Star Wars: The Force Awakens
From 1995 to 2005, we were subject to three awful films that were the Star Wars prequels. Yup, I went to each one in theaters and was excited for each one…only to come out angry and disappointed each time (except for Phantom Menace, because I was 10 and still thought it was worth it for that final lightsaber battle). George Lucas decided to make the prequels about terrible acting, bad CGI, and boring senate meetings. I swear, half of Revenge of the Sith was people talking in a room. Sure there was a big lightsaber battle at the end, but it’s really not great upon reflection. Anakin loses because he can’t jump high enough since Obi-Wan is standing on a hill. The rest of the fight is simply bad CGI and a lot of flipping around (something that the prequels REALLY embraced). Basically, the prequels are the exact opposite of everything the original trilogy was.
Good news! Star Wars is back! Director/co-writer JJ Abrams has finally brought us the sequel we’ve longed for since Return of the Jedi back in 1983. This is the Star Wars films I remember growing up. It’s fun, exciting, ambitious, and chalk-full of great characters. The limited CGI really makes a substantial difference and gives some real weight to what is going on. Much like the difference between The Dark Knight and The Avengers films. They both have their merits, but The Dark Knight really sticks with you more and, for me anyways, is a much more impressive feat because I felt it was real while I was watching it. There was no CGI to take me out of the movie experience then, and there wasn’t here either. Abrams has a great eye for perfectly blending the practical and digital effects. The Force Awakens looks absolutely gorgeous having been shot on film, with some true IMAX sequences thrown in there as well. If it hadn’t been converted to 3D, I would have been waiting right in that IMAX line. I saw it in 2D, and I think that’s the way this series is meant to be seen.
I can’t really talk about this film that much because there is so much to spoil, and I don’t want to take away from the surprises. Therefore, I will say that the entire cast is top-notch. Relative newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are absolutely fantastic and really give a lot of personality to each role, I can’t wait to catch up with them again as the series continues. Harrison Ford is back, and I was happy to see it was much more than a glorified cameo. Rest assured, Han Solo is a big part of this film and Ford hasn’t lost a step in the role. Same goes for Chewbacca. Adam Driver plays Kylo Ren, the new big bad who is prone to violent tantrums that can often be terrifying. Driver excels in the role and really makes it his own. Of all the new human characters, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron was my favorite. While he is sidelined for a bit of the film, he leaves a real lasting impression and I hope we see a lot more of him in the future. Isaac is an incredible actor, as seen in Ex Machina and A Most Violent Year, and did not phone it in for his Star Wars performance when he easily could have. He brings a great amount of heart and swagger to Poe, it’s a great performance. While I love all of the human characters, I have to say that BB-8 really steals the show here and will be a huge hit with kids the way R2-D2 has been for 30+ years.
JJ Abrams really has a way of giving a new heartbeat to an old franchise. He’s done it with Mission: Impossible and Star Trek to great success, and I’m happy to say that The Force Awakens is no exception. This is probably the most entertaining and thrilling of the series, although The Empire Strikes Back is still my favorite. While the film does rely a bit too much on the formula of the series, I can’t fault it for that because it is such a great ride. The new characters, the impressive action and realistic set pieces, and the nostalgia littered throughout the film really made me feel like a kid again. I remember when they remastered the original trilogy and released them into theaters…there at some films that truly are a cinematic experience. Please go out and see this film if you haven’t already (although given the $238 million it’s already made, there’s a good chance you have).
Runtime: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence