Let’s start by talking numbers briefly. Star Wars is going to be the highest grossing film of all time. When the dust settles, this film and all that comes with it, will break all the records abound. Disney’s blockbuster Frozen has been an absolute windfall for the company in every way possible. Star Wars will go further and beyond earning more money at the box office and, as always, will kill it in merchandising. As the great Yogurt once said, “Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made!” (tip of the hat to ya, Mel Brooks).
Clearly Star Wars is going to be a monster hit financially. Audiences, for the most part, have given their approval. Rotten Tomatoes is currently posting a 94% rating (very high for a film). Critics have overwhelmingly found the film positive.
Certainly, J.J. Abrams is all over this film. His fingerprints are everywhere from producing the film, to directing, to writing. Disney gave the brilliant writer/director the control of this epic series and in many ways, he succeeded. Looking past a few of the issues with the film, Abrams was able to achieve a well-conceived, if not excellent, follow-up to a franchise that has become an industry unto itself. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, is arguably the most anticipated film in the history of cinema. That is not an exaggeration as the box office returns are proof of the film's global reach.
These are 10 Things J.J. Abrams Did Right In Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
When looking to follow up Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, J.J. Abrams and his team had quite a mountain to climb. The prequels were nice, but everyone in the free world was waiting on pins and needles for Episode VII to be released. With every trailer, there was pandemonium online as people sifted through the images. And the images were amazing. First off, Abrams incorporates a fallen deserted ship from the Empire, a striking image of the past evil that had fallen. The imagery was amazing. Then, having Darth Vader’s grandson, Kylo Ren, looking upon Vader’s mangled old mask was another nod to the past. These aspects were brilliantly interwoven into the story to remind us we were all back “home” with this incredible, epic series. These little nuggets that were planted in the film provided perfect context and backdrop for the audience. Seeing them in the trailers amped everyone (including myself) up with excitement. Well done, JJ.
She is a strikingly well-conceived character. The audience following a strong female lead who has an accent is a great change of pace in the film series. Since this is literally the 7th Star Wars made, it is difficult to continuously keep creating great characters for us to feast off of. The unsuspecting Jedi-to-be is fearless and intriguing. As a scrapper, she showcases a fearless side as she explores the unknown. She also is forced to negotiate with undesirables and holds her own in every way possible. We love her sass and her strength as she tosses one liners down as quickly as she can throw punches and kicks. She may be too good at too many things too quickly, but Rey is a badass female lead that will be fun to watch as this side of the new trilogy evolves.
8 Luke Skywalker Storyline
If you are anyone, you know that the Star Wars story was built on the backbone of a young boy who was greater than he could ever imagine. Watching that young man achieve greatness beyond anything he could foresee is the backbone of the entire Star Wars storyline. Movies are often broken down to singular emotions and feelings and then expanded into story plots and character plots. At the core of Star Wars is Luke Skywalker and his journey. There are a million important pieces around him, but JJ Abrams and his team brilliantly took this essence of the original trilogy and have perfectly crafted the next three movies around our main hook. Having Luke Skywalker loom over Episode VII is perfect story crafting. We hope that Luke continues to evolve with the series. I am fearful of a tragic end for the greatest of Jedis, but either way, Abrams and his writers were spot-on to make Skywalker’s lore the core focus of the backstory to this movie. It sets up a very dynamic Episode VIII.
7 Supreme Leader Snoke
Okay, we wanted more than holograms. It definitely is a little too much like The Emperor from Star Wars: A New Hope. But beyond that, Snoke looks insanely badass and huge. He is an imposing creature that looks like he fell out of The Lord of the Rings saga. He is a different kind of evil that we have seen thus far in the Star Wars series and I am excited to see the kind of rage and force this monstrous creature is going to bring to the final two episodes. Although he was a hologram, his stature was pretty imposing. He also looked like he was sitting on a stone throne as he spoke. There was a rawness and evil to him that is different from anything we have seen thus far.
6 Bringing Back The Big 3
I don’t think there was any question that JJ Abrams and Disney had to include Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia back into the fold with this movie. I think there may have been pandemonium and people boycotting Disney for all time if our beloved characters didn’t make appearances in the film. I have opinions about how they were used (loved the Skywalker storyline, wanted more from Solo and Leia), but they helped propel the stakes and this film into the stratosphere of film euphoria. Seeing Harrison Ford in the previews gave me chills. It’s not often grown men and women can be moved by a movie trailer, but this definitely was the greatest Christmas gift we all received in 2015. Seeing these three classic characters being brought to life once again was a pleasure and we wholeheartedly thank Abrams for incorporating them.
