Release Date: December 18, 2015
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writer: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt, George Lucas (characters) (uncredited)
Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Max von Sydow, Peter Mayhew, Gwendoline Christie, Joonas Suotamo, Pip Andersen, Simon Pegg, Kiran Shah, Sasha Frost, Pip Torrens, Andrew Jack, Rocky Marshall, Greg Grunberg, Emun Elliott, Brian Vernel, Yayan Ruhian
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 135 minutes
Production Company: Lucasfilm (as Lucasfilm Ltd.), Bad Robot, Truenorth Productions, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Budget: $200,000,000 (estimated)
The Star Wars franchise means so much to so many people. I remember being in elementary school back in 94’ and seeing the original trilogy for the first time on laser disc at an overnight after school function. Like myself along with millions of other fans, it struck a chord with us that helped mold our childhood that defined classic filmmaking. It set the staple for epic storytelling, deep characters, and has a nostalgic factor that most likely will never be toppled. After the atrocious prequels that hit the big screens in 99’, it was a kick in the face to what countless souls have beloved for a number of decades. How could arguably the best trilogy in cinematic history take such a dive into pure ridiculousness from its phenomenal predecessor? These were the questions asked at the time, and all hope seemed lost. I’m relieved to say now that the force has been awakened, and it helps wash away all those horrific memories of remedial characters, and terrible acting. While it’s a hard task to be as great as the original trilogy, this new film kicks off strong, and is without a doubt a return to form. The old cast is back, along with some new characters, and appears to be shaping an ambitious and fruitful future. While still having flaws, it’s still great, and I’m pleased to witness a presumed lost galaxy that is far, far away.
With a universe filled with a massive amount of alien lifeforms, it’s a pleasure to see a diverse cast on the human side. We get that with Fin (John Boyega), and Rey (Daisy Ridley). If these two didn’t deliver on the big screen, this new franchise would’ve been blown out of space from the start. Fortunately both characters pulled their weight and more, and their chemistry on screen together was as if they were born for these roles. Fin is just a man wanting to do the right thing by serving, but initially chose the wrong path. Rey breaks her back for every meal, and doesn’t waste any resources grinding hard from sun up to sun down. It’s a relief too, given her character is female, because I didn’t want some damsel in distress. She’s strong to say the least, can fight with the roughest, and in my opinion stole the show. Fin had a number of funny moments, and his reactions to any given situation were extremely relatable. It’s a tall order to compete with the big baddie Darth Vader from the past, but Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) pulls it off with ease. He’s no carbon copy of his lost master, though he’s cut from the same cloth, and still brings something new to the table. His force powers were frightening, and reminded me never to get on his dark side. I didn’t buy into his character initially, but shortly after Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) emitted a certain glow of likeably that was impossible to ignore. My only complaint with his character was the lack of screen time he had, because when he was present he did a remarkable job. My favorite character in the film is BB-8. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this little droid. I want one of my own, so that goes to show how great he/she is.
It seemed like the only focus during the prequels were to see how many visual effects can be crammed into a full length feature. Given the time of their release, they were groundbreaking, but that’s not enough to carry a story to its full potential. I’m glad to say director J.J. Abrams didn’t make the same mistake, and it’s obvious he used as much practical effects as possible this time around. From the giant horseback looking creatures, to giant set designs, a great portion of the film was created by hand to deliver photo realistic designs that spoke volumes, while popping off the screen. Of course there was an abundance of cgi, and some of it failed, but the majority had the gritty effect that felt liked it belonged. The 3D was an afterthought not living up to the hype, but it still provided some depth to a couple of scenes if that’s your type of flavor. As I stated my favorite character in the whole bunch was BB-8, by not only his personality, but his lively design rolling all around the place. I’m still baffled with how they pulled it off, and is one of the most impressive portions of the entire film.
The meat and potatoes of any film is the story that’s being told. This one is nice and zipped up tight, but I still wanted more. I choked up at the classic beginning story crawl, but at its end I did say, “Is that it?” The story played it safe, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Seeing that there isn’t much to like about the prequels, the story here surpasses them by leaps and bounds, and provides hope for the new future to come. Though instead of it coming in the future, the bulk of the story could’ve come now. This story at most involves the search of a certain character, that’s absent during the duration. Not only that, it doesn’t provide the main goal if succeeded. Then only gives glimpses of this plan, but nothing fleshed out leaving you still hungry after an assumed full course meal.
A major complaint of mine is the familiarity of the past films. It’s hard to top a set of films that defined the next thirty to forty years of filmmaking, but I don’t want the same thing over and over again. There were a ton of new additions with The Force Awakens, but in the end we’ve all seen it before. It’s the same thing, but blown up, and given a new perspective. Majority of it was executed with laser precision, but a good portion is the same as the last. Towards the beginning of the film there were also a number of jokes that landed successfully, but the second half of the film flooded my senses a little too much. If it was toned down just a tad, it would’ve made for a more pleasurable experience. My last gripe is with the balance of power within the force. While some characters have been trained for years, new characters are able to keep up with those said masters. I don’t care how talented you are, that doesn’t mean you can always beat out someone that’s equally talented, and trained 5X harder. The visuals behind this were splendid, but the journey to get there felt unearned.
For the first chapter in a new trilogy of films The Force Awakens did so many things right, but it still missed the mark with some. While being one hundred and thirty five minutes, I wouldn’t have complained if there were another twenty to thirty minutes of footage to spend more time with some of the new characters. The bridge between the old characters and new was strong, and flowed smoothly throughout the film. Even though some of the new got chopped off significantly with their screen time, making you itch constantly for more. Of course it didn’t rob the film of its overall quality, but could’ve answered some questions that’s still floating in the air. The film had a nice conclusion, stood on its own, but was left open ended for more. I can’t say there were any surprises, due to everything being mostly predictable, but I still highly enjoyed the film, and am happy with the final outcome. It’s a surprising feat seeing the uphill battle it had to face, and without a doubt it won for sure.