Sunday, September 20, 2020

Home A & E Film Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Photo provided by Disney Studios.

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The first part of this review is a general overview of  “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” free of spoilers. Below a fold will be a bit more specificity. Finally, after one more fold, I’ll give flat-out details that may spoil your viewing experience. So the more you read, the more know. You’ve been warned! And I counted only maybe a half-dozen Abrams Lens Flares and nine Lucas Wipes!

Although the prequels are a low bar, yes “The Force Awakens” is more akin in quality, scope and aesthetics to the original trilogy and much better than its woeful prequels. Say what you will about J.J. Abrams as a storyteller, but his stuff looks good.

Obviously it’s a kick to see the original cast, to say nothing of hearing that theme music again, and even seeing the tie-fighters and x-wings battling in newfound glory. It wouldn’t have worked as well if it had been a reboot with new actors in the old roles since there’s a huge nostalgia factor at work.

Although newcomers Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) all do well, cheers will erupt when Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) first appear; they’re the real stars of the film, and provide most of the humor as well.



But to get more specific, few films can put a smile on your face with an opening tile crawl. Thankfully, this preamble is fairly concise, but nostalgia also softens the problems with the film, specifically it being a recycle of the original in many respects, including more amazing coincidences that allow for the narrative to continue.

After a disturbing start that shows the Stromtroopers are basically the heartless SS of a Nazi Empire (now called The First Order), they once again prove to be the worst soldiers available, bumbling fools incapable of hitting anything that needs to be missed for the sake of the story.

Described as garbage and all but forgotten, the Millennium Falcon amazingly fares crazy well against multiple and more-advanced ships with a new pilot and a green soldier who barely knows how to work its clunky guns. Use of the Dark Side is spotty at best, jettisoned right when it would be a better idea to just choke someone from across the room. Outright monsters destroy every bad guy in their way, but decide to simply capture the good guys and allow ample time for escape. And don’t forget the grade-school level exposition, over-explaining every little connection and character motivation.



But could anything live up to “Star Wars: The Hype-Machine”? In 2013, both Carrie Fisher (General Leia) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) supposedly had begun a vigorous regimen of diet, exercise and stunt training to prepare for their roles. It turned out to be more mere hype, since neither do more than stand around and chat for their scant screen time (with Hamill doing less than even that).

But can fans admit that it falls short? I’ve seen way too many perfect A scores for “The Force Awakens”, which tells me no; it’s too hard to separate yourself from the source material and the original experience to admit that “The Force Awakens” is just another in a series of J.J. Abrams’ redo’s.

“Super 8” was basically “E.T. The Extra Terrible”.

“Star Trek Into Darkness” was “The Wrath of Khan Again.”

And now “The Force Awakens” is a “Star Wars” retread, complete with a doe-eyed hero stuck on a planet of sand waiting for something more… indispensable Resistance intel hidden in a droid to keep it from the Empire… good guys captured and tortured by the bad guys for their knowledge of the intel… the bad guys have a ship the size of a moon that can wipe out whole planets with a single shot… the Jedi have vanished to the point that most consider them myth… the apprentice of a famous Jedi serves in the evil empire while he struggles with the dual nature of the Force… a father-figure is killed by light sabre wielded by someone he used to trust… the big bad Death Star-ish ship blown up by small x-wings that fire on an obvious target out in the open… all culminating with a new apprentice in need of training approaching a seasoned Jedi Master.

We waited 30 years for the same basic story?

Hmpf. At least it looked good and had the original cast. Without that, we’d all be crying ripoff.

**1/2 stars 

135 minutes 

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence 

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Writing Credits: Lawrence Kasdan (written by) & J.J. Abrams (written by) and Michael Arndt (written by), George Lucas (characters)

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill , Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, John Boyega, Kenny Baker, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Max von Sydow, Greg Grunberg, Christina Chong, Simon Pegg

Rich Bonaduce is Vice President of the Utah Film Critics Association, co-host of “Critical Mass,” a Salt Lake-based movie-review show, and a contributor to Read more of his reviews at

Everyone could use a breath of fresh air! 🌞⁠

Be sure to follow social distancing rules on the tails. 🌲 Check the link in bio to read our convo with the Executive director of the @mtntrailspc foundation, Charlie Sturgis, about being part of the covid-19 solution. ⁠

Be gentle with one another, Salt Lake ❤️

Our September-October issue is on stands now! ⁠

Salt Lake magazine has traditionally devoted its September-October issue to travel, describing trips to destinations all over the world. This year, confined by COVID, we’re looking closer to home. ❤️⁠

Stay well and be sure to pick up our latest issue or subscribe to our magazine through the link in bio!


Happy Monday 🏞
Who else is dreaming of the weekend? 😴

“The power of the people is always stronger than the people in power." - Angela Johnson⁠

Check the link in bio to read our Q & A with protest organizers. ⁠

Photo credit: Max Smith @phhhhhhhhhhhotos⁠

It's getting HOT in here! 🌞 Check out our list of the best swimming spots in Utah to cool down at! Link in bio. ⁠

Have a safe and responsible weekend, Utah! Oh and P.S. Wear a mask ❤️⁠

📸: Photo courtesy of Utah Office of Tourism⁠

Something fishy is happening on the eastern edge of the Jordanelle Reservoir... ⁠

A municipality is attempting to annex unincorporated land across a county line without that county’s approval. If this sounds like madness, that’s because it is. Read the full story though the link in bio. ⁠

📸 Photo courtesy of: Utah Office of Tourism

Summertime slush! Soft cold slurpy sweet treats- the classic seasonal delight. 🍧⁠

Here’s where to get the best and how to make them yourself, check the link in bio! 🍭

We're a little red rock crazy this weekend if you couldn't tell. (But how could we not be!)⁠

🏜️ Check out 3 pup friendly hikes in our beautiful Moab 🐶 Link in bio! Happy Hiking! ⁠

📸: Utah Office of Tourism

We ❤️ Red Rocks! 🏜️⁠

Thinking about getting into car camping this summer? 🚘 We've got some tips on how to find the right rig for you! Check the link in bio. ⛺ And keep exploring!

Wondering how to navigate COVID-19 norms while enjoying the outdoors? ⁠

We had a Q & A with Charlie Sturgis, Executive Director of the @mtntrailspc, about being part of the solution. Check it out through the link in bio!