Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Filled With Nostalgia, New Magic


SPOILERS! SPOILERS! IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE STOP READING NOW! 

Where do you even start when reviewing a movie you’ve been waiting to see since 1983? Yes, I know there have been three other “Star Wars” movies and two television series since “Return of the Jedi” played in theaters 32 summers ago. I’ve loved every one of them and watched and rewatched them.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is different, though. What we have here is an extension of the adventures of the beloved Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia Organa along with a new generation of characters. We’re not exploring groundwork we’ve already had mapped out for us and know what to expect to a certain degree. With the Expanded Universe tossed out of continuity, there’s a whole new journey for us to embark on.

Thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the galaxy faces a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order. When a defector named Finn (John Boyega) crash-lands on a desert planet, he meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a tough scavenger whose droid contains a top-secret map. Together, the young duo joins forces with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to make sure the Resistance receives the intelligence concerning the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last of the Jedi Knights.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is very much a return to the magic and excitement we experienced with the original trilogy. You’re dropped into a galaxy that is both familiar yet different. Some of the characters we already know and love are there to help the new ones on their own hero’s journeys.

My personal experience viewing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was overwhelming. I had to see it twice before doing this review. It was all too much to take in the first time. The first time I was in shock over what was unfolding in front of me.

The basic storyline pays homage to all three of the original “Star Wars” films. The way it all transpired actually reminded me of “Star Trek: Into Darkness.” We’re told the same story but in a different time and place. You definitely get a feeling of deja vu at times. History tends to repeat itself in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. I was bothered by this a bit, but realize it was probably necessary to move forward into new territory.

Harrison Ford pours himself right back into the role of Han Solo. I wouldn’t even necessarily say he’s grown as a character. He’s still the same old smuggler moving from one job to the next. Solo’s every bit as cocky and reckless as he’s ever been. Ford might have spent decades talking crap about the role, but it’s evident he’s having a blast strapping the laser guns and familiar outfit back on.

My favorite character in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is Kylo Ren. He’s like a loose cannon of anger and hate bottled up and ready to explode on anyone who crosses him. He’s obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker and carrying on the “legacy” of his grandfather, Darth Vader. Adam Driver really brings a dark charisma to the conflicted role.

For those excited to see Captain Phasma in action, you better lower your expectations to a level of zero. She’s barely in the movie and does nothing of any significance. I can’t believe so much was made of such a useless character. Anyone who was excited at the idea of bringing more powerful females into the “Star Wars” world will be furious. Unless her character is going to be fully realized in “Episode VIII,” Phasma will be remembered as a wasted opportunity much like Darth Maul was for the prequel trilogy.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is an interesting animal. It didn’t unravel the way I expected it to from seeing the trailers and reading information about it for the past year. However, at the same time I wasn’t surprised at some of the secret revelations and events that take place in it. I expected it to happen, but didn’t all at the same time.

The movie is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. It has the same content any of the other “Star Wars” films had. There’s also some mild language to be found. The same types of expletives we got in 1977. I would say it’s less graphic than “Revenge of the Sith,” though.

Is it better than any of the original trilogy movies? I would say not better than “A New Hope” or “The Empire Strikes Back.” “Return of the Jedi” loses points because of the Ewoks. That’s one thing the movie doesn’t have - Ewoks or Gungans. It’s superior to the prequels just because of the atmosphere and touches of nostalgia we get. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is an entertaining and explosive step in the right direction as a new era begins to unfold.

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