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Movie Review: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ (Mike’s Review)
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Star Wars The Force Awakens header

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Director: J.J. Abrams
Screenwriter: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow, Gwendoline Christie
Lucasfilm | Walt Disney Studios
Rated PG-13 | 136 Minutes
Release Date: December 18, 2015

It goes without saying that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most anticipated films of the year. And as such, the expectations are very high for director J.J. Abrams to give us something that will remind us what Star Wars is really about. So it is easy to understand why he might be a little terrified about what fans might think of his vision for the franchise for the new generation. But it is safe to say that not only has he met those expectations, he also exceeded them.

I’ll start out by saying that I am not a hardcore fan of the franchise, but I understand its mythology and how people can live and breathe the world of Star Wars. Second, this will be a spoiler-free review, meaning I won’t reveal what hasn’t been already revealed in trailers and interviews. This is so that everyone can be just as surprised about the film as I was when I first watched it with my fellow journalists. Check out my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens here below.

The Force Awakens takes place many years after Return of the Jedi, where peace spread across the galaxy. However, during those same years, remnants of the Galactic Empire formed the new First Order. Led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the First Order have strategically place themselves as a militaristic force to be reckoned with. And the only one who can stop them is a orphan scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley), a stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega), a spherical droid named BB-8, and a hotshot X-Wing pilot named Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). They must work together with Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Meyhew), and General Leia (Carrie Fisher) in order to stop the First Order from advancing even further with their plans.

Let’s just start off with how out of place General Hux is in the film. Since the character is partnered with Kylo Ren most of the time, you’d think they would have some excellent chemistry. But the two don’t seem to be bouncing off each other as one would hope. For someone who is a high-ranking military officer within the First Order, he doesn’t seem to have that presence a military General would have. Going deeper into this would just be traveling into spoiler territory, so let’s avoid this for the moment and move on to a few of the other narrative problems in the film.

For one thing, The Force Awakens relies heavily on coincidence. The film wouldn’t necessarily fall apart if “A” and “B” did not happen, but maybe the narrative could have been a little bit more organic and believable had the script been ironed out a little bit more. Then there is the MacGuffin that really serves no purpose in the film. However, since there is so much excitement in the film already, these flaws don’t take away from the fun and entertainment of it.

Much of that fun and entertainment comes from how Abrams takes us back by reminding us what made the original so great with these not-so-subtle nods to A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. While some of the names have changed, the spirit is still very much there. For instance, Jakku is The Force Awakens‘ version of the desert planet Tatooine. But the nods even go further than that. Again, revealing these nods would be going straight into spoiler territory, so let’s just avoid that route. But if you are familiar with the first two films of the original trilogy, then you would immediately recognize what Abrams is recycling just to remind us that The Force Awakens is a part of the movie canon.

If there are things that Star Wars can’t get away from, its lightsabers, blasters, and most of all aerial dogfights. From the moment you see the X-Wings and TIE Fighters fight in the sky, you are taken back and reminded of the dogfights from A New Hope. The excitement you feel as an X-Wing pilot shoots down a TIE Fighter, that intense feeling that courses through your veins as you see a TIE Fighter is on an X-Wing pilot — it’s all there.

Gone are the crazy physics-defying lightsaber duels that we saw in the Prequel Trilogy. The clash of lightsabers in The Force Awakens is more gritty and darker, but they are also just as restrained as the ones seen in the originals. So don’t expect to see crazy cartoony flip action. Just something that is more practical and believable.

Thankfully, Abrams wanted Star Wars: The Force Awakens to use as much practical effects as possible and shoot on location as much as possible. This would help, except that the worlds we see in the film are real and lifelike, something that you can touch, and would probably want to visit. So just as Rey looks out in the distance dreaming of worlds – another nod from A New Hope that we saw in the trailer – that she has never seen before, so too will you have that look when visiting these worlds.

While General Hux may suffer from lack of character development, the rest of the cast shines. Here we have Han Solo and Chewbacca acting as a bridge from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens, but still retaining much of the hilarious chemistry that they had in the Original Trilogy. Rey is the epitome of girl power for the new generation. The selfless heroine clearly seeks adventure, and has more than a couple of shining moments. Finn and Poe Dameron are basically the new Han Solo and Chewbacca buddy team-up for the new generation. They develop a budding chemistry that is fun to watch, and it should be interesting to see how their relationship grows in the sequels.

Looking at the First Order, Kylo Ren is one of the most emotionally crippled characters of the film. There is a conflict within him that cannot be denied. The anger and rage that fuels Kylo Ren’s determination to finish Darth Vader’s mission only adds to that complexity, as you are left wondering why he got to be so Vader-obsessed in the first place. But if there was a character that is underutilized, it is Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). It has been confirmed that she doesn’t have a huge role in the film, but seeing that she will make a return for Episode VIII gives us hope that she will have a significant impact.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is better than the Prequels by leaps and bounds, but because some of its narrative flaws, it falls just short of being just as great as A New Hope. That being said, it is a fun film, and one that will surely reinvigorate your faith in the franchise, and that is what is most important.

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