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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Movie Review

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Spoiler Free

First and foremost, I am dedicated to avoiding any and all spoilers possible in this review. I will, however, assume that you have at least a commercial knowledge of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so if you managed to shelter yourself from any and all SWFA advertising then you’ll probably want to avoid this review for now. Please feel free, though to come back and check it out later to see if you think I’m spot on in my assessment or just some crazy nutjob.

Star Wars New Hope PosterI was four years old when the original Star Wars was released and like most kids I saw it in the theatres as many times as I could get someone to take me. Same went for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. All together they were-and continue to be- the greatest science fiction trilogy of all time. I’ve said it a million times though, something changed fundamentally in the franchise the second an Ewok stepped on the screen in Jedi. Don’t get me wrong, ROTJ was a fine and satisfying finale at the time, but it only ever really worked as a part of a much greater whole. Even though we all should have seen this as a possible sign of things to come we lined up around the block again 16 years after the second Death Star had fallen in 1999 to revisit the Star Wars Universe in George Lucas’ The Phantom Menace. It was apparent pretty quickly that Star Wars had changed. A sleek, shiny CGI finish washed over the screen and took the emphasis off of the storytelling and put it on the toy selling. I saw Menace in the theatres twice, I think. By the final installment, Revenge of the Sith, I forwent the theatre entirely and waited for home video release. In the eyes of many fans Lucas had murdered the franchise and he essentially poo-pooed the criticism and took his ball home. Lucas’ most common defense for the prequels-when he ever bothered to defend himself at all-was that the movies were for kids and not for the overgrown children who comprised most of the very lucrative Star Wars fan base, as if adults couldn’t possibly enjoy films targeted primarily toward children. In what could then be considered a bit of irony, the Star Wars Universe was finally saved from languishing in the vaults of Skywalker Ranch by none other than the Walt Disney Corporation, whose very business model is targeted primary toward children-in theory anyway. Now here we are just a couple of short years later and Disney is set to release Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first feature film for the franchise in a decade.Star Wars: The Force Awakens Expectations are again at an all-time high, but this time why shouldn’t they be? After all, no matter what you think of Disney as a ruthless corporation and empire all of their own, they employ creative minds that know how to tell stories that appeal to children and adults alike. They know how to please a crowd.

It’s hard to give one a sense of what Star Wars: The Force Awakens is all about and still keep the mystery intact, but suffice it to say that the story takes place years after the Emperor’s defeat as the remnants of the Empire live on and rise again in an oppressive regime called The First Order who are bent on wresting complete control of the Republic from the remnants of the Rebel Alliance. New players are called upon to seek out old heroes to aid in fighting The First Order and restoring peace to the galaxy once again.

swtfa5Within the first minutes of the film you realize you are truly back within the original Star Wars Universe for the first time in over 30 years. The key is restraint. While there are plenty of exotic locations and aliens to go around, not every inch of screen has some kind of CGI sand lizard or contraption to distract from what’s really important to the story. There are actual sets and costumes mixed in with the effects. Everything that makes it to screen feels real, no matter how out of this world. It’s all so beautifully rendered and so familiar that it’s enough to put a lump in your throat.

swtfa2J.J. Abrams has rapidly become the go to auteur for redeeming dead or dying science fiction properties, and his version of Star Wars definitely comes from the heart. Sometimes Force Awakens feels a little too much like a call back to the original, but that’s okay. The film is an homage, a love letter and a promise to fans that the real Star Wars is in fact back. Abrams and Disney have clearly taken both the canon and the fans into consideration this time around and it pays off brilliantly. There is the kind of true joy and true love and true sadness here that fueled the original trilogy but never existed in the prequels.

swtfa3Any concerns about the casting of this film can be put to rest. The returning players do well enough in their role reprisals, while the new cast members are ready to take center stage. Daisy Ridley does a tremendous job in the kind of heroic female role of which people are always complaining Hollywood does not provide enough. It’s clear that she will be asked to carry much of the new story and she appears up to the task at first glance. John Boyega as Finn and Oscar Isaac as ace pilot Poe Dameron have great chemistry on the screen and bring wonderful life to the proceedings. On the other side of the coin Adam Driver masters the role of evil Kylo Ren with the kind of tortured angst that Hayden Christiansen could never manage to muster convincingly with his portrayal of a young Darth Vader. It makes all the difference in the world.

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People are going to leave Star Wars: The Force Awakens feeling as though they’ve finally woken up from a years long nightmare. This is the movie fans deserve. It’s not entirely perfect, but it’s an incredible leap in the right direction. If you’re anything like me it’s going to get misty at times and you’ll find yourself, for the first time in a long time, excited to see what comes next. And oh yeah, I will be back to the theatre to see this one again. And again.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Director:  JJ Abrams
Studio:  Disney and Lucasfilms
Genre:  Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy
MPAA:  PG-13
Release Date:  December 18th, 2015
Author:  Steve Hanning

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