*** THERE ARE NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW ***
There has been an awakening . . .
This past weekend saw one of the most anticipated movies of all time take audiences captive as director JJ Abrams took the world back to a galaxy far, far away in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
I really don't think there has been more pressure for any particular movie, including Episode I, to deliver on the hopes and dreams of a devoted fan base as this film, and to an extent, I think that the expectations could never quite be met. That's the question I had to ask myself before seeing the movie and certainly before writing about it. I've watched it twice, just to be able to detach from the big spectacles and plot points to focus on all the dialogue and specifics. What the original trilogy did was special; special to the point of being a unique, unmatched feat.
What JJ really needed to do, then, was give us a new chapter that simultaneously anchored itself in everything we already know and love while also introducing us to the unfamiliar, extended story and characters. This is where I believe Abrams delivered in fantastic fashion. Here's why:
First off, the producers decided that each film in the trilogy would be directed by a different person including Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick) and Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World, Safety Not Guaranteed), forcing all three directors to work in tandem, at least on a basic story level. This keeps everyone in check and brings multiple valuable opinions to the table. Secondly, Abrams himself is a Star Wars super fan. He was raised on this stuff just like we were and cares about the preservation and continuation of the euphoric original material. For this reason, his attention to detail comes across in how the movie is shot, the practical effects now coupled with modern technology, using original author Lawrence Kasdan to pen the script, and of course the legendary score from composer John Williams. These all combine to give us a very familiar yet joyously exhilarating experience, and we haven't even talked about the story itself or the characters.
One of the most important ways this movie succeeds is in its use of the classic characters we love to pass the torch to the new ones that we're about to. Does the movie rely on nostalgia? Of course, but this is inevitable, expected, and important. There a plenty of throwbacks, familiar but aged faces, and one liners that ring true to even the casual fanboy. This is not, however, used as a crutch to prop up an otherwise lackluster, tired space tale. The film belongs to the newcomers. From relative unknowns like Daisy Ridley and John Boyega to familiar faces such as Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver, the new characters are likable, engaging, and layered. Even the new droid BB-8 is a joy to watch and quickly care about.
Daisy Ridley's Rey is the driving force behind all of this, though, and is easily my pick for favorite aspect of TFA. She was so much fun to watch, and any audience member I talked to was immediately invested in what she was up to.
My one critique, and this is ALL I will say about the plot itself, is that the storyline was a bit TOO familiar, particularly to A New Hope. Some of the similarities I quickly got over, but towards the end and as a whole I wish JJ had taken things in a bit of a different direction.
That being said, it's a great time to be a Star Wars fan, and this new chapter has been an awakening of the space fairytale we have all treasured. I am excited to see where Rian Johnson takes Episode VIII. I feel like Abrams played things safe enough, tying this episode to the previous canon, which should give Johnson the margin to be a bit more risky in the next chapter since he now has the foundation of characters to stand on.
Make no mistake, the Star Wars we wanted is the Star Wars that Abrams has brought us. The Force is strong with this one.
Agree or disagree with my take? Leave a comment below.