After all these years, the love for “Star Wars” still endures. Even after a trio of sub-par and unnecessary prequels, people were excited when there was word of a new film that would pick up where Episode 6 left off. Some uncertainty remained when George Lucas sold out to Disney and J.J. Abrams was tapped to helm the film. Sure, he revived “Star Trek” for a new generation, but would “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” be more like the original trilogy or a lesser entry?
Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is an X-Wing pilot who hides a map fragment with some very sensitive information in his droid BB-8 during an attack from the New Order. BB-8 escapes before the New Order, and its leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) finds it.
Meanwhile, a stromtrooper named Finn (John Boyega) defects and meets a scrap metal scavenger named Rey (Daisey Ridley) who has come across BB-8. Of course, the New Order follows them to this point and our trio has to escape in the Millenium Falcon that just so happens to be left intact in the scrapyard. From this point on, adventure ensues.
People have made accusations that this film adheres fairly closely to the structure of “A New Hope”, only updating the characters and some minor details. There is might be some validity to this, but this is infinitely more watchable than sitting through a movie that is more interested in expanding the Star Wars universe than telling a good stories. The prequels tarnished the legacy of the film franchise and, at the end of the day, amounted to little more than showing us the origins of Darth Vader. There are countless references here to the past both visually and through dialog. Were they all necessary? Does it sometimes feel like pandering and that you’re watching a greatest hits? Kind of, but we haven’t seen these characters in over thirty years. Thinking of this as a logical continuation of the original trilogy while acknowledging the passage of time, this makes a lot of sense. Director/co-writer J.J. Abrams clearly gets what people liked about these movies and God bless him, he delivers more of that.
This is one of those movies that was best experienced on a large screen in the company of other fans. There are all of the chases and lightsaber battles you would hope for. That sums this up, incredibly crowd-pleasing which is what many big movies aspire to be.
The new characters are fantastic as Ridley, Boyega, Isaac, and Driver all embody a great new generation for Star Wars fans. Some of these characters can be seen as surrogates for the original dynamic, but they have uniquely mysterious pasts and it will be interesting to learn more about them going forward. Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew (Han Solo and Chewbacca, duh) have a tremendous amount to do as well, which isn’t a surprise given how they are featured in the trailers. Even though a few other important figures from the original trilogy are essentially just trotted out so longtime fans can salivate. Maybe it’s a bit much that Rey develops her comfort with the Force so quickly despite having no knowledge of it beforehand, but oh well.
On one hand, it’s a little bit of a shame to dig back into the stories and fates of these beloved characters since things ended so well for everyone with “Return of the Jedi” (SPOILER). We could just imagine they all lived happily ever after. By exploring this, we see that it wasn’t that simple.
Thankfully, this is a fun movie that is done right. Despite my claim to the contrary earlier, this does, in fact, expand the Star Wars universe by presenting new characters, continuing the character lineage established before and a new threat in the form of the New Order. This is a rare instance of the torch of a beloved franchise being picked up and carried forward with a combination of reverence, inspiration and skill.
Add an extra half star to this review.
Rated PG-13 136 minutes 2016