STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (review)
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Written by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt / Directed by J.J. Abrams / Starring John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Harrison Ford
Han Solo: I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
First things first, J.J. Abrams has made STAR WARS fun again! Nerds the world over, you can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Secondly, I will attempt to write this review free of spoilers. That said, I feel like if I say anything at all you’ll consider it a spoiler so read at your own risk.
As I already said, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is a lot of fun. Excitement in general was more or less lacking from the three prequels that were released about fifteen years ago. George Lucas perhaps felt he was treating his ardent fans to a backstory that would enhance their experience of his initial three classics. In the end though, all he did was bog them down with unnecessary details, a tedious love story and unnecessary politics. Abrams does away with all of this and gives audiences what they really wanted all along, plain old intergalactic enjoyment.
As he did with the STAR TREK series, Abrams makes what is old feel new again. He gives THE FORCE AWAKENS a contemporary feel while still honouring its roots. We still have X-wings and light sabres but we also now have women piloting the air craft and fighting the duels. We still have droids and storm troopers but we also now have sharper humour and more depth of character. You essentially know that you’re about to see a different kind of Star Wars when early on, one storm trooper, actually questions the moral implications of what he does professionally. When he removes his mask, it feels like an incredible step forward for the Star Wars emotional game.
Abrams also brings back some of the original STAR WARS cast, including Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), now a general. Their presence heightens the nostalgia factor, which is certainly part of what inspires such childlike awe in THE FORCE AWAKENS. The series veterans, all of whom slip back into their characters easily and add new layers to them as well, are joined by newcomers, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver. Boyega is the aforementioned storm trooper and is a charismatic new lead for the series. Ridley exhibits strength with every inch of her being and her ability to fight is only one of the things that makes her strong. And Driver comes on as the new face of evil, bringing the same complexity to his performance as he does in HBO’s Girls. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson also join but their parts are a little more surface oriented.
If I had one complaint about THE FORCE AWAKENS, it is that it is more of a remake than a sequel. Abrams, in a script that was co-written by Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote EMPIRE STRIKES BACK) and Michael Arndt (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), gives us an arc we should all be familiar with by now if we’re familiar at all with the series. Set thirty years after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI, The Rebellion, now known as The Resistance, has to infiltrate The Empire, reincarnated as the First Order, in order to destroy a planet sized weapon before it can blow up other planets and wipe out entire populations of people. Along the way, key players waffle as to whether or not they should join the fight and debate the power of The Force. There is even a droid carrying an important message wandering a desert! This can surely heighten our experience as it tugs at our childhood memories but original, it is not.
The one thing that is noticeably prevalent in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS that has been lacking from this universe for far too long now is the notion of The Force and the ongoing battle between the light and the dark side. Abrams makes this struggle feel very real for those grappling with it, which allows for some of the original mythology to shine through in a way it just didn’t in the prequels. Suddenly, the Star Wars universe is actually about something bigger than battles on the ground and in the senate. Suddenly, the world of Star Wars is culturally relevant again. And perhaps most importantly, suddenly Star Wars is once again a great wonder that could actually inspire generations of wannabe Jedi for years to come.
How many sheep would you give Star Wars: The Force Awakens?