5 Best Surprises in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

For years prior to the big-screen release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans speculated on how J.J. Abrams would resurrect the franchise and what the future would hold for the saga. Now that the film is the highest-grossing domestic release of all time (unadjusted for inflation), we look back at some of the most pleasant surprises that audiences discovered in the film.

1. Compelling new characters (and a brilliant cast)

John Boyega and Oscar Isaac in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
John Boyega and Oscar Isaac in Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Source: Lucasfilm

Iconic figures like Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo set the bar high for the newcomers making their Star Wars debut with The Force Awakens. However, this new trilogy’s main characters — namely, Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren — instantly charmed audiences with their complex character-driven motivations, sense of humor (more on that in a bit) and dynamic relationships. From Ridley’s star-making turn to the fan-favorite “bromance” between Finn and Poe, The Force Awakens achieved the unthinkable in creating a group of characters that may have surpassed the original trilogy’s cast (yes, even its villain).

2. Solid mix of new and old elements

Daisy Ridley and Harrison Ford in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Daisy Ridley and Harrison Ford in Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Source: Lucasfilm

While the film introduces audiences to an exciting group of next-generation characters, it also has the difficult task of honoring the series’ past. Harrison Ford’s (short-lived?) return as Han Solo anchored its connection to the original trilogy, as did the appearance of many other familiar faces. However, more impressive than this was how The Force Awakens hints at larger connective revelations in forthcoming films. Moreover, Abrams finally bridged the gap between the practical effects of the classic films and the CGI technology that was overused in the prequels, striking just the right balance between the two.

3. Sharpest humor in the saga

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
BB-8 | Source: Lucasfilm

Part of what makes Star Wars such a cherished cinematic milestone is the spirit of adventure that it shares with audiences. The original trilogy — for all its space opera theatrics — has a sense of wonder and unbridled enthusiasm that is infectious, and The Force Awakens unlocks that feeling in its playful script, tapping into one-liners from Poe and the is-this-really-happening exuberance of Rey and Finn. BB-8 also unseats R2-D2 as the saga’s most lovable droid (that thumbs-up!), and Chewbacca and Han provide some of the film’s best moments with their constant banter.

4. Eye for artistry and visual flair

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
TIE fighters in Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Source: Lucasfilm

With The Force Awakens, Abrams was clearly hewing close to the style of the original trilogy, but his film also takes the aesthetic of the saga to another level. It’s been a long while since Star Wars has looked as incredible as it does in this film (see the TIE fighter shot above, for example). Sweeping camera movements and production design that actually has a sense of tangible realism to it elevate The Force Awakens to become perhaps the best-looking Star Wars film ever made, creating a confident vision for its sequels to follow.

5. A bright future ahead

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver in Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Source: Lucasfilm

From the revelation that Kylo Ren is Han and Leia’s (Carrie Fisher) patricidal son to the big reveal of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), there are a ton of exciting directions that are now possible thanks to The Force Awakens. At this point, only the filmmakers know for sure who Rey’s family is, the mystery surrounding Snoke (Andy Serkis), and the circumstances that led to Luke’s self-imposed exile. Regardless, audiences can’t wait to discover the answers to those questions and more. After all, if Rey is this powerful now, imagine what she could do once she actually has some Jedi training under her belt.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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