Musings on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

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I wasn’t going to blog about Star Wars as I didn’t think I’d have time before my East Coast trip on Tuesday. But you know what, I can’t help it. Hubby and I actually watched the original trilogy a few weeks ago, just to refresh my memory as I barely remember any of the story. We even watched the last half hour of episode III around the time the final duel between Anakin Skywalker & Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin becoming Darth Vader.

Well, naturally there’s a feverish anticipation to The Force Awakens, a decade after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in 2005. I’m glad the film is finally here so I can actually talk about it and not worry about spoilers. Given the behemoth box office take of $238+mil, surely most of you have seen it by now? I pretty much avoided reading a lot of reviews and articles before this weekend and I’m glad I did. Well, this post is not a review per se, more of my random thoughts about the film and the franchise as a whole, so SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen it yet.

A balance of homage & re-imagining

After refreshing the sci-fi classic Star Trek, it’s incredible that JJ Abrams ended up getting the torch to refresh yet another beloved franchise. In a way he’s the right man for the job, and he’s dealt with audience’s passion AND wrath for some of his own creation, i.e. LOST. It’s crazy to think that this is only his fifth feature film as he mostly serve as producers in a plethora of film and TV series.
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Abram’s revealed that it’s nerve-wracking to be helming such a massively popular franchise with such ardent fans who are quite tough to please. So I can see why he sort of played it safe with Episode VII and the plot was a nice continuation from where Return of the Jedi left off three decades earlier. The trio of writers, Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, were respectful to the original story whilst making it current in terms of tone and narrative for the new generation of fans.

The one major update seems to deal with the Force itself. In The Phantom Menace, the Force was measured by Midi-chlorian counts found in the cells of a human being. Anakin had a high amount of that and that’s why Qui-Gon Jinn deemed him to be the Chosen One. But he had to be trained to be able to use the force optimally, but now it seems that the Force-sensitivity is more of a mythical thing that isn’t quantifiable, as the case with Rey who doesn’t require much training to use it (more of that later).

After the Galactic Empire was defeated, a new threat emerged in the galaxy, this time it’s called the First Order. Its similarities to the Third Reich is palpable once again, down to the army formation, uniform, etc., led by the Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). It’s clear from the start who the good and evil parties are, which kind of takes away the suspense.

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What I like about it

There’s plenty of familiar faces that’s thankfully more than just for nostalgia sake, as the major players Luke & Leia Skywalker and Han Solo’s are integral to the plot. But the fresh faces add a dose of new energy to the story, and the female-driven plot is a welcome but not-surprising move coming from Abrams.

The adventure pretty much began the moment we meet Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger in the desert planet Jakku and Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper who found his conscience and escaped from the First Order headquarter. I love both Ridley and Boyega as the two young fresh faces, that’s inspired casting there to cast two unknowns who have a nice chemistry together. Ridley’s given the most to do here as the Chosen One character, both in terms of physicality and emotionally. I think overall she pulled it off. Boyega is an effortlessly likable lead who’s got a pretty strong screen presence, too. They’ve signed on to multiple Star Wars movies and I certainly welcome seeing more of them.

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Both of them have some funny and even sweet moments with the original cast, especially Harrison Ford who have the most screen time compared to Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, the latter had no speaking part at all. Like an old shoe, Ford filled his role of Han Solo effortlessly, complete with his curmudgeon attitude and dry wit. His loyal companion Chewie was right there beside him up until the end and perhaps the only moment I choked up a bit was when Chewie witnessed his BFF being murdered right in front of him.

Lupita Nyong’O, whose face was never seen, added gravitas as the wise Maz Kanata, a petite pirate of some kind who’s lived a thousand years. It’s a memorable motion-capture performance and her character is a pretty important one as she seems to know the whereabouts of Luke and also has his lightsaber.

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Like in Abram’s Star Trek films, there’s an underlying humor throughout. The banter between Rey, Finn and Solo are a hoot when they’re trying to operate (and fix) the archaic Millennium Falcon. I also find Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) hilarious when he’s angry. The dude has major anger management issues as he’d blast an entire control panel with his lightsaber upon hearing some bad news, ahah. He does have great hair though and what’s the secret to him NOT having helmet hair? Now that‘s a secret worth knowing about 😉 I think between him and resistance fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), they can practically do a Pantene commercial!

