Star Wars: The Force Awakens

8.3 Overall Score
Writing: 6/10
Production: 10/10
Performances: 9/10

Excellent performances, witty writing, gorgeous special effects.

The plot is a threadbare retread.


Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square has been lit up like a lightsaber. Lightsabers have proliferated across the Facebook profile pics, often with comedically erotic effect. The Toys R Us website overflows with The Force Awakens. The Death Star will clear the planet in five minutes. All wings, report in. We solemnly prepare to hand Star Wars down to our posterity, generation upon generation, spin-offs and reboots without end forever. The immortal Disney owns it now. Today it begins. I go tonight to have my heart emptied; perhaps broken. Please, O ghost of Yoda, O ghost of Obi-Wan-Kenobi, O ghost of Annakin Skywalker, O great and powerful J.J. Abrams, let there be no Jar Jar Binks, no midichlorians. Let Star Wars surround us, penetrate us, and bind the universe together. Let the myth-cycle rise again.

This was how I felt the morning before the film.

Walking out of the theater at 1:30 AM the next morning, I felt…

Eh. It was all right.

It goes without saying that The Force Awakens has sky-high production values; every inch of it is gorgeous, the dogfights between TIEs and X-Wings most particularly. The performances are vivid, the characterization is deft. In sharp contrast to Lucas, who viced wooden performances out of such talents as Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor, J.J. Abrams let’s his actors bring their characters to life.

And again in contrast to Lucas’ work on I, II, and III, The Force Awakens is full of wit and humor. About 5% too much of it. It’s edging toward Red Dwarf, here.

The problem is that Disney, the corporate juggernaut, has gone down a path so safe it bored the shit out of me. The Force Awakens takes place decades after The Return of the Jedi. As the opening word crawl tells us, the First Order, a vastly powerful fascist government, has risen out of the ashes of the Empire. It threatens freedom in the galaxy with its new starkiller superweapon that can lay waste to whole systems. Supreme Leader Snoke runs The New Order. Kylo Ren is his dark Jedi enforcer psychopath in a sinister mask.

Battling against this evil is the Resistance, a scrappy, underfunded bunch of freedom lovers led by General Leia Organa and Admiral Ackbar. Han Solo is back to thieving and smuggling, Luke Skywalker is in seclusion as a Jedi hermit on a remote planet, and the Skywalker clan struggles with the light and dark sides of the force. And on an inconsequential desert planet, this one named Jakku, a young woman with a mysterious past scratches out a hardscrabble living among the dunes…but soon, her Force powers will begin to manifest.

At least the planet Luke is living on isn’t a swamp.

The Force Awakens recycles the plot of A New Hope, and a little of Empire. It’s a lot like V and VI never happened. That is my complaint.

It is unreasonable to think that I am going to have the same transfiguring experience in a theater as an adult as I did as a child, sitting in an auditorium where no one had to be told not to use their smartphone, waiting for Episode IV to begin in a year so distant I do not remember it.

But tears stood in my eyes the other night when STAR WARS appeared on the screen, and Walter Jon Williams blasted me into space. And I am going to see Rogue One, no doubt.




Brian Downes
Author: Brian Downes View all posts by
Brian Downes is a writer who lives in Orlando, Florida. His novel, The Berlin Fraternity, about a man who hunts vampires for the Third Reich, is available on the Kindle and through He enjoys pen and paper roleplaying games and geek culture. He clearly remembers waiting for The Empire Strikes Back to hit theaters, and vindicate his opinion that of course Vader was not Luke's father. You can't trust Vader's word!

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