“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” brings nostalgia and a simple story, albeit predictable elements
The classic space opera franchise is back with director J.J. Abrams at the helm to give a new generation of ‘Star Wars’ a return to the galaxy far, far away. ‘The Force Awakens’ is set thirty years after the events of “Return of the Jedi” as the First Order, a reborn empire, looms throughout the galaxy led by Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, at war with the Resistance, a defense force keeping the galaxy at peace.
Meanwhile on the planet Jakku lives Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, a scavenger longing for more than her current state. She finds a Droid named BB-8 sent out by Resistance fighter named Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Issac, with important information for the resistance. Rey also happens to cross path with First Order Stormtrooper Finn, played by John Boyega, who is looking for a purpose and famed rogue smuggler Han Solo, a role reprised by Harrison Ford. What follows is an adventure crossing planets, systems and connecting the past and present.
Without going into those dreaded spoilers that run amok, ‘The Force Awakens’ returns to what made the franchise work. The story does not dive into political talks and poorly delivered dialogue, but rather a simplistic story and naturally flowing dialogue. The direction of Abrams helps guide the story with a sense of reality without the artificial vibe created in Lucas’ Prequel Trilogy a decade ago. It’s vibrant when it needs to be, it’s dark when it calls for it and retains the old aesthetics of the Original Trilogy. It feels like ‘Star Wars’ and not a boring pale imitation of the series. There’s also fresh moments including an escape from the clutches of the First Order in a TIE fighter, a strong powerful lightsaber fight in a snowy forest and a tremendous flashback sequence less from ‘Star Wars’ and more from a drug trip. The alien character designs are classic Jim Henson Creature Shop style being created from the ground up. The Droids have creativity in the form of BB-8 being not only adorable, but adding charm and real expression to the classic Droid models.
The performances are also stellar with Ridley and Boyega are dynamite as they breathe life into Lawrence Kasdan’s script work while Issac, though use sparsely, gives a smug and witty personality in his delivery. Ford sells the older, wiser Han Solo even when he reminds the audience he is still the Han they love. Yet, the film does have problems to be address.
Driver as the villainous Ren is a bit weak at points and always in the shadow of Darth Vader. His character struggles with not being better, stronger and as powerful as Vader, but he proves he is not with every scene and does leave a lasting impression including one major despicable act and a temper tantrum that show his emotions in clear view. Other actors in smaller roles act well, but leave no weight or impact including Captain Phasma, played by Gwendoline Christie, Hux, played by Domhall Glesson, and Max Kanata, played by Luptia N’yongo. They serves as either filler or to be expanded in a later entry in the new trilogy.
Another key problem with the film is a positive mentioned earlier and it is the reliance on nostalgia. It is fun to see the old characters return even if some feel forced including the likes of C-3PO, played by Anthony Daniels and Admiral Ackbar, but a return of plot threads from the original trilogy give the story too much predictably. There are moments that can be completely called from the beginning and other moments that can leave those watching slightly annoyed for following too closely to the past.
A minor problem is the score. The score by John Williams is a nice return to the galaxy we loved, but there is not a lot of room for originality in the score. It recalls the classic scores of the Original trilogy, but does not create a new piece a la the classic “Duel of the Fates” from ‘The Phantom Menace’ and “Battle of the Heroes” from ‘Revenge of the Sith’ that stands out. It’s a tad bland and not as appealing as past scores.
‘The Force Awakens’ is a return to the former glory of the series while introducing new and fresh ideas to the series, yet the over reliance on the past harms it from being a classic.
Serg’s Rating: ***½ Stars out of 5
‘The Force Awakens’ is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.