Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It’s been ten years since the last Star Wars film was released (or thirty-two years, depending on who you ask). If this is how long it had to take to finally get a Star Wars movie that matches the wonder, spirit, and charm of the original trilogy, then it was absolutely worth it. J.J. Abrams, take a long sigh of relief – this weekend has been your victory lap. Congratulations.
Who better than Abrams – a talented sci-fi director who grew up with Star Wars – to spearhead The Force Awakens, the seventh episode in the franchise that takes place thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Abrams successfully and triumphantly captures the heart and soul of the original with a solid script that incorporates classic elements with new, magnetic characters and settings. The result is a film that makes a promising beginning to what already looks to be one the best movie trilogies in cinematic history.
Where The Force Awakens draws its force is by sharing the basic plot structure of A New Hope: a small group of rebels band together to fight and overthrow a tyrannical establishment. Instead of the Empire, this time it’s the First Order –a post-Empire regime led by the Darth Vader-obsessed Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Fearsome and emotionally volatile, Ren seeks to locate and destroy the last-remaining Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), whose status as the galaxy’s hero has elevated him from legend to myth. The clue to his whereabouts lies in a BB-8 droid, picked up and befriended by Rey (Daisy Ridley), a metal parts-scavenger on the desert planet Jakku.
Rey gets help from Finn (John Boyega), a runaway stormtrooper who escapes the First Order with the help of ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). When the First Order gives furious chase, the group sets off on a galactic adventure that has them meet up with key players of the Resistance – a band of rebels seeking to overthrow the First Order. Among them: the legendary Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who’s grown crotchety yet remains a smooth-talking scoundrel, and General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), a respected and revered leader and tactician. Now it’s a race against time to not only destroy the Starkiller base – a planet-turned-superweapon that makes the Death Star look like a toy – but to find Luke before the First Order does.
While it could be seen as a drawback for The Force Awakens to have a plot so strikingly resembling A New Hope, it serves to establish a familiarity and nostalgia with this new Star Wars entry – and in that sense, the movie is wildly successful. This time, however, the plot is reskinned with new characters and motivations: Rey, an orphan, discovers her incredible potential throughout the interplanetary journey; and Finn, who was recruited from birth into the First Order, is a noble soul who risks life and limb to escape and rebel. Rey and Finn – and Poe, to an extent – are the lovable heroes of this new trilogy, mentored and guided by our familiar characters. Compelling and electrifying, these are our new captains on the Star Wars ship, and we cannot wait to see how they grow and develop. Our villain shows incredible potential as well, with Kylo Ren being a destructive antagonist with a clear resolve to live up to his Sith idol.
It’s welcome to see Han, Leia, and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) returning to battle, and The Force Awakens tacks on additional character development that enriches their already storied histories. Han retains his deft skill with a blaster and his cunning, while Leia demonstrates her tactical savvy. The film also takes great care to not let our familiar heroes take away from our new ones, and in this, there is a clear, heartfelt passing of the torch.
This story is perfectly told through a combination of an inspired and original screenplay brought to life with as many real-life special effects as possible, with CGI only being used to accentuate the scene. Abrams perfectly balances the two to make a film that defiantly earns the right to call itself a Star Wars film. Lightsaber battles have never felt so viscerally brutal, and space travel has never been more beautifully thrilling.
What’s more, there’s a great deal of humor to see in the film, also hearkening back to the franchise’s campier, Saturday morning serial-inspired roots. The result is arguably the funniest Star Wars movie out of the seven; one that shows a clear inspiration from Marvel movie-style comedy, which is absolutely welcome.
There are other great players in The Force Awakens – namely Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), a chrome-plated stormtrooper commander and right hand to Kylo Ren. There’s also Maz Kanata (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o), a wise, mysterious figure that reveals the next steps for the Resistance as well as Rey. Along with a wealth of other new and familiar characters too numerous to list, The Force Awakens is the perfect balance between old and new that not only pleases die hard and casual fans of Star Wars, but also enthralls newcomers that will almost certainly be willing to return for Episode VIII. This film is the perfect launch pad to a new trilogy, showing enormous potential in characters, story, and action. And like any great Star Wars movie, it’s worth watching again and again and again.
Written by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams, and Michael Ardnt.
Directed by J.J. Abrams.
Starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver.