How does one start a review about a “Star Wars” reboot film that is arguably the most anticipated film since the turn of the century? There’s no need to preface the “Star Wars” franchise because its reputation precedes it. Even those who aren’t film nerds have probably seen “Star Wars” and those few who haven’t seen any of the films still know the iconic names such as Han Solo, Darth Vader, and Skywalker. Quite possibly the most essential piece of cinema pop culture since the first film’s release in 1977, the “Star Wars” franchise is one of the most popular, yet pressured, series ever conceived. The original trilogy stands with “Toy Story,” “Godfather,” and “Lord of the Rings” as one of the best trilogies of all time (just got a brilliant idea for a new list I can create), however, the George Lucas directed prequels fell far short of expectations. Jar Jar Binks is one of the most intolerable characters ever to grace the silver screen and the writing in all three films was as if they had given a pen to a five year old. The prequels fell victim to the concept that special effects and big actions scenes are more important that a memorable, solid story arc. Granted, there were some quality moments in the third film, with the battle between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-won Kenobi in the volcano being one of my favorite scenes from any of the films in terms of how brilliantly choreographed and epically shot it was. It’s safe to say that “The Force Awakens,” the 7th installment in this storied franchise, had a lot of work to do to get the series back on track with the original creations. Luckily for “Star Wars” fanatics and regular audiences alike, it manages to meet those expectations.
What the franchise really needed out of this film was a movie that had strong, yet not excessive special effects sequences and a charming storyline with loveable characters similar to the original trilogy. This film isn’t overladen with special effects, but it does enough to look sleek, modern, and enhance the feeling of awe when watching the film. It seamlessly weaves in CGI sequences with real life puppets characters and actors to create a world that seems authentic and wonderful to really engage the audience. But really, it is the characters that make this film so reminiscent of the magic from the first three films. We are introduced to an entirely new set of characters: a Storm trooper turned good, a lonely female pilot struggling to get by on the planet Jakku, a droid similar in personality to R2D2, a villain desperate to emulate the actions of Darth Vader, and a hot shot pilot that acts like Han Solo 2.0. What’s so great is that we also see the return of C3PO, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca. There’s a brilliant blend of old and new in a story that could almost be a modern day remake of the original 1977 film.
As always, there are some things I have issues with. First off, the film is scarily similar to “A New Hope”, with the first 45 minutes being almost an identical knock-off of the first film. I was worried there was going to be a lack of originality in the plotline, but it gets better as the film goes on. It’s a safe move that makes it easier to emulate the magic of older films, but safe choices aren’t always the best and I would’ve appreciated some risks in the plot. It also gets a bit cheesy with the script at times with some corny one-liners, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t have too much of an effect on the overall product. Also, without ruining too much of the story for those that haven’t seen the film yet, I would’ve liked for Kylo Ren to be a little bit more, I hate to say it, villainous. When the original film came out, Darth Vader became the staple for evil of that generation and is still a quintessential bad guy in cinema history today. Kylo Ren, on the other hand, seems a bit childish at times and just isn’t as menacing as I would expect for a core Star Wars villain operating under the Dark Side.
Overall this film is a good entry in the Star Wars universe and probably ranks as the third best, right behind “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” The plot of most of this film revolves around trying to find a disappeared Luke Skywalker, which seems oddly metaphoric of the film trying to find the lost magic of old. It manages to recreate that atmosphere and will make many people excited for what’s to come next. What makes it truly great is the fact that it does right by a wide range of audiences. Younger kids, who may be having their first Star Wars experience with this film, will love it. It will be a sigh of relief for those who grew up with the prequels, and is a sweet return to form for an older generation that idolized the original trilogy. I’m excited to see where it goes from here.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015): 3/4 stars