In 1977, “A New Hope” was released to the world, and moviegoers were hooked to Star Wars and the following movies in the original saga. Then in 1999, George Lucas decided to take us back to the events that took place before Vader became the Sith Lord that we all love (or hate) today. Sadly, fans weren’t so thrilled with this trilogy, and most people pretend this saga doesn’t exist and always refer to the original trilogy when speaking on the films. But now the year is 2015, and if the title “A New Hope” wasn’t already taken, then it would be perfect to use for this new film. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’re taken back to the familiar feelings of the original trilogy with a story based thirty years after the defeat of Galactic Empire with new characters in the forefront this time around, but also some familiar faces as supporting acts.
[WARNING: The rest of this review will contain spoilers for the film to those who have yet to see it, so we recommend you watch it first. Seriously. Get out of here.]
George Lucas is the creator of the Star Wars franchise as a whole and was also the director of the other six Star Wars films. However, this duty fell to the director of the rebooted Star Trek films, J.J. Abrams, when Lucas handed over the property to Disney. After watching the new film and comparing it to older ones, it’s clear that a change in creative control can alter the total experience of a film altogether. Abrams did a fine job of steering clear of the excessively used CGI that George Lucas implemented with the prequel trilogy, and rather replicated the physical and aesthetic elements and also the tone of the original trilogy without tiring us out with the exact same formula. Speaking of the tone of the film, they succeeded in making this film somewhat more comedic than fans were used to with any past Star Wars films. The added humor in the movie makes us remember that this is now a Disney-owned property, and they’re all about family-friendly laughs. However, after seeing the film twice, it became clear that some of these moments felt kind of forced into serious situations to lighten the mood, and that also took away from the gravity of the situation as a whole.
The overall story basically contained the same premise as the original trilogy: a new incarnation of the dark side/ the Empire is on the rise and it’s up to the heroes to bring them down and restore order to the galaxy. Want more similarities between the movies? Both films contained a droid on a desert planet (Tatooine in Episode IV, Jakku in Episode VII) that has an important piece of information; a human later finds the droid and the secret content it contains, and goes on a journey across the galaxy. However this time, the human that finds droid is a young female scavenger, and the content within the droid this time around is a piece of a map that leads to the location of the legendary Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker- whose whereabouts have been unknown to anyone for the last thirty years. The main difference between Episode IV and this one is the characters, their individual struggles, and the events that take place.
Our main heroes this time around are Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and fan-favorite BB-8. Poe and BB-8 don’t really seem to have any internal conflicts or much substance as characters (obviously BB-8 wouldn’t because… well they’re a droid), but Finn and Rey were full of them. They both seem to be suffering from an identity crisis and are trying to find themselves along this galactic journey. Finn is a stormtrooper gone AWOL who just wants to do the right thing after freeing Resistance pilot Poe Dameron from the clutches of the first order, and also escaping from them himself in the process. Rey is a scavenger on the planet of Jakku with an unknown past. We do know however, that she’s been waiting on her family to come back for her all these years. Who is this family she’s waiting for? We still don’t know, but by the end of the movie it looks like we have some idea as to who it could be. Of course with new heroes must come new villains. And that’s where Kylo Ren comes in. Kylo Ren is aligned with The First Order, and also commands the force. He is also on a quest to find Luke Skywalker, and will stop at nothing to achieve this goal, for reasons still unknown. Another big thing: he is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. That was an unexpected surprise. Technically, it could be said that he’s this generation’s Vader. Sort of. He’s the closest thing to a Sith Lord that the whole film has, although he’s not the calm and collected sith we’re used to seeing. Kylo is untamed, and has a demeanor that resembles a pouty child who doesn’t get their way. It’s a bit refreshing to see someone who can control the force well, but at the same time is barely in control of their emotions and feelings half of the time.
Like both Finn and Rey, they don’t let on too much about Kylo Ren in this film, so there’s still more to be discovered about each of their lives in the next two installments, which is good. They’re once again following the steps of the original trilogy and letting the plot development be a slow process, setting up some mysteries that will eventually be big reveals in the upcoming films.
As well as these new characters, we’re graced with the appearance of some of the original heroes: Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and also R2-D2 and C3P0. While it seemed as though Chewbacca grew a sense of humor in all this time, it was very clear that both Han and Leia matured as individuals. Han seemed to be more of a wise old guide to these new heroes, and less of the scruffy-looking nerf herder we all remembered him as. Sadly, his character met his demise at the hands of his son, Kylo Ren (and well, technically at the hands of himself too). While Leia wasn’t that immature in the first place, other than her occasional name calling, she seemed to be less snippy, and more sympathetic and gentle in this film.
As well as these guys, we finally find out what’s happened to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) all this time. It appeared as though he had been looking out at the ocean for years on end, waiting for something, or someone to show up. Luckily for him Rey appears, and stretches out her arm to hand him his old lightsaber, and they exchange a very long stare. It seems as though she’s there to be trained better in the force, and maybe even find out more of her past, but we don’t get to dwell on those thoughts much before the credits role and the usual fanfare closes out the film.
In the end, this film excels on both a directorial level and a narrative level. What it lacks in pacing and tone, it compensates for in many other ways. There is also an obvious lack of utilization of some of the weapons (Aka Kylo Ren’s cross guard saber) and also the lack of character development and involvement from some of the supporting acts (both heroes and villains), but luckily these things can easily be remedied in the sequels. They introduce this property in such a way that while it’s events are dependent on that of the original films, you might be able to get away with jumping into this film with no prior knowledge of the story beforehand without having to ask too many questions. Abrams did a great job of replicating the quality of the original trilogy. He gives the fans plenty of nostalgic moments, but in contrast blends that with plenty of fresh and modern action that was needed to separate this story as it’s own, separate tale. While its direct predecessors are held in such high esteem and are thought to not ever being capable of being topped by any Star Wars movies that came after it, The Force Awakens takes off running and sets a strong start for the following two films, and if J.J. Abrams and his team stay true to this new formula they and Disney came up with, they might have something special on their hands with the galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens receives a 9.5 out of 10 from Superhero Task Force.
Star Wars: The Force awakens is now in theaters.