Friday, December 18, 2015

Movie Review: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

The Force has awakened once more and this time it feels as if it will never go away again.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh installment in the Star Wars franchise and is the first of the Disney-era after they purchased Lucasfilm back in 2012.  Directed and co-written by fanboy lightning rod, J.J. Abrams, The Force Awakens is a Star Wars film that was made by fans, for fans.  While this could have easily been just a whole bunch of fan service to grab for some quick and easy cash, The Force Awakens is more than that -- it's a true tour de force of a movie (no pun intended).

There is simply a confidence to The Force Awakens that is evident from the very first frame, resulting in a movie that is more of a new beginning than a retread of past films.  Taking place nearly thirty years after Return of the Jedi, the film boldly places its new heroes front and center instead of the old stalwarts like Han Solo (who doesn't even show up till nearly forty-five minutes in).  That is not to say that characters like Han, Luke, and Leia do not play crucial roles, but their roles are always in service to the new cast who are the main reason this film works.

Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac make up the hero side as Rey, Finn, and Poe, while Adam Driver plays the mysterious new villain, Kylo Ren.  All of these characters feel very Star Wars, but are different than any other Star Wars characters we've ever seen before.  Rey is a hopeful desert scavenger who had to raise herself when left by her family on the planet Jakku as a child, whereas Finn was a stormtrooper for the First Order (a less politically powerful, but restructured Empire) who defected when refusing to kill in cold blood, and Poe is a Resistance fighter pilot (the New Republic's secret military force led by Leia) who is literally the greatest pilot the saga has ever seen.  And what can really be said about Dark Side acolyte Kylo Ren without giving anything away?  Other than that Adam Driver delivers arguably the most nuanced portrayal of a Star Wars villain ever.  As for Ridley, Boyega, and Isaac, the chemistry between them is impeccable with all of them having phenomenal comedic timing as well as an amazing ability to wear their hearts on their sleeves, with 23-year-old Ridley in particular shining the brightest in her cinematic debut as an actress.  Thanks to the new cast, The Force Awakens is both one of the funniest movies in the Star Wars saga and perhaps the most emotional.

It's quite amazing that Abrams, alongside co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, managed to keep such a great balance going between light and dark without going too far either way.  As previously mentioned, the new cast is one of the key reasons that the script managed to work, but the thing that really makes this one so emotional is the old, returning cast.  Carrie Fisher delivers her best work in years as Leia, but it is Harrison Ford as Han Solo that really gets you in this one.  The pure joy of seeing Harrison back as Han is most certainly one of the primary reasons so many people are going to go see this movie, and I will say this much because I don't want to spoil anyone, his return does not disappoint and Han goes to some new places that we've never seen him go before.  As for Mark Hamill as Luke, well I'll just tease that there is a reason he hasn't been in any of the promotional materials so far, and it's a good one.

One of the things that people often say in the film business is that lightning rarely strikes twice, but in the case of the Star Wars saga, lightning seems to have struck seven times now.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens delivered in all of the expected ways as well as in a great many unexpected territories.  As is par for the course with a Star Wars movie, the movie looks and sounds great, with more imagination on display here than in just about any other movie being made nowadays, and what can you really say about the music from the great John Williams?  It's phenomenal, with himself being bold in not relying too heavily on old themes, utilizing mostly new creations for this go around.  That is the best way to sum up The Force Awakens.  It took a great many risks and they all paid off brilliantly, culminating in one of the best movies made in perhaps the last decade.  It's emotional, fun, and just super cool.  Go see it and enjoy it, because Star Wars is in safe hands.

I give Star Wars: The Force Awakens a 10 out of 10!

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