I just came back from my fourth viewing of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, this time in IMAX 3D*. I think I'm finally ready to talk about it.
In case you couldn't tell from the fact that I've watched it four times in theaters now, I really liked The Force Awakens. It doesn't rank above The Empire Strikes Back or even A New Hope, but it's easily as rewatchable as Return of the Jedi, though it does leave me an emotional wreck at the end each time.
This is going to be a lot of babble and incoherence and fangirling. And spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
Let's get the 2D vs. 3D vs. IMAX 3D question out of the way first. Is the 3D worth it? Not really. I have yet to see a movie where the 3D is truly, truly necessary. But does it make The Force Awakens more enjoyable? Heck YES. There are three specific scenes that really wowed me with the 3D (when Rey is scavenging in the beginning, when the First Order ship is poking out at you, and when the lightsaber flies toward you at the end), plus any scenes involving X-Wings and TIE Fighters and occasionally the Millennium Falcon. If you love your Star Wars, I would encourage giving the 3D at least a try.
Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the big spoiler, i.e. Han Solo's death.
I'm not going to lie, I've cried every single time he dies. Han Solo ranks #2 on my list of all-time favorite Star Wars characters, so it's little wonder that I feel like my heart is being crushed whenever I watch his death scene.
The thing is, you know it's coming. Even from a mere storytelling aspect, you know that there is no way Han Solo will step out onto that catwalk and successfully convince Kylo Ren to turn away from the dark side, not in the first movie of the new trilogy. And yet every time, I fool myself into thinking Maybe he won't die this time.
I remember on opening night, thinking to myself, I wonder if they're going to kill off Han Solo in the new trilogy, because it's common knowledge that Harrison Ford wanted Han killed off in the Original Trilogy. So I was sort of expecting it to happen in Episode IX, or maybe Episode VIII. You know, after they'd gotten some more mileage out of him. But no, they went and offed him in Episode VII. I was in shock and denial for almost the rest of the movie.
Thanks, screenwriters, thanks a lot. This is why I was an emotional wreck at work the day after. (The main thought running through my head that day was "Can we please please please please go back to the EU canon." Also, "So that's how they got Harrison Ford to come back." lol.)
Despite the pain, I have to admit that they handled Han beautifully in The Force Awakens. I wanted more Han/Leia scenes (especially now that I know we won't get any more), but they did an impressive job giving him just the right amount of screentime and some of his best lines yet. (The "Chewie, we're home" line? I must have watched that 100 times during the trailer. Still made me cheer when he said it in the actual movie.) They let him go out in the best way possible.
Now onto the slightly cheerier stuff... I love our new protagonists. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is everything I want in a female lead and more, Finn (John Boyega) is such a darling, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is incredibly charismatic and studly, and BB-8. OH MY GOD BB-8. I was skeptical about him when the first teaser hit, but I'm a full-on BB-8 fangirl now. I still love R2-D2 more, but BB-8, I'm on board.
I found most of the new antagonists refreshing, with the exception of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), but that's probably because we don't see enough of him to really form an opinion. My best friend and I have already fallen head over heels for Captain Phasma** (Gwendoline Christie), which makes sense if you consider that we are both diehard Boba Fett fans. I also have a major soft spot for General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), partly because his character is so unintentionally hilarious and partly because he's Bill Weasley with a haircut, as well as the Daniel Craig Stormtrooper, who is officially my new favorite Stormie.
Then there's Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Oh boy.
I really like his theme music, I'll give him that. It's not as epic as Darth Vader's Imperial March, but then again, whose is?
I found Kylo Ren super disappointing after the first viewing, but I've mellowed out about him after the three subsequent viewings. I was mostly disappointed because he just didn't seem as threatening as a Star Wars villain should be, especially after he kept taking off his mask, and his lightsaber skills don't seem as good as they should be. However, I do think he has a lot of potential for the next two episodes, and I like that the writers seem to be trying for a different sort of villain with him.
It helps that Adam Driver is a very solid actor who really nails his scenes. I may have found his looks very jarring initially, but once you get used to them, you have to admire how much of a better actor he is than Hayden Christensen.
It's a little hard for me to take Kylo Ren seriously, though, after his hissy fits and the creation of the Emo Kylo Ren Twitter, which is a sort of Star Wars AU in which Kylo is an emo teenager who lives with his parents, has a friendly rivalry with Rey and Hux, and is obsessed with Darth Vader and Hot Topic.
The soundtrack, as expected of John Williams, is phenomenal. I'm listening to it as I write this, actually. I already mentioned Kylo Ren's theme, but I also want to give a shout out to "Torn Apart" (three guesses what scene that's from), "Han and Leia" (of course), "The Jedi Steps and Finale" (gives me chills every time) and "Rey's Theme." I actually didn't know that that was Rey's theme until I looked it up, but it's very recognizable from the movie.
As for everyone's accusations that the plot of The Force Awakens was too similar to A New Hope's... I noticed the similarities too, but I saw them as more of a nice homage than anything else. It didn't really bother me until the Resistance started planning out how to take out Starkiller Base, and the plan was LITERALLY "Lower the shields, take down the thermal oscillator, blow the thing up." What kind of a plan is that? No wonder the Starkiller Base Trench Run felt so unimpressive compared to the Death Star Trench Run.
All in all, I really liked The Force Awakens, and I'm super pumped for Episodes VIII and IX so they can answer all the questions I have. Except maybe the biggest one: How come Rey can understand Chewie???????
* The Force Awakens has pretty much shattered all my previous movie-related records. Prior to this, the only movies I had seen twice in theaters were the seventh Harry Potter movie and WALL-E. The Force Awakens is the first time I have watched a movie more than twice in theaters, more than once in 3D, and at least once in each format (2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D). Worth it? Yes, especially since two of the showings I attended were free. lol. My cousin and I have already decided to watch it again when it lands at the local indie movie theater.
** I got a new laptop in late December to replace my seven-year-old tank. Yes, I named it Phasma.