I know. Two iconic words that aptly summarize all of the emotions surrounding the newest installment of the “Star Wars” saga, “The Force Awakens.” But considering this is “Star Wars,” let’s open the flood gates because gushing about the film is not only doable but necessary.
Few things can be more exciting for a filmgoer than hearing that triumphant main title and seeing the two words that spark endless enthusiasm in fans around the world: “Star Wars.” Granted the experience is a little jarring since the THX sound effect and the 20th Century Fox fanfare are missing from the film’s beginning since “Star Wars” recently became a new addition to the Disney family. But such minor disappointment is about all that can be allowed for the film, and that’s only discussing the first two minutes.
Taking place a number of years after the end of “Return of the Jedi,” the story deals with the rise of a new evil, the First Order, and a new darkness, wielded by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the son of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). The tale begins with a siege on the desert planet Jakku, where an X-wing pilot Po Dameron (Oscar Isaac) sends his personal droid, BB-8, away with a piece of a map that reveals the location of a missing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). During the attack, Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), in his first mission, finds himself unable to follow his inhumane orders. Po is eventually captured but manages to flee the First Order’s custody with the help of Finn. In the midst of their escape, Po and Finn become separated on Jakku. In a search for sanctuary, Finn meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who has befriended BB-8. When the First Order discovers their location, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 run in an attempt to travel to the Resistance’s base. In doing so, they steal the Millennium Falcon and eventually encounter Han and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) who agree to help them get to Starkiller Base. Once at the Base, their mission becomes stopping the First Order’s attack on the Base, bringing Han face to face with his son and Daisy and Finn face to face with the Force.
[WARNING: the following contains spoilers.]
There is no question that director J.J. Abrams is a fan of “Star Wars” with easter eggs littered throughout the film. Everything is there, from Han Solo’s uttering of “I have a bad feeling about this” to the use of the Wilhelm scream to the more intricate naming of the Resistance base as Starkiller Base (the original last name for protagonist Luke Skywalker for those less familiar with the history of “Star Wars”). Nevertheless, the inclusion of such material does create a somewhat familiar, formulaic story. For the most part, characters simply get shifted around in terms of their plot function. Po Dameron, at the film’s beginning, becomes Princess Leia, the character that is under the dark side’s threat at the film’s onset and must store vital information in a droid for safekeeping. Harrison Ford becomes Obi-Wan Kenobi to the young Rey, becoming a father figure and guiding her through her new participation in the fight with the Resistance. Luke, although his role is brief, becomes Yoda, the Jedi mentor who lives by himself on a desolate planet and must be sought out. Even the small nature of Luke’s role in the film follows in the footsteps of Yoda who did not even enter the “Star Wars” universe until Episode Five. But the inclusion of these familiar devices is clearly a love letter for any fan that buys a ticket, sports his 3D glasses, and loses himself in the beautiful world that is “Star Wars.” The reintroduction of these elements only reminds viewers of what made the original films so lovable, so wonderful, and so mesmerizing; the themes are universal and anything else is just icing on the extremely rich cake.
An aspect of the film that is certainly one of the nicest treats for fans is the return of the original cast members. The moment Harrison Ford steps onto the Millennium Falcon as Han Solo or the instance C-3PO begins spewing information, the sense of being home becomes overwhelming in the best possible way.
But this love letter does come with its fair share of heartbreak. A result of the unraveling of a painful Oedipus complex, Han finds himself at the wrong end of a lightsaber. The moment is gut-wrenching to say the least with one of cinema’s most beloved characters being killed. Considering Han is not a Jedi either, the likelihood that he will come back as a spirit of the Force like Obi-Wan or Yoda is slim to none. Not to mention that Kylo Ren’s aspiration is to follow in the footsteps of Darth Vader, which is extremely disheartening considering Vader’s change of heart at the end of “Return of the Jedi.” Suffice it to say, good things don’t seem to come from a Jedi that falls in love. Granted Leia isn’t actually a Jedi, but she has a strong connection to the Force, which seems close enough.
As for the newcomers, the judgment of who steals the show is difficult, if not impossible, to make. From BB-8’s adorableness to John Boyega’s electricity to Daisy Ridley’s complexity, determining who the fan favorite is may be difficult. At any rate, the newest additions to the “Star Wars” universe assure viewers that the new films are in good hands.
Ridley’s performance is definitely a breakout one, demonstrating strength and vulnerability, not to mention her kick-butt lightsaber battle; if anything, Rey will surely be considered a new addition to the group of strong female characters that will act as role models for a younger generation. As her first leading role in a feature film, Ridley certainly seems to have a handle on things.
A shocker to say the least, Boyega’s character of Finn is one of the many great things about the film. Not only does he demonstrate a strong internal struggle, debating between doing what he is told and what he knows is right, Boyega also delivers some of the most hilarious lines in the film as well as provides dimension for otherwise monotonous Stormtroopers.
The trio is rounded out by Isaac, who brings a sense of virtue and guidance to the group. Although he does not have as much screen time as Ridley and Boyega, Isaac embodies all of the values held by the Rebellion in the original trilogy, not to mention he shows off some awesome piloting skills. The question then becomes which flight sequence is more spectacular, Rey and Finn’s in the Millennium Falcon through the abandoned Imperial Star Destroyer or Po’s run in his X-wing through D’Qar.
Let’s not forget about a key aspect of the film, the visuals. The return to practical effects and tangible characters is a refreshing one to say the least. The clutter has been removed and the aesthetic of the film is reminiscent of the original trilogy. Yes, a few main characters are created using motion capture, but the decision is nowhere in the vicinity of being considered ill-advised when the personalities are voiced by the brilliant Andy Serkis and Lupita Nyong’o.
To say “The Force Awakens” is a treat is an understatement. The return of one of the greatest franchises in cinema history is a dream come true for any kid who has held a plastic lightsaber, who has dawned Princess Leia buns for Halloween, or has simply watched the trilogy every time he stayed home from school. From those glorious leitmotifs by the incomparable John Williams to the familiar hum of a lightsaber, Episode Seven only reaffirms why “Star Wars” is more than welcome in its return.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is currently in theaters. And don’t worry, there is no podracing or Gungans to be found.
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