Movie Name: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Studio: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Release Date(s): December 14, 2015 (Premiere)/December 18, 2015 (US)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is on a mission to get the key to finding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as the threat of the First Order spreads across the galaxy. Escaping the First Order with a Stormtrooper defector named FN-2187 (John Boyega) who is renamed Finn. Crashing on the planet Jakku, Finn finds himself alone while a young scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds BB-8 who holds the map necessary to find Luke. With the First Order on their trail, Finn and Rey must find a way to reach the Resistance…and find an unlikely allies.
Directed by J.J. Abrams (who also contributed to the script with original trilogy writer Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Amdt), Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the beginning of the third Star Wars “trilogy” and the seventh film in the series. The film is the first of the Star Wars films in which George Lucas had little input on after the franchise’s acquisition by Disney (leading to Lucas to distance himself from the movie before its release). The film was released to positive reviews and record setting ticket sales. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Special Effects.
I was practically born into Star Wars and “knew” Star Wars before I even had seen it. I had the toys, books, and even sheets for the popular series being born just before its original release. The prequels left a bitter taste in most fan’s mouth by being dull and with writing that sometimes wowed but often fell flat. Going into the Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I was pretty hesitant…but for the most part was pleasantly surprised.
The cast for the film is great. I really like both John Boyega and Daisy Ridley as the series stars. The characters are likable and fun but can still carry the action portions (something missing from the prequels). I love Oscar Isaac as an actor, but his character Poe Dameron needs more development so I hope he becomes a larger part of the sequel films if he’s going to be one of the stars. The movie also boasts the return of original cast mates Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew (as Chewbacca), and Anthony Daniels (as C-3PO). There is a lot of nostalgia with their appearances, but fortunately it isn’t overdone and hammed up…it actually progresses the story and doesn’t feel gratuitous (another problem the prequels had when tying into the original trilogy). The movie also features Adam Driver as the new villain Kylo Ren who does come off as a bit of a spoiled brat version of Darth Vader but that too is explained. Other actors involved include Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Greg Grunberg, Max von Sydow, and Domhnall Gleeson. I particularly liked the cameos by The Raid stars Yayan Ruhian and Iko Uwais, and Daniel Craig even appears in costume as a Stormtrooper.
The movie does a lot better job at giving a real feeling to the visuals. There are more practical visuals and less CGI in this film than the three previous entries. It gives the film more weight and texture. The CGI used in battles and fights also feels like an improvement. The film was shot in a very epic style and sometimes that does clash with the original trilogy’s look and feel. Abrams even cut back on his traditional “lens flare” that is often mocked.
A ******Spoiler Alert***** is active for the rest of the review due to the directions of the story would be the film’s success and failure at the same time. Overall, the story does a great job recapturing the past of Star Wars and finding what the original trilogy had and the prequels missed. The movie is fun and has jokes in a style much like Abrams’ take on Star Trek. It doesn’t ever reach that “too serious” level of the prequels and remembers that the movie is supposed to be fun…plus, it keeps moving.
However, the one problem with the movie is the story. In trying to recapture Star Wars, the movie feels like a “redo” of Star Wars. The plots are virtually the same. You could argue that it is the idea that history repeats itself or you could argue that it is just a bit of lazy writing. The story features a girl on a desert planet trying to get a map hidden in a droid to a rebellion as a darkness spreads across the universe. The darkness is led by a masked villain who is being controlled by a shadowy ruler. The film culminates with a battle to destroy a planet destroying weapon as a mentor figure is cut down. That is essentially Star Wars: A New Hope…and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The only variations are the characters which are smartly written, but that is a slight problem…at least no one’s hand was chopped off.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens shows a promising start to a new series of Star Wars films. The movie is a bit of an oddity in that in the past if you saw a Star Wars film you had to wait forever to see the next Star Wars film. With an expanding Star Wars Universe in the vein of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, viewers will have more opportunities to see new Star Wars films…which gives them permission to like or hate them since another film will soon follow. I like that this film does set up a bit of a mystery, and I look forward to the next film but once again with caution. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is followed by a spin-off film Rogue One in 2016 and Star Wars Episode VIII in 2017.