When I began to write my review for Rogue One, I came to the stunning realization that I failed to write a review for The Force Awakens. I probably need to retroactively write reviews for all the Star Wars movies, but given the importance of discussing a more recent Star Wars film while discussing Rogue One, I HAD TO FIX THIS.

I think we saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TFA) a solid five times. Before that point, I would say I was an average to sub-par Star Wars fan at best (unlike my husband Ryan, who is far more obsessed with Star Wars canon and the extended universe than I will ever be… he’s watched or been watching both The Clone Wars and Rebels TV shows, read several books and comics… frankly, he should be writing this review). But once this movie came out… let’s just say that I and the entire Star Wars fanbase awoke, reinvigorated and ready to throw all their money at the franchise (…and we did).

Here are *some* of the records it shattered in the US:

  • Highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing Avatar. The Force Awakens surpassed Avatar’s gross on January 6, 2016, taking 20 days to break the record. In comparison, Avatar took 318 days to reach its final gross, including the revenue it earned from a re-release in 2010.
  • Fastest to:
    • $100 million – 1 day.
    • $150 million – 2 days.
    • $200 million – 3 days.
    • $250 million – 4 days.
    • $300 million – 5 days.
    • $350 million – 6 days.
    • $400 million – 8 days.
    • $450 million – 9 days.
    • $500 million – 10 days.
    • $550 million – 11 days.
    • $600 million – 12 days.
    • $650 million – 14 days.
    • $700 million – 16 days.
    • $750 million – 18 days.
    • $800 million – 23 days. It was the first movie to reach that gross.
    • $850 million – 31 days. It was the first movie to reach that gross.
    • $900 million – 50 days. It was the first movie to reach that gross.

(Honestly, just look at the Wikipedia page, where I grabbed all these figures from. It’s broken a crap ton of records around the world. It’s nuts.)

Anyway, since it’s been a year since it came out, we’re going all in with the spoilers. if you haven’t seen the movie by now, that’s your own goddamn fault… but if you find yourself in this category, scroll to the bottom really fast to get my definitive Star Wars Movie ranking and movie score, be on your merry way to WATCH THE MOVIE AND UNSCREW THIS SITUATION YOU GOT YOURSELF IN.

Let’s begin!

JJ Abrams, creator of many amazing cinematic and television masterpieces, claimed  that the Star Wars saga is the franchise that inspired him to get into filmmaking. It was only fitting, then, that JJ took on the franchise and paved the way for the sequel trilogy. It’s pretty accurate to say that my expectations were pretty high, and I was a little nervous on whether Disney would deliver.

I was not disappointed.

The movie opens 30 years after The Return of the Jedi with Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow)  passing on the Star Wars equivalent of a USB stick to Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and the amazing statement, “This will begin to make things right.” This quote is so perfect: a clear acknowledgement of the train-wreck of a prequel trilogy, and a promise of a brighter, less cringe-inducing future.

“Shut your damn mouth Jar Jar, we’ve had enough.”

Poe Dameron, our modern Han Solo-esque figure, slash badass X-Wing pilot of our generation (and master of the beloved BB-8), fails at escaping the new overlords, and gives us our first glimpse into the new Star Wars world order (The First Order). We see stormtroopers loaded up in a troop carrier — a shot inspired by Saving Private Ryan– Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) stopping a freakin blaster beam in mid-transit (something we never even witnessed from Lord Vader), and a total massacre of a village. In these early moments of the film, we get a rich prologue, and incredible sense of scale and of the abilities of this new reincarnation of the Galactic Empire.

As a hilarious and completely unrelated aside about Adam Driver, DID YOU KNOW THERE’S A CAT OUT THERE WHO LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE HIM?

But seriously, can we just take a moment and appreciate this stage of evolution for the Star Wars franchise? This movie does an incredible job conveying scale, scope, and does it with compelling cinematography and emotionally captivating, nostalgic shots littered throughout the film. Part of this can be attributed to the technological advances in filmmaking, but it is clear, in every shot of this movie, the amount of passion, care, and love that went into the film.

I don’t know how else to say it, but John Williams will always have my heart. The score is beautiful, inspiring, and chilling, and when coupled with the cinematography and artfully crafted shots, magic happens. Space magic.

(The Force. Simply put.)

As for character development, TFA does a phenomenal job setting up the next stage of the Star Wars saga. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is the angsty young Sith lord we all needed after a having to tolerate Hayden Christensen for two more films than we all needed. He is conflicted, sulky, easily manipulated, in constant search of approval from a very creepy Supreme Leader Snoke.

“Do I make you uncomfortable?” Yes, you DID make us uncomfortable, Hayden.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) was also an excellent, dynamic protagonist who was easy to get behind and root for. We still have yet to learn who she is, but theories are abound (personally I’m leaning toward a Kenobi lineage, but we shall see). To be honest, of all the characters, Finn (John Boyega) was “most impressive.” He added depth, humor, and played well with all of the characters. Ultimately, Lawrence Kasdan orchestrated well-developed, intricate character storylines, and their lines were incredibly well-written to establish a lovable foundation for the episodes to come.

As for original characters, Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) do an incredible job establishing continuity, no matter how many years have passed since their last moments on screen together. Their performances are flawless. Harrison Ford especially, despite his reluctance to redo his earlier roles, delivered a heart-wrenching and convincing Han Solo from the beginning until the death of the beloved character. His commitment to the role was obvious and incredibly moving.

Plot-wise, I would say TFA does a decent job, but obviously pandered to fans by providing a plot that aligned very closely to the original trilogy. The “bigger Deathstar” Starkiller Base felt somewhat regurgitated. Han dying also harkened back to the “I am your father” storyline. That said, my heart broke just as much, regardless how early I saw it coming with Han.

With plot, character development, and cinematography combined – I give TFA tons of props. In concert, all of these make for a nostalgic and enthralling roller coaster of emotion. Where TFA falls short in originality, it makes up in excellent storytelling. All things considered, Episode VII ranks in my top 3 favorite Star Wars films. It still doesn’t beat my feels while watching The Empire Strikes Back, but it gets pretty damn close.

(You made it past the spoilers, good job!)

After watching The Force Awakens, this is my definitive ranking of movies in the Star Wars saga, from best to worst:

  1. V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  2. VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
  3. IV – A New Hope (1977)
  4. VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
  5. I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
  6. III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  7. II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

I loved this movie, I loved the characters, I love the plot, as revisited as it felt. It was like eating my favorite food of all time, but this time prepared by a master chef. Familiar, delicious, but exciting as hell all the same. I would devour this movie again in a heartbeat.

Score: A

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