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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

A brand new issue of Salt Lake magazine is coming your way! ⁠

We can't wait to share these stories with you. This issue includes our annual Blue Plate Awards celebrating those surviving and thriving in the restaurant biz. Plus, we take a road trip to Wyoming and ask why the only Utah passenger on the Titanic didn’t survive her journey.⁠

A note from our editor Jeremy Pugh, including beautiful tributes to Mary Brown Malouf from our friends in the community, is online now. Read more at the link in our bio ❤️⁠

Subscribers: Look for this issue in your mailbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands March 1! 📬

Today, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2021 Blue Plate Awards! ⁠🎉⁠

These prizes honor the growers, food evangelists, grocers, servers, bakers, chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs who do more than put good food on the table—they make our community a better place to live. This year, just surviving as a local business deserves an award, but each of our Blue Plate winners did more than that. They made us grateful for every person involved in the essential act of feeding us.⁠ 🍽⁠

At the link in our bio, we have the full list of winners, a celebration of feats of COVID creativity and a tribute to restaurants we lost this year. If you’re hungry for more, pick up a copy on newsstands March 1! Plus, check out our Instagram for spotlights on some of the Blue Plate winners. ⁠

This year’s Blue Plate Awards are the first without our beloved Executive Editor Mary Brown Malouf. We dedicate them to her, our town’s biggest food fan, critic and champion. xoxomm⁠ 💙

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @ricobrandut for Staying in Beansness⁠

Last summer, it seemed that Rico would be another victim of rapid gentrification in Salt Lake. Luckily, Rico was able to find a new home in Poplar Grove and now plans to add even more employees. It’s a last-minute happy ending for a community leader who literally wears his mission on his sleeve, courtesy a tattoo in bright red block letters: “pay it forward.” 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award Winner: @spicekitchenincubator for Keeping the Spice Flowing⁠

This year Spice Kitchen Incubator, already an essential resource for refugees, became, well, even more essential. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @thestore_utah for Special Deliveries ⁠

As grocery delivery becomes the new norm, The Store offers a personal touch that only an independent grocer can provide. Last March, high-risk and elderly customers began calling in their grocery lists over the phone, and The Store’s general managers personally delivered food to their homes. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @cucinaslc for Preserving Neighborhood Connection⁠

Cucina’s outdoor spaces became a place where the neighborhood could gather safely. Owner Dean Pierose offered free coffee in the mornings and encouraged his regulars to linger and commiserate together, preserving a semblance of society during a socially distanced time. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @fisherbrewing for Creative Canning⁠

This year, Fisher found ways to utilize their beer, taproom space and canning capabilities for good. They created special lines of limited edition beers in custom cans to help raise funds for local businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @hearth_and_hill for Opening Doors⁠

As the pandemic ravages independent restaurants, Hearth and Hill has reaffirmed its commitment to small businesses in Park City and used its large dining room as an informal gathering space for the city. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @oquirrhslc for Betting the Bottom Dollar⁠

When COVID-19 hit Salt Lake City, Oquirrh co-owners Andrew and Angelena Fullers' dream was seriously damaged. But the Fullers keep trying to follow the rules. 💙⁠

A wind storm #tbt for your feed today. 🌬️🛹⁠

2020 was a long, long, loooong year, so we asked local photographers to share what the new normal looked like through their eyes. The link is in our bio!

Just hours after being sworn in, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for a review of the boundaries for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The monuments—designated by Barack Obama in 2016 and Bill Clinton in 1996—were reduced by roughly 2 million acres by former president Donald Trump, and the executive order is seen as move towards restoring the original boundaries.⁠

Read the full story through the link in bio.⁠

📸Bears Ears National Monument: Courtesy of Utah Office of Tourism

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