It’s safe to say that, after the prequel trilogy, few movie franchises had whiffed on their potential the way that Star Wars had. The prequels were poorly written, terribly acted, and didn’t fulfill the promise of the tragic, epic fall of Anakin Skywalker. Once they had run their course, the universe that George Lucas had built lay in ruins (mind you, these ruins were worth billions of dollars) and there seemed to be no clear course correction available. Well one acquisition, $4 billion, and a switch from Trek to Wars later, the franchise has awoken from its dormancy.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t only the resurrection that the franchise needed, it’s a wonderful movie. Every piece is here, from the beautifully rendered lightsaber battles & dogfighting scenes, to the winking, near-slapstick dialogue. The pacing of the film is spot-on and, if anything, leaves you wanting more in every scene. The story, while familiar, is tweaked enough as to not feel tired. The best part of the film, though, is the acting from the new cast. The three newest leads (not counting Oscar Isaac, who is a known, amazing, quantity; he’s one of the best actors working right now) including, Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), are all revelations, and they play their characters perfectly in the framework of the Star Wars universe.
(Warning: Loose Plot Details Follow, but No Major Spoilers)
The Force Awakens follows pretty directly in the footsteps of the Original trilogy. In the aftermath of Return of the Jedi, the remnants of the Empire continued to battle the victorious Rebel Alliance. Over the course of 30 years, the Rebels became the new Galactic Republic and the scraps of the Empire become a new group called The First Order. Finn (Boyega) is a stormtrooper who has misgivings about his training and decides to rescue pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) from the First Order. When he does so, he unwittingly becomes embroiled in a chase for something in the possession of Dameron that the Order and dark Jedi Kylo Ren (Driver) desperately want.
While on the run, Finn meets up with our other protagonist Rey (Ridley) who is a scavenger on the planet Jakku. With the Order hot on their tails, Finn and Rey eventually stumble upon the help of our good buddies Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew)!! Together with the Resistance, this rag-tag group has to protect the thing that they’ve found and avoid the Order and the new super weapon that they’ve built.
I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it was to keep the description above that vague!
Once you see the movie, though, you’ll have to appreciate the work that JJ Abrams and his team did to put this movie together. It walks the extremely fine line between honoring the story and feeling of wonder that came before it (the Prequels excluded) and carving out a place for itself that feels truly unique. This is likely a consequence of the amazing work put in by the cast. As good as Ridley and Boyega are (and they’re very good), pay special attention to the job that Adam Driver does as Kylo Ren. His storyline and emotional arc is so much more incredibly moving than it had to be, and it is truly a testament to his skills as an actor.
How easy would it have been to have an inconsequential story, populated by all our favorite characters and one or two superfluous new ones? Super easy! (See: Menace, Phantom; Clones, Attack of; the Sith, Revenge of) And guess what, the movies still would’ve raked in hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a testament to JJ, Disney, and all of his crew that it was nothing of the sort. That The Force Awakens is this good should leave nothing but satisfaction in our collective gullet.
Before I went into the movie tonight, Tomlin asked me to send him a one word review after I came out of the movie. As the credits rolled, and I sat there mulling what I had just seen, the one word that came to me was promising. This movie is a blast, it’s engaging, it’s well acted, and it leaves you with a refreshed feeling. This is the Star Wars that we know, and love. This is a group of characters that we can care about, and a story that feels engaging. It’s a renewal of the wonder and sense of boundless awe that we all felt seeing the original Star Wars decades ago, and it is absolutely a renewal of the feeling of anticipation and promise for what is yet to come.