My new fave characters are definitely Rey, Finn AND the spherical droid BB 8. It’s the most adorable droid yet and he’s an absolute blast to watch! Just like Baymax in Big Hero 6, I had a big smile in my face every time the droid appeared on screen and it even knew how to give a thumbs up!! So yeah, thanks Abrams for introducing such a fun new character that made me forget about that super annoying amphibious whose name rhymes with jinx.

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When I learned that the film is 2 hrs and 15 minutes long, I was worried I’d be bored stiff but I’m glad that’s not the case at all. In fact, the film felt like a breeze thanks to the dynamic pacing and fun action scenes, especially the flying sequences. That said, I didn’t think the special effects were THAT spectacular as some people have been saying. I mean, it’s to be expected from a modern movie with a humongous budget of $200 mil. It wasn’t as jaw-dropping as Mad Max: Fury Road which was made with $50 mil less and it didn’t feel so CGI-heavy as this one.

Lastly, I have to mention about John Williams‘ score which was still as awesome as the first time I heard it. The new score is wonderful and rousing as well, which mixes the old and the new, just like the film itself.

What I’m not crazy about

I mentioned the lack of suspense, well that’s how I feel throughout the movie. I can’t tell you a moment where I was genuinely surprised, let alone shocked by it. It’s also very predictable, which takes away the impact of some of the big moments of the film. I could see the death of a major character from a mile away, and I didn’t shed a single tear when it happened (and I’m a cryer!). So you could say that the film wasn’t as emotionally gratifying as I had expected.

Now, my main *quibble* that I discussed on my way home with my hubby was the fact that there are more questions than answers after seeing it. I read this article on Tech Insider on 11 biggest questions after seeing the movie and I agree with all of them. The main one is about the protagonist Rey, who we knew nothing about when the film started and she remained a mystery up until the end. Why is she force sensitive? How does the force work within her without ANY kind of training? Yes of course given that Disney is going to milk this franchise for all its worth, I said to my hubby that we probably won’t know much about her until Episode XII! Heh.

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The other main issue I had was that it was never explained why Kylo Ren had such a major beef with his parents? I’d think they’d mention a bit of that when Han and Leia talked about him, but no, we only learned that he had been trained by Luke but then got seduced by the dark side like his granddad. I kept thinking how this seems akin to those parents who learned that their sons had secretly joined ISIS. Ren himself is far from the great villain Vader was (which is obviously the point I guess, hence his constant self doubts), and he’s far too emo and prone to tantrum-throwing to be effective as an evil leader. It made me wonder how he got to be in such a high position to begin with, is it because Snode saw a potential in him given that he’s Vader’s grandson? As much as I enjoy seeing his gorgeous hair though, I think Ren should’ve worn his mask more often as he’s not at all menacing when he takes it off.

“A soap opera about family, not spaceships”

That’s a quote from George Lucas himself I read in this article. “People don’t actually realize it’s actually a soap opera and it’s all about family problems — it’s not about spaceships.” Well, that is fine and dandy because even stories that take place in space have to be somewhat relatable for it to resonate with audiences. But do they need to have familial link for every single character though?? I think if Kylo had been someone NOT blood-related to any of Star Wars’ major character, but that he somehow received training from a Jedi (Luke), I doubt that it’d make that much of a difference in the story. Yes obviously having Han being killed off by his own son, instead of some stranger baddie who happens to be a Vader groupie, has a bigger shock value (though I wasn’t all that shocked, to be honest).

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In any case, I do think the Star Wars saga is NOT just about spaceships. It’s got some Biblical values of good and evil, generational sins, and a good message about self-control, self-sacrifice and what it means to be a hero. It’s also a story about loyalty and friendship, as with Han and Chewie, as well as those droids being so loyal to their masters. The Force Awakens introduce new best friends too, Rey and Finn, Finn and Poe, and even Rey and Chewie?

So is it a perfect film?

