Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
dir. J.J. Abrams
written by: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt
starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domnham Gleeson
3.5 out of 4 stars
The hype is continuous and ubiquitous. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens has been one of the most anticipated movies, I want to say, ever. Following the tragedy that were the prequel trilogy, JJ Abrams decided he was gonna revitalize another massive scifi movieverse and redefine Star Wars: A New Hope for a new generation and please a shit ton of obsessive fans. This man managed to make Weirton, West Virginia, seem moderately interesting; I held high hopes for his adventures with the jedi.
Without going to spoiler territory, because spoilers suck, I have to say this was a solid expansion of this heavily expanded universe. Avoiding the terror of adapting the prexisting novels, comics, TV shows, web series, ill fated Christmas movies and numerous fan fics, JJ took the smart route with creating his own series of events. Joining up with Oscar winning screenwriter Michael Arndt, the guy behind Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3, and Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi scribe Lawrence Kasdan, they developed a compelling original story surrounded by a Sarlacc pit’s worth of Star Wars original trilogy references. The new main characters Rey (Daisy Ridley), an orphan on a desert planet (sounds familiar….); Finn (John Boyega), a runaway storm trooper; and BB-8, aka R2-ADORABLE join forces with Han Solo (an ever fun Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher, too rarely seen anymore), and Chewbacca, along with Rebellion pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, getting in on the action) to battle the evil forces that still battle the empire over forty years later.
That’s all I’m saying about the plot, and if you’ve seen the trailers, you already knew all that. Now to the vagueries. The movie is so much fun! The young cast, including breakout Daisy Ridley in a strong heroine role and John Boyega, little seen outside the brilliant Attack the Block, are fantastic entries into the Star Wars character base. Familiar faces–from Adam Driver and Domnhall Gleeson’s villains to Oscar Isaac’s good guy–and familiar voices–Lupita N’yongo, gloriously heard but sadly not seen, through Simon Pegg and Max von Sydow, with such a good sinister voice–decorate this star studded affair.
The production was breathtaking. Brilliant mix of an appropriate amount of CGI and traditional effects make this one a visual stunner. The lightsabers have never seemed more realistic, and the aliens are perfectly rendered. The makeup effects and costumes are spot on, joining vintage Star Wars with some modern flair and inspiring all the Halloween costumes next year. Of particular interest are the sets. Beautifully captured by Abram’s regular DP Daniel Mindel, the physical sets are traditionally made beauties. The interiors scenes are beautifully detailed. The crash landing sites of Rey’s planet exhibit the best of the computer generated sets with buried wrecks from decades of battles. And of course, John Williams score, the only thing that exceeded Lucas’s expectations in 1977, is traditional brilliance. Fresh and exciting, pulling from past themes, he knows how to make the music work for every scene.
On its way to making all the money in the world, The Force Awakens starts a brand new chapter in one of the greatest institutions of the modern age. Already awaiting 2017, I look forward to the evolution of the series under the masterful tutelage of Abrams. This much passion (and money) behind a project like this should have been expected to have great things. The nerds have learned from their mistakes and surely won’t let it happen again.
By the way, I hope you like the BB-8 pictures!