Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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After so much hype, so much anticipation and a record breaking box office, is Star Wars: The Force Awakens actually good?  The answer is most definitely yes.  (We’re going to try and keep this spoiler lite but something might slip through, reader beware)

Picking up 30 years after Return of the Jedi, the villainous First Order has sprung up from the ashes of the Empire and are up against the Resistance, who are backed by the new Republic.  Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) is sent to the desert planet Jakku to retrieve a vital piece of intelligence but he’s captured by the First Order forces led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Poe has to stash the intel in his droid BB-8, who stumbles across Jakku scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley).  Rey and BB-8 eventually run into Finn (John Boyega), who’s a disillusioned stormtrooper looking to escape.  All the new characters are fantastic and evoke a classic Star Wars archetype but bring something new and fun to.  There’s so much chemistry between the new cast with each other but also with the old guard, which includes Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew and Harrison Ford.  From the moment he steps on screen, Harrison Ford is 100% Han Solo, he’s not the grumpy old man of some of his recent films and he brilliantly brings both the humor and the dramatic side (Han’s reunion with Leia may make the theater dusty).   Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is a fascinating villain, menacing on the outside but insecure and angry on the inside.  I can’t wait to see how everyone progresses in Episode VIII.

JJ Abrams does an incredible job of bringing back everything we loved about the original trilogy.  Everything feels lived in and full of life, unlike the sterile worlds of the prequels.  There are so many great little details and background creatures just like in the original trilogy that helps flesh things out or just add flavor (there’s a new cantina scene that is bursting to the gills with new practical and CG characters).  The one thing that I do think holds The Force Awakens back is that it’s trying slightly too hard to be the original movies.  The basic plot and story beats are all recycled from the original trilogy but sort of remixed and reskinned but if you’re looking for something you haven’t seen before, you’re probably going to have to wait until Episode VIII, or maybe Rogue One if they totally embrace the heist movie feel.  But, even if the scenes are copies of the original trilogy, it’s still copies of the original trilogy, some of the greatest movies ever made and with the new technology and JJ’s direction, it has some of the most exciting battle sequences in the trilogy, like the opening raid by the First Order or multiple TIE vs X-Wing battles (in atmosphere as opposed to in space, which is definitely exciting and different).

The Force Awakens more than does it’s job of making Star Wars great again and building excitement for what’s to come.  It’s sitting in the shadow of the original trilogy and almost feels like a tribute band at times but the new characters and what it sets up for the future makes me cannot wait for Episode VIII.  Plus, it’s just a hell of a lot of fun.

 

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