Well, the short answer to that is NO. As I mentioned above, Abrams took a pretty safe path and made it more of an homage with a few new things added and so I feel that it’s a bit derivative and even predictable. Just as the original trilogy were best appreciated as a whole, as a stand-alone film, The Force Awakens is good but not spectacular, but it works as a continuation of a larger story. The finale hints that Luke would have a larger role in Episode VIII alongside Rey, so it’ll be interesting where the story goes from here.

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Yes it is indeed better than the prequels, and the dialog has more zing and not cringe-inducing, thank goodness. I’m glad I saw it and I think having just seen the original trilogy helped with my enthusiasm for this new film. Having said that, my hubby and I didn’t absolutely LOVE this enough to see it again on the big screen though. We might rent it again later once it’s on Blu-ray. Thus, as entertaining as The Force Awakens was, I’m actually looking forward to talking about other movies other than Star Wars in the new year.


Well, what did YOU think? Did you share my thoughts about Episode VII?

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65 thoughts on “Musings on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

  1. Man, I’m still blown away by what I saw this morning as I want to give credit to the casting directors for this film as Daisy Ridley is a big discovery and she did so much to the Rey character. I’m still in awe but also filled with so many emotions. Here’s my review.

    1. That’s cool Steven. I’m not as in awe as you did and it wasn’t as emotional for me, but it was entertaining. I do agree w/ a lot of your points in your review though, overall Abrams did a great job!

  2. Hey Ruth. Glad you went to see it. I really really went for it and I was pretty stunned Abrams pulled this off. I didn’t really have an issue with not having Rey fleshed out (that is sure to come) and I really liked Kylo. I think one reason he is in a place of power is because he has the force and he is desperately needed by the Dark Side since the events of Return of the Jedi. And I find him intriguing because he is weak. His fits do come as results of his failures. He desperately wants to be his grandfather even wearing a mask he doesn’t need. It’s strictly his attempt to look ominous and intimidating. As far as his seduction, it will all come out and I really loved how they set the table.

    All of that said, I am a Star Wars junkie (as you know). I think that makes me a little more forgiving when it comes to their form of storytelling. Now I’m genuinely excited for what comes next.

    1. Hi Keith! Given how much you wanted this film to be great, well, I think Abrams did not disappoint right? I’m glad the film lived up to all the great reviews, but I don’t think it’s perfect. Well I guess nothing is, but I wasn’t as wowed by it as I did w/ other blockbusters released this year. You pointed a lot of great points there about Kylo, I suppose the fact that he’s weak and vulnerable made him inherently different from Vader in that he’s more ‘human,’ I guess his grandpa was hard to top as a villain, so I don’t find him as memorable. I hope they’d reveal more about how he got seduced by the dark side and what happened between him and his parents.

      So overall I enjoyed it, it was definitely entertaining that I didn’t check the time even once. I think my quibbles are more about being frustrated about not knowing why things are the way they are, but I suppose that’s how it is w/ SW franchise, we just have to be patient and things will be revealed in due course 😉

  3. Ruth, very nice review as I just returned now from watching it. There’s much to like about it and I think JJ Abrams did a nice job. HOWEVER, I felt like I was in a Déjà vu dream. I wasn’t surprised by anything. It was a mashed up revisit of fights and a bigger Deathstar. The score, the settings, the same character types, a Yoda who was female this time, and Luke Skywalker wearing Obi-One’s cape. So it sounds like I disliked it, and that’s not the case. It was entertaining. I loved seeing Lea and Han and Chewie again. it was like a homecoming and that’s okay as long as you weren’t expecting something original. .

    1. Hello Cindy! Hey glad you just saw it. I figured most people would’ve seen this already so I went w/ a spoiler-heavy *review.* Yes, deja vu is right and nostalgia is kind of a double-edge sword because in a way it’s fun to see the ‘old gang’ but it feels derivative too. Even the *twist* didn’t surprise me at all, I think that’s the death Harrison Ford has always wanted since Episode VI, ahah.

      1. As he fell off the catwalk, I could hear the conversation he must have had with the powers-that-be, “I’ll only do this if you kill me.”
        Hey, have a great time in NYC, see a show for me, and Merry Christmas!

        1. Mwahahaha, yeah I could totally picture that. I think he wanted a respectable death for Han, not sure if that was respectable but it certainly was a memorable one.

