‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ (2015) Film Review

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Rated PG-13

135 min.

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher & Mark Hamill

A not so long time ago on the suburban streets of Warwick, Rhode Island, there was a boy whose life was consumed with one thing and one thing only: Star Wars. Now with the release of the 7th installment of the Star Wars film franchise, that boy has returned, now an adult, consumed all over again by the power of the dark and the light.

Yeah, that boy is me.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens tells the story of Rey (Daisy Ridley), a lonely scavenger who lives alone on the planet of Jakku waiting for the family that abandoned her to one day return. While there, she comes into contact with BB-8, a droid who holds a partial map to the whereabouts of a certain Jedi Knight, and Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper for The First Order who has escaped and is looking to start a new life away from the oppressive regime. As a team, they join the Resistance in their fight against The First Order and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a lightsaber-wielding head-case who knows the ways of the force.

Positives:

  • The Cast of Characters – One of the main reasons the prequel trilogy failed to connect with original trilogy fans was a failure to make us feel emotionally connected to its vast array of characters. The Force Awakens solves this problem on pretty much every level by not only presenting us with interesting characters, but by choosing the perfect actors to portray them. This honestly might be the best acting the franchise has ever seen as every newcomer delivers. Daisy Ridley is fantastic as Rey, a character with a longing for something more who is impossible to not relate to, while John Boyega is absolutely hilarious as Finn, a young man who overcompensates for his many insecurities with false bravado. On the other end of the spectrum, Adam Driver is fantastic as Kylo Ren, a dark-side leaning Sith-wannabe who is as conflicted about his actions as any Star Wars villain we’ve seen to date. And then there’s our old favorite smuggler Han Solo, who is brought once again to life by Harrison Ford, who gives his best performance in twenty years at least. All of these characters fill the world of this story with real, genuine human emotion, and its a credit to all of these actors and director J.J. Abrams that they all feel as fully realized as they do.
  • The Humor – Those worrying whether a PG-13 rating would signify a much darker installment for the Star Wars franchise need not worry as The Force Awakens is filled to the brim with as much humor as any episode to date. As stated above, John Boyega’s performance is absolutely hilarious, as anytime Finn comes across someone new he is either shocked, choked or spouting a one-liner that makes no damn sense. Of course, the classic comedy duo of Han and Chewie also deliver humor in spades, and many of Finn’s best lines come opposite one of the two. Then of course, there’s BB-8. It’s not a coincidence that most of this newest droid’s merchandise is selling out at every retail outlet in record time, as BB-8 is not only as cute as a button, but also sports a great sense of comedic timing. Move over R2, there’s a new astromech droid in town that is stealing every Star Wars fan’s heart.

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  • The Back to Basics Story – While the prequels reveled in politicizing real-world events for plot points and exploring the ever-interesting world of trade negotiations, The Force Awakens decides to take a different tact entirely and harkens back to the classic stories of the original trilogy. This is a story about a dreamer longing for something more who is swept into the middle of an ages-old battle between the dark and the light. Sound familiar? And while Episode VII certainly shares distinct characteristics and similar plot points to Episode IV, it forges its own path by injecting its story with new blood and focusing on the relationships between these characters. Yes, there is a new all-powerful planet-destroying weapon much like the Death Star, but it’s not really the focus of this story playing out before us. This is about Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren, and the script does a fantastic job of not only capturing the feel of the original trilogy, but of setting up a rich world for these characters to explore over the course of their own trilogy. The Force Awakens has surprising revelations, but it also provides us with an array of questions that it doesn’t feel the need to answer right off-the-bat. It also has one of the greatest endings, if not the greatest, in Star Wars history that makes sure you are absolutely pumped for Episode VIII.
  • The Score – John Williams is back with all-new renditions of his classic Star Wars themes, and god if every single one of them isn’t absolutely breathtaking. Williams is an absolute master at being able to evoke emotion from an audience and boy does he ever in The Force Awakens, particularly in an epic last scene that sent chills up my spine and had me on the verge of tears.

 

Negatives:

  • Nope.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one of the best blockbusters in recent memory and has more in common with classics like the original trilogy than it does with most of the blockbusters released in cinemas today. Time will tell where it ranks overall in the Star Wars canon, but for me it’s definitely top three, if not higher.

Episode VII is a film that is filled with emotion, humor and a great sense of fun that is absolutely contagious. Filmmaker J.J. Abrams has made his best film by a wide margin and has done what many thought was impossible: he has made Star Wars great again and has gifted a whole new generation a world that reflects our hopes, our fears and our longing for something more.

Now there’s nothing left to do but to return to where all this started and to be consumed all over again…

10/10