The powers that be told media members to keep their plot details at the barest of minimum, so this “review” of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is more of a general collection of scrambled thoughts that’s spoiler and narrative free. However jumbled and incoherent these following words come across, simply know this: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ranks right up there with “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” And personally, it’s my favorite installment of the series.
No matter how you slice it, “The Empire Strikes Back” will always be considered as the creative apex of the “Star Wars” universe and since I actually watched the first three films when they debuted in theaters, the Luke Skywalker saga has always hit home. Watching the Darth Vader reveal amidst a packed house in a Minnesota movie house is an indelible memory, and Luke’s struggle with The Force and his own destiny, to this day, continues to captivate my imagination.
I’m just one of millions who carry this sentiment, and director J.J. Abrams’ love for the “Star Wars” saga is abundantly clear with “The Force Awakens.” Thankfully, the film is not a slavish ode to George Lucas and his creations, but rather an inspired continuation of a saga that transcends time and weather.
Akira Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” and Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” were among the works that shaped George Lucas as a storyteller, and though Abrams holds his own personal aesthetic, he keeps that “hero’s journey” alive with the additions of disillusioned Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), resourceful scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), and ace fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Standing in this trio’s way of finding a bit of peace and happiness in the world is Darth Vader’s #1 fan – Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
Though the trailer and TV spots briefly shows Finn’s lightsaber duel with Kylo and the return of most of Star Wars’ beloved characters, the biggest question left unanswered was the status of Luke Skywalker. Did he, like his father, succumb to the Dark Side? Is he actually dead and does his presence linger on as an apparition? Plus, if Finn is using a lightsaber, does the Force actually exist in his DNA?
J.J. Abrams won’t leave you hanging, as these questions will be addressed in the movie. My biggest surprise behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes from the performances of Ridley, Boyega, and Driver, as Abrams and co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan give the actors a ton of meat on the bone. These are fully fleshed out characters, and their respective journeys is, thanks to a well written storyline, extremely palpable.
With the introduction of intriguing and well developed new characters and a loving reverence to the stories that came before, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is bravura filmmaking from J.J. Abrams. We all want to know the fates of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia, but with some great additions to the “Star Wars” family, the anticipation for even more films should reach a fever pitch by the opening weekend.
One of the more, for lack of a better word, emotional moments of the Star Wars films comes from Luke’s confrontation with Darth Vader and the realization of their familial bond. The father/son relationship, along with the even bigger picture of finding your way through life (via the “Force” that lies within) is covered in an unabashedly evocative manner in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and don’t be surprised if you’re chopping onions during some of the film’s eye-opening reveals.
It’s all here. Whether it’s the organic use of practical effects (I saw the film in 3D and it was a truly immersive experience) or a fully engaged acting ensemble, there is a ton of passion spread out across the silver screen. As much as I was affected by “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back” as a child, it’ll be wonderful to see how “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” captures the hearts and minds of this latest generation.
Though some reboots, remakes, and sequels horrendously attempt to recapture past glories by hackneyed storytelling, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ushers us into a riveting new chapter in this space opera, and don’t expect this light to dim anytime soon.
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