STAR WARS – THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)
Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Peter Mayhew, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Max Von Sydow, Gwendoline Christie, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Greg Grunberg, Billie Lourd, Tim Rose, Ken Leung, Christina Chong, Jessica Henwick, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Mark Hamill.
Screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan & JJ Abrams and Michael Arndt.
Directed by JJ Abrams.
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 136 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most highly anticipated film of the Christmas season and will probably be the biggest film of next year. This is a pretty impressive position for the latest part of a series which honestly hasn’t had a film that lived up to the hype in 35 years.
However, big things are happening in the Star Wars universe, not the least of which is the mastermind behind the series, George Lucas, who was infamous for micro-managing the franchise has handed over the reins. He sold the series to Disney, who promptly revved up the stalled-out project, whose last feature film Revenge of the Sith is ten years old now.
With hindsight being 20/20 vision, apparently Lucas is not exactly thrilled with the direction of this latest film, and Disney decided to keep him pretty much out of the decision-making loop. It’s sad to turn your baby over to others who have a different viewpoint about it, but it’s hard to feel too bad for Lucas because A) his poor writing and regimented story-telling techniques have made the past four movies such a chore to sit through and B) the dude made a mint off of the series.
Disney, on the other hand, has hired self-proclaimed Star Wars nerd JJ Abrams (the guy who rebooted the Star Trek film franchise as well) to bring back the original popcorn thrills of the original Star Wars (a.k.a. A New Hope) and The Empire Strikes Back. No more of the trade embargos, imperial senate meetings, salt mines and Jar Jar Binks sightings of the prequel films.
The Force Awakens also brings back Lawrence Kasdan, the screenwriter of arguably the best Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, who co-wrote the complex and yet rousing screenplay.
Abrams has done what he set out to do: The Force Awakens is a wonderful throwback to the original films and easily the most entertaining chapter in the series since Empire. This is the Star Wars world the fans remember and cherish, brought back to life.
The Force Awakens is also special because it brings back the main characters of the original film. Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess (now General) Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) all have aged almost 40 years from the first film, and yet seeing them again is a communal treat, like reuniting with dear old friends or family members.
Of course, the movie won’t work completely as a nostalgia trip, so it is important that Abrams has put together some fine talents for Star Wars: The Next Generation. Daisy Ridley is terrific as Rey, a young scavenger who does not realize how deeply she is touched by the force. John Boyega is also fine as Finn, a former storm trooper turned conscientious objector when pressed into battle.
On the other side, Adam Driver is suitably oily as the new head honcho for the dark side of the force – one who has a surprising with some older characters – though honestly his character’s moral quandary rather weakens him. He is not nearly as scary as Darth Vader, the character he is most obviously patterned after, though it seems like eventually perhaps he will be. (Assuming, as I do, that he survived a somewhat ambiguous ending for his character.)
Otherwise, in the film, the special effects are stunning, the action is pretty much non-stop and the dialogue is mostly extremely natural and life-like. (As a counterpoint, try listening to some of the stilted dialogue in Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.)
An argument could be made, and it would be a somewhat legitimate one, that The Force Awakens is basically the same story as A New Hope all tripped out for a new millennium. And yes, sometimes The Force Awakens feels more like an imitation of the original films than a new direction for the franchise.
This is actually the main complaint that Lucas is making, that he liked to look forward with the series and now Disney is taking it backwards. However, since the backwards glance is so much more entertaining than the last few trudges forward, I’m finding it hard to give this argument too much credence.
The Force Awakens may be Star Wars as feel-good nostalgia, but it maybe this bloated franchise needed to take a look back and remember what made it so beloved in the first place.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 2, 2016.