Review: Star Wars - The Force Awakens
The prequels back in the early 2000's left a very sour taste in the collective mouths of the fans of the franchise. Star Wars is a gold mine for great story telling and characters yet, Episode 1 through 3 were filled with too much exposition and far too much dialogue. Even more so, the acting and characterization of main characters was pretty underwhelming. With JJ Abrams in tow on a franchise that he frequently has stated that he loves, the expectations and love for a galaxy far, far away are once again high. Earlier in the year, another beloved franchise (Jurassic World) was revitalized by bringing back old elements and melding them in with new ones. JJ Abrams opted to do something similar by bringing back the old cast to co-star along the new cast that will be the lead roles of the new trilogy. However, Star Wars differs in this strategy as it pays homage to the original trilogy while still being its own film that is successful on it's own merit.
The plot takes place thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi. From the ashes of the Empire a new regime has risen known as the First Order led by a mysterious man with great power known as Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The Resistance is led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) are still attempting to fight back the attempts of the First Order to rule the galaxy. The Resistance receives help from an unexpected bunch of rag-tag group of heroes that gives them a renewed hope in their fight against the First Order. These new companions include Rey, a scavenger from the desert planet Jakku and Finn a defective First Order stormtrooper. In the spirit of not giving away any spoilers, any more plot points will not be divulged.
JJ Abrams did a great job breathing life once again into the Star Trek franchise and he pulled it off once again in The Force Awakens. It excels in have great characters with depth, humor and an engaging story. Unlike previous entries, the story line does have some more adult themes as this film does carry with it a PG-13 rating, the only other Star Wars film to carry that rating was Revenge of the Sith. The blending of the old cast with the new cast is also a big strength of the film. It is a little bit of a passing of the torch but never does any of it come across in a hokey or cheesy way. All of it is done in a grounded and realistic way that is also true to the franchise. Unlike the prequel films this film also has a very strong villain that the audience can identify and feel for in Kylo Ren. You could even argue when comparing this film with A New Hope that Kylo Ren is a stronger character then Darth Vader was in that film. In A New Hope all we truly knew about Vader was that he was the epitome of evil and a high ranking officer in the Empire. Kylo Ren is similar in those regards but his portrayal is layered as is his character. Even more so, Adam Driver does a phenomenal job in the role. He has a very commanding presence throughout the entire film and easily now ranks as one of the top characters within the franchise.
The other true star of the film has to be Rey who is played expertly by Daisy Ridley. Before this film you'd be hard pressed to find anyone that knows of her, yet after the fact it is safe to say she'll be a star. She steals the scenes that she is in and is instantly likeable. Her character is also very strong and self sufficient, but never does she come off as having a hard edge to her that could potentially turn people off from her. Her and John Boyega also had a great chemistry between another and frequently were very funny throughout the film. As for Boyega his turn in the film was also another solid part of the film, largely he was the comic relief but also carried with him his own personal arc throughout the film which wasn't as strong as others. The rest of the new cast of characters is completed with Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron. Poe is known to be the best pilot with the Resistance and carries with him plenty of confidence. He never comes off as someone who is even remotely arrogant but instead very heroic. Plenty of fans will surely be pulling for more of him in future titles and Isaac did a terrific job in helping create a memorable character so lovable.
On the Dark Side, the villains outside of Kylo Ren are much less memorable. Domnhall Glesson's General Hux is rather boring and his accent and speeches make you wish he wasn't in the film which is a shame as Glesson is a terrific actor in his own right. Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma is also unimpressive. Her character sticks out and is rather imposing however if her character wasn't shown in trailers I'd just assume she's a throw away character.
Lastly, people may be quick to judge this film but it's hard to judge it entirely until we know the full story. Many Star Wars fans have had the luxury of putting in the next film to complete the story for themselves where with this new trilogy we have to wait a few years just like they did back in the 1980's. On it's own merits as a standalone film, it is great. JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan did a tremendous job creating rich dialogue and engaging characters that build upon the universe. Abrams also did a great job filming the action sequences and especially during the lightsaber fights. His usage of long takes added a great amount of tension that was excellent to see in a Star Wars film. All in all, it was a fun film with great characters and a good story and I'd give it a four and half stars out of five.