There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens or better known as Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens is directed, co-written, and co-produced by J.J. Abrams and stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew, all who reprise their respective roles from the original trilogy. New stars include Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Andy Serkis, and Max von Sydow. It is the first Star Wars film to not be produced by George Lucas.
In my lifetime thus far, there is not a single film that I can say that I have seen that has had more of an intensive marketing campaign than Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Fast food restaurants, grocery store items, shopping malls, commercials, commercials, commercials. You name it, and it would have something telling you to go see Episode VII. And it wasn't like there was any major risk involved with all of the advertising that Disney did leading up to the film's release. Star Wars had long since been established as one of the world's most popular franchises, and contemporary audiences would flood theaters everywhere whenever they would hear those two magic words. To the surprise of nobody, Episode VII broke the box office. No, that's not right. Episode VII didn't break the box office. Episode VII launched an all-out blitzkrieg on the box office, with a force (pun intended) so massive and so deadly that it would have Liam Neeson shaking in his boots and raise an eyebrow from Chuck Norris.
Life for The Force Awakens began pretty much when George Lucas decided in October 2012 to sell his production company Lucasfilm, which included the Stars Wars franchise, to Disney. Disney had been interested in purchasing Lucasfilm for around a year and a half by that point, and Lucas, contemplating retirement, agreed to a deal, explaining that it was his ambition to pass Star Wars on to a new film making generation. Disney announced that it was their hope to expand even further upon the galaxy far, far away, with a new movie to be released every two to three years. And when Disney made it official that there was going to be a brand new Star Wars trilogy, you can imagine the reaction epidemic of fans nationwide. It was as if someone found the cure for cancer; news and excitement spreading like wildfire. True, it was only ten years after the release of Revenge of The Sith, but it really had been the first time since Return of the Jedi in 1983 that the world got a great Star Wars film. The prequels left a foul taste in everyone's mouth, mangling the overall Star Wars story as well as clouding the motivations and overall personality of one of cinema's most recognizable villains in Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. But now with J.J. Abrams in the director's chair and new faces like Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver on board, Star Wars was starting up again with an almost clean slate.
Now the ultimate question: Does Episode VII live up to the hype and deliver an exciting, satisfying, and memorable space opera adventure? The answer is: Yes it does. It's not an all-time classic to be placed next to A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, but it does just about everything you'd want it to do: deliver top-notch Star Wars action and recapture the magical bliss of the franchise's glory days, while also infusing the franchise with new energy that is sure to carry over into the future installments.
Episode VII takes place thirty years after Return of the Jedi. Rising from the ashes of the fallen Galactic Empire is The First Order, who seek to eliminate the New Republic. Opposing The First Order is The Resistance, the latter being led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). The film opens with First Order Stormtroopers and their commander, the masked Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), attacking a village on the planet Jakku. Ren and the Stormtroopers are looking for a map that leads to the location of Luke Skywalker, who mysteriously vanished during the thirty years between Episodes VI and VII. Resistance pilot Poe Dameron obtains the map from Jakku village elder Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow), but hides it inside his droid BB-8 when he notices the incoming First Order troops. Poe is captured, but BB-8 manages to escape with the map in hand. BB-8 soon runs into Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger. Meanwhile, Stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega), upon seeing the death and destruction done on Jakku, begins to second guess his allegiance to the First Order. He decides to help Poe Dameron escape, and the two steal a TIE fighter. During their escape, Poe decides to give FN-2187 the name "Finn". The two then crash land on Jakku, where Finn survives, but Poe supposedly does not. Finn eventually finds Rey and BB-8, but the First Order tracks them and launches another attack. The three find the Millennium Falcon in a junkyard and use it to escape Jakku. Not long afterwards, the Millennium Falcon is captured by a larger ship being piloted by Han Solo and Chewbacca. Upon meeting Han and Chewbacca, Rey and Finn learn that the Force, the Jedi, the Sith, and Luke Skywalker are all real (Rey had thought the stories from before were myths).
Almost everything about The Force Awakens is an introduction, primarily giving us our first glimpse into a new host of characters that will serve as the life blood of this new trilogy. Plenty of old faces are back, but it's the newcomers who truly shine. And now with social media like Facebook and Twitter to bolster advertising and speculation about what will happen in future installments, the film would take great care in how it handles the likes of Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren. The magnitude of social media was another thing that The Force Awakens gave Star Wars for the first time ever. And now with two years for the people of the social media world and the Internet in general to work with in building up hype and speculation for The Last Jedi? The box office might as well start digging its own grave.
- Rey is established as the sequel trilogy's lead character, and she absolutely works following in the main character footsteps of Luke Skywalker from the original trilogy. She's a character who's built as tough, fearless, and highly knowledgeable, all due in part to a breakout performance by Daisy Ridley. The film also makes a clear effort in giving Rey that strong, independent woman vibe, such as getting angry when Finn holds her hand not once but twice while the two are running away from the First Order on Jakku. Finn later asks Rey if she has a family or a cute boyfriend, to which she responds it's none of his business. Whether or not Rey is given some kind of romantic story line later on is beyond me. Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me too much if they don't give her one.
- I thought Revenge of the Sith was loaded with action. The Force Awakens easily takes the crown as the most action-packed Star Wars episode yet, with lightsabers, blasters, TIE fighters, Chewbacca's crossbow; almost every weapon imaginable in the Star Wars galaxy is on display here. There's a pleasant balance between action in space and action on the ground, boosted by another solid score from the legendary John Williams and humorous lines to lighten the mood just enough.
- Any and all problems with Episode VII all point their way back to one major culprit: the writing. This is nowhere near prequel-level bad, but there are parts of the screenplay that are lazy and/or lacking in originality. The most frequent critique that I've heard is that the film is derivative of the original trilogy, which I do agree with a little bit. The skeletal structure of The Force Awakens' plot is noticeably similar to that of A New Hope's plot; both films involve the pursuit of a droid unit who happens to hold information that would be vital to whoever could get their hands on it. The main villain is a dark-clothed masked man who is ultimately serving a Supreme Leader/Emperor. Oh yes, and the Stormtroopers still can't shoot, but that doesn't qualify as derivative because no bad guy henchman in the history of film has ever been a good shot. The First Order is constructing another planet destroyer a.k.a another Death Star, easily the laziest piece of the writing. It's described as being much bigger and even more destructive than the Death Star. I remember calling it the Death Star Plus when I saw the film in theaters the first time. That name has stuck ever since. So anyway, there are far too many things in the film to point at and accuse of being shamelessly copied from parts of the original trilogy, mainly A New Hope. I guess if you're going to imitate anything from previous Star Wars installments, the original trilogy is the safest bet.
More than anything, Episode VII proudly declares to the world the epic return of Star Wars, providing all of the gleefully flashy fan service that any Star Wars fan could ask for. And by combining old faces with a bunch of new ones, The Force Awakens successfully provides an entertaining ride that both longtime Star Wars buffs and newcomer fans can get behind and want to go see again and again. I do believe it is entirely possible for one to watch The Force Awakens without having seen any of the previous installments and still find great joy in watching it. And if anything else, it is certain to get you pumped up for the two upcoming episodes in this new trilogy. Given the lineup of robust stars and the anticipation of millions and millions of people all around the world, it's hard to think that the future installments of the Stars Wars franchise will disappoint in any way.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: