Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the rare movie that had equal amounts of anticipation and expectation.  With J. J Abrams onboard to direct, Star Wars fans were ready for lightsaber s and lens flares.

What fans couldn’t anticipate was Abrams ability to inject new energy into the franchise and deliver the best Star Wars films since Empire Strikes Back.

The Force Awakens rids the franchise of all the things that plagued the prequels (sorry senate hearings) and continues where Return of the Jedi left off. A scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) stumbles upon a BB-8 droid who’s carrying classified information for the Resistance. Rey and BB-8 cross paths with a stromtrooper named Finn (John Boyega) who’s gone AWOL. With the First Order trying to intercept the classified information and their missing stromtrooper, Rey and Finn try to get BB-8 to the Resistance base before they’re captured.

Along the way, Rey and Finn run into some familiar faces, new villains, and learn about the ongoing battle between the Darkness and the Light.

J.J Abrams was the perfect person to reboot the franchise. He was able to capture everything fans loved about the originals and still infuse some fresh ideas. The tone, the music, the sounds effects all felt so familiar, while the action and drama feel new.

A big reason for that are the two leads, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. Their performances announce to the world that they’re stars in the making. Boyega brings the same charisma and presence that made him a standout in Attack the Block. Ridley is a virtual unknown, but you’d have no idea after watching her scavenge an old destroy or pilot a ship like she’s been in a Star Wars movie before. It’s refreshing to see a young black man and a young woman as leads. No disrespect to Carrie Fisher or Billy Dee Williams, but Boyega and Ridley aren’t just background fixtures in a bigger story, they are the story. They’re both great young actors playing new fascinating characters in a universe that desperately needs it. The franchise is in good hands with these two.

The other new addition is Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron. Isaac continues to be the best actor most people don’t know about. Isaac trades his brooding serious roles for a lighter role this as the best fighter pilot in The Resistance. Moviegoers have never seen him smile this much in a movie.

Harrison Ford returning as Han Solo  is the perfect thing to bridge Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Ford is the most energetic he’s been in years. He slips right back into Han Solo role like a comfortable pair of sweats and never misses a beat. The quick wit and one-liners that made Solo a fan favorite return, and it’s apparent that’s a big part of what was missing in the prequels. There’s adventurousness about his character that keeps the films light without sacrificing any of the seriousness.

Adam Driver brings his talents as the villainous Kylo Ren and delivers in a big way. The Star Wars Universe needed a new villain and they have it. From the moment Kylo Ren is on screen, it’s apparent what kind of power he’s wielding and what he’s willing to do to get what he wants. He has a personality that’s as unique as his lightsaber.  Wisely, Kylo Ren isn’t a remix of Darth Maul or Darth Vader, but gives him his own motivations and frustrations, and the potential to be as iconic as those two.

The action is topnotch and it’s nonstop from begging to end. From the x-wing battles to the TIE fighters exiting the starships, its like watching the old films on steroids. The lightsaber fight scenes are more exhilarating than I anticipated. The breathtaking lightsaber fight in the snowy forest is worth the price of admission alone.

One of the 1,000 brilliant decisions made for this film was the use of practical effects. Re-watching the prequels, you how much the CGI clogged up the screen. The use of very little CGI makes the fantasy worlds the film visits feel very real. It’s those little touches that make the movie special.

Star Wars the Force Awakens is a bit difficult to talk about without spoiling, but it only needs a short review: “Go see it, it’s amazing.” It’s the best Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back. The prequels have characters you known and familiar story lines, but feel detached from the original films. The Force Awakens is the perfect blend between new and old. It’s sequel that piggybacks on the themes and ideas that made Star Wars worldwide phenomenon and tosses out everything that doesn’t work. Fans will leave the theater wanting more. They’ll be energized, happy, and excited knowing the franchise is in very good hands.  God bless J.J Abrams.

Grade: A+

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