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Monday, December 21, 2015

Movie Review- Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The influence of Darth Vader weighs heavily on Adam Driver's Kylo Ren in, Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Intro

Some trilogies, series, anthologies, chronicles, sagas, etc., hit all or some of us in a special way. Whether you remember specific moments or the entire films themselves, we all can connect ourselves to them by how they trigger our own nostalgia. More than anything, there are four leaders in the many collections of film sets that affect me above all; Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and of course, Star Wars. Each one of those has a separate and distinguishable place in my heart. Star Trek reminds me of my loved ones whom I spent countless hours with watching the shows and films. The Lord of the Rings stimulates my love for large-scale filmmaking. Harry Potter provokes my childlike sense of wonder and discovery. And Star Wars quenches my thirst for pure sci-fi adventure and rebelliousness. There are many others that I love as well, yet those above are my dependable go-to for classic comfort. Even the prequel trilogy for Star Wars has a place in my heart, regardless of how lacking and mislead they may be. But have no fear. The magic kingdom has been doing right by Marvel and now they're doing right again with those films set "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Director J.J. Abrams has once again taken a beloved franchise from my childhood and breathed new life into it. The level of respect and detail he showed with 2009's Star Trek, has been successfully brought to Star Wars as well. The Force Awakens is all that I hoped it would be and then some. Of course, the mild pessimist in me had some reservations to be sure, nevertheless, I was reassured very quickly. Is it perfect? No, but nothing ever is. What I find hilarious, though, is that every single complaint that I have for this film is instantly rebutted by my own stupid mind, when I realize that it's all meant to emulate the original film later named, A New Hope. J.J. gets it. Along with writers Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3), Abrams has written and directed not only a great homage to the classic trilogy but a modern classic for a new generation. It stands on its own feet while subtly and not so subtly, hitting us nearly every minute with Easter eggs that are in the form of past references. The look, the sound, the texture, all feel right. Pardon the pun but, the force is balanced on both sides. The story and characters fit in nicely with the overall production. The level of detail in everything is so good that it's almost distracting. During the scenes on the Millennium Falcon, I couldn't help but to feel like I was seeing a living museum. Unlike the over-eager CG that had run rampant in the prequel trilogy, the visuals in this film don't overwhelm but instead, go hand in hand with each scene. There are a ton of visuals that look a lot more practical than computer generated, even when you know it's the latter. Hell, the obvious green screen shots in this film still don't look like they are CG. They're just too impossible to believe that they're real. Instead of just filming everything in a hangar, Abrams shot the film in multiple exotic locations like Abu Dhabi, Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, the UK, and New Mexico. John Williams brings back his signature soundtrack with some fresh additions like he literally hasn't missed a beat.

The three main actors in The Force Awakens are; newcomer Daisy Ridley, John Boyega (Attack the Block), and Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) are this generation's versions of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia. They're their own people, yet you can't help but notice the similarities. They are each distinctive in their roles. Ridley brings a capable innocence to her character. Boyega is also naive but confused and panicky as well. Isaac is the most confident of the bunch. He's quick with the one-liners and first to join the fight. They are also an important piece of the film's humor that never goes overboard or gets wacky. Likewise, Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver (Girls), has a few funny moments as he tries to be the next Darth Vader. Does he fill those big black boots, as well as David Prowse and the voice of James Earl Jones, did nearly forty years ago? The easy answer is no. But there is room for improvement. He is, however, an interesting villain that satisfies. Returning actors Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, go from large down to very very small amounts of screen time. Ford hasn't missed a step as Han Solo and he gets plenty of time to remind us of just that. Fisher has a few scenes and she holds her own, yet I miss her passion and energy from so long ago. There's something about Ford's and Fisher's interactions that leaves me wondering why Han and Leia stayed together for as long as they did. They talk to each other like long term divorcees that have an understanding that they're better off as friends. Where's the roaring fire of their love?! Oh yeah, they have family issues that take precedence over that. You know, I recall a bunch of problems from years before, but that never stopped them from being together for more than an act of the film. Maybe those two old farts just didn't want to make out with each other? Luke isn't even on screen long enough for me to mention. Dammit, I just did. Other actors and characters add much too little to The Force Awakens. Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave), Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina), Max Von Sydow (Judge Dredd), Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones), and some special cameos from A-list to voice actors, complete this action packed movie. I know I forgot earlier to mention the action, however, trust me, it's got plenty of it and it always excites. When I see the X-Wings flying through the air, I picture myself as a kid holding one of them up with my arm and joining the fight.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Good- That opening theme still gets me, Kylo Ren's lightsaber and force play, Millennium Falcon's maneuvering capabilities, running from Rathtars, a major ***SPOILER*** scene is done properly, Wookie Rage!, "That's my lightsaber!" is code for "She's the one", and climbing the steps.

The Bad- What happened to years of training to become a force wielding Jedi? All those countless hours of migraine-inducing concentration. Well not anymore! With J.J.'s Eight Minute Jedi Abs (patent pending), you can have Master Jedi level force skills in mere minutes! Call the number on your screen now and receive two, count'em two, for the price of one! Guaranteed or your money back!

The Ugly- "What, this couldn't have made a billion in its first weekend?! What an utter failure." I bet that there are actually people who have said that out loud.

Final Thoughts

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was absolutely worth the wait. I have nothing but praise for this film and the man who made it possible. I've seen it in 3D and regular, and it doesn't matter how you see it. It's amazing either way. When a film brings you back to your feelings as a child when watching the original trilogy, you know it's something special. Thank you, J.J.
Rating- 9.5 out of 10


Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
PG-13 | 135 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 18 December 2015 (USA)
Director:J.J. Abrams
Writers:Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams
Stars:Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac 

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