          Hey thanks! I hope I can see at least one show but I’m with the in-laws so we’ll see how it goes 😉 Merry Christmas to you, my friend!

  4. [SPOILERS – but I guess you know that if you have read this far]

    I really really liked it. Sure bits of it were predictable. Being close to the story of the previous six you kind of know what may happen, but you still go with it. The funniest retread for me is the First Order (former Empire) building yet another Death Star type object.

    But I am willing to suspend my disbelief with this as I did over 30 years ago as a kid.

    As to all the questions you have … well talk about being able to predict stuff … I am certain that all will be revealed in time (next two installment). That is how Eps 4-6 fell into place. So those loose ends did not bother me.

    I will admit I was OBSESSED with the franchise as the child and will give a little more allowance than I do other movies – especially given the genre and my overall impression of what they are aiming for.

    1. Hello Iba! Glad this lived up to your expectations as you’re a big fan of the franchise. I guess I’m more of an outsider coming into SW, given that I wasn’t even all that interested in this movie until recently (the hype was quite contagious). Ahah yeah, First Order doesn’t seem to have much imagination, even its leader was so enamored by the Empire’s supreme leader who happens to be his own grandpa 🙂 Yep, I figured that as I discussed this w/ my hubby, he said the same thing in that things will be revealed eventually. Let’s hope Disney isn’t stringing us along for too long though, but I am intrigued how the story will unfold from here, esp. in regards to Rey and Finn.

      1. yeah i guess it isn’t so much that they are stringing us along IMO as it is this is the way the saga dishes out the story. there will likely be a huge reveal in episode 8 and a few more loose ends tied up by the end of episode 9.

        1. I guess if we follow the original trilogy’s formula, episode 8 is poised to be the most important of the three (that is if they’re going w/ a trilogy again). I hope Abrams will be back helming that and episode 9, too!

    1. Hi Allie! I think we’re in the minorities who are frustrated w/ the unanswered questions, as most people seem ok with it 😉 I suppose that’s the *tradition* w/ Star Wars in that things won’t get explained until subsequent movies. But yeah, I quite like Kylo, and not just for his beautiful hair 😀

  5. Great review! I agree they are withholding info so we go and watch the next films in the series. Ever since the huge success in 1977 everything star wars became super commercial, so I guess it’s to be expected.
    Having said that, I really enjoyed E7, I especially loved the jokes and it was funnier than some films that are labeled comedies! haha, yep, his hair was too perfect when he took off the helmet 🙂 I also reviewed Force Awakens a few days ago.

    1. Hey Chris, yep I think that seems to be the case about withholding key plot/character development and people who love this franchise seems totally on board w/ that. Well, I find it entertaining but it’s not a masterpiece by any means. I’ll check out your review!

  6. Man, the things that bother you dont bother me at all. I thought having Ren as their son made a huge difference on his effectiveness as the villain. I also love that they mystified the Force again and I was perfectly fine with how Rey handled it. It was different than what we’ve seen, where she was almost like a caged animal falling back on her instinct.

    Honestly, if Disney made an announcement that the prequels were no longer considered canon, I would be perfectly okay with that, for the simple reason of what they did with the force (mediclhorians, give me a break!).

    I dont think they’re holding back any more information than the original films did.

    1. Ahah, that’s great Ian, I knew that most people absolutely LOVE this franchise and they can do no wrong. I actually don’t have an issue w/ the change in regards to the Force and making it more mythical. As you can see in my post, I didn’t list that under the ‘what I’m not crazy about’ section 😉 As for holding back info, yeah I think that’s to be expected w/ a franchise as commercial as this one, and you’re right that it was the case w/ the original films, too.

  7. Some great thoughts Ruth! I agree that TFA wasn’t totally perfect but I still found it to be generally excellent. I get your point about more questions than answers and it’s definitely case of having to wait and see what unfolds in Episodes VIII and IX.

    I feel that the film was hindered a little by some plot elements being repeated from earlier films (especially A New Hope) but overall J.J. Abrams was the right man for the job.

    1. Hey Chris! I think you used the word ‘triumphant’ in your review and as far as Abrams’ first foray into SW universe I think that’s an apt description. I am ready to talk about anything other than Star Wars now though.

