A decade ago, we all watched in horror as George Lucas tainted the beloved <em>Star Wars</em> franchise with the prequel trilogy. Sitting in the theatre a decade later, there is a sense of excitement and wonder surrounding the venerable space opera once again. </p>
There’s no George Lucas, no connection to the prequels, no unnecessary CGI. With Disney paying the bills and J.J. Abrams at the helm, Star Wars: The Force Awakens looks to recapture the magic and magnificence of the original trilogy. The only question that remains: will it live up to the insurmountable hype and anticipation that have been built over the last three years, or will it crumble under the weight of the world’s expectations?
Long story short, The Force Awakens exceeds expectations. It is an incredible movie that both introduces Star Wars to a new generation and pays respect to the original trilogy. From the opening scene to the final moments of the film, The Force Awakens takes you on an intergalactic ride unlike any film to grace the silver screen in 2015. It is an epic space opera through and through.
A movie can have the best action set pieces, the funniest one-liners, the most intense fight scenes, but it falls on its face without a great cast. Star Wars has a phenomenal cast. The new actors (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver) put on career performances while the returning cast (Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, and Anthony Davis) do a great job in reprising their respective roles. It is such a joy to watch the cast interact on the big screen as it feels like everybody is having the time of their life.
The two standout performances come from Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren and the mechanical masterminds behind BB-8.
Ren is threatening from the very moment he steps on screen as he displays little remorse for his actions and wields the Force with great strength and ease. Driver’s layered performance brings some much needed gravitas to the unstable and emotional Sith lord.
On the other hand, BB-8 is absolutely charming. It’s unbelievable to see a robot imbue itself with human emotions and personality from mere motion and incoherent beeps. Seeing BB-8 mimic gasping is simultaneously the funniest and cutest part of the movie.
There are a ton of great moments contained in The Force Awakens’ over two-hour runtime, from the brutal lightsaber fights to the masterful action sequences. What pulls it all together is Abram’s stunning visuals. The Force Awakens is such a beautiful film that your eyes will be glued to the screen. The use of practical sets and effects grounds the film enough in reality that it keeps you from ever breaking your suspension of disbelief.
For all that The Force Awakens does right, there is one misstep that keeps it from being the best in the series: its reliance on the structure of A New Hope. If you boil The Force Awakens down to its core, it is a beat for beat recreation of A New Hope with some twists from Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi thrown in to mix things up. While it is easy to overlook since it is the first true Star Wars sequel in 32 years and it doesn’t severely hurt the film, it is quite distracting once you figure out the formula.
Another minor misstep is that certain characters, some of which were highly hyped in the promotional material, are sidelined for the majority of the film. It’s understandable that you can’t flesh out every character in just two hours, but it’s better to save a character for the sequel rather than waste their presence in this movie.
Looking around the theatre at my fellow movie-goers, every single person was glued to the screen. Some were laughing, some were crying, some were sitting at the edge of their seats, but everyone in that theatre was having a good time. That is the magnificence of Star Wars: The Force Awakens — the power to bring people together no matter age, race, and gender.