In 2012, the deal of the century was made when it comes to Hollywood, as George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney for just over $4 billion. This means that Disney, who already had a newfound cash cow going with the MCU, now had control of arguably one of the biggest movie/pop culture franchises of all time. It wasn’t long after the purchase that the news came out that a new trilogy was being worked on, with the first entry getting a release date of 2015. Now I have been a Star Wars fan for a long, long time, but I will admit that I was a little nervous about Disney getting a hold of Star Wars, with my biggest fear being that they will make it too kid friendly and lose some of the dark tones that made the original movies so great. Despite my worries, I had no problem going to see it and obviously enjoyed it, as I bought it when it came out on video, so let’s get set for the new adventure in a galaxy far, far away with today’s movie, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
The plot: 30 years after the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the second Death Star, a new regime known as the First Order has risen up and seeks to overthrow the New Republic. A resistance, led by General Leia Organa, tries to stop the First Order while also seeking out Luke Skywalker, who has disappeared years ago. On the planet Jakku, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron meets with a village elder, Lor San Tekka and receives a map to where Luke is hiding. Suddenly, his astromech droid, BB-8, alerts him to the arrival of 4 First Order troop carriers, and he quickly makes a run for it but his X-wing is damaged. Poe gives the map to BB-8 and tells him to run, then tries to help the villagers by shooting several stormtroopers. The stormtroopers quickly round up the villagers, killing those that fight back, and wait as a shuttle lands and Kylo Ren, the newest Sith Lord, departs and proceeds to question Lor before killing him with his lightsaber. Poe attempts to shoot Ren, who stops the laser blast with the Force and freezes Poe, allowing some stormtroopers to take him prisoner. Ren orders Poe taken aboard his ship, then orders Captain Phasma to kill the remaining villagers but one of the stormtroopers, who had been affected by the death of another trooper, does not fire his weapon. As they return to their Star Destroyer, Poe is taken away while the stormtrooper, FN-2187, is told to report to Phasma’s division to explain his lack of action in the village. Back on the planet’s surface, a scavenger named Rey is grabbing materials to sell from a crashed Imperial Star Destroyer and heads to the nearby town to sell the materials. After returning home and eating some food, Rey investigates a commotion and finds another scavenger attempting to capture BB-8 and she quickly rescues the droid and reluctantly allows him to come home with her when he keeps attempting to follow. The next day, Rey takes BB-8 with her to sell her salvage and when the merchant offers to buy BB-8, she considers it but refuses his offer and leaves with BB-8, not knowing that the merchant contacts someone to steal the droid from her. Back on the Star Destroyer, Ren begins interrogating Poe and, using the Force, learns that the map is with BB-* and orders his men to find it. Some time later, FN-2187 takes Poe from the interrogation room and, pretending to be transferring the prisoner, sneaks him into an empty compartment and says he will help Poe escape if he takes him with him. Poe and Finn, what Poe decides to call the stormtrooper, sneak into a Tie-fighter and, after blasting the hangar while still tethered, manage to escape from the Star Destroyer and Poe heads back to Jakku to collect BB-8 but they are struck by a missile and end up crashing to the surface. When Finn regains consciousness, he goes looking for Poe but only finds his jacket before the wreckage disappears beneath the sand and explodes. Shedding his stormtrooper armor and donning Poe’s jacket, Finn makes his way to town and witnesses 2 men attempt to grab BB-8 from Rey but as he goes to try and help her, she manages to knock them both out. As Rey releases BB-8 from the bag they put him in, BB-8 sees Finn wearing Poe and cries out, causing Rey to notice him and chase him down. Knocking Finn to the ground, Rey questions him about the jacket and he explains that he helped Poe escape from the First Order but that Poe died when they crashed. Suddenly, they see a pair of stormtroopers being pointed in their direction and Finn grabs Rey and starts running, with the stormtroopers firing at them as they chase after them. The stormtroopers call in for some air support and a pair of Tie-fighters arrive and begin blasting the city. Rey, Finn, and BB-8 try to escape in a ship but when it blows up, they board