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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.