PG-13 | 135 min
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac
by Jason Koenigsberg
The Force is Strong in this One
The most anticipated movie of the year has finally arrived. Good news is, J.J. Abrams’ addition to the Star Wars universe does not disappoint. The Force Awakens can be enjoyed by Star Wars aficionados and novices alike.
Have no fear, this review will intentionally not divulge any significant plot points or spoilers. In fact some of the best surprises come from the acting and the way the characters are developed. This might make writing a review difficult but the main goal of this article is to convince you that you should go out of your way to see The Force Awakens as soon as you can. The characters and their development are shrouded in mystery and we really do not truly know who these people are until well into the heart of the picture. But that is one of the best elements of this film, it makes the audience care about the characters and we are rewarded for investing in them.
The first major aspect of this Star Wars film is that there is no 20th Century Fox logo before the title, it goes straight to the Lucasfilm logo. Then once the movie starts after the scrolling text catch us up to speed and that there are two major sides in the galaxy, one good and one evil, and they are both searching for Luke Skywalker. The opening is very similar to the first Star Wars movie, or Episode IV: A New Hope if you prefer to call it that. We see the legendary Max Von Sydow and the soon to be legendary Oscar Isaac speaking intentionally vague to each other and then put a top secret message into a droid named BB-8.
In case the premise to that sounds familiar, like the first Star Wars, this new movie is filled with a lot of imagery and plot points that begs the viewer to recall A New Hope. The main villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) receives a similar introduction to Darth Vader the first time we see him in the original Star Wars. Driver does a very good job playing a menacing villain and is reminiscent of Vader and Tom Hardy as Bane from The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
Beyond Adam Driver, the acting across the board is very good. Daisy Ridley especially comes off strong and transcends her gender. The Star Wars universe has never been particularly good with strong female characters other than Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher, who is also a welcome presence in this film) but I have a feeling with Daisy Ridley’s talented turn in The Force Awakens that may change. Also, one of the best actors in this film is Harrison Ford, who gives one of his most subtle and tender performances in years. His Han Solo character is very endearing and vital to making The Force Awakens work as successfully as it does.
The entire film has a good humor about it. There is action, and heavy emotional depth to accompany the action we see, making it have an impact, but ultimately Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a lot of fun.
Also worth noting, there is a lot less CGI, at least noticeable CGI on screen in this film than there was in the prequel trilogy. This really helps make the acting seem more dramatic and the film altogether have a greater sense of reality. This Star Wars film really tackles the themes of fathers and sons, parents and their children losing their way, and children trying to live up to or completely abandon their parents legacy.
As stated earlier, there are a lot of homages and references in The Force Awakens to the original 1977 classic. Mr. Abrams really went back to the basics of the first film and used that as a blueprint. He took what made that film work so well and did his best to duplicate those elements with The Force Awakens. One might be hesitant with Abrams taking over such a coveted science fiction franchise after we saw what he did with his take on Star Trek but I assure you, there is no time traveling and this is much better than those films.
By J.J. Abrams playing on the strength’s of A New Hope so blatantly he may have given The Force Awakens its greatest weakness. I am trying very hard to be vague with the plot and character development but at times The Force Awakens felt like a remake or reboot of the first Star Wars film. I realized that early on and all of the subsequent action reinforced that feeling to the point where some elements of the story I saw coming when they should have been a surprise. Despite that, it did not deter my overall enjoyment of the film. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one of the most crowd pleasing movies of the year and should be seen before the internet and social media destroy a lot of the surprises with its story and character development. May the force be with you at the multiplexes.