Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
2015, PG-13, 135 min. Directed by J.J. Abrams. Starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Peter Mayhew, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 18, 2015
It’s decades after the destruction of the Death Star and good old Admiral Ackbar hasn’t aged a bit. The same can’t be said for the epic and ongoing space opera’s more human heroes, though. Scoundrel Han Solo (Ford) and the former Princess – now General – Leia (Fisher) are getting a bit long in the tooth to keep gallivanting around the galaxy but, as ever, there’s an evil empire to thwart, shocking revelations involving the parentage of certain new characters, and an even bigger Death Star. For clarity’s sake, it’s been rechristened the Starkiller Base and, in yet another nod to George Lucas’ original game-changer, it comes complete with another fucking Achilles trench. Defensive ion cannons be damned – all it takes is a squadron of chatterbox X-Wing pilots with 20/20 eyesight and the necessary derring-do to … well, you’ll figure it out the first time you lay eyes on the ginormous thing.
Easily the most anticipated (and critic-proof) film of the year, The Force Awakens hews closely to Lucas’ original trio of Star Wars outings. For younger fans (i.e., those who’ve had the misfortune to not be born yet when the series made its debut “a long time ago,” aka 1977) J.J. Abrams has crafted a rollicking hybridization of everything that made the first three films so thrillingly watchable. For longtime followers of the Force, the addition of new core characters – Rey (Ridley), a lone scavenger from a planet that looks suspiciously like Tatooine, and Finn (Boyega), an Imperial Stormtrooper who decides that mass murder isn’t his style after all – provide a welcome return to Lucas’ original style of characterization. No interchangeable battle droids or confusing senate political maneuvering here, just plain old badass dogfights, lightsaber duels, and the Millennium Falcon doing what it does best. (Like the aforementioned Ackbar, Chewbacca (Mayhew) has also escaped the ravages of time, although a few grayish strands of fur can be discerned by those with keen eyes.)
There’s much to love about this particular chapter of the rebooted franchise, although to say too much more might engender spoilers, and you’re likely going to see the film for yourself very soon. Abrams, it must be said, is pretty shameless when it comes to referencing and/or lifting from the original film, and that’s understandable. No one wants a reboot of the overloaded dud that 1999’s Episode I: The Phantom Menace revealed itself to be. Instead, Abrams and a thoroughly game group of screenwriters, actors, and visual-effects artists have crafted a post-millennial reflection of our collective cultural memory of the original. What it lacks is the sheer, mind-blowing newness of 1977’s opening fusillade between the rebels and the empire. That’s forever lost, I fear, to all the cinematic and real-world changes that have risen in the ensuing four decades. Still, as a nostalgia trip that knows exactly what die-hard Star Wars fans want and then layers in some memorable new characters, The Force Awakens is exactly what it needs to be: an old-school Saturday afternoon sci-fi matinee writ big.
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Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Peter Mayhew, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker