship is boarded by none other than Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who is still being accompanied by his best friend, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). Their appearance got an applause at my first showing and a lot of gasps at the three showings after that. It's such a great moment, not to mention the fact that we're also given the "Chewie, we're home," line. It's the line that caused many fans to cry after seeing it in the trailer and just like with the opening crawl, it was hard to fight back the tears.
After that second trailer came out, many were speculating as to where 'home' was exactly. Believe it or not, home is the Millennium Falcon, and that's the only place I wanted it to be. When exploring their ship for the first time in years, it doesn't feel like they lost it recently. The scene feels like they lost it back in 1983 when Return of the Jedi finished, and us, as audience members, are returning to this ship as well. The scene really hits hard, especially when Han makes his way into the cockpit and grabs a hold of the chair, a smile on his face. It's the return to the movies we know and love and I adored it.
This leads us into the first plot twist The Force Awakens has to offer. Kylo Ren and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) are meeting up with Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), and like many others, when we get our first look at Snoke, I didn't realise he was a hologram. He's a 20-foot tall motion capture character sitting on a throne and looking down at his two apprentices. His character is intriguing, but he's yet to do much, so I shall hold off from judging him until we see him in future movies. But, Snoke's appearance does allow for this first plot twist. And what is it? That Kylo Ren is the son of Han and Leia (Carrie Fisher). WHAAAAAAT?!?!?! Yep, you read that right. It may be a new trilogy, but this franchise is still about family. This time, however, the roles are reversed, the son turning to the dark side, rather than the father.
It's been established for a while that Kylo Ren is essentially a Darth Vader groupie, following in his footsteps and basing his actions on Vader's ideals. Saying that Han is Kylo's father is one thing, but when you think about that for a few moments, you come to realise that that means Darth Vader is Kylo's grandfather. He's not just following in the footsteps of some random evil dude he heard about one time, he's following in the footsteps of his family. He has Darth Vader's blood in him. Han mentions at one point that "there's too much Vader in him" and that appears to be why Luke is in hiding. Kylo was being trained by Luke, but turned against him, presumably doing something so horrific that Luke didn't want to even look at Han, knowing he had helped turn his son against him. It's quite heartbreaking when you really start to think about it.
Now, let's skip ahead a little bit. Rey and Finn, now aboard the Millennium Falcon with Han and Chewie, make their way to a nearby planet where an old friend of Han's, Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o), may have a way of getting BB8 to the resistance, which is, after all, why Rey and Finn weren't put on an escape pod and dropped back at Jakku. While here, Rey wanders off downstairs, and it's here that she discovers Luke's original lightsaber, which was thought to have been lost in Empire Strikes Back. Upon picking it up, however, she sees a vision. A vision of horrible, horrible things. It's the past and the future wrapped up into one, and at the centre of them all is Kylo Ren. It's here we see him destroying Luke's padawans, along with the Knights of Ren. I would've liked to see more from the Knights of Ren in this movie, but this is the first of a trilogy and I'm sure they'll be used some more in the near future. The same can be said for Phasma, who doesn't do a thing in this movie except get thrown into a trash compactor, but that was one hell of a line. Han, I love you. Never change. Wait.... Too late.
The vision sequence raises a lot of questions about the character of Rey. Why did the vision come to her? Is she the child of Luke Skywalker? Why does Maz Kanata have the lightsaber? How did she get it? Did Maz date Yoda? Was Chewbacca okay with that? Why did Luke actually go into hiding? Are we sure it's entirely about what Kylo did? These questions, I'm sure, won't be unanswered for much longer. Most of them, anyway. On a side note, there's a bunch of familiar voices heard in this sequence, including Yoda, Obi-Wan and even the breathing sounds of Darth Vader. Why? Perhaps it's just foreshadowing that Rey has the force, or perhaps it's hinting at a greater connection between her and the original trilogy characters.
So, the First Order attacks, Kylo Ren taking Rey prisoner. This is the first time we get to see Finn handle a lightsaber and damn, you can really feel the impact of that saber. When he runs up to that stormtrooper and pushes the lightsaber through their chest, as an audience member, I could feel it. It felt powerful. That's something I haven't seen in any of the previous Star Wars movies, so good work J.J. for making a lightsaber with an impact. Another interesting thing that happens during this battle is when Finn is confronted by a stormtrooper who seems to recognise him, calling him a traitor and instantly making the battle personal. Stormtroopers are given so much depth in this movie and I love the filmmakers for doing that. But what's also interesting is that the First Order have managed to make a weapon that can deflect the blade of a lightsaber, which would potentially give them a great advantage in future films. Just imagine an army of stormtroopers armed with weapons that can deflect lightsabers.... Rey wouldn't have a chance of taking them down.
So, Rey is now captured, being held in the same restrains that Poe was being held in earlier on in the film, and she's confronted by Kylo Ren, who attempts to use the force to torture her into giving up information. He doesn't get much out of her, discovering something about an island and an ocean, which we later find out is where Luke is. Why Rey knows that is a mystery. She saw the map, but that doesn't tell her anything about an ocean or an island. But more on that later. For now, we're discussing the torture scene, which is worth mentioning for two reasons. Firstly, we learn that Rey is strong in the force, something that nobody saw coming as all the trailers alluded to Finn being the Jedi. I love that she's a Jedi, but we don't actually have confirmation of this yet, making the actual reveal so much cooler. We know she's got the potential to use the force, but that's it.
The second thing worth noting about this scene is that it gives us our first glimpse at the man behind the mask. Kylo Ren removes his villainous mask to reveal that he is just a human like everyone else, and it even allows for Rey to take a peak into his mind, teasing him for being scared that he'll never be as good as his grandfather, Darth Vader. It's a strong scene that humanises this otherwise intimidating character. It develops him, making him a much better Star Wars villain than most of the others. Darth Maul may look cool, but he had zero development whatsoever. Kylo Ren had a lot. I could understand where he was coming from and why he was doing the things he did. It made sense. He was just a man. A man who clearly has no idea what he's actually doing, but is doing it anyway.
It's hinted at during this sequence in particular that Kylo and Rey have had previous encounters. The thing is, this is never explicitly stated, so it's really just up to our opinions at the moment, but Rey, while petrified when the lightsaber is put into her face, doesn't seem that afraid of him. She doesn't seem that shocked to see what he looks like underneath the mask, and that raises another question. If they *apparently* don't know each other, why did he all of a sudden take of his mask in front of her? He didn't do that to Poe as he needed Poe to be intimidated by him. Has Rey already seen him without the mask? Or is it simply because he can sense that she is strong in the force?
From here on out, the movie is basically a rescue mission to get Rey back and then an assault on the Death Star. But who comes and how do they get there? Why, it's only Finn, Han and Chewie, but before they leave, they meet back up with the resistance, including Leia, C3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and the apparently not-dead Poe, although we already saw him prove that he really is the greatest pilot in the galaxy in the earlier battle sequence. There's this one tracking shot of Poe taking down a bunch of stormtroopers and First Order ships and my jaw drops every time. It's most certainly impressive, proving that he really is what everyone says he is. I'd even go so far as to say he exceeded his reputation, and that's saying something as everyone in this movie seems to know just how great Poe is.
I wasn't expecting much screen time for the original trilogy characters in this movie and yet, to my surprise, they're actually in it for a considerable amount of time. Han and Chewie obviously take the two most pivotal roles, with the exception of Luke Skywalker, but he's obviously vanished and doesn't get much screen time. As for Leia, she's in the film quite a bit, and she never feels forced. She serves a purpose to the story, serving as the leader of the Resistance and the emotional core for Han's character. The relationship between the two of them hasn't always been sunshine and rainbows. They've fought over the years, but they always love each other, and she even goes so far as to say it always hurt to watch him go. Leia is handled very well.
