Let me set the scene for my viewing of the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” flick. I watched the film at a theater that was two and a half hours away from my home as I had a road trip that gave me some time to kill. By the way, North Carolina still allows smoking in restaurants in case any of you ever feel the need to ruin someone’s else’s meal with your pack of Newports.
The theater was near full, and there were even some little kids dressed up as their favorite characters. A far cry from The Empire Strikes Back that I saw as a kid myself, the first movie I can remember my mom taking me to see. No one dressed up back them and certainly the hype level not the same as for this 2015 version of Star Wars.
Yesterday was the first time I had ever seen a movie that received applause….as it began. Obviously, most of these folks were fans already, myself included.
“The Force Awakens” would have had to really went off the rails into a dumpster fire for me not like it. I even enjoyed the three prequels even though they got blasted by purists and critics alike.
I love the story of redemption and the simplicity of good versus evil in all these films. A Jedi Knight is a real thing in my mind, not just an imaginary ideal for which we should all strive.
There are spoilers galore in my review, so you have been warned.
If you’re looking for a brand new storyline with fresh ideas, you may be a bit disappointed from that standpoint. Same family, same temptations as from the originals.
Lots of references to the light and the dark….good and evil.
The young heroes in this film are Rey, a lowly scavenger from the dirtball planet of Jakku (think West Virginia), and Finn, who deserts his post as a storm trooper when he can’t stomach the killing.
We get the return of Han Solo, Leia, and Chewbacca of course. Chewy has aged well as a Wookiee, but Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher have been living hard! Actually, they’re just old.…like many of us fans from the original Star Wars.
Rey is referred to as trash and scavenger scum multiple times. She was left on Jakku by her family as a child and has been patiently waiting for them to return ever since. This girl is surviving on scraps when she could have been part of galactic royalty….more on that later.
The quest in Disney’s version of SW involves the search for Luke Skywalker, who walked away from civilization when his young apprentice turned to the Dark Side. Familiar right? The apprentice who wrecked Skywalker’s plans for a whole new generation of Jedi is the son of Solo and Leia.
Kid’s name is Kylo Ren, who is basically the masked “Vader” character in this movie. He’s shown to be very powerful early on but struggles between good and evil, similarly to Anakin in the prequels. The difference being that Anakin was trying to resist the darkness and Ren is trying his best to resist the light still inside him.
His commander is this “Supreme Leader Snoke,” who is an uglier (if you can imagine) version of The Emperor from back in the day.
There’s lots of twists and turns as Rey is helped by Finn to deliver the map piece to the “Resistance.” Action galore.
Maybe the biggest shock is when Han Solo finally bites the dust. What, you thought Harrison Ford was gonna hang around for another couple of these flicks? Dude is busy. Kylo Ren kills his old man to push himself over the edge into the darkness, erasing more of the goodness that his mom thinks resides in the boy.
I wasn’t shocked by Han’s murder. I was moved by his death, though. Even more than his gentle touch on the face of his son after being gashed with a lightsaber, I felt the agony in the guttural yell of Chewy as his best friend fell to his death.
Chewbacca managed to wound Ren right before the explosives took down the power center for the new weapon of mass destruction (Death Star supersized 3.0).
Being gut shot made Kylo Ren’s battle with Finn and Rey more believable. It is still shaky logic that Luke Skywalker’s favorite apprentice would have trouble defeating a young girl who had never held a lightsaber before, even after a former stormtrooper winded the dark villain a bit.
The lightsaber battle was great. It would have been hard to screw that up for me. I love these fights. Short of putting Kanye West in a scene with a saber, I can’t see any fault in samurai type battles with laser swords.
Rey using the Force to pull Luke’s old lightsaber to her was goosebump worthy, and she gave Ren a fight to remember, hacking down trees as they tried to kill one another.
She actually had her opponent hurt badly, but they were divided when the ground below them collapsed. Another visual showing us the divide between dark and light.
Ren being downed by Rey was the climax, but he lived to fight another day.
The ending was perfect in my eyes as Rey took off in the Millennium Falcon to return the lightsaber to its rightful owner. She had remembered being on an island long ago, and that’s where the map leads her in the end.
