'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Review

It's here. After years of anticipation, years of endless speculation about where the hell Disney were going to take the franchise and after multiple great trailers leading up to it - 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' has arrived. Is the franchise here to stay or does this feel like the beginning of yet another collection of disservices to the title? Well I literally just got out of an IMAX showing and I feel ready enough to give my answer to the question.

All right Star Wars fans out there, myself included, deep breaths can be taken here. 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' is not the beginning of yet another trilogy as terrible as the prequels. On a purely visceral and entertainment level, this movie is great. If I was born back in the 70's and had watched all three of the original movies in the theater, I'd be saying I haven't felt the force as strong as this since 1980. Yes rest assured, 'The Empire Strikes Back' remains the greatest Star Wars movie ever made (and I doubt anything will ever top it), but 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' is up there with the strongest movies in the franchise and further emphasizes just how big of a misfire the prequels were. This doesn't mean this is a perfect - or even near perfect - movie however, there are certainly flaws to be found, the question is how much they matter in the grand scheme of this epic filmmaking on display. For the sheer and utter blast I had while watching it, all the little details here and there that bugged me, were for the most part completely overshadowed. I'll get get to those things later on in the review - but not in a spoiler way. I will keep this whole review as spoiler free as possible because while there have been bits that were revealed through various sources - the movie does still thankfully have a couple of surprises up its sleeves so for your own sake, let them be surprises when you watch it.

Right of the bat, the opening title crawl is excellent. I know it is kind of silly to praise text but considering just how dull the entire prequel trilogy (and even 'Return of the Jedi' to some extent) were - this title crawl gets you excited and pumped about what's to come while also get you up to speed, something the Star Wars title crawl should do. Naturally the audience erupted in applause when the Lucasfilm stamp appeared followed by the John Williams score blasting through the IMAX speakers. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had in the theater, something that thankfully wasn't nullified by the actual film.

The real victors in this movie however are thankfully the characters. Rey and Finn played by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega respectively are fantastic and utterly butchers the standard level of performances given in the prequel trilogy and even tops most in the original trilogy as well. Their chemistry is solid and they're given a plethora of standout moments, both together and individually. Harrison Ford is not phoning it in here like he's been doing for decades (even 'Return of the Jedi' to some extent), this is the Han Solo we know and it's a very logical progression from where we last saw him. He finally have things to do that affect the actual plot, something we haven' seen since 'The Empire Strikes Back'. He and Chewbacca's (who's used very well) banter are on full display and you really feel like both of them truly have returned to the screen, something that can also be said about Carrie Fisher as Leia, as expected she's not in the movie a substantial amount, but it's enough to warrant merit. We also have a great new villain in Kylo Ren who I justifiably feared might become a little too similar to Darth Vader - something I discovered, had an actual purpose. Adam Driver does a great job in the role and the script gives him a lot of memorable moments, as far as the new characters go, this is the strongest one.

The plot is not particularly deep or heavy, which might have been the best direction they could have gone for the opening movie. The first 'Star Wars' movie wasn't deep either, but left the doors open for a heavier sequel with 'The Empire Strikes Back' (which it pulled of perfectly, of course) and this is no different - assuming Episode 8 will catch the drift. The only thing I can really say is given depth, is a few of the characters. They're not particularly complicated but they feel like real people.

This is the third Star Wars movie I feel pulled off a near perfect pace. It doesn't waste any time or rush you through anything, you never feel like it's spending too much time or too little time on any of the many locations, it's nearly perfect. It also doesn't feel like it tries to get passed the character development so we can have more action sequences. J.J. Abrams knows what's important and has thankfully decided to have that be the main focus. It's Star Wars again.

If you don't want to know anything about the movie then you'll have to stop reading unless you want to risk anything. I'll have to bring up a few plot related elements before I finish this. I just know every single naysayer on the planet will be quick to mention that the plot is very similar to the original 'Star Wars' and hell even elements of 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Return of the Jedi'. I'm talking plot point by plot point at times. Obviously George Lucas' classic "poetry, it rhymes" quote gets made fun of a lot (and it should) but you're gonna see people saying J.J. Abrams followed it too closely. That being said, for the most part I never found it annoying. There's just enough new things here to balance it out and by the end I didn't leave the theater thinking it is a clone of the original trilogy. Why? Because the characters feel new. The only actual problems I have with the screenplay in terms of structure is a scene around the middle, which when you look back at it - doesn't stick out at all and could easily have been reworked. The third act is where the real flaws start to creep however (I was even reminded of 'Terminator: Genisys' at one point, something that shouldn't be allowed to happen) but again, nothing detracts from the enjoyment and honestly, a lot of the things throughout the movie that I thought were going to lead to flaws - only ended up being a diversion for something better which was great to see.

Overall, 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' is a wonderful return to form for the franchise with great characters, overwhelmingly enjoyable action set-pieces, lots of memorable moments and the most important positive of all - it feels like Star Wars again. This is the first good Star Wars movie I have ever seen in the theater (saw 'Revenge of the Sith' back in 2005 and 'The Phantom Menace' in 3D) and it certainly will not be the last unless my credit card says otherwise. Star Wars is back, and it is here to stay. Now let's hope the future installments can live up to this.


- Lucas


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