Movie Review - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

We've arrived guys. This moment has been two years in the pragmatic making and arguably decades more if you're among the ranks of those who refuse to acknowledge the Prequels. We've already expressed our fears, misgivings, and erstwhile rage fodder as they relate to or potentially stem from this film. The hype has been blasted at us full force for months on end, swathed in a marketing blitz so comprehensive that it's almost difficult to find a product line that doesn't have an Officially Licensed offering. It's been a long, dizzying ride, but we're finally here.


If you've been an even occasional visitor to this site, you may have gleaned that I might have a modicum of emotional investment in this franchise and, as a result, that I'm not going to be an unbiased reviewer of this movie. That being said, I went into a showing this past Saturday with a melange of both dire expectations and barely constrained glee that arguably only fellow Star Wars fans who had their hearts broken by the Prequels can appreciate.

Name of the Maker...I can't wait anymore! How was it?

The very first line spoken in the film is, "This will begin to make things right."

That is entirely, wholly accurate.


I know!

That reality is, in itself, a source of considerable relief. In all honesty the film just had to not be actively terrible; the fact that it was so deeply enjoyable was a phenomenal surprise that I hadn't dared to anticipate.

Fangirl gushing aside, Episode VII certainly isn't a perfect film (we'll get to exactly why that is in a minute), but it is an excellent tool with which new fans can be cultivated and long-jaded aficionados can be drawn back into the franchise fold. In short, a great way to open a new trilogy.

**The following contains some references that may be considered mild spoilers, but no explicit mention of major reveals**

The actual plot will feel incredibly familiar to anyone who has seen Episode IV. There's a profoundly talented orphan eking out sustenance on a barren desert world, a lovable droid bearing secret plans key to the success of a rebellious faction, a wise-cracking foil to the straight-laced orphan, a totalitarian regime bent on dominating the galaxy, a mask-wearing villain and his nefarious master, a wizened character with extensive knowledge of the Skywalker lineage, an underdog organization attempting to counter the totalitarian regime, a massive superweapon, and many, many mentions of the Force.

That...that's pretty much Episode, all of it.

Yes. If I had to point to the single biggest shortcoming of The Force Awakens it would be that Abrams adhered to the original a bit too closely. There are several instances where the pastiche/homage to nostalgia crosses over into self-congratulatory carbon copy territory. The pacing of the film is also disjointed at times, as is typical of just about all instances of Abrams' work. However, these are assuredly minor quibbles that did not detract overly much from the overarching experience.

The Force Awakens is boldly honest about the fact that it is purely a fan film. If you are a person for whom the rest of the franchise elicited nothing but meh, then you can expect more of the same from this installment. I cannot, for the life of me, begin to imagine what watching this movie would be like for either someone who had no experience with or even actively dislikes Star Wars.

For those of us who have spent countless hours of our lives with the characters, ships, planets, and concepts of the Star Wars universe, there is a substantial non-zero chance that The Force Awakens may cause you to weep happy tears. Seriously...I know this because of...a friend. Ok, I totally cried happy tears #noregrets.

The non-originality of the narrative aside, the film does an incredible job of blending old elements with new ones and, more importantly, causing you to be emotionally invested in the latter. The new characters, Rey (the orphan), Finn (the comic foil), and Poe Dameron (a hotshot Resistance pilot) fit seamlessly into the Star Wars universe and are so well rendered by the respective actors that play those characters that you will find yourself caring deeply about them mere minutes after they are introduced. They are each extremely capable in their own ways and, with the possible exception of Poe, reasonably well-rounded. You want to find out what's next and you want them to come out of this experience okay.

Abrams accomplishes this primarily via the manner in which he feeds the audience information. We find out various bits of history and pertinent personal information often in the same moment that the characters do. This simultaneously draws us in and leaves us wanting so, so much more. The events that take place in the 30 year post-Episode VI gap are mentioned in fits and starts, but never in any real detail. There's just enough there that we can understand where the masked villain came from and why the characters from the original trilogy are situated as they are in The Force Awakens.

The other tactic that Abrams employs is the setup of a very large number of key shots. These deliberately bear a strong resemblance to those used in Episodes IV and VI and create an instant familiarity with Episode VII. That being said, there are other, less overt inclusions that will make fans extremely happy. Specifically, there are a handful of references to items that were cut from Episode IV as well as a few key bits of the Expanded Universe. If the care with which those inclusions were made doesn't win you over to Episode VII I'm not sure what will.

Add to all this some extremely thrilling action sequences (thankfully done with a tactful blend of CGI and practical effects) and some solid comedic timing and you have an excellent way to pass two hours and fifteen minutes. The film stands well on its own, but also ends in such a way that you may rush to find a countdown to the release of Episode VIII. Warning: a single viewing may not prove sufficient to sate your fandom needs.

It will make you cheer, laugh, cry, and, above all, love Star Wars again.

Embrace the changes to our beloved universe, for they are phenomenal and everything we've been waiting for.

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This Week in Geekdom

Oh. My. We're still recovering from yesterday's viewing of Episode VII (a full review will be forthcoming in the very near future). It's killing me not to just starting talking to you about it right now, so I'll pour myself into the review literally the minute that this post goes up. <Kermit the Frog style flailing> Episode VII!! Ok, ok...enough of that for the time being. Less flailing and more of This Week in Geekdom.


With a little over a week remaining in the year, the Best of...countdowns have begun. These are purported to be the top 10 video games of 2015.

The creators of Cards Against Humanity asked 150,000 of the customers who signed up for their Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah some extremely personal questions and these are the hilarious results.


Mel Brooks will allegedly give us a brand new Spaceballs.

