“There has been an awakening…”
Just a little over a year ago, Star Wars fans were treated to the first official trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. The first thing they got were those five words shown above, and it’s almost impossible to describe just how transcendent of a phrase that has become now that I have seen the seventh installment in the beloved franchise. However, I’m going to do my best.
Ever since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, this year has been a long time coming for fans of the Star Wars universe. After George Lucas’ prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, & Revenge of the Sith) disappointed a larger portion of the fan base than it excited, the mix of skepticism and hopeful optimism over the past few months for The Force Awakens has been palpable. Like everyone in the world has come together, to hold hands and hope with everything in their power that this would not let them down.
Will it though? To put it simply, no. It. Will. Not.
Now normally, this is the part in a review where I give a small synopsis of the film, but since J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, and the rest of the brilliant team at Disney and Lucasfilm chose to keep as much of The Force Awakens as secret as they could, I’m going to do the same. I hope you take my word for it too when I say that going into this film knowing as little as possible, will pay off. So what exactly do you need to know about The Force Awakens? Simple. Star Wars is back.
Taking over where George Lucas left off, director J.J. Abrams has stepped up to helm this first installment in the new trilogy, tasked with an undertaking that most other filmmakers would cower in fear from. However, Abrams’ bravery, as well as his wise collaborations with Kathleen Kennedy, co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, and composer John Williams (more on them later), have helped to make The Force Awakens Abrams’ finest feature film yet. After a career of mixing his childhood nostalgia with his eventual trademarks, Abrams has found the perfect balance in this latest film, making The Force Awakens both his most reserved and bombastic outing yet.
Featuring an all-star cast of both new and familiar faces, Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Carrie Fisher (Princess/General Leia), and more return to their iconic roles as if they had never even left them. Fisher slips right back into Leia Organa in a way that some fans might doubt going into it, but keeping that familiar charm and sarcasm along with an older, wiser mentality has helped to make the character’s transition between Return of the Jedi and this practically seamless.
However, out of all of the returning cast members, Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew are two of the film’s biggest standouts, and with a majority of the pacing relying heavily on Han and Chewie’s return, the pair manage to bring a heart and levity to the film that simply would not have been there without. You’ll laugh, cry, and cheer for this iconic film duo when they appear again, and considering Ford’s previous comments about the franchise in the past, seeing him return as Han Solo is one of the greatest pleasures in cinema that I’ve had in a long time. Welcome home.
John Boyega directs a majority of the film’s story as Finn though, a stormtrooper gone rogue just trying to find a way to survive. Forming an instant chemistry with Solo from practically the first scene too, Boyega manages to go from humorous to frustrating in the blink of an eye, or at the same time if the scene calls for it. Often biting off more than he can chew, Finn is the kind of Star Wars hero that the franchise has been waiting for, combining some of Han’s roguish elements with the crushed innocence of a post-Empire Luke Skywalker.
Right off the bat though, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron is the Star Wars pilot we all wish we could be and you’ll watch in awe as he’s constantly making maneuvers and decisions that even Anakin Skywalker would be impressed by. However, aside from his purely technical skills – Poe’s charisma and determination for the Resistance and all that it stands for will make you love him even more. Isaac adds a new side to his kaleidoscope of onscreen talents, and after emerging as one of the best young actors in the film business over the past few years, he delivers a strong and fun performance as Poe, reminiscent of those showcased in the Original Trilogy.
Accepting the roles as the Star Wars franchise’s newest lead characters though, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley as Rey and Kylo Ren are revelations in the purest sense of the word. Through a perfect mix of dramatic performance and brilliant writing, Kylo Ren is a villain unlike any we’ve seen from the Star Wars universe. Bringing an unyielding ferocity to his every word and action, Kylo will make you quake in fear. Not to mention that he comes with an onscreen introduction that will make most of 2015′s other cinematic villains want to step back and take some notes. His incomplete, and unstable nature will make it impossible to turn away whenever he’s onscreen, no matter what heinous crime he is committing next.
Where Driver had developed a strong career over the past few years in projects like Girls, What If, While We’re Young, and Frances Ha though, Ridley is practically unknown with The Force Awakens marking her first foray into feature film. Rey is perhaps one of the most dimensional and likable characters that the franchise has seen yet too. Equal parts strong and curious, she’s not only one of the best female characters of the past few years, but one of the best period. Equipped with a natural quality that few other blockbuster actresses can replicate, Ridley is just the kind of breakout star you might expect, and it’s easy to see why Abrams and co. were so drawn to her interpretation of the character once you first see her day-to-day life as a scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku.
John Williams’ score is just as impressive as you think it will be and whether it be during a quiet moment on Jakku or an epic action sequence in the Millennium Falcon – the score manages to function perfectly on every level, through every situation. Anyone familiar with Lawrence Kasdan’s past work will be able to see his fingerprints all over practically every frame of The Force Awakens as well, and the work he has done for this franchise is almost indescribable, bringing an added level of mythology and depth to practically every word spoken, and every location seen.
Going into The Force Awakens too, I don’t think I’ll be alone when I say that I was determined to prevent myself from having the kind of knee jerk reaction I experienced initially with the prequels. As I sat in my seat though, usually moving from gasping out loud to straight up cheering at the screen, I realized fairly quickly on that my faith and anticipation as a fan had not been misplaced. Now, I cannot say accurately if The Force Awakens will be able to capture the same kind of magic that the Original Trilogy did for you because I think we all have fairly different expectations of what that means.
However, as someone who analyzed every scene of the film down to the smallest line of dialogue, I’ve come to the conclusion that The Force Awakens manages to be both entirely different from everything that’s come before, and warmly familiar as well. At times too, you’ll be hard pressed to think of a moment when Star Wars has ever looked any better.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will hit theatres this Friday, December 18th.
Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.
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