‘I’ ON CULTURE
The force is strong in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I had more fun at this movie than I have at any movie in a long time. It is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. Go see it!
J.J. Abrams has managed to totally erase all the doubts that fanboys like me had after watching those three terrible prequels years ago. He, with the help of Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote Empire and Return of the Jedi, has combined all our nostalgic feelings for the original movies and a new generation of actors to carry on the tradition.
The old empire is dead, but now the First Order under the leadership of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a leader wearing a black mask that makes him sound very much like a certain archvillain, massacres a village in order to get a map that contains the location of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who has been missing for 30 years.
One of his troopers, FN-2187 (John Boyega), is disgusted. Hotshot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) hides the map in robot BB-8 (shades of Leia hiding a similar map in R2-D2). Poe escapes with the help of the trooper, who is quickly renamed Finn, but they crash-land back on the planet and Finn cannot find him. The robot has been adopted by scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley). The two team up and escape in an old junkyard spacecraft.
That ship turns out to be the Millennium Falcon, and it soon is taken over by Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). The rest of the film is the story of the fugitives escaping the bad guys, getting the map to now General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and then also learning that the bad guys plan to destroy their planet. Then follows the big battle with more than a few reminders of the battle in the original film, as well as the big battle at the end of the third movie.
The cast was uniformly excellent. Ridley was a strong protagonist, managing battle scenes and quieter, emotional moments. Boyega was excellent in his pivotal role, and Isaac was a very strong presence whenever he was on screen, although his role was not all that large. Lupita Nyong’o nicely voiced Maz Kanata, a computer-generated version of new Yoda-like character.
But the film really belongs to Harrison Ford. Whenever he came on screen, particularly since the film allowed him plenty of chances to repeat some of his signature lines, he took over. His scene finally meeting Leia after many years apart was incredible. The two veterans had me, and most of the audience, teary-eyed. And it was fun watching all the old characters: C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca, as they went through their turns.
My one real complaint was the fact that the movie was comfortable because it constantly copied from the early movies. It had a desert planet, its bad guys wore the same nasty armor, and there was a cantina scene with weird aliens, and so on. There was even a strong reference to one of the key plot elements in Empire. Of course, since there are supposed to be five more movies coming, this may simply have been a way to make the gentle transition into new stars for the next generation of moviegoers.
Special plaudits must be given to John Williams, who seems to write incredibly special musical scores for these movies. And beginning the movie by having the words “Long ago, in a galaxy far away,” flash on in silence and then suddenly begin with the Star Wars theme is a great way bring the audience in right from the beginning.
The special effects were great. The new robot is adorable (I know what the hot present is going to be for Christmas this year), and most of the effects were done as a real part of the script, not simply for show. The new worlds seemed real, even to the point of quick views of alien animals, all contributing to the feel of “reality.”
My wife gave the picture the ultimate thumbs-up by saying “I’d like to see this one again,” and I agree.
This is the one movie you should absolutely see this year. Whether or not it is the best can be debated, but there is nothing close when it comes to pure fun at the movies.