Helmed by J.J. Abrams and featuring all the expected classics like returning characters and that distinct nostalgic Star Wars feel, while simultaneously brimming with the best our modern day can offer in the way of special effects, thrilling excitement, and epic geekiness, ten years later, the Force has awoken!
|Awakened? Awoken. Whatever -- it's awake, and it's awesome.
The plot is very Episode IV: a droid, escaping while it's master is captured, holds important information that both the good (the Resistance) and the bad (the First Order) sides want, and winds up on a desert planet (Jakku this time) where it befriends a native, whose life is about to change forever.
|Tip for the baddies: never overlook the droid. It's probably very important.
Along with Han and Luke, Leia (Carrie Fisher) is also back, and the leader of the Resistance. These returning characters together are the biggest reserve I ever had about this movie. I figured their inclusion would be necessary, and it certainly was, and definitely worth it, but as I fell in love with the new characters, I cared less and less to reminisce with the old ones. Han in particular is very prominent in the plot as his story line is wrapped up. And I like what they did with it; I just didn't like that it meant I'd have to wait for Episode VIII to get to know the new characters more.
The title of hero belongs to our personable stormtrooper, Finn. What I love most about Finn is that since he was brainwashed and sheltered by the Order since childhood, he's very naive, yet in spite of the brainwashing, is a first class gentleman, is super friendly, and has a great sense of humor. And honest -- I adore how honest he is. He always goes to Rey's aid, and even though every time she takes care of the problem before he can help, he still always tries again the next time. It doesn't make him clueless; it makes him a good guy, and great character. In the whole movie he has one, short-lived delusion of selfishness. His naivete along with his high energy makes him hilarious -- certainly the character with the best laugh-lines -- and engaging, but it doesn't take away from the depth of his serious moments. He is the film's tone personified, and he is what ties the movie together, and John Boyega does an outstanding job with it all.
|Who knew? A faceless stormtrooper becomes a Star Wars hero!
Rey, however, is the film's main character -- along with being the heroine. It's a close call, but because she is the one destined to be a Jedi (contrary to what the trailers and posters had us believe -- nice one, J.J.), it skews in her favor that way. Really these two together are what makes it all work; almost like they are one character together. What one may be missing the other naturally fills, and they complement each other winningly. Daisy Ridley's Rey is a perfect "strong female" character because she doesn't make a show of the fact that she can take care of herself. In fact, she doesn't make a show of anything she does, and never tells anyone when she just saved their life, or how she escaped, or that she just beat a Sith Lord -- or whatever the case may be. On top of that, she's drop-dead gorgeous, but has a welcoming, down-to-earth quality to her that makes her very relatable. Ridley is a true talent and owns her character with quiet grace and British charm.
|"Oh, and do drop your gun!" This girl knows how to Jedi.
|It Star Wars! You gotta have a good trio. Obviously that's what he's meant for, but he got a little left out...
The biggest surprise turned out to be Kylo Ren. This is rather crazy, because he was already everyone's favorite character and the designated coolest character even before anyone had seen the film. His costume, his mask, his voice, and don't forget that controversial lightsaber -- all made him stand out from the very beginning. But the film doesn't rely on that only; they give him tons to chew on, and more built-in depth than the previous three heroes put together simply by making him Han's son. Adam Driver hits a beautifully complicated conflict of thrillingly cool evilness masking an unstable storm of fear and anger. A true Sith. I love that he idolizes Darth Vader, not knowing that he turned to the Light side before dying. (Side note: why didn't Luke tell him?) I loved his temper tantrums, and I like that his neat lightsaber is useful for stabbing people during a clash -- that's just the kind of evil he is.
Andy Serkis is again playing a CGI character, the Supreme Leader of the First Order, Snoke. Who, we were all glad to discover, is not actually a giant. But it still very intimidating and promising. Domhnall Gleeson is third baddie, Hux, a First Order General. His character was fun, and played off with Kylo in some very interesting and entertaining ways. Gwendoline Christie's silver stormtrooper, Captain Phasma got next to nothing to do besides look and talk cool. I was sad the Simon Pegg's character didn't look like him, and neither did Lupita Nyong'o's, but they both still gave good stuff. Recognizable cameos and bit-parts were everywhere, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster wins for being most unexpected.
|Star Wars villains really know how to dress!
There were some throwbacks to the original trilogy, but it was done in good taste and with reserve. There wasn't nearly as much as there could have been, nor, in fact, as much as I expected there to be. Believe it or not, this movie seeks to separate itself from the Star Wars we already know, just with maintaining the general principles of the tone. Almost the first thing we knew about The Force Awakens was that J.J. was bringing back the practical effects. In fact, his goal was to bring back that feeling of awe and wonder he had watching the original trilogy as a kid. With that goal in mind, he put effort into creating the film practically, and with detail. And every bit of it worked together into a beautiful success. The wonder and the exhilarating thrill of watching Star Wars -- something I was only barely able to remember when recently re-watching them -- has been restored.
I feel like this story is just now finally beginning to live up to its full potential, but it's not fully there yet. In separating itself from episode six, and breaking off into its own new direction, a lot of time was spent cutting ties, making clean ends, and moving on. They did a great job with it -- it couldn't have been done better, but taking that time for the old meant giving up time from the new, and sometimes the unexplored territory seemed to sit there just out of reach, tempting. When it was being explored it was brilliant. I can hardly wait to see more new creatures and planets, and new additions and developments on the powers of the Force and the way the Jedi and the Sith use them. Everything promises to be fully thought-through and fleshed-out and awesome.
|Think about it -- hilt-guards are for protection; these are for attack -- which sounds more Sith?
The script is probably the only thing that could use more improvement. Things like plot or the individual lines that characters say is one of the least important things about Star Wars, and this one was still light years ahead of the campiness of previous films, but there's still room to grow. I don't care that this movie pretty much copies episode four's whole plot outline because it was awesome and worth redoing, and I didn't mind that there were only a handful of fantastic lines, and just a lot of filler besides; but neither do I think that a smart script and a complex and unique plot would at all detract from the fun that was done to such perfection first try. The next director is Rian Johnson, and I hope he brings his signature full armory of smarts and wit and adds it to the full blast of sci-fi geeky delight.
This movie is not perfect. Honestly it couldn't have been even if a perfect movie is a possibility. It had too much baggage and too much responsibility. But it was, I believe, the best it possibly could have been, which, considering the huge amount of hype and the pressure from such a legacy, really is fantastically high praise. Also, I may think it's just shy of a perfect movie, but as far as the movie-loving little kid inside me who guides my movie-enjoyment is concerned, it was perfect, and the best movie ever. Whenever I wasn't so involved and drawn into the world that I wasn't even aware that I was actually sitting in a theater, it was only for brief moments, which I used to revel in my giddy excitement that I was once again watching a Star Wars movie for the very first time.
|Overwhelmed, I was. Handle it, I could not.
Filled with absolutely incredible characters portrayed by an amazing cast, and a deep respect for its roots, balanced with an explosive sense of gleefully gripping entertainment, The Force Awakens gets it exactly right. It feels warm and familiar while surprising you with plot twists that make perfect sense, and blowing you away with breathtaking visuals that could only exist with the combination of the world of a long time ago and the movie magic of today. By the fans and for the fans, the iconic saga that is Star Wars reawakens, ushering in a whole new era of thrilling tales of adventure from a galaxy far, far away...