Review - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), PG-13, 136 minutes - 2005 was the last time we (the public) had the experience of a new Star Wars film in a theater.  And while that was an event, it was the final prequel film (Episode III - Revenge of the Sith) in a trilogy that to most, didn't live up to expectations.  The buzz surrounding this new franchise installment - the first under Disney's production - has been as abundant as I can remember.  Star Wars long ago transcended the typical movie-going experience and crossed over into the realm of pop-culture phenomenon.  Add to that the promise of the return of franchise-favorite characters under the watch of highly respected writer/director J.J. Abrams (who had already revitalized the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek franchises) and you've got a perfect storm that has led to this film opening at a box office shattering pace.

The Force Awakens picks up 'A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...', about thirty years after the conclusion of George Lucas' original trilogy (1983's Return of the Jedi).  Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing and a splinter cell from The Empire known as The First Order has risen to prominence.  Both The Resistance led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and The First Order guided by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are trying to locate Luke, believing that he will tip the scales in their favor in the ages old conflict between The Empire and The Republic.  Their search for Luke draws new blood into the fray as they maneuver for possession of BB-8, a droid containing a map to Luke's whereabouts.  Similarly to the way R2-D2 brought integral characters together in the original Star Wars, BB-8's adventures in evading The First Order introduce him to Rey (Daisy Ridley) - a scavenger on the planet Jakku, Finn (John Boyega) - a former Stormtrooper who despises The First Order's methods, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o) - a pirate bar-owner/associate of Han's, and back to Leia's Resistance, his master: hot shot Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and fellow droids R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels).

The cast is wonderful.  Especially Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, who collectively bring to life a new generation of highly enjoyable and endearing characters to The Resistance's efforts.  Adam Driver and Domhnall Gleeson (previously un-mentioned General Hux) add an equally terrifying and imposing sense to the actions of The First Order.

The Force Awakens exceeded my expectations.  The story is masterfully crafted by J.J. Abrams.  It's reminiscent of 1977's A New Hope, but is still clearly its own film.  He implements new characters by showing how they are drawn into the Empire/Republic conflict.  Each is effected differently.  Each has their own motivations and fears but make their way to one side or the other.  Some character's ties to the existing continuity are explicitly stated while others are implied and left for further exploration.  This chapter of the story also provides suitable closure while setting up things to come (Episode VIII is scheduled for a 2017 release).

George Lucas unleashed Star Wars on the world in 1977.  I was born in 1979 and was only four by the time Return of the Jedi hit theaters in 1983.   Unfortunately, I never experienced the original trilogy in theaters until the Special Edition re-releases of the mid-90's.  Despite that, those films are a source of some of the earliest and most fond movie memories of my childhood.  The awe-inspiring wonder, excitement, and overall enjoyment that those films provided is something that very few have been able to duplicate.  I felt that those aspects were missing from the prequel trilogy, which is probably why I didn't enjoy them nearly as much.  The Force Awakens returns those emotions to a classic franchise.  It's an action-packed, funny, dramatic, highly enjoyable film that made me, thirty six, feel like a kid again.  This is one of the few films that I would feel comfortable recommending to anyone, no matter what their likes or dislikes are.  So if you're a fan or not, try to find the time to get out to the theater for this film.  Judging from the box office numbers it has put up in its first three days, you probably don't need my endorsement as there's a good chance you've already seen it!












*****SPOILERS*****


- I absolutely loved the inclusion of Leia, Han, Chewie, and Luke.  There was much discussion about Luke's role when he was not included on the movie poster.  His appearance in the final minutes of the film portends a much bigger roll in Episode VIII!

- I really, really enjoyed Rey and am very much looking forward to seeing where her story goes from here.  I love that this next trilogy is going to have a strong female character at its core.  

- I also want to see more of Poe Dameron.  He wasn't utilized as much as I would have thought given the fact that Oscar Isaac played him.

- I liked Kylo Ren's backstory being the son of Han/Leia and former apprentice of Luke turned-Dark Side.  As the scene on the Starkiller Base catwalk played out, I thought to myself "he's going to kill Han".  But even when it actually happened it was still heart-wrenching.

- I actually teared up a couple of times.  The first when Han and Leia said their goodbyes before the mission to try and destroy Starkiller Base and again when Rey returned to Leia after the base had been destroyed.

- I've been having a friendly debate with a buddy of mine over Rey and if she is the child of Han/Leia or Luke.  I'm leaning towards Luke - very similar character design/backstory and her vision when first picking up Luke's lightsaber (Maz said it was 'calling out to her').  While he feels that she is a second child of Han/Leia because of Han's desire to have her on the Millenium Falcon and her proximity to the ship to begin with.  Either of these would set up a compelling cousin/sibling match up with Kylo Ren in the future.  As we've seen, they've already battled and that was interrupted by the destruction of Starkiller Base.

- I liked that in getting a bit of Finn's history, we learn just where all of those Stormtroopers come from: taken from their homes and conditioned to do the bidding of The Empire.

- I really loved small winks to the original trilogy like when Finn was searching through parts on the Millenium Falcon and tossed aside the orb that Luke used in his Force/Lightsaber training with Obi-Wan.  Finn also turns on the holographic chess-like board on the Millenium Falcon when he leans on it.  "Let the Wookiee win!"

- I hope that we see more of Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) in the future.  The Silver plated Stormtrooper Captain is intriguing and she didn't appear as much as I would have guessed based on the amount she appeared in press releases during filming/leading up to the film's release.

- A couple of regular J.J. Abrams collaborators had small roles in the ranks of The Resistance:   Greg Garber (X-Wing pilot Snap Wexley), and Ken Leung (Admiral Statura).  There may have been more, but those were the two I caught.

- Simon Pegg played a character named Unkar Plutt and Daniel Craig (that's right, James Bond) played the Stormtrooper that frees Rey from her restraints.  You don't see either of their faces and likely won't catch Craig's voice.  I didn't, I read it on the web.

- Carrie Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd had a small role in The Resistance.  She played a character named Lieutenant Connix.

- Warwick Davis, who previously played the Ewok Wicket in Empire Strikes Back played a character named Wollivan.

- Doctor Who fans may catch a glimpse of former Companion Freema Agyeman.  She played a New Republican on a planet that was obliterated by Starkiller Base (and is on screen for about two seconds).

- Max von Sydow played the very short-lived role of Lor San Tekka, the man that provided Poe and BB-8 with a piece of the map charting Luke's location.

- It's kind of hard to believe that The Empire managed to come up with a weapon more terrifying than either incarnation of the Death Star, but that's just what they did with Starkiller Base - a weapon that drains a sun of all of its energy and then unleashes that energy in the name of mass destruction.

- BB-8 was an awesome new generation of droid.  'He' is a happy medium of a cool application of physics and a cute kid-friendly design that, before the film had been released, had already made 'him' a fan/marketing favorite.

- I enjoyed this film so much that I walked out of the theater and went and bought the prequel trilogy to add to my collection.  I had previously been the cantankerous fan who refused to buy them because they were not as good as the original trilogy.

- I'm still geeking out after seeing this film yesterday morning.  I'll add more to this spoilery section as my mind settles and I can think of things.


Comments

  1. Minor correction, if you'll allow me: I think you meant to say that Daniel Craig played the stormtrooper that freed "Rey", not "Ren".
    - Owen

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are absolutely correct! Thank you for catching the typo. It has been corrected.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My thoughts about Rey ... I think she is Luke's daughter. Why else would Maz tell her to 'close her eyes and use the force'? It reminded me so much of Yoda's advice to Luke.

    ReplyDelete

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