While many of the other original trilogy characters return, not all of them are that important. C3P0 is there to be C3P0 and while his character hasn't changed in the slightest and he was there simply to provide information to these characters, I loved how they handled him in the movie. His initial reveal had me in hysterics, his character completely ruining the touching moment between Han and Leia. It's the most C3P0 thing C3P0 has ever done. As for our adorable blue friend, R2D2, he's been inactive ever since Luke left, and I liked this. Sure, he's one of the best characters in the Star Wars universe, but he didn't serve a purpose (yet) so there's no need to force him in there for the sake of forcing him in. The same can be said about Admiral Akbar (Tim Rose), who appears for one line and is never shown again. It's a cool cameo that isn't in your face, but is an awesome nod to the fans.
At this base, it's discovered that the First Order know where they are and are charging up Starkiller Base with the intention of blowing their base up. Finn, Han and Chewie light speed their way onto the base, attempting to take down the shields to let Poe and his team of pilots in so they can blow the planet up. Why? Because there's always a way to blow the Death Star up, as Han says at one point. It's a comment that gets a laugh out of me every time I see it. They make their way through the planet, kidnapping Captain Phasma and forcing her to turn the shields off, before throwing her down into a trash compactor because why not? Phasma is a cool character who I'm sure will have more to do in the sequels, but it seems really out of character for her to just give up as soon as a gun is pointed at her face. She seems better than that.
While the three of them continue their search for Rey, she proves that not all female heroes need saving, using a Jedi mind trick on the stormtrooper on guard in her cell. The stormtrooper is played by none other than Daniel Craig, and if you listen closely, you can hear his voice when he says the line "I'll tighten your restraints, scavenger scum." It's this scene that once again proves that Rey has known all about the force the entire time, as I've already mentioned how she knows the location of Luke Skywalker despite only seeing part of the map. Was she trained already? Has she inherited these skills from her parents? I'm still not sure, but it's quite the memorable moment.
Rey soon runs into Finn, Han and Chewie, and since Poe and co. are unable to blow up the planet, they decide to give them a helping hand and place some bombs around their base. During this scene, Rey wears Finn's jacket briefly, meaning all three of the main characters wear it at some point in this film. I don't know about you, but I found that to be hilarious. Maybe I'm just weird. That's not even the important part about this sequence. The important moment is where Han confronts Ben Solo, his son, who has most certainly been named after Obi-Wan. Ben, AKA Kylo, takes off his mask and confronts him on a bridge, discussing how he's being torn apart by what's right and wishes for Han to help him to stop being torn apart. Han, being his father, agrees to do anything. Little does he realise that this means he must die, and so Kylo goes and sticks a lightsaber through Han's chest, killing him. It's not an instant death, however, allowing enough time for a heartbreaking moment in which Han touches his son's face for one last time before falling into oblivion.
While Han dying is not something that came out of the blue, it's certainly handled well. Even before the movie began, I sort of figured Han was going to bite the dust, and my suspicions were proven true when he walked onto that bridge. There was no way he wasn't going to die there. It does make sense, though. Harrison Ford has never been the biggest fan of this franchise and yet he's incredibly pleased with The Force Awakens. It's safe to say that this is partially because his character meets his tragic end, and when we see the reactions of Leia and Chewie, it put me on the brink of tears. It's not easy watching my favourite Star Wars character plummet to his death, I'll tell you that. I do think the scene works on an emotional and story level, though, allowing Finn and Rey to let their anger build for the inevitable final showdown against Kylo Ren.
The showdown, which takes place simultaneously to the destruction of the planet, just adding to the intensity of the whole thing, starts off with Kylo Ren using the force to throw Rey out of the way, allowing him to take Finn on in a one on one battle he knows he'll surely win. Kylo is full of rage and injured as Chewie shot him in the chest not too long ago. He's out for his uncle's lightsaber and he's going to get it. Too bad Finn decides he wants to fight back, but just like we saw at the end of the third trailer, he looks terrified. Going up against Kylo Ren is far from an easy task and he pays the price, not only getting stabbed in the shoulder by the cross guard, instantly shutting up everyone who said that was a pointless addition, but also getting his spine practically sliced from head to toe. I thought for sure that Finn was a goner, but thankfully it's later revealed that he does live.
