2 Hrs., 16 Mins.
As an effect, the highly anticipated The Force Awakens being only mildly anticipated by me, to the point where even the viewing of the much-discussed trailer didn’t present itself as much of a need these past few months. Only until a few days ago did I suddenly find myself as excited as any longtime fan would be to see the film. Free tickets, as it turns out, can be quite a bit of a persuader as long as the timing is right.
Given J.J. Abrams' track record and the level of talent involved, it comes as no surprise that The Force Awakens is everything a fan would hope for and more. Since Abrams is a director who can, like Joss Whedon, bring Spielbergian greatness to even the most familiar of material, the picture dazzles, tugs the heartstrings, and, best yet, ties in well-worked nostalgia which takes the film to levels high enough to ensure an endorphin overload.
Taking place thirty years after Return of the Jedi (1983), we now find the original trio more wizened than ever. Though Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is missing, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) has settled nicely into the grizzled veteran aesthetic, and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in her niche as the matriarch of the New Republic.
Antagonism's changed, too. Darth Vader, long dead as the film opens, no longer reigns as the face of the Empire, the galaxy’s evil now being led by Kylo Ren, the commander-in-chief of the newly minted First Order. Traits in sync with Vader are inevitable, the goal of destroying the Republic and its resistance fighters still in check.
An enemy so capable of abiding dominance over the universe is a serious ordeal, and so it feels natural that the film introduce us to a more contemporary trio. Rey (Daisy Ridley), a young scavenger feistier than her male counterparts, has potential matched by Luke Skywalker himself; recently escaped stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) wants to be the hero he wasn’t raised to be; and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a skilled fighter pilot, works as the film’s lionhearted center. In The Force Awakens, introductions and revisits are more important than a complicated storyline — but with adventuresome rowdiness, emotional heftiness, and overall stylistic inventiveness still unblemished (and charming), breathlessness is the only reaction we’re able to perform.
With the extreme pressure surrounding their every move, it’s a wonder that Abrams and his dynamic cast deliver a film spotless in the way it fits into the franchise. It isn’t just good in the way we expect a Star Wars film to be — it’s a high point for the franchise in general, the absence of George Lucas acting as a none too surprising way for the series to seem as incandescent and fresh as it did almost forty years ago. Certainly this sensation is due to its balanced concoction of the new and the old, which leaves us feeling both ready for what’s to come and filled with a desire to gaze back at Lucas’s original trilogy with sentimentality.
But I’m excited for the future, and Ridley and Boyega, two unknowns with stardom ahead of them, are superb next to the veterans they’re pitted against. And, of course, nothing’s better than seeing the old gang get back together again — the moment Ford makes his return, we can feel our heartbeat quicken in excitement. The Force Awakens is the very definition of a crowd pleaser. I can see my indifference coming to an end. Oh well. A
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
December 22, 2015
Star Wars fanatic I am not. Ask me what a Jedi is and I might get cold feet and inch away, preferring you test my knowledge in something 007 related instead. The last time I even sat through the sum of most of its parts was during my eighth grade year, when my English teacher felt the need to cloy us with a seemingly endless marathon to celebrate the last week of school. (Though I grumbled at the time, this, in hindsight, was better than actual schoolwork).