“Star Wars” hasn’t been this great since 1980.
Movie Review #1,034
Walt Disney Pictures
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
2 hours, 15 minutes
Rated PG-13 (sci-fi action violence)
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt
Based on characters created by George Lucas
Starring 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, and Peter Mayhew
This review is absolutely spoiler-free.
A brief overview. It has been 30 years since the fall of the Galactic Empire, the government that existed from Episodes IV through VI. Within the New Republic, two coalitions have formed: the Resistance (the good) and the First Order (the evil). The Resistance is led by two characters we’re already familiar with: Han Solo and General Leia Organa (aka Princess Leia). Slightly more powerful, however, is the First Order. They’re led by Kylo Ren, one of few who still knows how to use the Force. There are two sides of the Force: the Light and the Dark. The Sith (users of the Dark Side) presumably vanished with the Empire, and the Jedi (users of the Light Side) have become the stuff of legend. Only one Jedi, however, remains: Luke Skywalker, who has gone missing since his victory at the Battle of Endor in “Return of the Jedi” (Episode VI).
Let me get this out of the way from the very beginning: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is awesome. We’ve waited for it ever since we saw “Return of the Jedi”. For me, that’s around 11 years, and very many have anticipated a sequel ever since they saw “Jedi” in theaters 32 years ago. “The Force Awakens” is anything and everything we’ve ever asked for in a sequel. In fact, it’s even better than “Return of the Jedi”. The saga hasn’t been this damn exciting since “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980.
Writer-producer-director J. J. Abrams (“Star Trek”, “Super 8”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”) has a pattern of bringing together the old and the new in beautiful harmony. He does this more than ever in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. Half of what makes the film so great is nostalgia. You can thank the technical department for some of it. Daniel Mindel’s gorgeously old-fashioned cinematography, John Williams’s similar-yet-different score, and even ILM’s visual effects bring us back to the original trilogy, or perhaps bring the original trilogy back to us. Much of the rest speaks for itself as it did in the trailer, albeit on a whole new level. You’re guaranteed to either tear up or applaud many times throughout the movie.
The other half is the just the opposite: the originality J. J. brings to the table. Three major characters come to the forefront in “The Force Awakens”: Rey, a scavenger on her home planet of Jakku; Finn, a stormtrooper who has fled the First Order to support the Resistance; and Poe Dameron, a highly skilled Resistance X-wing fighter pilot who is hunted by the First Order. I won’t spoil anything that ultimately happens throughout the course of their adventure, but I will say that we find ourselves rooting for them as much as we’d ever rooted for Luke or Leia or Han. Okay maybe one “spoiler”: although some of the rumors surrounding the movie are true, Jar Jar Binks does not become a Sith Lord. And clearly, the first initials in J. J. Abrams’s name do not stand for “Jar Jar,” either.