5 Han Solo killed by Ben Solo (AKA Kylo Ren)
So this is a story item that I find both appalling and perfectly crafted all in one. I spoke about the scene itself in another article in which I heavily criticize how Han Solo was killed. The scene could have been constructed much better. But the story plot of Ben Solo killing his father, Han Solo, is a great thematic message that will ripple and drive the storylines of the next two movies. Han Solo was always going to die in this series. It was an inevitability that Harrison Ford actually fought for in Return of the Jedi. Ford believed his character needed this depth; this sacrifice to come full circle. I definitely agree. And dying at the hands of his son,who he sees the good in, is a tragic turn that will propel and fuel the next two films. It is also an important coming-of-age for the evil Ren who needed a moment like this to fully realize how villainous he could truly be.
4 The Return of the Millennium Falcon
Well, this one got the juices flowing in the film. Anyone else freak out when they saw the Millennium Falcon fly once again? Bringing the Falcon back was amazing. It gets unearthed after being covered by the biggest car/ship cover we’ve ever seen. It was awesome when it took off for the first time. Getting both Chewbacca and Han Solo back in the “bird” was also something we needed to see at least one more time. Abrams was brilliant to bring back one of the most iconic ships ever created. It was the perfect catalyst for Han Solo to pass the torch on to Rey. She takes the helm of the ship with Chewbacca now sitting by her side. The transition isn’t seamless, but it is exciting. We are thrilled to see the Millennium Falcon back in action and even more excited that the super cool Rey is taking the pilot’s seat.
3 R2-D2 Comes Alive
C-3PO sounds concerned that R2-D2 will never come “alive” again. One of George Lucas’s most fantastic creations was stuck in low gear when Luke Skywalker disappeared. C-3PO explains that, in essence, R2-D2 is in a coma-like state for robots. He is barely ticking on low power with his master gone. But when Rey appears, R2 suddenly perks up and comes alive. This is pretty awesome and a tell-tale story plot of things to come. There are no explanations (yet) but this is a subtle story plot maneuver for everyone to pay attention to. It is a key clue as to who and what Rey may be. She clearly has Jedi blood and possibly could be related to Luke in some way. We can start throwing a thousand theories around, but the fact is, this was a very subtle action for all of geeky fans to chew on until the next movie arrives. It lays the groundwork for bigger things and greater meaning.
2 The Knights of Ren
The Knights of Ren are referred to but not fully seen (yet). These sound like a hardcore group of evil villains we will love seeing in Episodes 8 and 9. The theory is that they are a Dark Side organization which operates under Snoke (the new Supreme Leader of the First Order). The Knights of Ren were apparently responsible for destroying and killing the new generation of Jedi that Luke Skywalker was training (see Rey’s Vision for more details). The reason this gets so juicy is that the number of Jedi could be greatly dwindled and with this specialized evil group of powerful Knights moving about, it sets up an epic battle between good versus evil. This is where a lot of the dark powers can emerge and overwhelm the “the light.” With that, we have a perfect setup to ride toward the end of the series.
1 Rey’s Vision
There is a lot to take in here, and if you didn’t see the movie multiple times, a lot of this could have been missed. Abrams and his team shoved a lot of important nuggets into the dark vision. The vision is kicked off when Rey touches Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. We get an epic throwback to The Empire Strikes Back with the duel between Skywalker and Vader in the dark light underbelly of the Empire. We hear Skywalker scream “No!” in the background. We also get Luke Skywalker laying his metal hand upon R2-D2 as the world seemingly burns to fire and ash around them. Dead bodies (probably young Jedi) then appear with Kylo Ren (and most likely the Knights of Ren) in the backdrop. A young Rey is rushed away and we hear the voices of great Jedi past, Yoda and Obi-Wan, in the background seemingly guiding Rey. The premonition should be watched a few times by fans to fully digest the sequence, but it is incredibly juicy story stuff that will surely impress us as we move forward. We like this uncertainty and Abrams did a phenomenal job of leaving bread crumbs for us to digest over the next 17 months until we get our next fix!