Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review
Who do you think you are J.J.?
You think you can walk in here with your fan fiction and call it lore? Am I supposed to believe for a goddamn second that 32 years after Luke, Leia, and Han threw a hootenanny with some teddy bears in the forest that some joe schmoe can come along and kick open the doors to my heart? IS NOTHING SAFE?
Really though, you’d have to be a psychopath to even consider continuing the story of Star Wars. The original trilogy is legend at this point. Why don’t you direct a sequel to the bible while you’re at it J.J.?
With the help of Disney and their “play it as safe as humanly possible” model, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi co-writer Lawrence Kasdan joined Abrams in the writing room with other Star Wars legends such as composer John Williams and sound designer Ben Burtt jumping back on their tauntauns for another go.
For the most part, they succeeded. The Force Awakens is the closest anybody has ever gotten to capturing the excitement of the original flicks, and it has nothing to do with the original characters’ presence. Abrams and Kasdan struck that “thrill for adventure” chord that made us so attached to Luke Skywalker and his original journey to reach the stars.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) are our new Luke in that sense. They throw their lives away in hopes of finding a sense of contentment in an action-packed space western setting. It doesn’t get more Star Wars than that, and that’s the best and worst part of the film.
It may feel like Star Wars, which is the highest compliment I can possibly give to this film – or any film for that matter, but this movie borrows so much of the structure of A New Hope that it’s eye-roll worthy. The plot of the film will not be discussed or even hinted at here because Disney deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for keeping so much of this under wraps. Just know that you’ve seen this before, in the same franchise no less.
Of course, Force Awakens isn’t beat-by-beat the 1977 flick. The return of the original characters – all of which were thankfully used with a sense of purpose and respect – and the new worlds brought to you by oodles of the highest-quality CGI greatly altered the story, but the structure of the plot is mostly identical to the original.
Other than that, the complaints are minimal. Sure there’s some odd character actions here and some conveniences there, but those are nitpicks compared to the overall package.
The new faces in the cast aced it. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega just shot to the top of Hollywood’s list of hottest new talent where they rightfully belong. Meanwhile, Adam Driver somehow successfully followed up Darth Vader with a fascinating villain that Abrams and Kasdan also deserve immense praise for.
Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o, and Max von Sydow round out the rest of this terrific ensemble with characters that didn’t make a ton of impact here, but proved interesting enough where I’m hoping they’re explored in the sequels. Particular shoutout to Gleeson, who could’ve easily overacted in his role, but kept his character grounded enough to make it work. And it almost shouldn’t have to be said, but seeing Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew back at it is worth a $100 ticket price versus the measly $20 I paid – a ticket for Star Wars in 1977 cost $3.50.
Although while a little over 3 million tickets were needed to cover the original’s $11 million budget in 1977, about 10 million will need to cover the $200 million budget of this one in 2015 – which I doubt will remotely be a problem. That hefty sum went to some fun as hell action set-pieces with visual effects so slick and sexy that you’ll forget how much you bitched that the prequels had too much CGI. A fresh John Williams score plays beautifully over those action scenes, with the returning themes respected and used as well as the returning characters were.
So, it looks like Star Wars is back, and in the best shape it has been since 1983. While all the TV shows and video games were nice, nothing got my blood pumpin’ like seeing those ten timeless words projected on a monstrous screen surrounded by people who also own lightsabers but don’t own a football. I also can’t call him Jar-Jar Abrams like I so desperately wanted to.