She climbed to the top of a mountain to find a hooded Jedi. No words needed. Just a panoramic shot of a young woman once abandoned by her family, offering a gift to her father, Luke Skywalker. Hoping for acceptance.
Rey’s patience in waiting for her family to return was not rewarded. Her willingness to take action and help a worthy cause is what reunited her with her father.
That may be the best secondary message in Star Wars, The Awakening. Nothing changes until you make something happen. And the audience benefits by getting to see Rey start her journey to Jedi immortality. Wouldn’t be much of a film if we had to watch two hours worth of Rey getting paid pennies on the dollar for her scrap parts.
As for the new characters. Finn is funny as hell. He is imperfect much like Han Solo but tries to do the right thing. Hard not to like the guy as one of the new heroes.
Rey is easy to root for obviously. She is the ultimate underdog. Had her dad simply joined Darth Vader years earlier instead of choosing the path of goodness, Rey would have been part of the ruling class in the galaxy instead of waking up hungry every single day. Or if Luke had simply decided to train his daughter as a Jedi instead of leaving her behind in order to protect her, she would have at least had power if not wealth.
Kylo Ren is connected to a lot of the younger generation. He possesses a ton of power but is easily frustrated as we see by his temper tantrums. Dude is soft too. Just like you and I would have never survived the Great Depression like our grandparents, Ren will never measure up to his paw-paw Darth Vader. The guy is near tears when Rey tells him as much when she overpowers him mentally while he’s interrogating her.
And I already mentioned how Ren isn’t the great fighter that he should be or else he would have taken out Rey and Finn during their battles. This is a villain that has underlying issues that are exposed to the viewing audience, something we didn’t see from Darth Vader until right before he returned to the light when he saved Luke from the Emperor. Vader was just a badass intent on ruling the universe. Kylo Ren wants to rule the universe but needs to feel “comfortable” with his evil actions.
So for me, “The Force Awakens” hit a homerun, and I’d give it 4.8 stars out of 5, nearly perfect.
The story is very familiar. And that’s just fine by me. The original story was awesome, so this continuation of the plot should resonate with fans of the original Star Wars films as well as new watchers who should enjoy an amazing journey that’s fresh to them.
Film Review: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
Reviewed at Dolby Theater, Hollywood, Dec. 14, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 135 MIN.
PRODUCTION: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Lucasfilm, Bad Robot production. Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk. Executive producers, Tommy Harper, Jason McGatlin. Co-producers, Michelle Rejwan, Tommy Gormley, Ben Rosenblatt, John Swartz, Susan Towner, Pippa Anderson.
CREW: Directed by J.J. Abrams. Screenplay, Lawrence Kasdan, Abrams, Michael Arndt, based on characters created by George Lucas. Camera (Deluxe color, 35mm/65mm, Panavision widescreen), Dan Mindel; editors, Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; music, John Williams; production designers, Rick Carter, Darren Gilford; supervising art director, Neil Lamont; art directors, James Clyne, Rob Cowper, Hayley Easton-Street, Mark Harris, Ashley Lamont, Andrew Palmer, Stuart Rose, James Collins, Peter Dorme, Jo Finkel, Kevin Jenkins, Mary Mackenzie, Oliver Roberts, Stephen Swain; set decorator, Lee Sandales; costume designer, Michael Kaplan; sound (Dolby Digital/Dolby Atmos), Stuart Wilson; supervising sound editors, Matthew Wood, David Acord; sound designers, Ben Burtt, Gary Rydstrom; re-recording mixers, Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio; special effects, Chris Corbould; visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett; visual effects producers, Janet Lewin, Luke O’Byrne; visual effects and animation, Industrial Light & Magic; special creature effects, Neal Scanlan; associate producer, Michael Arndt; assistant director, Tommy Gormley; second unit director, Roger Guyett; 3D conversion, Stereo D; casting, Nina Gold, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg.
WITH: 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, Peter Mayhew, Gwendoline Christie, Ken Leung, Greg Grunberg.