Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one of the best installments of a beloved series: 5/5
This is a spoiler-free movie review.
It’s here. After two and a half years of seemingly endless waiting, casting choices, trailers, TV spots, and spoiler paranoia, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, the seventh film in the ultra-popular Star Wars franchise, directed this time by J.J. Abrams, is finally here. I have never been more excited about a film than I am for this one, ecstatic to see my favorite characters back on the big screen for another grand adventure. And I was lucky enough to see this film with a crowd of hundreds as excited as I was.
But as the clock ticked down to that immortal lighting up of the screen with those bright blue words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…”, I became increasingly more excited. I was about to witness the new Star Wars film. The film I had been waiting for since the summer of 2013. It was only a few minutes away. A small bit later, the curtains drew, the crowd cheered, and I sat down to enjoy “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.
The next 2 hours and 12 minutes were just about some of the best theater experiences of my life.
Do not warp this statement into something it’s not, translating it to “the best film I’ve seen in my life” or “the best film I’ve seen this year”, what I mean is that the atmosphere was truly unique. People were cheering, laughing, thrilled, and dead quiet when they needed to be. I also don’t think it hurt that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a great film, with thoughtful characters, hilarious dialogue, likable performances, stunning effects, and the mentality of a fun time at the movies, with also being so much more. Here is a film that is directed by a man that knows what it needs to do and doesn’t care, going beyond the mere commonplace goal of entertainment and propels itself into a galaxy of both ambitious creativity and charming familiarity, often flying the same spaceship.
I, of course, speak of the characters, each a joy to watch in their own special brand of humor and intensity. We have Rey and Finn, both characters new to the galaxy far, far, away, played by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, respectively, both of which have been plucked from complete obscurity into super-stardom in the course of a few months. They also both have great careers in their near future. The fact they they can support a big Hollywood blockbuster film with little to no film experience, let alone a Star Wars film, is beyond me. There’s a word for that, I think. “Prodigious”, perhaps. Yeah, that seems about it.
Again, there is no shortage of the old. Harrison Ford is back yet again as Han Solo, and is a pleasure to see him again, His performance reminds of yet another 2015 character revival, Sylvester Stallone in “Creed”. Not in quality, but in how he treats his character. They could have just had Solo say “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”, fly around a little bit in the Millennium Falcon, and shoot a few stormtroopers, and just walk away, kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger in this year’s “Terminator: Genisys”. But, once again, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and J.J. Abrams shows that they’re better than that. There is real love for these characters here, and not only Harrison Ford but Carrie Fisher as Leia (a general now, not a princess), providing the old personalities and interesting new character beats for the audience to take in. These are flesh and blood people, as far as we are concerned, we have seen them go through so much on an incredible journey, so it is nice to see them treated with more respect. It’s not just the same old stuff.
This is the part of the review where I usually talk about the plot. This is kind of tricky, as this is a spoiler-free review, but here goes.
Finn (John Boyega) is a stormtrooper for the First Order, an Empire-like force, which is headed by the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). During an attack, Finn sees something that makes him question what he’s been fighting for his whole life. So he fights back and ends up on the desert planet of Jakku, where he runs into the scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and a droid named BB-8. The First Order finds out where they are and starts hunting them down, so Finn, Rey, and BB-8 they go on an adventure to find the Resistance, (the rebels from the originals except this time they’re not outlaws) and escape the First Order.
From this plot, you would expect Finn to be the main character, but that is not so. While he is very prominent in the film, the hero of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is in fact Rey, actress Daisy Ridley’s first film role, and boy, is it a good one. Her character, while paralleling Luke Skywalker in earlier “Star Wars” films, feels fresh and endlessly watchable. She is one of the best characters in the series thus far, and succeeds in not just being a great female character, but a great character altogether.
I’m sure that I point on a lot of people’s mind is: “Does Kylo Ren, the new baddie, live up to the standards set by Darth Vader?”. Well, I have an answer for you. Yes. Yes, he does. I’m sure that the icon that Darth Vader has become will be more beloved throughout the hearts of fans than this new villain, but in many respects, Ren is the better villain. He is angry, really angry. Vader has always had a certain calmness to him, while Ren is… different. You can sense the Dark Side while watching Ren, and since anger and hatred is what supposedly drives the Dark Side as well as the Sith, Ren is terrifying.
This film proves something else too. J.J. Abrams is a visionary. Not everybody could do this, make a great Star Wars film after all the original trilogy. Heck, a lot of great recent directors couldn’t even do this. But this shows that you need a certain kind of person to make a Star Wars film, someone that respects the mythos of Star Wars, but enough to realize what makes the mythos of Star Wars great, new visuals, but also new character and bright ideas. Abrams packs this film with so many neat, creative touches that it FEELS like Star Wars. He has created new life for the Star Wars franchise. I don’t think I could handle this kind of pressure if it were presented to me. These movies already mean so much to people, that you will gain giant amounts of love if you do it correctly, and even larger amounts of hate if you do it poorly. It’s a do or die situation, and Abrams took the risk. There are only a few directors out there that can do this, so choose wisely. For my two cents, let’s get Brad Bird on this thing, am I right?
There is something strangely Odyssian about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”,or the whole “Star Wars” saga,when you think of it. It is a myth of the modern era, passed down through the generations. An epic more than a simple sci-fi yarn. Everyone has their own take, and Abrams’s is delightful. It knows “Star Wars”, knows it is a tale that cannot be told in a simple two hours, knows its characters, cares for them, does what is best for them, knows its meaning, knows its emotion, and, most importantly, knows its audience, and how much it means to them. It is the legend of the Jedi, the Sith, and those stuck in the middle that brings us back for more, to that time long ago, to that galaxy far, far, away.