The Force is strong with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ | Film Review


The following article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Please read at your own discretion.

When Star Wars: Episode VII was announced after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm productions in 2012, fans questioned whether the new sequels, a long-awaited development, would follow the ill-fated path of the more recent prequels or bring back the magic of the original Star Wars films made nearly 40 years ago. To their delight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally flew into theaters on Thursday and dispelled the fear of a CGI catastrophe, becoming the continuation everyone has been waiting for.

The nostalgic film took a leaf from the original series, resulting in a near-perfect blend of humor, thrilling action sequences and realistic settings, bridging the gap between the old-school Star Wars charm and the technological advances of the prequels and carrying the series into the twenty-first century.

Set 30 years after the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has vanished, entering into a self-imposed exile after a former padawan of his, the sinister and violent Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), destroyed the revived Jedi academy and slaughtered his fellow students. Skywalker’s sister, Leia (Carrie Fisher), now leading the Resistance against Imperial sympathizers called the First Order, seeks a missing piece of a map to his location, which is held by the now powered-down R2-D2. On a mission to retrieve the intelligence, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) hands off the piece to a new lovable droid, BB-8, and is subsequently captured by the masked Ren in a surprisingly humorous exchange.

And since nothing in Star Wars is ever left to chance, the droid lands in the hands of a Force-sensitive scavenger, Rey (Daisy Ridley), who teams up with a reformed stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega). Blasting out of her home world of Jakku, Rey pilots a stolen Millenium Falcon and runs into our old favorites, war-hero and smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), setting off a chain of events that lead to the destruction of the First Order’s Starkiller Base, à la the destructions of Death Stars I and II. Finally, in a quiet final moment, Rey presents a newly-located Luke with his father’s lightsaber, which a pirate known as Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) acquired after he lost it in Bespin.

The films biggest strength is perhaps one of its minor weaknesses—having a plot so similar to A New Hope, the first ever Star Wars film. But The Force Awakens is not merely a rehash of better films.

Writer-director-producer J. J. Abrams had a difficult task of fleshing out a story about people we know all too well without getting overwhelmed in explaining every single event since the time skip. Kylo Ren, for instance, still has some mysterious motivations, which will surely be explored further in Episode VIII — a perfectly acceptable decision in our opinion, even if it does sometimes leave ‘plot holes.’ It’s not necessary to spend entire films discussing backstory, which would be a very boring experience; a few lines of dialogue and some eerie flashbacks from Rey’s memories will suffice.

Unfortunately, the young generation of characters must all be informed that these so-called myths are all real, with Han Solo having to reinforce who he is and what he is known for. It’s a tad redundant and stale for viewers, but thankfully these moments are just that, and they come and go swiftly.

Despite the dizzying pace of twenty-first century Hollywood action movies, The Force Awakens strikes a clean balance of actual content and laser blasts, it’s pacing more akin to the original trilogy. Few scenes ever extend longer than they should—except for maybe when Kylo Ren is Force-torturing someone—and we’re grateful that editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey were stingy with the corny, old-school screen wipes that the prequels used in excess, to the point of burning us out completely.

Another failure of the prequels was a heavy reliance upon computer imaging, but The Force Awakens takes a leaf out of the original screenplays with fewer green screens and more realism. On-sight shots and landscapes took place in various locations in the UK and Iceland, and these real locations with scale models over CGI brings it back to Star Wars’ original authentic aesthetics. Even BB-8 was a physical prop created by special effects artist Neal Scanlan. This kind of attention to detail and union of both physical and artificial production designs makes this episode one of the most visually appealing, if not the most well-made.

With the addition of screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan, who worked on Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and Michael Arndt, of Catching Fire fame, this combined star-power and expertise culminated in a story that strikes all the right cords, complete with a score by the legendary John Williams, known for composing all of the Star Wars films. Truly worthy of its ancestry, it has the potential to become the highest grossing film ever, already shattering box office records faster than it takes to destroy a Death Star.

Nostalgia and excitement may not be able to erase the plot holes left over from The Force Awakens, such as the mechanics of the Republic and the First Order which both formed after the destruction of the Empire. However, it’s only a matter of time before all of our questions are answered in the upcoming Episodes VIII and IX. Until then, fans may be pleased to know that they can finally return to the galaxy far, far away that they fell in love with so many years ago.

For more film reviews and updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at@Sidelines_Life.

To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

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