Movie Review: Star Wars – The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a thrilling space opera that will make every fan’s inner child squee and millennials entertained as it embraces the original’s appeal, but in hindsight it just recycles old plot elements and uses little imagination to introduce a decades old franchise for new audiences.

After the fall of the Galactic Empire a successor has taken its place – The First Order. The resistance sends its best pilot to search for Luke Skywalker who has vanished for 30 years after the destruction of the Death Star in the hopes of defeating the new dark force. Unfortunately, Poe Dameron’s mission is derailed by a powerful army on the hunt for Skywalker led by a dark warrior named Kylo Ren. But all is not lost as he’s droid BB-8 escapes and falls in the hands of a scavenger, whose past may be the key to find the legendary Jedi and awaken the Force.

Ten years after the hit and miss prequels trilogy, the Star Wars franchise is rebooted in accordance with Hollywood’s continuing trend of repackaging box office milestones.

The main question in everyone’s minds, with all the hype leading up to the release of the 7th installment and first movie  in the third trilogy of Star Wars, is whether it will deliver. Fans will be happy to know that Star Wars: The Force Awakens delivers all the thrills and feels of the original.

J.J. Abrams, who probably don’t want to anger a fandom whose numbers are spread all over the world, embraces the original appeal of the franchise and delivers a space opera worth viewing in 3D. The story still revolves around the theme of legacy, with old myths helping up the franchise’s future front runners.

Yes, as the trailers have already hinted and Comic Con has showed, the original gang is back that will surely generate a wave nostalgia. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill are here along with their side kicks – Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2. Even though the movie is made for the box office, the characters are believable with plausible motivations. Daisy Ridley is endearing as the plucky Rey who is given a personality, mechanical know how and fighting capabilities. John Boyega is great as a charismatic dork who supplies the comic relief as a deserter who knows that he’s in over his head. Oscar Isaac proves to be versatile outside of indie dramas. Adam Driver deftly portrays a three dimensional villain, displaying both vulnerability and temper in both equal convincing measures. The supporting characters are diverse too – watch out for the imports from the famed Raid movies – which gives the movie’s universe the scope it needed to look like a galaxy. It’s not much, but its a start.

Everyone would be happy to know that this time around the actors are not thrown into obviously green screened backdrops. Abrams avoids the blatantly digital look of the prequels and trades it for the 35mm to achieve the texture of the original. He also preserved the lived-in, worn-out, hand made quality treatment of the props such as grimy land speeders and the cute perfect toy for Christmas BB-8.

Audiences will still get the visual thrills of the original with the latest CGI technology. Fortunately the movie considered the 3D format and made an effort to deliver some immersive action, such as a pilot seat view of an X-wing fighter during a space dogfight, and the underside of the Millennium Falcon whizzing by as it makes a 90 degree turn. There’s also plenty of memorable nostalgia inducing imagery such as a lightsaber duel in the snow, a junkyard planet resembling Tatooine, and a Mos Eisley Cantina competitor in a verdant planet.

If you’re a hardcore fan and all of this sounds too familiar, you’re right. People who have high expectations and/or want to explore new frontiers will be disappointed. Underneath it all is a derivative script. The introduction to the third set of a trilogy is just an upgraded and slightly tweaked version of its predecessor. From the more obvious effect of the Force to the gigantic Starkiller Baser with a laser shot gun, everything is more of the same. Essentially, Abrams re-arranged and re-packaged everything that everyone loved about the original (its a shot by shot revamp of A New Hope) and threw out the rest, Jar Jar Binks and all.

Overall, The Force Awakens is still an entertaining spectacle and delivers just enough to hit all the nostalgic feels and upgrade it for the millenials. But if you’re expecting to explore new frontiers in the Star Wars universe, this 7th installment would just be another remake with little imagination.

My Rating: 7/10

Alternative Poster by Dan Mumford

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Docthewho says:

    Nice review, the familiarity is there for sure (it does follow A New Hope structurally) but it’s still thoroughly enjoyable for me as a big SW fan, I really like how they mixed the old with the new in terms of style, themes and characters and it really worked.

    1. Yup, in fairness, it was able to achieve that balance which is not always being considered in remakes.

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