an old Corellian YT-1300 freighter, with Finn manning the lower gun turret while Rey attempts to fly them out of there. After making their way through the wreckage of a Star Destroyer, and Finn shooting the two Tie-figters, Rey takes them into space but says she has to go back, as she is waiting for her family to come back and get her. Finn convinces her to help him get to the Resistance base, then secretly asks BB-8 to tell them where the base is. Before they can leave, their ship is captured by a larger freighter and they quickly hide only to be discovered by Han Solo and Chewbacca, who had seen the freighter and recognized it as their stolen Millennium Falcon. Han wants to get rid of them but when Finn says that BB-8 has a map leading to Luke Skywalker and they need to get to the Resistance, Han pauses and turns to face them. Suddenly, they hear a noise and when Han checks his ship’s sensors, they see a ship docking with them so he tells Rey and Finn to hide. Han is confronted by two gangs that he swindled money from and Rey tries to help by sealing the gangs behind the blast doors but accidentally releases two of the Rathtars that Han and Chewie were transporting. As the Rathtars begin attacking everyone, Han, Chewie, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 manage to get on board the Falcon, though Chewie is injured in the process, and escape but one of the gangs contacts the First Order to let them know that Han has the droid. Kylo Ren and General Hux go to see the First Order’s Supreme Commander Snoke and inform him of the latest developments and suggests they use their newest weapon to destroy the Republic, weakening the aid for the Resistance. After Hux leaves, Snoke speaks with Ren, asking if he will have a problem in his mission since Han Solo is his father but Ren says he means nothing to him. On the Falcon, Han asks to see the map that BB-8 has and after seeing it, says the map is incomplete. Rey asks what happened to Luke and Han says that Luke had been training a new generation of Jedi but one of his apprentices turned on him and destroyed everything. Luke felt responsible for what happened and simply left everything and rumors had him seeking out the first Jedi temple. Han agrees to help them get to the Resistance and heads for the planet Takodana and meets with Maz Kanata to get her help, but as they walk with her, a droid contacts the Resistance to inform them of BB-8’s location while a second patron contacts the First Order with the same information. As Maz is speaking with the group, she stares at Finn and says she sees the eyes of someone who is running, then points at two smugglers who are heading to the Outer Rim and Finn leaves to go talk to them. Rey follows and asks what he is doing and Finn asks her to come with him but when she refuses, he tells her to take care and leaves. Rey feels something compelling her to head down to the lower levels of the bar, where she finds a chest containing a lightsaber. When she touches it, she suddenly sees visions of Luke’s past, as well as her own, before seeing a future vision of her fighting Ren and she quickly drops the lightsaber and backs out of the room. Maz approaches her and explains that the lightsaber had belonged to Luke and now calls out for her but Rey doesn’t want anything to do with it and quickly runs from the building. Meanwhile, General Hux is giving a speech his troops as they prepare to fire the Starkiller, a planet that has been converted into a weapon more powerful than the Death Star, and they all watch as the beam fires, destroying the Republic capital and several smaller planets, as well as portions of the Republic’s fleet. On Takodana, Finn, Rey, Han, and Chewie, as well as several other patrons see the beam and the planets destructions. Finn goes back to Hand and Chewie and asks where Rey is and Maz hands Finn the lightsaber and tells him to give it to Rey, just as the First Order arrives and begins attacking. In the forest, Rey and BB-8 are running from some stormtroopers and Rey tells BB-8 to keep moving while she holds them off but she ends up being captured by Ren. Meanwhile, Finn, Han, and Chewie are captured by the First Order but are rescued when Resistance X-wings arrive and begin fighting the First Order. Ren orders his troops to fall back and Han and Finn see Ren carrying Rey on board his shuttle and leaving. When a Resistance transport arrives, Han is reunited with Leia and he tells her he saw their son. As they are taken back to the Resistance base, Finn finds out that Poe is still alive and the two friends embrace before Finn asks Poe for his help. Poe takes Finn to see Leia, and Finn says he knows about the Starkiller base and offers to tell them what he knows in exchange for her help in rescuing Rey. BB-8 gives them the map, which C-3P0 says matches