Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Posted: December 19, 2015 in Movie Reviews

Daisey Ridley. John Boyega_SW: The Force Awakens

 

The theater goes dark. Eager fans wait in excruciating anticipation. The LucasFilm Ltd. logo flickers on screen. The buzz is felt by all.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . .  

Three years of waiting, and we’re so close. STAR WARS. The theater erupts in joyous exuberance. As John Williams’ classic theme resounds through the room and the opening crawl commences, a wash of sheer passion and nostalgia flows through you just as the Force flowed through a certain young Jedi. If the overwhelming excitement over the past few years hasn’t convinced you of the global phenomenon that is Star Wars, then this moment will.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the sinister First Order, a subsidiary of the Empire, has arisen. Hell-bent on finding the last surviving Jedi, the First Order track down Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac—–Inside Llewyn Davis) who contains the map to Skywalker’s location. Leading this new faction is the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver—–Inside Llewyn Davis), a hateful, vengeful soul ardently trained in the Dark Side.

When Poe’s droid BB-8, map enclosed, escapes into the desert of Jakku, his paths cross with the young  junk scavenger Rey (Daisey Ridley). With the aid of ex-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega—–Attack the Block), the trio set off to bring an end to the First Order and the Dark Side.

Also starring:  Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Gwendoline Christie, Max von Sydow, and Mark Hamill

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For the past decade, we all thought Star Wars was dead. Even though George Lucas’ prequel films were decent at times (this review will refrain from any prequel bashing), many of us gave up all hope on ever seeing Star Wars return to glory. While some were apprehensive when Star Trek director J. J. Abrams signed on to helm episode VII, the general consensus was a resounding “yes.” Three years later, and the fruits of Abrams’ arduous labor is finally seen. And while the result may not be perfect, the Force has indeed awoken, not only in a galaxy far, far away, but on a planet very, very close.

Among those of us who love and care for these films, the prospect of a new film can be daunting. We want to be satisfied, but not at the expense of another Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. Though this reviewer is at peace with those films, there’s no reason to ever repeat them. With enormous satisfaction, though, I can say that all worries have abated.

It’s been stated much already that The Force Awakens is a perfect juxtaposition of the old with the new, and this statement couldn’t be truer. This film blends themes, characters, and ideas seamlessly with a brand-new storyline revolving around brand-new characters. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron is the epitome of the word “likeable.” With true charisma and a roguish-yet-suave exterior, Poe is for certain the new Han Solo. Adam Driver, who very easily could have been a Vader Jr., at no point comes off as a villain rehash. With a perpetual desire to emulate the late Darth Vader, he bears keen semblance to the classic Sith lord while still retaining unique characteristics and motivations. As easily as this character could have been handled badly, the character stands on his own.

Adam Driver_SW: The Force Awakens

But the stand-out performances of this film are from newcomers Daisey Ridley and John Boyega. Plucked from obscurity and placed prominently into the most anticipated movie in cinematic history, these two were actors who could have ruined the entire film. But, like everything else contained in the film, their casting is testament to how much the Star Wars franchise is in the most capable of hands. Boyega’s comedic timing is played to perfection, instilling some levity to this drama-heavy universe. And Ridley? Remember that name, because it will become household known. Without revealing anything specific, her character is undeniably the lead of this new trilogy.

But where this film truly finds its stride is in the original cast, specifically Han Solo. Though it focuses heavily on the newcomers (as they’re the faces of this new trilogy) it never hesitates to remind us that these are the people who made Star Wars special. Han and Chewy’s chemistry is the best it’s ever been—ever been—and the two work together like an old married couple. Their banter is the stuff that film-makers crave to make. Even Han and Leia’s interactions, though estranged, still have that spark. And Hamill? Well, you’ll have to watch the film to discover that.

There are so many elements of this film to discuss that I could fill page after page. But I will refrain, and many of them are far too revealing. This I can say: The Force Awakens looks, feels, and nearly smells of the original films we so passionately love. All feelings of the prequels are eschewed. While some themes and elements may be a little too on-point for some, and several plot threads are borrowed almost exactly from past films, for many this feels just right. It’s utterly apparent that hundreds upon hundreds of hours were spent lovingly crafting this film, infusing it with personality, charm, emotion, nostalgia, and poignancy. It’s a testament to what can be accomplished when quality is at the forefront of film-making.

Many of these qualities brought this reviewer to tears on several occasions—some nostalgic, and some from raw emotion. When the “Star Wars” title blares onto screen, you’re emotionally affected. When BB-8 interacts in particular Wall-E charm, you’re affected. When the Force musical theme plays, you’re affected. And when . . . well, I won’t spoil that part. Bring your tissue.

John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew_SW: The Force Awakens

For all the praise surrounding this film, though, it isn’t perfect. I know that films these days rarely are, but The Force Awakens is not your typical film. There are elements that could have been produced in a slightly different manner, and overall the story is ever-so-slightly simple. But this is Star Wars. If it were directed by Christopher Nolan I would have been disappointed. With an age-range of 5 years old to 100, this is a film that needs to be accessible to all, and if a slightly simpler storyline is necessary then so be it.

All other qualms with the film are purely stylistic, and several of them are contained to mere moments. There are no plaguing issues, nothing that brings this film down. Some characters could have had more screen time. But considering that this is establishing a trilogy, I’m quick to forgive these things. In almost every way it’s a display of genius quality and avid devotion to the idea and spirit of Star Wars.

In a nutshell:

Even though it didn’t live up to this ardent Star Wars fan’s sky-high expectations, this is the film we’ve been eagerly waiting for. With a perfect blending of the old with the new, genuine humor, acting that couldn’t have been better, a refreshing focus on feminine presence, pure nostalgia and raw emotion working cohesively, and a keen focus on making a memorable experience, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is completely satisfying. Even if you’re not an avid fan, there are so many enticing elements that make this more than simply a Star Wars film. Ultimately, this leaves you with exceeding anticipation for episode VIII. The Force has indeed awoken. Star Wars is indeed back.

 

9 stars

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