Thirty years after the defeat of Emperor Palpatine and the Galactic Empire, a new threat has arisen to once again bring terror and destruction to the galaxy. The self-proclaimed “First Order” military force, led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the mysterious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), strategically conspires to attack the Republic to regain their former glory. But when conflicted stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) disobeys his murderous orders to instead aid in the escape of Resistance fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), he sets in motion a cataclysmic battle between good and evil that will bring him face to face with a pretty scavenger (Daisy Ridley), a vicious Dark Jedi, and a legendary duo from the past.
It’s just not quite the same without the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare prior to the now unmistakable line, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” Nevertheless, John Williams’ thunderous theme music and the yellow scrolling text instantly put the viewer back into that nostalgic territory of what George Lucas started back in 1977. This new chapter is, in large part, an attempt to undo what Lucas then did to the franchise with his staggeringly mediocre prequel trilogy, which itself felt like an opportunistic endeavor rather than a passionate work of art.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is ultimately a collection of counterparts and equivalents. The more the filmmakers attempt to recreate the substance of the original three pictures, the more it negates its own reason for existence. To its credit, most of the imagery and sound effects and character designs do possess an aura of authenticity when compared directly to the former vision (almost as if this project commenced around 1986, keeping up with the three-year gaps). But in sticking to so many familiar elements, the project forgot to craft its own identity; it’s unmistakably reminiscent of a remake.
From the blaster fire, to the massive Star Destroyers crossing star-speckled skies, to the rubbery alien faces populating desert communities, to the black-cloaked villain stepping from his transport, to the droids rolling and chirping about, so much of this undertaking is recycled. Director J.J. Abrams would insist that all of the similarities are nods or homage, but by the time the heavily-secreted plot is revealed, it’s entirely obvious that no new story is awaiting to unfold. Damsels in distress, familial betrayals, roguish pilots engaging in daredevil maneuvers, planet-destroying weapons, good versus evil, and vastly outnumbered rebels proposing speculative plans to blow things up, all return in spades, but without the inspiration needed to demonstrate something novel or impactful. However, a dash of blood here and there appears generally unconventional.
“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” The dialogue also conforms to the mood and tone of the ’77 classic, plucking snippets from the prior six episodes to such a great degree that it’s possible the whole screenplay does not contain a single line of fresh material. And the storyline once again starts in the middle of a middle (not unlike “The Empire Strikes Back”), recognizing that, certainly not serving as a standalone entry, this enterprise will be best appreciated by longtime fans. It’s also under the impression that audiences require constant action, as it creates a static level of nonstop tumult in which no single sequence has the chance to stand out. But in the end, though it may have lost a good portion of the magic, every so often, when an iconic component or character makes a grandiose appearance (and there are plenty of notable arrivals), it’s difficult not to revel in the experience of witnessing a familiar cast wield the Force and do battle against the Dark Side – the right way and for the first time in over 30 years.