What if decorated documentarian Ken Burns had directed Star Wars?

Image Credit

Trying to avoid any Star Wars spoilers (or spoilers for any movie/show for that matter)? There's a Chrome extension for that.

Or, if you need a fun Star Wars themed sciencey distraction while you wait for your showing, there's this comparison of the planets in our solar system to those in a galaxy far, far away.

It's been a very tough year for SpaceX, but the company isn't about to throw in the towel on 2015 just yet. NASA has confirmed that SpaceX was able to conduct a successful static fire test on its flagship Falcon 9 rocket. This has cleared the way for a full launch later today (watch it live here).

The Large Hadron Collider has potentially given the physicists of the world an early Christmas present: a new particle not previously included in the Standard Model.

We occasionally chat about the ongoing development of driverless cars. Now, as the state of California begins to craft legislation that will govern this process, we have this breakdown of some of the challenges that lie ahead for these autonomous autos.

Just what does it take to re-create an image of the Earthrise from the Moon's Compton crater? Well, generally it involves this.

The latest edition of Nature describes this process that could potentially mitigate carbon dioxide emissions from diesel engines (without cheating).

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Behold this dude's very impressive build of a functional flame-based lightsaber:

Ok, so it's not the Avatar, but these 100-year-old negatives were successfully excavated from a block of ice in the Antarctic.

This is the story of one gamer dad and his successful quest to immortalize his cancer-stricken son in the game Grim Dawn.

I'll leave you guys with this last fun little bit of Star Wars-ery. As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!

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This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend everyone! With the holidays (and Episode VII!) on our doorstep, it seems like the days just evaporate. The goal for the next week or so is to figure out when, exactly we'll get to the movies (and avoiding any and all spoilers until that point). While we wait, let's get down to a special Star Wars-themed Week in Geekdom.


Anthony Daniels is the only actor to have appeared in every one of the Star Wars films. This in-depth interview details Daniels' interactions with J.J. Abrams and his tireless desire to own every part of his most famous role.

Carrie Fisher has also been giving quite a few interviews, though hers tend to be  a bit more...colorful than those proffered by Daniels.

If you've been harboring even the tiniest bit of doubt, you put your fears to rest: The Force Awakens will not feature any Jar Jar Binks.

On a very not-Star Wars note, we have the first trailer for the sequel to the epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

And, while we're at it, the trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse:

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The latest edition of Nature Materials includes this research from MIT that, after combining microRNA strands into a triple helix, may be the foundation for a new type of cancer treatment.

Are you ready for your weekly dose of awesome photos from New Horizons? Well, wait no more.

Ok, we couldn't get through this section without at least one Star Wars reference. What's a realistic way to build a to-scale Death Star? The guys at JPL have a potential answer.

Feats of Nerdery/General Awesomeness

Check out this fully armed and operational Death Star replica

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

Holy December Batman. Seriously, how are you here already? Apparent distortions in the space-time continuum notwithstanding, I hope you're all having great weekends and wonderful holiday seasons thus far. Before we all dive back into our respective yuletide preparations let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.


Neil Gaiman's landmark graphic novel, the Sandman, turned 27 on November 29th. Here is why said work remains in a class all its own nearly three decades after its publication.

The city of Cleveland has some concrete, or potentially Kryptonite, plans to honor the Man of Steel.


Behold the first trailer for the Final Fantasy VII remake!


We gave this announcement plenty of love over on our social media pages, but it's definitely worth revisiting. 2016 will see the return of Samurai Jack!

Speaking of returns in 2016, DC would like to remind us that Batman vs Superman will be coming our way in the not-so-distant future.


Check out these incredible images/videos of Italy's Mt. Etna, which erupted in spectacular fashion earlier this week.

It's been a few weeks since we had some new images of Pluto from New Horizons. Well, if you're a fan of the dwarf planet it was worth the wait, as the latest batch of pictures are the sharpest we've seen yet.

When you think of commonly occurring elements in the known universe, you may think of Hydrogen and Helium, but would you correctly guess that this is the element that would come next in that sequence?

While we're...sort of...on the subject of helium, the ultralight element is proving to be the key ingredient in next-generation high-capacity storage drives.

We talked last week about the burgeoning 'war' of privatized space exploration, but here's a far less bellicose facet of the Blue Origins side of things guaranteed to make you smile: the reactions of the 400 scientists and researchers that worked on their firm's reusable rocket.

We've talked a bit over the past few weeks about the centennial of the publication of Einstein's Theory of Relativity but, if we get right down to it, what is spacetime...really?

For decades researchers have been stymied by the concept of cosmic microwave background radiation, as it has proven incredibly difficult to detect by direct means. The latest edition of Nature presents what may be the solution to this mystery.

Potentially commercially viable synthetic diamonds. Bonus: they glow in the dark.

Turns out that your appendix may not be a useless evolutionary vestige after all.

General Awesomeness/Real Life Superheros

In honor of 'Giving Tuesday' Jason Gidman, the host of 'DC All Access', launched a campaign to send 10,000 comic books overseas to provide some much-needed escapism and entertainment for actively serving military personnel. Want in? Here's how you can get involved.

Ever wonder just how much either of the Death Stars cost or just would have happened to the Galactic economy following the destruction of said superweapons? The School of Engineering and Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis gave their best crack at coming up with a comprehensive response.

Mattel has brought back the Viewmaster in time for the holiday gift-giving season and the latest incarnation of this classic toy is a bit different than what you may remember.

This Lego-based kinetic sculpture of Sisyphus is both stunningly realistic and somehow very soothing to watch.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!

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