WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
The first Star Wars film in a decade hit theaters last Friday shattering box office records, like the Death Star shattered Alderaan in Episode IV. If you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet, do not read on as there are spoilers in here.
I was on the edge with anticipation, waiting to see where this next installment of Star Wars would take us. I was not disappointed. The next generation of Star Wars has the perfect balance of old and new. We get to see all the favorites from the original films like, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Plus there’s a whole slew of new heroes and villains. The film mostly follows the adventures of Rey (Daisy Ridley) , a scavenger, and Finn (John Boyega), an former Stormtrooper, trying to get the last piece of an intergalactic chart that will lead the good guys to, the now missing, Luke Skywalker. They are assisted by Han Solo and Chewbacca the Wookie.
In the background, the galaxy is once again in conflict. The First Order has emerged out of the ruins of the Galactic Empire and is challenging the authority of the New Republic, who seem mostly unwilling to fight back. The only thing stopping the First Order is the Resistance, a military group led by General Leia Organa. It is implied throughout the film that the resistance is being backdoor-funded by the New Republic. The First Order is being led by the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). At his side, there is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), some sort of Dark Jedi or Sith, and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), a typical dictatorial general-type. The First Order also has a massive, planet-busting weapon. Seeing some parallels with Episode IV: A New Hope yet? There are lots.
The plot is simple for the most part, although it took some research after seeing the film to parse out the political situation of the universe. I don’t think The Force Awakens would have benefited from taking too much time to explain the different factions and polics, but a little more detail would have been nice. Other than that, the plot sucks you in from the beginning. The traditional floating story block gives you the rundown in true Star Wars style and then we’re down on Jakku, caught in the middle of firefight between the dashing Resistance pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) and some Stormtroopers. Poe is on the planet to retrieve a clue on Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts. We quickly learn that the First Order also trying to find him. The story turns into race to see who can get to Luke first.
The story is concise, but keeps you wanting more throughout the entire movie. It’s no secret that the Director, J.J. Abrams, played with our minds in regards to how Luke would fit into the story, adding tension and intrigue to the plot. In other words, The Force Awakens did a great job in capturing the minds of the audience by playing on our curiosity about one of the most beloved characters in the series.
The next generation of Star Wars characters is fantastic. You’ll be rooting for Finn from the moment he takes off Stormtrooper helmet and begins to doubt the the First Order. Poe Dameron could have used more screen time, but his interactions with Finn are hilarious and endearing. Rey, is simply of a force of nature. She’s plucky, mighty, and can fly the Millennium Falcon like the best of them. I can’t wait to learn more about Finn, Poe, and Rey in the coming films.
Kylo Ren, the Darth Vader of the film, epitomizes the Dark Side. There’s the obvious parallels to Vader, such as the dark attire, mask, voice, and general habit of choking people who anger him. That’s not to say he’s a carbon copy of Vader. Kylo Ren has layer of unpredictability and rash arrogance that Vader never had. Other than being a bigwig in the First Order, we also learn that Kylo Ren was responsible for Luke’s exile, and the lack of new Jedi. He also stops laser shots in mid shot and reads minds. The old favorites are stellar as well and do a great job reminding us why we loved them in the first place. It’s also worth noting that the newbies and oldies have real chemistry. Overall, the cast delivers a meaningful ensemble effort that is delightful from start to finish.
The Force Awakens goes out of its way to capture the classic look of Stars Wars. It stays away from too many massive CG battles and instead returns to practical effects and focuses on the individual characters. It’s incredibly refreshing. There is some CG, but it’s tasteful and looks great. There’s also plenty of quiet moments in the film. I loved how they shot the scene where Finn is lost on Jakku. Those types of lulls contrast the action sequences throughout the movie magnificently.
Should you see Star Wars: The Force Awakens? The answer from me, is a resounding yes. The only minor disappointment I had with the film was that it followed the plot of Episode IV a little too closely. That said, a great story deserves to told over and over again, and embellished along the way. Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ next generation of heroes does that and more. Of course, with a little help from some more experienced heroes.
P.S. I retract all the mean things I said about the lightsaber crossguard.