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Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Why even make a Star Wars movie in 2015? Well, to make billions of dollars, for one thing, but I mean, as a movie, what can a new Star Wars do? And what should it do? Since the announcement of a new, sequel trilogy to the most popular entertainment franchise in history three years ago, we’ve all wondered what would happen after John Williams’ theme thundered through theaters for the seventh time. What do we want to see here? What don’t we want? Can the desire for a “new” movie that recaptures the spirit of 1977 actually be satisfied, or is it inherently impossible? These are questions I, who likes the original movies but is not a superfan or anything, asked a lot. But no one in the galaxy has thought about the answers more than J.J. Abrams.

It’s not that The Force Awakens is “about making The Force Awakens” or something as trite as that, but threads of legacy, history, and mythology are woven into the film’s core. It’s not just the presence of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, et al. as their original characters that do it, but mix of coming of age, passing the torch. As new leads Finn and Rey frantically try to figure out how to pilot the Millennium Falcon, avoid crashing, and fend off hostile ships on their tale, I couldn’t help but see Abrams, struggling to figure out how to pilot the iconic vehicle he’d assumed control of. And when Han Solo pulls them in with a tractor beam to take back his ship… you get the idea.

Finn and Rey think of the events of the originals more as legends than facts, surprised that Han, the Jedi, and the Force are real, but the glow in their eyes when they do is contagious. The duo, played by John Boyega, star of complete masterpiece Attack The Block, which I hope everyone is watching right now, and Daisy Ridley, who I have never seen in my life, spend the movie learning to, in essence, do Star Wars, both in the literal shadows of their predecessors, and lost far off on their own.

But the thing is, they aren’t just capable of holding the screen on their own, and aren’t even just the best part of the movie-they’re pretty much the best leads you could possibly imagine. Joined by Oscar Isaac as ace pilot Poe Dameron, Adam Driver as the rare compelling tentpole villain Kylo Ren, and some sort of props department magic as spherical droid BB-8, this is a cast that would be compelling taking a nap. Instead, they’re awake, and, through the magic of some top level set design, effects work, and cinematography, look like they flew out to the actual Star Wars universe for filming.

You may have noticed I haven’t talked much about the actual story. Well, look-if this was the first movie of a series, it would be a mess (some decades after Return of The Jedi, they’re trying to find Luke, who disappeared, and then a million things happen). Sometimes it loses its way, or rushes things, or doesn’t have enough Oscar Isaac, and there’s some potentially big moments that just kind of go by. But The Force Awakens isn’t a new series, and when you think about it probably the least standalone movie of all time. The goal “get Star Wars back on track” alone would an incredible strain on a movie, and here it’s but one of many. As far as striking the right balance of the Star Wars you’ve seen, the Star Wars you’re seeing now, and the Star Wars you’ll see in the future, it does about as good a job as can be done, with both the positives and negatives that implies.

Because though some of the plot stuff doesn’t quite hit you, the character moments here possess planetary oomph. Like I said, I am not a particularly big Star Wars person, but the cast, characters, and, for lack of a less clunky term, heartfelt moviemaking metanarrative, combine to make you feel not just the love that J.J. has for this story, but the weight of it he’s been carrying all these years. I never expected I’d be to be so overcome with emotion I couldn’t talk for half the credits during a Star Wars movie, but here we are. Is it papering over movies flaws when we talk like this, excusing in-movie issues by pointing to the greater forces that cause them, especially when those forces just so happen to align with a studios franchise-fueled bottom line? Is there any way the fact that I’ve seen two seventh installments to film series started in the 70’s in theaters in the last month indicates something good? Probably not. But man if it can’t still be a joy sometimes

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Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
As far as striking the right balance of the Star Wars you've seen, the Star Wars you're seeing now, and the Star Wars you'll see in the future, it does about as good a job as can be done, with both the positives and negatives that implies.

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