Monday, December 28, 2015

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

*** out of ****

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh entry in the sci-fi/fantasy franchise, which started in 1977. It is the first movie to take place after 1983’s Return of the Jedi and is also the beginning of a third trilogy of movies among endless “expanded universe” films currently in development by the new Disney-owned version of Lucasfilm. With all those eccentric details aside, I am happy to say that this is a fun adventure film with plenty to enjoy for longtime fans as well as the uninitiated.

The new story follows a young woman named Rey (Daisy Ridley), living a sad existence as a destitute scavenger on a desert planet; a robot named BB-8 carrying important data; a turncoat stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega); Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an expert fighter pilot; and a mysterious masked practitioner of the Dark Side of The Force named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), working with a rebirth of the Empire, known as The First Order.

Following a formula deliberately similar to the original Star Wars movie, Rey and Finn learn about the existence of The Force and the importance in defeating a giant oppressive regime holding a catastrophic secret weapon –but this time the young heroes find mentors in old familiar characters from the original trilogy.

Han (Harrison Ford), Chewie (Peter Mayhew) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) are all back and the ongoing subplot of this new trilogy revolves around the disappearance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), last of the Jedi and the only hope to everyone - and everything that is good in that galaxy far, far away.

As the first Star Wars movie to be made outside of its creator George Lucas’ control, I got what I was expecting:  An awesome production with cinematic cinematography combined with effective special effects - starring characters who possess character surviving against threats that feel threatening. Prequel haters should know what I’m talking about here.

If a franchise is a malfunctioning or broken piece of equipment and director J.J. Abrams is a mechanic, he’s the guy you call. He locates the original instruction manual and restores everything back to its factory settings. You should be thankful that he got it back to proper working conditions, but you may also feel that guilty urge to stop him from using it as soon as possible. Star Trek Into Darkness is reason enough.

Abrams is not a creative force; he's a competent maker of films with deep perception for achieving tone by borrowing from the best. He hasn't made a great Star Wars film; he's merely fixed Star Wars by giving it the same mission all over again. Let's hope it's for the better.

Some fans will be disappointed in this film’s inability to tell a new story or the unending questions regarding what took place over the last three decades that resulted in such bad circumstances for the old heroes. I never had a finite opinion of what became of the galaxy after the Emperor's death or what our heroes would do next. I just know that I’m very appreciative of this film's new characters. They just may be more interesting than the old ones.

My only major disappointment with this new movie is in the briefly shown new supervillain, The Supreme Leader Snoke, which may be the first dip in Andy Serkis' progressive legacy in inhabiting compelling motion-capture CGI characters. Snoke is just too generic looking for Star Wars if not a distraction from all the realism this film achieves. 

The Force Awakens is far from perfect, but it rights a lot of wrongs that have happened to the franchise. The important thing to take from my viewing of the film is that I was rarely uneasy with what I was experiencing. It was a fun movie with the guts to make bold decisions in order to get things moving again. I can’t wait to see what happens next, but until 2017, I’ll try to get on with my life.


  1. As usual, I agree. Well put. A New New Hope.

  2. As usual, I agree. Well put. A New New Hope.