Lucasfilm, Ltd./Bad Robot Productions/Disney Pictures
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy/J.J. Abrams/Bryan Burk
Written by Lawrence Kasdan/ J.J. Abrams/Michael Arndt
Music by John Williams
Like most of you reading this, the very first day that THE FORCE AWAKENS hit my Favorite Movie Theater I was there at the First Showing. And I went back to the theater three more times to see it during that December and the first day the Blu-Ray was released, I bought it and watched it another three times. I watched it again prior to writing this review. I’ll probably watch it again after I finish writing it.
THE FORCE AWAKENS has been accused of being no more than a remake of the original STAR WARS and you know what, I’m willing to give the detractors of the movie that much. After all there is a bigger, better Death Star in this one to blow up. Even Han Solo (Harrison Ford) says it himself during the mission briefing. Yeah, yeah, it’s called Starkiller Base (and I kinda liked that they named it that because Luke Skywalker’s original name was Luke Starkiller) And our three main characters are indeed analogues of Princess Leia, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. But they are reworked in ways that seem fresh and new. Our three new protagonists exemplify The Three Faces of Heroism. You have your Hero Who Is Born To Their Heroism (Poe Dameron/Oscar Isaac/Our New Leia). Your Hero Who Has Heroism Thrust Upon Them (Rey/Daisy Ridley/Our New Luke) and Your Hero Who Becomes A Hero In Spite of Himself (FN-2187/Finn/John Boyega/Our New Han) and in surprising ways during this truly amazing series of adventures by echoing the spirit of Leia, Han and Luke they become the new heroes of The Star Wars Saga.
But before we get to my humble opinion of the movie, let’s get to one of my favorite parts of any STAR WARS movie: the opening crawl. Why do I love the opening crawl so much? Because it, more than anything else expresses the spirit of STAR WARS. George Lucas envisioned these as a series of movies that we would go see on a Saturday afternoon. He meant them to be continuing installments of the greatest and best Saturday Afternoon Serial Cliffhanger ever made:
And the old ally turns out to be Max Von Sydow and if I have have to explain to you the Cool Factor in having mollyfoggin’ Max Von Sydow in a STAR WARS movie then you need to leave right now.
And for my money, as someone who grew up with the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO not only in movies, books and comics I found THE FORCE AWAKENS to be a refreshing and invigorating shot of adrenaline to the characters and the STAR WARS franchise as a whole.
Why? Okay…let me get into why I liked THE FORCE AWAKENS so much:
The characters have grown and changed. Leia, Han and Luke have not been in stasis between THE RETURN OF THE JEDI and THE FORCE AWAKENS. A lot has happened to them since then and whether you want to accept The Extended Universe or not is totally up to you but I appreciate the fact that THE FORCE AWAKENS acknowledges that these characters have had lives in between the movies. I especially got a kick out of the fact that Luke Skywalker has indeed embraced what seems to be a Jedi Master tradition and exiled himself to a remote planet, much as what his former Masters Yoda and Obi-Wan did.
Leia has apparently grown into to be a senior military official in The New Republic, equal to a Joint Chief of Staff while Han Solo has gone back to as he himself says; “what I know best” which is being a professional smuggler and rogue with his long time best friend/partner/co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew/Joonas Suotamo/Ian Whyte) But they all get entangled, new heroes and old in the fight to keep the droid BB-8 out of the hands of The First Order as he, along with information hidden in the long dormant R2-D2 has a map will lead them to the secret location of Luke Skywalker.
During the course of battling The First Order we see the reunion of Princess/General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo which is undoubtably the movie’s most emotional moment. They have scenes together that I’m not ashamed to admit brought tears to my eyes. And I liked seeing how once they were together they immediately fell back into their roles of Leia coming up with suicidal plans and Han coming up with equally suicidal plans to execute them. I liked the friendship between Poe Dameron and Finn. They’re guys who have to bond really quickly due to the circumstances they find themselves in and I bought it.
Know what I liked as well in this movie that I missed in The Prequel Trilogy? The Millennium Falcon. To me it’s just as much as character in the STAR WARS Universe as any of the others and it wasn’t until I saw Rey flying that rusty piece a’shit to outfly First Order Tie Fighters that I realized how much I missed it. I never bought Han Solo’s explanation in the movie SOLO that The Millennium Falcón was built in a factory. Hell No. That bad boy was put together by the equivalent of the STAR WARS Universe hotrodders from a buncha other starships they cobbled together just to see if they could build the most badass starship imaginable.
But then we get Kylo Ren/Ben Solo (Adam Driver) who is just as whiny and petty as his grandfather Anakin Skywalker. I like Adam Driver as an actor and to give him his due, he does the best with what he’s given. And he is better at being Kylo Ren than Hayden Christensen was at being Anakin Skywalker. Other characters in the movie even comment on how he’s such a Darth Vader wannabe and he’ll never be as terrifying or powerful a Sith Lord as his grandfather. One of my favorite laugh out loud movies is when two Stormtroopers approach a room where Kylo Ren is having one of his temper tantrums and simply turn around and go the other way. That to me says more about how his subordinates feel about Kylo Ren than anything else and it’s an excellent example of using film to express character rather than using pages of dialog to do so. To give him his due, Kylo Ren does has aspiration to transcend both what Sith and Jedi are as we’ll see in THE LAST JEDI. So take my criticism of him here with a grain of salt because in THE LAST JEDI I feel he becomes a much more layered character.
THE FORCE AWAKENS is a great movie, plain and simple. I appreciate the fact that it’s fearless in allowing the evolution of established characters and in one notable case killing off one. Introducing new ones is vital for the saga if it is to continue. And unlike many so-called “fans” of the Saga I have no issue with the introduction of new characters be they female, POC or WhatEVER. And the bottom line is that it’s a fun movie. Which is what a STAR WARS movie should be. Please take your all your “Dark” and “Realistic” and “Relevant” and “WHATEVER” somewhere else, okay? THE FORCE AWAKENS is a superior example of what I look for and love in a STAR WARS movie.