Home Entertainment REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens — choose your spoiler levels

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens — choose your spoiler levels

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How do you review a movie the whole world wants to talk about but doesn’t want to talk about?

By giving people choices. So here, reader, is a choose your own adventure review. Navigate below for as little or as much feedback as you’d like. Please note: no portion of this review discusses anything that would qualify as an actual spoiler for the film, nor does any portion of the review detail anything more than you’d see in a typical movie review. But for some, less is more until you’ve seen it.

Level 1 Review, e.g. 

DID YOU LIKE THE MOVIE, YES OR NO? THAT’S LITERALLY ALL I WANT TO KNOW. 

Yes! That was easy. If you want to know what I liked and didn’t like in terms of craft, read on. If not, let’s end here with some love for the highly-photogenic BB-8.

Level 2 Review, e.g. 

WHAT DID YOU LIKE OR NOT LIKE ABOUT IT? NO PLOT DETAILS, PLEASE.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has three primary strengths: casting, dialogue, and visuals. The sum of those parts is a set of characters that feel fully-realized and unique, even when the world they inhabit feels very familiar. I can’t think of a Star Wars film that’s made me laugh as much, partially due to the sharp dialogue and partially due to the very well-timed delivery by the actors, particularly John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Harrison Ford.  The script sheds the wooden dialogue found in the  prequels and trades up for something far more natural. In moments when The Force Awakens ditches the playful or humorous tone, the performances are still strong: Adam Driver’s take on Kylo Ren was the standout of the movie for me (if we’re not counting BB-8). Driver manages to deliver his lines with inflections and choices that feel like a fairly novel take on something that could be ordinary, using intensity, staccato, and even coyness where I least expected it.

My biggest gripes on the acting front would be Domhnall Gleeson – I love him, but have you ever seen someone get a little too into a role? –  and Carrie Fisher, who has been killing it in her press tours, but seemed less comfortable in her role in this go-round. These two extremes of under and over performance are pretty minor complaints, though, and the general acting caliber here is probably higher than it’s been in any of the Star Wars films thus far.

Visually, director J.J. Abrams is doing what he does best here by delivering a movie that looks brand new but still feels in keeping with the original trilogy. We have several CG characters, but they look good enough to work, particularly given the mix of practical effects used to ground the visuals. Abrams’ approach to the aesthetics of the film, which involves heavily borrowing on the past while modernizing it, also represents the way The Force Awakens handles plot. This isn’t an original or particularly complex movie in regards to the broad strokes. It instead adopts plot points and arcs from previous films in the original trilogy and uses them as a landscape for a (mostly) new set of characters.

Feel like you’ve had as much information as you can take without knowing too much? Your journey ends with a fond farewell from Chewie and Han.  If you want to know more about how The Force Awakens is similar to previous Star Wars films, read on.

Level 3 Review, e.g. 

DOES IT FEEL LIKE THE OTHER STAR WARS FILMS? IS THAT GOOD OR BAD?

The Force Awaken holds its biggest strength and weakness in one detail: it’s a story that’s quite similar to A New Hope, rooted in similar archetypes and plot beats. It doesn’t feel like lazy theft; more like an homage and a nod to the idea that history repeats itself. Indeed, the film goes so far to make very clear call-backs to the original trilogy and point out the similarities. But that’s not the best you could hope for; the best you could hope for would be for this film to strike new ground and create something worthy of the series but still completely unique. To become a movie that would influence rather than be influenced.

But influential and innovative movies are a rare breed in any genre, and the risk of failure would have been enormous, particularly after the negative critical and audience consensus on the prequels. So The Force Awakens takes the safer bet of sticking to the basics and opting to do them extremely well, which is the next-best thing you could hope for, pulling nostalgia from the original films while setting the table for new ones. It’s basically a film that’s heavily built on audience concerns, meant to tell movie-goers: We get it. It’ll be interesting to see where the sequels goes next, though, as future films will need to delve into newer territory to keep the momentum going.

Your choose-your-own review is now over.

Kylo Ren will show you out.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I haven’t read this, since I don’t want spoilers (I’m glad it had a warning in the headline), but why not just wait until the movie opens before posting ANY spoilers? What’s the rush to spoil about?

  2. Hey Jim. if you read the intro it states: Please note: no portion of this review discusses anything that would qualify as an actual spoiler for the film, nor does any portion of the review detail anything more than you’d see in a typical movie review. But for some, less is more until you’ve see it.

    Defining a “spoiler” for this movie is hard, since the studio has let out almost 0 details about plot, which makes everything new information. Is basic plot a spoiler? If so, minor spoilers if you follow in the final portion. Nothing that would be considered a spoiler in literally any other movie.

  3. Thanks for the clarification, Hannah. I didn’t mean to single out your review. Over the years, I’ve had a few movies ruined by overly-descriptive reviews (I’m sure we all have), so I guess I’m a little gun-shy.

    I actually LOVE your multi-tiered review system. I wish more media outlets would adopt it.

    Among other outlets, spoiling movies has become so systemic that DVD packaging itself has become a spoiler (the DVDs for the original Planet of the Apes or Close Encounters of the Third Kind are perfect examples).

    I read your “Level 1” review, and I’m glad to hear that you liked it. I look forward to reading the rest after I see the movie on Friday!

  4. I like this column by Criticwire;s Sam Adams: “No, not everything about Star Wars is a spoiler.”

    He writes: “Hollywood’s need to generate ever-greater levels of advance hype has led to even minor advance reveals being treated as world-beating exclusives: Get your first look at the new Batmobile! Black Panther’s costume, revealed! The first “official” photo of the new Ghostbusters, not to be confused with the on-set photo tweeted by the film’s director months ago!”

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/criticwire/no-not-everything-is-a-star-wars-spoiler-20151217

    Elsewhere, Adams has written: “Spiler-free reviews are the death of criticism.”

  5. It was OK but…….. I wouldn’t pay to see it again. I’d wait til it came to one of cable networks (ie) HBO, START and ect.
    Doc

  6. I loved the movie! Was it flawless, no but then when is an epic adventure like this going to be without a flaw or two? I’ve seen it twice and will gladly pay to see it again. If you cant have fun watching this movie then you probably have some issues and require therapy.

  7. I always watch this movie from the first until the latest series, I feel this is the coolest movie I’ve ever seen. I can not wait for the latest series of this film

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