“The Force Awakens” – A Double Review

Sitting in a movie theatre and hearing the oh-so-familiar opening credits for the most recent “Star Wars” film was absolutely thrilling… and listening to the final strains of the closing credits was heartbreaking.  As the theatre grew eerily still, my wife glanced over and said, “Aww… it’s really over.” 

Fortunately for fans of the franchise, however, that wasn’t completely true.  While the film had come to its bittersweet end, there are other companion products that allow the nostalgic adventure to continue.  

The following are my two personal favorites:

“The Force Awakens” – The Novel

Fiction writers the world over are dying with envy, I’m sure.  Alan Dean Foster, a celebrated science fiction writer, was given the incredible assignment of writing the novelization to accompany the new film.  “But is it really worth reading?” you may be wondering, “or will it be like sitting through the movie again, only in slow motion?”

I’ve read my share of film novelizations, and some of them are truly terrible – as if the author simply copied the screenplay and plastered his name onto the cover.  The Force Awakens, however, was an incredible read.

Not only do the characters from the film come to life on each page, but readers receive a wealth of background information that makes the film seem so much more – dare I say it – real.

What was Rey thinking as she discovered the Force for the first time?

How exactly did Poe Dameron escape from Jakku? 

What technology made a super weapon like Starkiller Base possible? 

Alan Dean Foster answers these questions and more.  If you enjoyed the film but felt as if it was a bit rushed, you’ll adore this book and the fact that it takes time to explain the intricacies behind the plot. 

Happy Reading!

“The Force Awakens” – The Film Score

I waited in breathless anticipation to hear what John Williams would do with this film score, and I wasn’t disappointed.  While others find the music fun, I find myself analyzing its components – in much the same way an expert mechanic might examine a droid – to find the deep layers of hidden meaning hiding beneath the surface.

To prove my point, let’s examine my favorite track from the new soundtrack – “The Ways of the Force.” This is the music which plays during the film’s memorable light saber duel, and in classic John Williams style, the music really does tell the whole story.

As you listen to this track, your ear will pick up on three distinct themes:

1.) Soft flutes will introduce “Rey’s Theme,” which captures the innocence of youth and the goodness of a valiant heart. The highest point in the melody features a rising major second – as if the melody is moving in baby steps, but is being pulled ever higher – toward the light.

2.) Low strings and the dark timbre of brass instruments playing in their lower registers bring us to Kylo Ren’s sinister theme.  Along with sounding downright scary, the melody strongly emphasizes a falling minor third.  In classical music, a third can symbolize the good – the divine even – while a minor third often points to one who has fallen from grace.  Kylo Ren’s falling minor third allows us to hear him falling further and further into the clutches of the Dark Side, even as we see this being played out on screen.

3.) Finally, the French Horn once again rings out with the familiar “Force Theme” from the original Star Wars trilogy – a reminder that a greater force is at work in the scene.  That something ancient – something neither hero or villain completely understands – has drawn them together.

As you listen to this track, listen for the interplay between these three themes. The way they mesh perfectly is nothing short of magical, and the story will come to life in a stunning new way.

So…are these Star Wars “extras” worth it?  If you enjoy traveling to a galaxy far, far away and find yourself hesitant to leave, then the answer is, “Absolutely…and may the Force be with you.”

Video: “The Ways of the Force” – by John Williams



8 thoughts on ““The Force Awakens” – A Double Review

  1. I am a big Star Wars fan, as are my kids. My son is a musical performance major and he also composes and arranges music. He has written 3 John Williams arrangements. Because of this, I have become more wrapped up in the music in each movie and I felt that it was exceptional in this movie.

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  2. Please, no one hate on me, but I never really got into Star Wars. I find the movies very long. But I absolutely must read the book! I find books grab my attention a lot more, for example, I could read a book for 7 hours non stop until I finish reading, but I can’t do the same for a movie. I also love the paragraph in your post; “Not only do the characters from the film come to life on each page, but readers receive a wealth of background information that makes the film seem so much more – dare I say it – real.” Since Harry Potter times, I always felt that the movies made the characters and everything more real because it’s visual, but it’s actually not true. So Ha!

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  3. I loved your analysis of the music. I’m listening to it right now and picking up on exactly what you said. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this movie and I am extremely excited for the next one. I had not heard of the novel, but I will definitely consider reading it! Great post. Thanks so much!

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  4. I got the soundtrack for Christmas, and I can’t get enough of it, but your careful analysis has definitely brought a new light to that track. And while I normally stay far away from movie novelizations, you might have convinced me to give it a second thought! Thanks for the thoughtful reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

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