no system in their charts, then BB-8 approaches the powered down form of R2-D2 and tries to get him to function but 3P0 approaches and says R2 hasn’t moved since Luke left. Back on Starkiller Base, Ren attempts to interrogate Rey with the Force to learn Luke’s location but Rey’s is able to resist and senses that Ren is scared he will never be as powerful as Darth Vader. Ren approaches Snoke and tells him of the situation and when Snoke asks about the droid, Hux appears and says that Ren said the droid wasn’t necessary since he had Rey and that it is probably in the hands of the Resistance. Not wanting the Resistance to locate Luke, Snoke orders Hux to use the Starkiller on the Resistance and Hux orders the weapon to charge, drawing it’s energy from a nearby sun to power it. Meanwhile, Rey is able to use the Force to influence her guard into freeing her and she leaves before Ren returns to take her to Snoke. Back at the Resistance Base, they learn that the Starkiller Base is charging to fire again and that they are it’s target. Finn tells them how they can destroy the base but he will need to be on the surface to do it and Han says he can get him there. As the Resistance prepare for the mission, Leia approaches Han and as they talk, she asks that he try and bring their son back alive. Han, Chewie, and Finn had off in the Falcon and reach the planet, breaking through their shield by coming in at light speed. Once they get inside the base, they capture Captain Phasma and have her lower the shields so the Resistance fighters can make their attack run. Finn wants to try and locate Rey but Han points behind them to show that Rey had escaped. They meet up with her, and Rey hugs Finn when she learns that the rescue was his plan, and they head outside but when they see that the Resistance fighters are not making any progress in destroying the weapon, Han says they can’t leave and they head to the firing oscillator, where Han and Chewie begin planting explosives inside. When Ren shows up inside the facility, Han goes to confront him, calling him by his real name, Ben. Ren seems to feel remorse and moves to hand over his lightsaber but as the star’s energy is finally drained, Ren stabs Han in the chest with his lightsaber. Han lovingly touches Ren’s face before falling down the shaft and Chewie roars in anger and loss before shooting Ren in the side, then detonating the explosives. Seeing the opening caused by the explosives, Poe has the remaining members of his team cover him as he flies inside, destroying the power cells from the inside and causing the weapon to explode. As Finn and Rey make their way back to the Falcon, they are confronted by Ren, who uses the Force to shove Rey into a tree, stunning her. Finn uses Luke’s lightsaber to attack Ren but Ren is able to overpower him and slashes Finn in the back. Ren then attempts to summons Luke’s lightsaber to his hand but it instead flies into Rey’s hand, who begins fighting with Ren. Ren starts to overpower her and says he can show her the ways of the Force but when she hears that, Rey calms down and is able to channel the Force to help her, eventually defeating Ren and slashing him across the face, leaving a scar. Before she can finish him off, the planet starts breaking apart due to the stored energy from the star and a chasm separates the two of them. Rey goes to Finn’s body just as Chewie shows up with the Falcon and they load him on board and leave the planet before it explodes, while Snoke orders Hux to bring Ren to him to complete his training. At the Resistance base, Finn is placed in a medical tank while Leia and Rey hug over the loss of Han. R2 reactivates and displays a map, with BB-8’s portion of the map showing the way to reach Luke. Rey leaves with Chewie and R2 and heads to the planet located on the map, where she finds Luke and hands him back his lightsaber.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens met with high praise from the critics, holding a 93% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series’ former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.” In a tragic story of life imitating art, Mark Hamill and John Boyega lobbied director J.J. Abrams and Disney to allow Daniel Fleetwood, a Star Wars fan diagnosed with terminal cancer, to see the film early as he was not expected to live to see the movie released in theaters; which was similar to the plot of the movie Fanboys, where some friends attempted to steal a copy of The Phantom Menace before it hit theaters so their sick friend could see it. The Force Awakens was a box office juggernaut, earning $2.068 Billion off of a $306 million budget, making it the highest grossing installment in the franchise (unadjusted for inflation), the highest grossing film in North America, and the third highest grossing film of all time.