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Film Review: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
In 2012, Walt Disney Studios purchased Lucasfilm from George Lucas for $4 billion. Three years later in 2015, J. J. Abrams released Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and the first of what’s currently known as the Sequel Trilogy. Starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Domhnall Gleeson, the film has grossed $250 million as of Saturday, Dec. 19.
Following Emperor Palpatine’s defeat 32 years ago, a remnant called the First Order has risen, fought by veterans of the Rebel Alliance known as the Resistance. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker is missing and the forces clash over a map with the clue to his whereabouts with First Order deserter Finn and scavenger Rey caught in the middle.
When it comes to a franchise like “Star Wars,” any new installment is going to be met with incredible hype and baited breath from fans. Though it’s not possible to appease every fan there is, director J. J. Abrams did well, making “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” a great film. It’s more of a straight transitional sequel rather than a continuation of “Return of the Jedi,” detailing what happened a number of years following Episode VI’s plot rather than delving into the immediate fallout. But this makes sense as Han, Luke and Leia’s story is over. While they’re in this film, they take a supporting role to Rey and Finn. They take over the main roles and will continue to be the heroes in the upcoming main films.
Now, as far as villains go, Kylo Ren is great. He has an idolatrous obsession with Darth Vader and desperately wants to be as villainous as he. But he doesn’t completely have a complete grasp on his darkness and isn’t as in tune with the dark side as Vader was. What results is a villain that can be, and is, as menacing, but is prone to violent fits of rage when his efforts go pear shaped. It perfectly shows that he’s going to have a villainous character development down the line. In fact, he’s everything Anakin should have been in his path to the dark side during the prequels.
The film is also done well on a technical level, not using Computer Generated Imaging (CGI) as a crutch like Lucas did with the prequels, even though there’s just as much digital effects. The film has a wonderful mix of CGI and practical effects, giving audiences beautifully built sets surrounded by beautiful scenery while using the CGI to fill in the blanks that the practical effects couldn’t. A very notable example is the Millennium Falcon. An actual set was built and used, giving it the same real feeling that came from looking at the ship in the original trilogy.
As with the other films in the franchise, there is humor to be had and it’s pulled off nicely in quite a few areas. Mainly from the droid BB-8, who interestingly provides a lot of emotion even though he’s practically a soccer ball with a head. At one point, Finn gives the droid a thumbs up. Lacking thumbs, BB-8 responds by holding up its welding torch.
But the film isn’t perfect. Abrams is well known in his love of the original trilogy and dislike of the prequels. Thus, he threw in a lot of references to the original trilogy. Many of them are done well, such as when Rey calls the Millennium Falcon “garbage” upon its reintroduction, harkening back to when Luke and Leia were both dismissive of the ship upon first glance in Episode IV. But sometimes the references go a little too far, like the final battle. During the Battle of Yavin in Episode IV, the rebels had 15 minutes to destroy the Death Star before it destroyed Yavin IV, clinching a victory in the final seconds. Though the locations of final battles are different, it’s essentially the same as the Resistance gets the same amount of time to destroy the new superweapon, with victory once again coming down to those last few seconds.