“THERE HAS BEEN AN AWAKENING….”
Note: The following review is SPOILER FREE!
It’s finally here folks, Star Wars’ fabled seventh episode. It’s been a long road to the screen for The Force Awakens, going back to Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012 to its exhaustive search for a director (which it found in J.J. Abrams). With hype at an all time high, the question is how did Disney’s willed-into-existence sequel turn out? Pretty well, actually. The Force Awakens taps into the fun spirit of the originals, while also providing best-in-class action scenes and lush cinematography.
As has been shown in the trailers, The Force Awakens follows a new generation of heroes, namely the strong-willed scavenger Rey and rogue Stormtrooper Finn, as they unite with Han Solo and other familiar faces to fight the villainous First Order and its inquisitor, Kylo Ren. Much like in his excellent reboot of Star Trek, Abrams effortlessly introduces the new faces of Star Wars, providing interesting characters with real personality that still feel true to the spirit of the universe. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley have amazing chemistry as Finn and Rey, exchanging memorable quips and sharing a wide-eyed awe at the world around them. Harrison Ford also turns in his best performance in years as Han Solo, and Carrie Fisher is able to effortlessly step back into the shoes of Leia Organa. The one who may just steal the show, however, is Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, whose controlled facade and volatile energy make him a much more human, and much more watchable, antagonist. The plot has some interesting twists and turns; while it trods many of the same beats as previous films, the mix of old and new elements help it to feel fresh and exciting in that classic Star Wars spirit.
The Force Awakens maintains a snappy, fun groove throughout, hopping between a number of familiar settings, yet still feeling fresh due to some great cinematography and Abram’s wise choice to focus on practical effects. Action scenes in particular benefit from this. Star Wars has almost never felt this lively, from swashbuckling duels to the epic dogfights the franchise made its name on (not to mention it may just contain the best lightsaber battles this side of Return of the Jedi). CGI is thankfully used sparingly, with most of it adding a nice layer of sheen to proceedings, although some of the CG characters could look a little off.
However, the film does have its flaws. For all that Abrams and Kasdan do right in setting up the new trilogy, there’s a certain feeling that they bit off more than they could chew, with the film’s excellent first half setting up a myriad of plot points the muddled third act must rush to resolve. It could sometimes feel like Abrams and co. were trying to do a “Greatest Hits” list at times, a mixtape of all the most memorable moments of the original trilogy in bite-sized form. While these elements were still engaging, it could sometimes feel like the filmmakers were trying to satisfy a checklist rather than move the story forward. And even at a whopping two and a half hours, it still feels like the film could’ve used more time, with some concepts feeling a little underserved by the time allotted.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fun, snappy film that introduces a new generation of heroes and retains the spirit of the original. The quick pace keeps things energetic and moving along, but the film feels a little overstuffed as Abrams and co. try to pay tribute to the originals while setting up their new story. Nevertheless, it’s great to see the original cast again, and the new characters are endearing, lively additions to the franchise. The combination of lush visuals, a cast of talented up-and-comers and some good old nostalgia make The Force Awakens the Star Wars sequel you’ve been looking for.
Is the sequel you’ve been looking for? Is the Force strong with the new cast? Tweet me @MaxMielecki. Also, be sure to follow us @YouNerded.
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