This is a Film Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the perfect title for the seventh installment of Star Wars because J.J. Abrams reinvigorates George Lucas’ flagging space saga with this masterstroke of a film. With this movie, Abrams awakens the giant franchise from its deep slumber that lasted the duration of the second trilogy and beyond.
Having watched the other six films, I can definitely say that The Force Awakens is the best among the lot. This is not a film that gives one urges to strangle Jar Jar Binks or to freeze Hayden Christensen in carbonite. Abrams tinkered with the Star Wars series and stripped it down to the basics. The Force Awakens reduces the overly cheesy lines to a bare minimum and more importantly, does away with annoying characters that are included for the sole purpose of selling children’s toys. Fortunately, the characters’ sense of humor and once in a blue moon witty one-liners remain.
The Force Awakens occurs thirty years after The Return of the Jedi. The last Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is in hiding, after his student gives in to the seduction of the dark side. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia, now known as General Organa (Carrie Fisher) continue where they left off three decades prior – being a scoundrel and a political leader, respectively.
The Force Awakens pumps new blood into the series with interesting core of characters in Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Rey is an independent-minded scavenger who lives in the sea of sand/wasteland called Jakku. Ridley reminds me of Emma Watson in Harry Potter films, maybe because they are both English and they portray kickass characters. Finn is a Stormtrooper whose conscience sprouted at the most fortunate time. Poe Dameron is a member of the Resistance, the best pilot in the galaxy and handsome. They are this generation’s Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, not entirely in that order and some maybe a combination of two or more characters. Like the heroes before them, they are strong, skilled and courageous. Also, the range of their facial expressions greatly surpass that of Hayden Christensen. Moreover, the casting of Rey, Finn and Poe transcends the Star Wars universe and reaches out to the real world because of the races of the actors.
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) with his ambiguous evilness and distinct yet dangerous lightsaber leads the dark side. Ren throws temper tantrums that rival his predecessors’ hissy fits – but he does it with a lot of swirling as if in a dance. Ren’s mini-existential crises are well-written and Driver has enough acting chops to make them look believable. He speaks better, moves more gracefully but sweats more than Darth Vader. Speaking of Darth Vader, he has a cameo appearance in The Force Awakens. It is a blink-and-you-will-miss-it kind of guesting. Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is also on hand, but for me, he lacks the cunning and drama of Darth Sidious.
Regardless of the wailing and moaning the Star Wars fans will do until before Episode VIII comes out, I give props to Abrams and his team because The Force Awakens have several women pilots and members of the light and dark sides. It is refreshing to see so many strong women characters in a blockbuster film.
Even with the multitude of human characters, the non-human characters retain their screen time in The Force Awakens. Chewbacca is still his useful and perpetually short-tempered self. I am not sure but Chewbacca looks slimmer, maybe Han’s antics stress him out or life in the galaxy is just harder. C-3PO has fewer than 20 lines hence, he is less annoying (I listed C-3PO as one of my worst characters in Star Wars: Episodes I – VI). However, R2-D2 has been virtually replaced by BB-8, but it is so hard to dislike the round droid because he is so loveable!!! He has all of R2-D2’s endearing characteristics, and he is more expressive. I do not know how a hunk of metal and wirings can be expressive, but BB-8 is and I get him. I fell in love with him at first sight. One of my favorite scenes shows BB-8 cozying up to R2-D2. If they ever produce a lovechild of R2-D2 and BB-8, Disney will earn gazillion of dollars.
Aside from the characters, The Force Awakens mirrors the original trilogy (IV-VI) from the outset. Poe and BB-8 reenact the Princess Leia and R2-D2 scene in A New Hope. The Resistance is the new Rebel Alliance. The First Order is the successor of the Galactic Empire. The Starkiller Base replaces the Death Star. Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) is the older Yoda, without the latter’s special language. The parallelism does not end here, something about unresolved father issue is still in the film, but I dare not write the people involved.
The Force Awakens is the streamlined version of the previous Star Wars films. It has no tangential stories that muddle up the plot and no complex fight scenes where the main characters get lost in. What it has are characters that the audience can get behind and scenes that combine nostalgia and new memories in the best proportions possible. I almost cried thrice, and I do not even consider myself a Star Wars fan.