The Force Awakens, while a simple plot is a fun movie with that has now redeemed the franchise, while paving the way for future movies by showing Disney there is money to be made, and thus, paving the way for more risk taking. The Force is strong with this one
( 0 vote ) 0
After the disappointing prequel trilogy embarrassed the franchise, turning one of its greatest characters (Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader) into a whiner, easily manipulated into believing a vague promise from one of the most obvious villains ever, Star Wars was in need of redemption. The television show Star Wars: The Clone Wars redeemed Anakin Skywalker while the show Star Wars: Rebels has been redeeming Darth Vader. Now is the time to redeem franchise on the big screen.
Directed by JJ Abrams (Mission Impossible III, Star Trek) and written by Abrams along with returning Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Accidental Tourist) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, A Walk in the Woods [credited as Rick Kerb], living up to the Star Wars name was always a daunting task. Rest assured, this movie more than earns the right to be called a Star Wars movie.
The old cast has returned and they’re all great. I will not say anything about Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) because that would spoil the whole movie. Carrie Fisher (Blues Brothers, Austin Powers) is now General Leia (which makes sense since Alderaan was destroyed and it was always odd they still called her “princess” in the original trilogy) alongside Admiral Ackbar (Timothy M. Rose; no he does not scream “IT’S A TRAP”). C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) is still the annoying, but somehow charming droid, alongside the always adorable R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). Peter Mayhew (Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Terror) is still Chewbacca, everyone’s favorite terrifying, yet adorable, walking carpet.
The best of the returnees is Harrison Ford (A Time for Killing, The Fugitive) as Han Solo. Surprisingly, Ford does not act bored throughout this movie as he has since the last Indiana Jones. The challenge with characters like this is to have them pass the torch to the next generation while having them do something other than that. Solo is less hotheaded than the last time we saw him which makes sense considering it has been 30 years since Return of the Jedi. Solo acts as the guide to our new characters and, by extension, the audience members who are not familiar with Star Wars, explaining The Force, the Jedi, and the Dark Side, while not simply copying Sir Alec Guinness’s (HMS Defiant, Hitler: The Last Ten Days) as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Solo still has some rogue left him, trusty blaster at his side and ready to shoot.
The new cast was very impressive. Oscar Issac (The Nativity Story, Ex Machina) is Poe Dameron, and lives up to Issac’s claim of “the best freaking pilot in the galaxy”. John Boyega (Attack the Block, Half of a Yellow Sun) plays Stormtrooper/defector FN-2178/Finn and I was surprised not only by how appealing his character is but also how he acted. Annoyingly, Hollywood has been casting foreign actors who put more effort into hiding their non-North American accents than actually playing their parts. Boyega, thankfully, can act while hiding his British accent. If I didn’t know beforehand I would have assumed he was American or Canadian. Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop) motion captures as Maz Kanata, essentially this movie’s Yoda, but with a smuggling side. New droid BB-8 is capturing everyone’s hearts, young and old, and he is now one of my favorites.
Our villains include Adam Driver (Lincoln, Inside Llewyn Davis) as the mysterious Kylo Ren, seeking to revive the Dark Side of the Force, and Domhnall Gleeson (Dredd, Unbroken) as General Hux, a ruthless fanatic in charge of Starkiller base, based on the planet “not-Hoth”. Both are intensely loyal to Supreme Leader Snoke, played by motion capture master himself, Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Avengers: Age of Ultron). Snoke is Ren’s master, training him in the ways of the Dark Side.
The best of the new characters is Rey (Daisy Ridley), who performs terrifically. I believe that, as Episodes VIII and IX are released, Ridley will slowly become the new face of Star Wars. No one will ever overtake Mark Hamill, he will always be the face of Star Wars. But once Hamill has become one with the Force, Ridley will be the face of the next generation.
However (yes there are criticisms) Max von Sydow (The Exorcist, Minority Report) is a cameo. Sure it is important as it kick starts the plot, but he is here for 2 minutes. I honestly expected this considering you have to Google his name to know he’s even in the movie, but it still feels like a waste of such a great actor, in spite of his importance. Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) who has been featured in about 50% of the marketing material, is not at all important in spite of having 3-4 more minutes of screentime than von Sydow. In my review of 007: Spectre I noted how Monica Bellucci (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Passion of the Christ) could have been cut entirely. The same applies to Christie. Speaking of cameos and James Bond, Daniel Craig (Munich, Defiance) cameos as a stormtrooper.
This movie understands the art of visual storytelling. In the prequels, we always were told things, but never shown them. Here, we see Rey fight off bandits with her staff, without any help, which gives a reason why something unexpected happens towards the end. Kylo Ren destroys anything around him with his lightsaber while subordinates are scared to be around him, showing he is prone to temper tantrums and very dangerous and unpredictable.
Yes the plot is simple but do we really need something very complex in a Star Wars movie? The prequels tried and failed at that. Also, I will gladly admit, this is the first movie ever to make me cry twice. Some movies can do that, usually in animation such as The Iron Giant. The Force Awakens made me cry once for sadness, and once for happiness. When a movie can make you cry, you know something beautiful has been created.
Disney have proven to be capable hands with the Star Wars franchise. All they really had to prove with this movie was show they understood and respected the franchise and its fans. I can say Disney has succeeded at both and as the movie becomes a strong box office success, this paves the way for risk-taking with future sequels. May the Force be with you.
Editors Note: Due to some sort of technical issue, the scores aren’t showing up properly. Here’s what they’re supposed to be:
Image from http://theguardian.com