Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review: The Fanbase Can Wake Up
Yes, this is one of TWO reviews of Star Wars: The Force Awakens here at TheHDRoom. A movie this big, and this anticipated was bound to require more than one opinion, and so both Editor-in-Chief Dan Bradley and I are both taking stabs at it. Both of us are huge fans, and both would argue that Star Wars is the reason that we do what we do. Don’t worry, my review is pretty much spoiler-free.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not as much a movie as it is a throwing down of the gauntlet by J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy, the new head of Lucasfilm. Gone are the 1940s sci-fi serial tropes that George Lucas so tried to emulate back in 1977. A complex, if not familiar narrative replaces those splashy Saturday afternoon serial ideas, and the results are simply fantastic. Abrams has taken the early promise of 1999’s The Phantom Menace (“Plot Does Matter” — hit the link for the story), and actually did something with it. There is a story here. With developed characters, motivations, and emotions. In short, this hasn’t been done in a Star Wars film since 1980. For those counting at home, that’s 35 years, and that’s a long time to be asleep.
The script by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) based on a story by Michael Arndt (Toy Story) off an idea by George Lucas, hits all the right notes, has all the right call backs (trust me, there are a ton of Original Trilogy easter eggs all throughout), and ends up developing some interesting new characters, all while revisiting old favorites, and really working to lay the groundwork for the new Disney take on all things Star Wars — now, and in the future. This is the most complete Star Wars film of them all, even topping The Empire Strikes Back, which is a heady thing to accomplish. The Force Awakens is what happens when a true filmmaker makes a Star Wars film, and fans worldwide can rest assured that this new trilogy is off in a new and exciting direction.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens 30 years after Return of the Jedi, and the galaxy is a much different place. The peace that the rebellion had hoped for never really came, and war continued to rage in the galaxy after Palpatine’s fall. The First Order, ruled by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), has fought back against the New Republic, and has tried to reestablish Imperial rule over the galaxy. A new form of a Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), has fought tooth and nail against the First Order and the struggle has taken its toll on everyone. Relationships were crushed, families were torn apart, and souls were lost.
But while the galaxy fights itself for control, on a desolate planet called Jakku, a new quest begins, and some new faces are dragged into the conflict, including Rey (Daisy Ridley), a junk peddler/scavenger, Finn (John Boyega) a stormtrooper that realizes on his first mission that being a soldier isn’t for him, and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), the Resistance’s top X-Wing fighter pilot. A very important piece of information is at stake, and all sides want it; and new droid, BB-8, the soccer ball with a head, has it. If this sounds familiar, it should. The script has many nods to Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope, and all of it is intentional.
The chase to acquire this information leads to paths crossing, and old faces showing up in the guise of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). Solo and his wookie life-mate are dragged into the conflict, which reopens many old wounds, and allows the story to really develop.
On the other side, The First Order sends General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Hux’s right-hand man, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a mysterious man, cloaked in black and wearing a mask, who also happens to be a user of the dark side of the force, to retrieve the droid and the information. Does this sound familiar too?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens uses these set ups to connect to the original trilogy, but then in the second act, it really goes off course — in a good way — to establish itself with its own identity. It’s here that the film really begins to come alive. As revelations come one after another, the back story of the last 30 years in Star Wars time begins to fill in. By the time the story circles around to a planet-sized weapon that can destroy other whole planets (Once again, it’s been done before), the characters and their individual stories are in the front seat, and Abrams seems to know this as the final epic battle is almost an afterthought to other things going on — some with MAJOR consequences to the Star Wars universe as a whole.
A decade ago, Abrams would have been crucified for this, but by the time the final credits roll, the audience will feel that they really know these new characters, and the wait for Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII will be an excruciatingly long one. And that truly speaks to the wonderful job that Abrams and Kasdan, and this amazing cast has done. Just five years ago, Star Wars was all but dead, relegated to half-hour cartoons and Expanded Universe books and comics, and Disney has done the unthinkable: they have reawakened the love of Star Wars in not just me, but in fans everywhere.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the Star Wars film that fans have always wanted. It could be argued that it is the best of the seven films, and that argument would be a valid one. J.J. Abrams took on a challenge that could have ended his career (based on the rabidity of the Star Wars fanbase — the same fanbase that essentially forced George Lucas to step away from the universe he created), and he met the challenge with aplomb.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not a perfect film, but it is a perfect Star Wars film. And that says a lot. After one or two viewings of this new film, fans will forget about the coarseness of sand, clumsy Gungans, Hayden Christensen’s wig, and death by broken heart, and what will replace those bad memories will be something magical. A force, if you will, that surrounds us and binds all living things together. That force is once again alive. That force has been awakened.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is rated PG-13 and opens everywhere on December 18.
Read our other Star Wars: The Force Awakens review by Dan Bradley.
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