By Jose Mujica
December 15, 2015
It’s finally here! After an excruciatingly long wait, one of the most anticipated films of the year has finally arrived and geeks from all over are rejoicing in hopes that Jar Jar Abrams can redeem their beloved Star Wars franchise after the heavily-criticized prequels. Well fellow fans, we are pleased to say that your prayers have been answered. The combination of Disney’s compelling storytelling and Abram’s directorial prowess were well-suited to showcase the potential of the Star Wars universe. Some will undoubtedly walk away from this film disappointed, let down that Episode VII may not have lived up to their unrealistic expectations. But in taking the movie on its own merits, it’s a fantastic first installment of a new Star Wars trilogy that leaves the viewer eager for more.
If there’s one thing that Abrams and co-writers wanted to get through to viewers, it’s that the Disney Star Wars isn’t just the chronological successor to the original trilogy, but it’s spiritual one as well. The parallels and throwbacks to the original trilogy are sure to please many hardcore Star Wars fanatics. In everything from the writing to the aesthetics and the fight choreography, The Force Awakens is heavily reminiscent of Episodes IV, V and VI and strikes a sharp contrast to Episodes I, II and III.
To list a few examples:
- No droning political subplot. Critics of the prequels will be relieved to know that the Republic Senate is only mentioned in passing and the Capital is only shown briefly in one scene. I think most audiences are already getting enough political nonsense in their day to day lives without Star Wars adding on so this is a welcome change.
- Distinct lack of pod-racing. I’m afraid audiences will have to endure yet another Star Wars film that callously ignores this beloved motorsport. They’ll have to settle for classic TIE fighter vs X-wing battle scenes instead.
- Realistically choreographed fight scenes. I don’t think many will miss the CGI-dependent light saber battles from the prequels. Granted, there are no quadruple-wielding robots or nearly as many flips and gymnastics in The Force Awakens as there have been in previous movies, but Force makes up for it by gradually developing the tension between characters. When enemies collide the combat scenes are much more personal slugfests rather than an acrobatic dances.
- Environment and Backdrop. Almost every scene in The Force Awakens harkens back to familiar settings from the original trilogy. Many of the environments reminded me of Tatooine or Hoth. The scenes with Kylo Ren onboard the First Order’s headquarters brought back memories of Darth Vader’s similar interactions with his co-workers. This sense of nostalgic familiarity combined with Abrams’ beautiful cinematography felt like meeting an old friend you hadn’t seen in years and being impressed with how good they look now.
- No Gungans. Condolences to all Sith Lord Jar Jar theorists out there.
We could go on but the main point here is that Episode VII almost goes out of its way to reassure audiences it will not carry on the sacrilegious practices prevalent in the prequels. An easy choice to make, quite honestly, but significant nonetheless.
Casting-wise, the movie hits it out of the park. Daisy Ridley is the breakout star of the film, vividly bringing to life the humble scavenger, Rey. We can already imagine the various cosplays and Halloween costumes her character will inspire. In terms of being a badass feminista heroine Ridley’s Rey is on equal standing with Katniss Everdeen in my eyes.
John Boyega’s comedic delivery and charisma allowed an overall likable portrayal of his character Finn, but his scenes of emotional conflict left me unconvinced. The award for most charismatic, however, easily goes to Oscar Issac as Poe Dameron, top pilot of The Resistance. Glimpses of the burgeoning bromance between Poe and Finn were some of my favorite parts of the film and have me anxiously awaiting the next one.
As for the dark side, we have no qualms in saying that Kylo Ren is our least favorite Star Wars villain. We’re not sure if that’s necessarily a bad thing or not, but it’s true. Everyone loves Vader, of course. We enjoyed Sidious and felt neutral towards all the other sith lords. However, we actively dislike Kylo Ren and can’t wait to see his inevitable downfall. Though that very well might be the point.
Lastly, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Harrison Ford. He slips back into Han Solo so effortlessly and fluently, that you share a character’s sentiment when they state how much they missed him. Compared to old-school peers, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford receives a surprisingly more amount of screen time in The Force Awakens but we still couldn’t get enough. His repartee and chemistry with those around him is as endearing and entertaining as ever and cements Solo’s legacy as the ultimate silver-tongued scoundrel.
Overall, we can’t lie and say this movie blew us away, because it didn’t. We really enjoyed it. It was fun and has us eagerly anticipating future installments, but we wouldn’t say it’s the best movie of the year. If anything, the obvious and frequent similarities with the original trilogy hurt it a bit, because a lot of it felt like new labels on old tropes and plotlines. However, the significance of this movie goes beyond that. Until Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, many considered the franchise a tarnished gem. Fans had become bitter and jaded, seething at the sight of two jars and yearning for a past long gone. Disney and Abrams’ have taken these tired souls and nurtured them, assuaging their fears and giving them a reason to look to the future, a new hope.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5
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