The fight had my heart racing, but it was way too short. Or so I thought. As it turns out, the fight wasn't over just yet. Kylo attempts to use the force to grab Luke's lightsaber, but he's having a hard time with it, only moving it slightly. That is until the lightsaber comes flying through the air and going straight to.... Rey. Yep, he never once had control over that lightsaber. Rey did, and it's the biggest shock of the movie. Sure, Kylo Ren is revealed to be Han Solo's son and sure, Han Solo gets brutally murdered, but nothing manages to beat the impact of Rey force grabbing that lightsaber and igniting it, proceeding to take on Kylo Ren and, believe it or not, succeeding.
Now, I loved the brief battle between Kylo and Finn, but the battle between Kylo and Rey is just all types of crazy. It's aggressive and frantic, the two just going at it like there's no tomorrow. When combined together with the delicious camera work and spellbinding score, the final lightsaber fight is easily one of the highlights from the movie. Kylo Ren has never faced a proper opponent before, so fighting Rey proves to be quite the challenge, and damn, it's intense, the battle ending with Kylo getting what will soon be a massive scar across his face. I was worried that J.J. was going to kill Kylo off, but I'm so glad he didn't. There was no need to repeat the mistakes made by the prequels and kill off the main villains after one film. In fact, the only really important character that dies in this movie is Han.... poor Han.
Once the battle is over and Rey meets back up with Finn, it's Chewbacca that comes to their rescue, flying the Millennium Falcon to them and getting them off the planet just before it blows up. Kylo Ren and Hux are asked by Supreme Leader Snoke to return to him so that Kylo can finish his training. What this means, I do not know, but I'm eager to find out. The entire sequence on Starkiller Base was an emotional roller coaster. There's moments where I wanted to cheer and moments where I wanted to cry, and there's more than a few moments where my fists were clenched from the fear of what's about to come. It's an exciting, fast, funny and unpredictable sequence in which nothing can be seen coming. I just love it.
With Kylo Ren defeated (for now), Starkiller Base destroyed and Finn taken into a medical bay, there's only one thing left to do.... find Luke Skywalker, which is, after all, the reason why everything that's happening is happening. The only problem is that they only have part of the map, the rest at an unknown location. That is until R2D2 decides to wake up from his low power mode, revealing that he had the map inside him the whole time. It's never fully explained why R2 has the map, but it's safe to say it has something to do with Luke wanting to remain in hiding and at an unknown location. Shutting down R2 seemed to be the only way to keep it that way. But R2 awakens from his sleep, and when you put together his map and BB8's map, the location of Luke should be easy to find.
Rey, R2 and Chewie are sent to find him, Finn still unconscious and Leia still in charge of the Resistance. When arriving at Luke's location, Rey is sent to find him all by herself, making her way up a large staircase and to the top of the island where she finds a hooded figure standing by a cliff. This figure turns around to reveal their face. It's Luke, his robotic hand not at all reminiscent of a human hand anymore. There's no human tissue over this hand. What he has gained, however, is a big set of hair. Rey reaches into her bag, pulls out his lightsaber and reaches her hand out to give it to him. It's here that we cut to black and the credits role, the famous John Williams score starting up. It's an ending that left me screaming for the next movie.
What makes The Force Awakens so good is that the mystery still isn't gone. For over a year now, fans have been constantly guessing what's really going on and now that the film is out, we still don't know. Sure, we see Luke standing there at the end of the film, but why does he look so broken? Why isn't he surprised to see Rey? Is she his daughter? Every scene answers two questions and raises three. It's a guessing game that's not going to stop until Episode IX is released. I've never been more excited for a franchise before, and it's only just getting started. I mean, technically the franchise has been around for 40 years, but in terms of these new movies with new characters, the game has only just begun.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Is In Theatres Now And My Review Can Be Found Here