  8. Great review! I’m waiting for the frenzy to die down a bit to see this one and I just seen the original trilogy for the first time during the weekend

    1. Hello Margaret! Hey so we both did a marathon of the original trilogy, I actually saw Return of the Jedi the night before I saw Force Awakens. I’m curious to hear what you think as you and I are both not die-hard SW fans so we might be more um, objective 😉

      1. I saw it today with my mother who was apparently all horny for Ford seeing the footage from premiere a few days back so she wanted to see the film. I thought the film was super entertaining and the 2nd best Star Wars ever after a New Hope. Daisy Ridley and BB-8 were easily the best things about it

        1. Mwahaha! Your mom still has the hots for Harrison, too funny! Yes indeed it was entertaining and I LOVE Daisy and BB-8, fortunately I think we’ll be seeing more of those two, and John Boyega.

              1. Oh that is for sure. I just cannot get over that casting. And Ford does look good – you can obviously say he is in his 70’s but a beautiful man remains beautiful 🙂

                1. It’s really quite hilarious when it was revealed, and that plot was so predictable even though I hadn’t read much about this film before I saw it. But yes about Ford, a beautiful man remains beautiful, I’d say the same thing about my eternal crush Timothy Dalton who’s also in his 70s! 😉

  9. Great thoughts, Ruth. We saw the film last night and I too had determinedly avoided any reviews or reading. Interesting thought about helmet head, LOL. Wish we could all look like that after a bike ride! One of the big issues my grown sons had was the ability of Rey and Finn to so equally battle a trained Jedi knight…but I think they still really enjoyed the film.

    1. Hey there Brenda, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I just can’t stop giggling about the helmet hair, or lack thereof I should say. Yep, that’s my main issue w/ it too, how Rey could defeat an opponent who’s much more trained, but hey like most people said here, I guess it’ll all be revealed in due course, whenever that is 😉

    1. SPOILERS – yes, that’s exactly how I felt! The movie makes some in-jokes about blowing up the Starkiller base just by jumping in and attacking the part that destroys the whole planet while breaking out their friend, and then they proceed to do it with relative ease. It seemed lazy. I think there was a better way than shoehorning in another galaxy-threatening base with rescue mission/x-wing attack. But despite that I still liked the movie overall and am interested to see what happens next.

      1. Well hello Sean! I can’t even tell you how I feel about what you said about the base as I’m not a huge fan, so I don’t really have much knowledge about the details of this franchise. My quibbles is coming from a general moviegoer who likes to see certain major plots explained by the end, i.e. regarding Rey’s powers and how she could tackle a Jedi-trained guy like Kylo without ANY training, stuff like that. But it seems that the general consensus is that things will be explained in due course, whenever that may be.

    2. Hi Jay! It’s interesting that Sean who’s a fan is disappointed, it seems that the majority of fans LOVE it so much they’re quite defensive.

  10. Boom! Gauntlet dropped, Ruth. This review is great. I love the point you mentioned about Lucas’s comment, because the family link EVERYWHERE (and I have a strong feeling my source is correct on the ‘link’ with Rey as well) was my biggest issue with the film. It felt too familiar in those aspects, like Abrams and company were playing it too safe here. Still, an outstanding action blockbuster of a film though, and one that ranks pretty high in the scope of the franchise.

    1. Hi Drew, nice to see you back on my blog, sorry I’ve been away on vacation the past week. I think the familial link is taken way too literally that it at times feels so erm, forced. Then they cast an actor who look nothing like either one of the actors playing his parents. I think Abrams might be playing it safe to save himself from fans’ wrath, but I bet Rian Johnson would be more daring and make the tone darker. Yes, I do think despite the flaws it’s still outstanding, I’m just past its saturation point w/ this movie.

  11. Brittani

    I love it so much. You’re right, it is predictable, Star Wars always was to me. There was never really any suspense. When I was a kid, I actually watched the original series backwards because we were having trouble finding our VHS’ so even I knew Vader was Luke’s father before seeing ESB. lol

    Poe Dameron is such a good guy. My crush on him is intense lol.

