Monday, December 21, 2015

[Review] Star Wars: The Force Awakens

We've all been bombarded enough to know about the colossal arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so let's get right to it. Does it live up to the hype? Is it even possible for it to live up to the hype? (Star Wars apples?). Maybe not. But it's pretty damn excellent anyway.

(As with all my reviews, this is spoiler-free, so you're safe to read on.)

The story picks up a few decades after Return of the Jedi (1983), and the Rebel Alliance is now called The Resistance, fighting against a legion of stormtroopers under the First Order ("THE DARK SIDE"). Carrie Fisher reprises her role as Leia (now a General of the Republic). Harrison Ford is back as Han Solo being Han Solo. And Luke Skywalker is currently M.I.A. It's good that the icons are constituent parts of the plot, rather than just glorified cameos. But the newcomers take the lead here. Oscar Isaac, who is destined to be one of the biggest stars on the planet, plays a top fighter pilot for The Resistance. Jon Boyega (Attack the Block) is a stormtrooper who doesn't want to be a stormtrooper. Adam Driver (HBO's "Girls" and indie film stalwart) is the bad guy here, sliding into the Darth Vader-like position. And then there's Rey (Daisy Ridley)--a scavenger turned compelling main protagonist. I'll just go ahead and say that the entire cast is terrific.

Unlike George Lucas' disastrous set of prequels, J.J. Abrams 's The Force Awakens maintains the spirit of Lucas' original trilogy and actually looks like it belongs within the same world. It genuinely feels like a Star Wars movie, and the importance of that can't be overstated. The duration packs in some dazzling action showcases, and it isn't just a bunch of stuff flying around and exploding for the sake of flying around and exploding. The setpieces manage to be both epic and intimate, as the camera's focus stays within personal reach of the central characters. The sequences are designed and carried out with an entertaining and escalating intensity--keeping us on the edge of our seats, as all great blockbuster spectacles should.

There's a lot of humor and lightheartedness here too--probably even more than expected. It's refreshing that the film doesn't launch into one-dimensional "taking itself too seriously" mode, but it still holds weight all the while. It also strays away from just being a 35-years-later victory lap steeped in nostalgia. It extends the universe, gives old characters new arcs without jumping shark, and wonderfully establishes some new characters that we invest heavily in. Best believe this is an exciting rebirth for a beloved franchise, which will be a force for many more years to come.

Sure, one particular scene reeks of clumsy exposition, and there's some plot point retreading, but the movie is just so awesome that it's easy to forgive. The Force Awakens is one of those theater experiences where you can practically sense the thousands of goosebumps arising within the room. And it's one that is worth going back to witness multiple times. Aren't those the best kinds of movies?

* 10/10 *

1 comment:

  1. I'm not one of the prequel haters because they were the films I grew up with a for that reason I have fond memories of them. Obviously, there not good films, but the good memories of watching them as a kid clouds my vision somewhat.

    I certainly got goosebumps when I aaw "Star Wars" on the screen and the John Williams soundtrack bursted into life.