I hadn’t watched the original Star Wars trilogy until 2013 but when I did I was blown away.
It was an incredible trilogy that transcended time and was an amazing experience despite the fact that I had the twist of Darth Vader being Luke’s father spoiled for me long ago, on a playground far, far away.
So, how does “The Force Awakens” hold up? It’s quite clear that J.J. Abrams was attempting to retain the feeling of the original trilogy and does so successfully – most of the time.
Abrams has made his love of Star Wars clear, both in interviews and in his previous work. This is the movie he was destined to make, which leaves the movie dripping with an obvious love of the original trilogy. This is the movie’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness, especially considering how much it mirrors the events of “A New Hope”.
Abrams, in keeping with Star Wars tradition, cast mostly unknown actors in the lead roles, to great success. Seeing the characters we all know and love such as Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) mesh well with new characters Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a beautiful and hopeful sight.
The fact that the new main characters are a man of color and a female doesn’t feel like a shameless gimmick is a testament to both the quality of the movie’s writing and acting. The characters are well put together and feel like real, living, breathing people.
The movie shows how to bring about emotion through action, without sacrificing epic moments. Every action sequence is breathtaking, brutal, and emotional. Each character’s emotional state and goals are laid out with every shot, strike, and grimace. These sequences told me more about some characters than dialogue ever could.
Not to say that the dialogue is lacking in any way, but, it’s nothing to write home about either. It sufficiently fits the world and characters with some decent humor thrown in. Yes, you read that right, good humor in Star Wars. (Spoilers Ahead)
It’s now 30 years after “Return of the Jedi” and a new dark force, called the First Order, has risen from the ashes of the now defunct evil empire. The story begins on the planet Jakku, where one of the rebellion’s best pilots, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is there to retrieve a map that leads to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at the behest of the rebellion’s leader, General Leia (Carrie Fisher).
Upon receiving the map, he hides it in his trusty (and adorable) droid BB-8. Poe is quite epically captured by the film’s main villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), in a raid/massacre on the village, sending BB-8 on the run.
Soon after, we meet Rey (Daisy Ridley) and then see Ren interrogate Poe, discovering that BB-8 has the map. Then Stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega) is introduced, a conflicted soldier who decides to desert after witnessing the horrors his commrades carried out on Jakku. He bravely chooses to help Poe escape.
In the ensuing chase the pair are forced to crash land on Jakku, where Poe disappears, leading Finn (the new name Poe gave FN-2187 before they crashed) to believe he is dead. Finn ends up meeting Rey and BB-8, and they end up having to run from the First Order by using the Millennium Falcon, which is then captured by a freighter owned by Han and Chewie that so happened to be in the area and scanning for the Falcon.
A strong suspension of disbelief is required to follow all of the coincidences that occur in Star Wars, and “The Force Awakens” is no different. It does get difficult when you see how similar it is to “A New Hope” BB-8’s hidden map may as well be R2-D2’s hidden plans for the Death Star, Starkiller base is just a bigger Death Star (“There is always a way to blow these things up.”- Han), Rey’s expert flying mirrors Luke’s, Poe may as well be this generation’s Han, and the rebels are still a small force fighting the big bad.
To a number of fans, the fact that the main plot points were taken wholesale from Episode 4 is a disappointment, and at the worst is an indictment of the entire new trilogy being destined to suck.
While this is an understandable criticism, I don’t believe it is entirely accurate. The parallels aren’t to the movie’s detriment, but instead its benefit. While the main plot points are the same, it’s everything in between that makes this movie great. Finn, for example, completely rocks the boat by being unlike anyone we have seen in Star Wars. Rey follows a similar storyline to Luke, although their characters couldn’t be more different.
I choose to believe the mirror this movie holds to Episode 4 is a set up for something completely new in 2017 when we get Episode 8. If the next episode mirrors “The Empire Strikes Back,” I’ll be severely disappointed.
“The Force Awakens” is a great Sci-Fi movie in its own right, with great characters, mostly well written dialogue, incredible acting, awesome set pieces, and a good enough beginning for a new trilogy. A good reintroduction to old fans and a perfect entry point for the new ones, Episode 7 is a mostly utilitarian entry in the franchise, but one that is absolutely worth watching.