A generation ago, the world fell silent as the Star Wars prequels broke the hearts of millions. Since then, Disney married Star Wars after it’s divorce from George Lucas and plans have been made for another trilogy with the aid of Star Trek director, J.J. Abrams. Years of anticipation and fear flooded the media from reporters, to fans, to the cast after several franchises made their return to soar like eagles (Jurassic World) or tear itself apart into a hiatus (*cough* Terminator Genisys). One trailer managed to sell out all show times from state to state in just six seconds, making “the hype reach for the stars” a small adjective to describe the tightrope this was walking as December 18th approached. Will this be a repeat of the past, or a beacon to rekindle hope for one of the most revered franchises of all time? This will be as spoiler free as possible at the request of Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford, for the millions still waiting for an available showtime. So along time ago…
In a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars has a simple plot. But like Mad Max Fury Road, it’s told with visual story telling and an ensemble of old and new characters equal in personality and skills on their journey. Literally everything feels like a character whether it’d be a robot, animal, ship or even planet. On a vague note, the story upgrades itself in every way making it a hybrid of a stand alone film for anyone, a sequel for the fans and an introduction to new comers. What’s better is The Force Awakens embraces this generation the same way Frozen did with its characters (that’s all I’ll say). Though some characters get a little lost in the brew, they’re still given big performances by big names. The only time you’ll be checking your watch is if you need to go to the bathroom. The film is 2 hours long yet it felt like an hour and a half by the time the credits roll and that’s how encompassing the story and characters are.
After the CGI drunk prequels, it’s jarringly relaxing to see real locations blended with computer animation again. The mixing is so good that you’ll be playing the what’s real guessing game from start to end as every trick in the book from motion capture to animatronics run the gambit to scale the worlds and settings to new heights. Rather than being the center focus, the special effects are used to tell the story.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the phoenix that rises from the ashes that burned to near extinction a generation ago. Characters old and new work extremely well together to upgrade everything that made the original trilogy a classic. From the simple premise on a galactic scale, to the nostalgic returning cast, to their witty banter with the new characters, to the variety of magical effects expanding the universe. This is a stand alone entry, a sequel and a introduction for a new movie going audience that will leave happily with or without those who’s excitement was assassinated in 1999. If you’re new to the franchise, the prequels are pointless by now and you can just jump in. but if you’re a long time fan you’ll be pleased to know that this series has given a new hope and the force is finally strong again.
Note: As for the 3D, it’s no better than Phantom Menace’s baptism into the format.
Enough time has passed to discuss spoiler content to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This will give away all important plot points in the movie so if you haven’t seen The Force Awakens yet, seek shelter with the spoiler free review. You’ve been warned.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone into hiding following the rise of the new order. Their sith lord, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is looking for a BB droid with a map to Luke’s location. But the droid comes across a junkyard scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley), an ex-stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega) and even Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewie and the Millenium Falcon. From there, they escort the robotic kickball to the secret resistance led by general Leia (Carrie Fisher) and must band together in order to take down the new order.
The biggest criticism is the intentionally too similar set up to A New Hope. With a droid carrying information, you can pretty much guess from here on out the events and characters that mirror the past right down to wise mentor’s fate (hashtag RIPHanSolo). It’s understandable, but at the same time, everything from the stormtrooper AI, the acting and the effects are upgraded to give this entry its own identity. And because you’re familiar with the original cast, the connection is just as strong. The franchise is also rehabilitating itself for new comers and older fans suffering Post Tramatic Stress Disorder of racial stereotypes and a wooden romance that could rival pinocchio. So it has to go back to basics in order to make up for the sins of the past. If this happens in the sequel, then it’ll be Star Trek Into Darkness all over again by pressing the reset button at the wrong time.
Literally everything feels like a character whether it’d be a robot, animal, ship or even planet making the cast universal. It would’ve been so easy to spit on the original cast’s age to build up the younger leads (looking at you Turtles Forever) or rely solely on the nostalgia of the vetrans to lose the new audience. Or give Han Solo as much screen time as Bryan Cranston in Godzilla. But both generations have great chemistry and respect for each other’s skills while delivering the best comedy in the franchise. There’s also various ethnicities and genders in the background making this both timeless and up to date. Sadly, some characters don’t get enough screentime like Captain Phasma. She’s outfited as a spiritual successor to Bobba Fett and has a vengeful rivalry with Finn, but she’s compacted way too soon. Kylo Ren, on the other hand is a very layered villain given his family history and struggle with the light and dark side, yet he still comes off as threatening when he needs to and doesn’t back down when he clashes lightsabers with Rey.
On top of the story and characters, the film is a botomless magician’s hat in utilizsing the special effects. There are animatronics, CGI, costumes and even motion capture. It feels jarringly grounded in reality, but still able to spawn new creatures and locations in every possible outcome. Jaku and the starkiller base have many settings on location and on set, but are still given a grand scale to make you feel like an ant. Mean while, Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Maz (Lupita Nyong’o) are right up there with Cesar and Davy Jones in their ability to utilize the motion capture on non-human creatures . Not to mention John Williams’ score keeping your heart rate on a tightrope during the action sequences invloving tie-fighters and pivotal character moments like the first time you see Han and Chewie.
Star Wars The Force Awakens is a born again franchise that’s recovered from a decade long abusive mindset. The story might be too familiar, but with all the upgrades in acting, character, story and effects, it’s still a fantastic recovery that gives hope to future installments. The action dances with the score and effects for a coastering thrill and best of all the characters are deeply layered while also working hand in hand with eachother to deliver the expereince everyone deserves: the chance to see a new Star Wars movie in theaters the right way. And if you still think it’s not good, Jar Jar Binks is over there in the corner waiting for you to unfreeze him from his frozen carbonite prison. For everyone else, it’s a thankful love letter for seeing it through the dark ages and back into the light.
Pros: Cast chemistry, Story + Character Upgrades, Rollar Coaster Action, Balanced Special Effects, John Williams’ Score
Cons: Sidelined characters