    1. I think coming from an SW *outsider* if you will, I was expecting more but I think the lack of suspense is perhaps not entirely bad. It’s not really the strength of this franchise I think, and this film certainly has other good qualities. I sure hope they utilize Oscar Isaac more in future SW movies, he’s such a good actor and he’s just so hot 😛

  12. Just came back from seeing it the second time on the IMAX theater. I had a great time with this one, of course it’s not perfect and it’s my second favorite Star Wars film behind The Empire Strikes Back. I agree that Abrams was too safe with the film, for a new generation I was hoping to see something more edgy but I’m glad he didn’t go the super dark and serious tone that’s plagued some big films the last decade or so. I hear you about not knowing much about any of the characters’ background. But if you remember the first film in the original trilogy, we didn’t know much about Luke, Leih, Hans or Obi-Wan until the second film. Which I assume we’ll find out in ep. 8. I think it’s pretty obvious that Rey and Kylo are related, probably they’re probably twins or cousins.

    1. Hi Ted! I bet this movie looks great on IMAX, I don’t know if I’ll see it again on the big screen though. I think the future film by Rian Johnson will be far edgier. Abrams might be playing it safe for fear of displeasing the already twitchy die-hard fans. Seems to pay off as people love this to bits. I guess I have to reconcile the fact that lucrative franchise like SW will surely withhold info until future films to keep fans salivating for what’s coming 😉

  13. I loved it. It isn’t perfect and I wouldn’t advise picking at the plot because the whole thing might come crashing down but it worked for me on the most important level: entertainment.

      1. Dan

        Hopefully it’ll stand up to repeat viewings as the originals do so well. That, until it arrives on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD, I can’t say for sure as, despite wanting to, I’m not forking out for the big screen again (£24/$36* for two tickets now – daylight robbery!). 😦

        Harrison Ford was recently on a talk show here in England discussing the film and told a story about how he broke his leg when the Millennium Falcon door accidentally closed on him. However, he did have a “friend” working for the US Embassy who fortunately had a helicopter to take him to the hospital in London! This was only a few months before he broke his other leg in the plane crash which saw him ditch on the golf course near the airstrip he took off from in California.

        1. Hi again Dan! I for one would say I don’t really have that much interest in buying the film. I might rent it once it comes out maybe once, but no to seeing it at the cinema again.

          Oh yeah, crazy story about Ford, boy the man has nine lives! But well he got his wish about Han finally being killed off, ahah. Seems that he wanted that to happen on episode VI.

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  16. Nice piece, Ruth. One thing always bothered me about folks who think TFA doesn’t “explain” a lot of its backstory, as if that was somehow essential….

    If I recall correctly, we dropped right into the middle of A New Hope’s ongoing story and nobody gave a crap about “explanations”, they just accepted what was happening on the screen and being blown away by the effects and characters etc. Kicking off TFA in a similar way, by *not* explaining everything in minute detail (a problem the prequels had in abundance, IMO) continues the echo motif Abrams and co took with the parallels to ANH’s overall plot and basic idea.

    Perhaps as an audience we’ve grown accustomed to having everything spelled out for us, so when something is left a mystery or “unexplained” we can no longer handle it?

    It strikes me that a lot of people have lost the ability to read between the lines.

    1. Hi Rodney, honestly I’m already so tired to talk about this film. Yeah ok it seems I’m one of those people who would like to see more details explained but I guess I’m in the minority. I don’t mind that things aren’t always explained and who doesn’t love a good mystery, so it’s not that I cannot *handle* it. But it bothers me that we can’t seem to disagree that some people might not LOVE something that is overwhelmingly popular, and any kind of dissent is automatically brushed off because it’s not in line w/ the popular view. That’s what gives me a sour taste about popular franchises, and that’s why I’m so eager to talk about OTHER films where a variety of responses are more welcomed.

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  18. Great write-up! I’m pretty much in complete agreement, though I think I liked the film more than you did. I loved it even more on a second viewing, but it wouldn’t make my top 10 or anything. Can’t wait to see where the careers of Ridley, Boyega, and Isaac (all great in the film) are headed now.

    1. Yeah if anything, I’m glad to discover Ridley and Boyega, I hope their career will be fruitful after this. Isaac is already one of the best working actors of today, glad to see he’s getting more roles!

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