On a cloudy fall day when I was in third grade, my dad came home from work early on a Friday. This day brought a special surprise. He handed me a bag, with a smile on his face. Inside was a box, containing the Star Wars original trilogy. I spent the weekend with him immersed in the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia as they battled the evil Darth Vader. By that time, the prequel trilogy was already in theaters, and in my mind, there would be no more than six movies.
Fast forward to October 30th, 2012. I woke up that morning to the news that Robert Iger and Disney had acquired Lucasfilms Ltd. Iger made the message clear that Disney was to make more movies. Soon after, plans were announced for the seventh installment in the franchise to be made with JJ Abrams replacing the founder of the franchise, George Lucas.
I spent the following three years with the movie in the back of my mind, getting consistently excited as I saw countdowns from devoted Twitter accounts. Slowly but surely, the days until the release dwindled down, helped along by the release of new trailers and previews every few months for a year before the movie.
Fast forward one more time, and it’s Friday, December 18th, 2015. At 6:45 P.M. I walked into the movie theater, bought a bucket of popcorn, and stood in line for nearly 30 minutes for the 7:15 showing of the movie (not as much of a camp out as for the original series was, I know, but it was still a sizeable line).
As I took my seat, my anticipation built, reaching its height when the light blue words “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” appeared in front of a starry background. Then the famous yellow letters and the iconic symphony blared to life, and Star Wars was officially back.
From the first minute and a half, the movie hit the accelerator like the Millennium Falcon jumping into hyperdrive, and didn’t look back from there for the duration of the movie.
The film was artfully crafted by Abrams, filled with action, laughs, and characters that fit the franchise. Finn (John Boyega), Rae (Daisey Ridley), and Poe (Oscar Isaac) create the next Star Wars powerhouse trio of heroes, taking on a charismatic villain, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Episode VII takes the bad guy to an unprecedented level. The viewer can see his face, and it’s normal. This actually brings a level of required acting to Driver, which he executed well. The whole ensemble carries out the movie extremely well, complemented by the return of original trilogy characters. Harrison Ford gets the most screentime from the original trio, playing Han Solo, as does Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). As for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammil), you’re going to have to see the film.
The plot film was consistent with some of the adventures from the old movies, with a unique flavor. Finn, a Stormtrooper who deserted the First Order (the follow up to the Empire). He meets up with Poe on board a Star Destroyer of the First Order, and comes to meet Rae on the planet of Jakku. The two escape Jakku on a spaceship that fans will find quite familiar, and soon find themselves with Solo and furry friend with Chewbacca. The group winds up meeting with the Resistance, and takes on Ren to destroy his weapon that can destroy an entire system of planets (ever heard of something like that?). The rest is not for me to tell.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, for a few key reasons.
It distanced itself from the disaster that became of the prequel movies. It has the feel of the first movies, which is where Star Wars belongs. I was relieved to see no battle droids, no clones, and no Jar Jar Binks. After the horror show that was Episode I, the Phantom Menace, it was refreshing to see the franchise move back to what made it the ultimate science fiction movie in the galaxy.
Some would say, however, that it was too reminiscent of the original series. Young hero meets old mentor, gets a lightsaber, takes on villain and villian’s mentor, blows up giant spaceship with y-wing fighter, celebrate. While I will admit it was similar, it has enough of a twist on the series to make it seem like its own movie.
Along with the plot, the CGI was pretty spectacular. Star Wars’ original flaw was it was made in the era of models on strings. The plot in that trilogy was its strength. The CGI in the prequel trilogy did the job, but the plot was almost enough to ruin the franchise. The Force Awakens combines the plot of the original series, and the CGI of the prequels.
Also, it set up what is surely to be an exciting third trilogy, with two more movies in the works sure to bring more Star Wars action to the fans. The movie ends on what I would consider a bit of a cliffhanger, and at this point, I already can’t wait for Disney’s next masterpiece, set to debut in early 2017.
The film has been an absolute smash from the second it hit theaters. It grossed over $250 million on opening weekend alone, and in early January, it passed Avatar as the highest grossing film in American history.
Overall, The Force Awakens did the job, and then some. As I walked out of the movie with my dad, I felt the same way I did all those years ago. I, like many other Star Wars fans, already await the return of the Force.
Only a year or so left.
|Rating: PG-13 Still In Theaters|
|Starring: John Boyega, Daisey Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Luke Skywalker|
|Stars: ★★★★★ out of 5|
First published in print on 2/11