Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Movie Review

The Force Has Indeed Awoken

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It’s finally here.  Perhaps the most hyped inducing film of all time, if not then certainly of recent memory.  “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has hit screens nationwide, breaking box office records and giving Star Wars fans the first on screen look at what happened after “Return of the Jedi”.  This is a film that I have been waiting for my whole life to see.  Then after the absurdly excellent marketing campaign, this is a movie that was met with lofty expectations.  Despite my great enthusiasm, as a Star Wars fanatic, I had to try to detach myself from my fanboy self and analyze it just simply as film.   Yet even then all I could think about was what an incredible experience this movie delivered us.  The imagination, the emotion, and the spectacle were all there.   J.J. Abrams has revitalized yet another franchise, presenting us with new characters to love but bringing back the old ones in interesting ways.  While not completely flawless this movie lives up to the hype and met my enormous expectations.

Part of the movie going experience for “The Force Awakens” is the air of mystery surrounding it.  Going in knowing less is the best way to experience this.   So, my review is going to be purposely very vague.  No one spoiled it for me and as a Star Wars fan I could never spoil this for anyone else.  I’ll only reveal what was shown in the trailers (so if you haven’t even seen the trailers this is a fair warning not to read this).  “The Force Awakens” picks up the story 30 years after the events of “The Return of the Jedi”.  There is still conflict in the galaxy.  The First Order, led by the fearsome Kylo Ren and the Supreme Leader Snoke, is spreading fear throughout the galaxy and the Resistance take up arms against them.  A former Stormtrooper named Finn gets caught up in a new adventure after meeting a girl named Rey on the desert planet, Jakku.

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The new characters, Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren are all welcomed additions to the Star Wars mythos.  Daisy Ridley is a standout as Rey.  She carries the movie on her back; strong but also vulnerable and very likeable as well.  Daisy has incredible chemistry with her co-star John Boyega as Finn (whom himself is very much a surprisingly well done performance).

As much as Daisy Ridley steals the show in certain scenes, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren nearly matches her.  Ren is everything I wanted him to be plus more.  Abrams and Kasdan humanize him without sacrificing him freighting nature.  He isn’t just some big faceless badass.   He has a troubling back story that leads to some very surprising emotional moments.

The biggest surprise though was Oscar Isac as Poe Dameron.  I initially thought he’d be a cheap replacement for Wedge Antilles but I was completely wrong on that.  He was one of my favorite parts of “The Force Awakens” (I only wish he was in it way more than he actually was).

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With all these new characters there leaves very little room for the returning cast.  Abrams and Kasdan once prove up to the task.  Han, Leia and Luke make their return to the silver screen.  Each one serves their roles in the story without their presence becoming too large.  Harrison Ford makes a triumphant return as Han Solo.  He wasn’t Harrison Ford playing old grouchy Harrison Ford (as he did in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”), he was Han Solo again.  Carrie Fisher plays a more harden (now promoted to)General, Leia.  The two actors rekindle their on screen chemistry sharing some heartwarming scenes with one another (without becoming overly melodramatic).   I also have to say I don’t think there was any other film in the “Star Wars” Saga where I loved Chewbacca as much as I did here.  The way J.J. Abrams handled the character brought much emotion and humor to the Wookie warrior.

Speaking of humor this is by far the funniest “Star Wars” film ever made.  While this never gets as jokey as “The Avengers” did nor descends into straight up comedy; but Abrams’s lighting quick sense of humor that was on display in his recent “Star Trek” films is also present here.  This is clearly Abrams’s “Star Wars” movie.  There are many camera techniques and cinematography decisions that George Lucas would never have made.  While Abrams sticks to a lot to what made “Star Wars” work in the first place (although sometimes a little too close in terms of story direction) but he isn’t afraid to put his own stamp on the franchise either.  His action is jaw dropping and exciting throughout.  The lightsaber duel is by far the most brutal in the series.  I do wish though, there was a few moments for the audience to catch their breaths with Abrams rapid pace it moves along very quickly (sometimes too quickly).

Is this a perfect movie? Not quite.  There are some small problems that stem up from time to time. I wish the X-Wing battles were a bit more front in center instead of background action, and there are some recycled elements from the past.  The Starkiller base serves its function but it’s not as foreboding as the Death Star (to be fair I’m a little tired of the super weapon in “Star Wars”).  However even the recycled elements work well here because Abrams executes them so well.  Not every question is answered and ends on a bit of cliffhanger.  However, that’s okay.  We know “Episode VIII” is on the horizon, we know we will get more, and there is no reason to answer every question just yet.

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These are minor quibbles for the most part.  If you’re a “Star Wars” fan you’ll love this, if you’re just a causal moviegoer I still think you’ll love this.  This is easily one of the most fun movie going experience I’ve had all year long.  It’s a return to the simple archetypal myth that made the originals so endearing. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is smart, exciting and delivers upon it’s monster hype.  I cannot wait for the next film and see where the story goes next.

Final Score

8.5/10

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