REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

20 12 2015

J.J. Abrams is perhaps the chief nostalgist of our time, and he often executes this fascination with such panache that we might as well call him a classicist. The reverence he pays to the films that inspired his own work serves to elevate those movies to a higher cultural plateau. And, as if anyone had not noticed the influence of “Star Wars” on a generation of moviegoers, they have definitive proof in the second relaunch of the franchise, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Abrams, working with original trilogy writer Lawrence Kasdan, finds that sweet spot between paying homage to the old and forging ahead with the new. The film’s action is primarily driven by two new heroes – the orphan girl Rey (Daisy Ridley) soon to discover extraordinary powers and ex-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) who gains a conscience after witnessing the slaughter of innocence. They go up against a new sinister antagonist in Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who works in tandem with the eerily fascist politician General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson).

Yet for all these new characters, there are also the old ones there in supporting roles – Han Solo, Luke and Leia Skywalker, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2 are all back. John Williams’ score livens up the film. The Millennium Falcon is back. Heck, Abrams even maintains the distinctive wipes and editing transitions from the original Lucas films. Anyone who feared drastic change in the series with the passing of the reins ought to be more than reassured by “The Force Awakens.”

The coexistence of the old and the new provides every bit as much tension as the plot, which I will continue to avoid discussing in any depth lest I reveal a spoiler. (I kept my head in the sand as much as possible regarding “Star Wars” news in order to experience the film with as fresh of eyes as possible, and it paid off.) Yet even with Rey and Finn as the primary engines of action in “The Force Awakens,” the film feels practically like a mirror image of the original 1977 “Star Wars.” This was no doubt intentional, I assume, but the amount of bowing Abrams performs before the mythology of the franchise keeps his film from standing as tall as it could.

Certainly future installments in the new “Star Wars” will go deeper and bolder, making an even greater case for the series’ relevance and importance. For now, though, this served its purpose to reawaken the vanguard of longtime fans and excite a new generation. I must say, I am on board for what comes next. B+3stars

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2 responses

21 12 2015
Sean

You summed up my feelings perfectly. It was a good movie but I thought they played it too safe, and too similar to A New Hope, to achieve greatness. Still, it was a great start to the trilogy and hopefully what comes next is more original.

1 01 2016
Ricardo

The universal acclaim for this movie has left me flabbergasted. It’s like I went to bed one night, and woke up in a planet where level criticism had been replaced by the cult of Star Wars.
J.J. Abrams didn’t just let nostalgia take the better of his picture; he employed it as a weapon to make even the most hardened of critic quiver upon the tones of William’s score and Chewbacca’s roar.
And now I am reading that it might be nominated for Best Picture?
I liked the movie don’t get me wrong. It was entertaining, thrilling and fun. But so was Ant-Man, and I don’t see any calls for best picture of all time for it.
I have arrived at the conclusion that I am either completely ignorant and a fool and don’t have the slightest clue as to what makes a great movie great, or I have indeed landed at some alien planet where Rey will be named Best Character Ever Written in the next few weeks. I think I’d rather go with the latter, because at the very least I’d get to write some pretty cool stuff about the whole thing.

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