Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Starring Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Bodega and Adam Driver
Directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek)
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence

     There is so much secrecy surrounding this highly anticipated project that I feel like a spy writing this review. At first they announced that NO ONE would see it before the opening and you can just imagine the smile on my face when I opened the email that contained my invite to see – even if it was just two days early. So that being said, I will be very limited in my divulging of major plot points and I will not be lying out any spoilers that could ruin your experience should you be one of the millions of Americans watching this over the next week.

     As the scroll begins and the words following STAR WARS: Episode VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS appears amongst one of the most famous fanfares ever written, we learn that Luke Skywalker has gone missing and the Rebellion, lead by General Leia, is desperate to locate him. We learn that a map to his location is being given to them by an old friend. Similar to A New Hope, this message is given to a BB8 Droid (this generation’s R2 unit) and we are off to the races.

     What’s amazing is that the plot is rather simple and while there are secrets throughout, especially since we’ve not been allowed any information other than quick glimpses, the story is not extremely complex and makes a lot of sense given our prior knowledge of the original trilogy. That being said, the two-plus hour long movie flies by due to a masterful hand at pacing.

     You can tell from the beginning that this film is about the passing of the baton to a new generation of characters. Han, Leia and Luke make way for Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who will be the new most popular heroes and villain in fictiondom. Props go to the casting of this film as they put together a fantastic crew of talented young actors. I’m especially pleased with Ridley, who is largely unknown and playing the role of a lifetime like she’s been a movie star for years.

     The original Star Wars films essentially created our understanding of what special effects can add to a film and so it is important that the filmmakers should be at the top of the game in this regard. When Episodes 1-3 came out there was great disappointment due to the fact that it actually looked green-screened. While I’m sure that was enough of that on board here, it doesn’t actually look like it. The production design looks authentic and organic without being scaled down.

     Another important part of the production is the music and at the age of 83 John Williams has given us yet another marvelous score full of playfulness and adventure. And if you really want to provide your own spoilers during the film, listen for the little motifs within the new themes. With this score you not only get a beautiful listen but a great deal of foreshadowing as well.

     I’m not completely complaint-free here. I think there is a major lack of originality when it comes to having yet another death star-like creation within the Starkiller Base. While the base is a subplot, it still feels like a throwback to Episodes 4 and 6 and yes it does provide for some pretty spectacular effects, but I’m pretty sure they could have come up with something different and cooler. In this regard, the Empire (here called The First Order) is employing the very definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again hoping for different results.

     The question I anticipate getting more than any other is if it is child-appropriate. I guess that depends on the child. My five-year-old is going to love it. There are some pretty violent moments (no worse than anything in the first six films) and it is pretty dark at times. I can see kids of all ages experiencing a roller coaster of emotion ranging from fright to sorrow, but overall I think kids and adults alike are going to eat this thing up and come back for seconds and thirds, probably in the same weekend, if they can score tickets. A-