Sunday, December 20, 2015

Film Review - Star Wars The Force Awakens

Parallels to Episode IV Star Wars a New Hope dominate the plot of Star Wars Episode VII  The Force Awakens. Jakku replaces Tatooine as the desert planet home of a new fledgling Jedi soon to discover their powers. The Empire is now the First Order and the Rebellion is the Resistance. The film also introduces a new reluctant rogue hero who is drawn to support the Resistance's cause.

Director J.J. Abrams crafts a film that has the style, pace and feel of the original trilogy. The story is simple, the goal plain and the steps to complete the Resistance's task straightforward. The main villains are easily identified from the moment they arrive on screen. Abrams also mixes in a fair amount of timely comedic moments that were missing from the middle set of films.

The episode starts out on Jakku. Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow) a learned elder is meeting with Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) the best resistance pilot to discuss the whereabouts of a missing Luke Skywalker. Tekka hands over a map to Skywalker's location that Poet places into his droid BB-8 for safekeeping. When the First Order arrive on the planet one of their ranks Finn (John Boyega) has issues with their tactics while Poe seeing that his escape route is cut off sends BB-8 off with the map with a plan to retrieve it later. We next meet Rey (Daisy Ridley) scavenging from long abandoned vehicles from the days of the Empire. She brings her daily haul for ever reducing rations and lives in an abandoned vehicle herself waiting for her family how left when she was a little girl to return.

Maz Kanata's castle fortress on Takodana is the location where a diverse group of aliens meet to trade and exchange goods. Its vibe is very similar to the Mos Eisley cantina from the original film. It's on Takodana where Rey is called to the basement catacombs having visions of events that have occurred in the past and those that will take place in the future. The Fortress is also the current resting place of Luke's lightsaber that Finn takes to use in battle against the The First Order when they invade the planet.

Finn and Rey are worthy of their roles as the new leads of Star Wars trilogy 3.0. Rey is agile and effective at every tasks she attempts from rigging bypasses on spaceships to wielding a staff against wood be attackers to beginning to harnessing unforeseen skills that she begins to develop as the film progresses. Finn shows moral strength when he deserts from the Stormtrooper ranks after his unit is ordered to commit a horrible act on Jakuu. He teams with Poe to escape the First order and comes back to help Rey in the fight at Maz Kanata's compound.  Harrison Ford (Han Solo) and Peter Meyhew (Chewbacca) are at their rogue smuggling banter filled best from the moment they appear on screen. However the production has a major flaw in casting Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. He has a mask, pays homage to Darth Vader but takes it off too frequently and simply does not personify evil as the character should. He is also a character one would expect to be an expert with a light sabre but has difficulty in exchanges with foes who have just picked up the device for the first time.

Star Wars The Force Awakens is a welcomed trip back to the sensibility of the originally trilogy. The film has some strong elements and introduces new heroes that work in unison with old familiar faces. But the casting falls down in a critical area on the main villain for the 3.0 universe who when on screen makes it hard to shake the thought of his roles in New York based female driven vehicles.

 *** Out of 4

Star Wars the Force Awakens | J.J. Abrams  | U.S.A. |2015 | 135 Minutes

Tags: Star Wars, Space, Jedi, Droid, Space Opera, the Force, Dark Side, Massacre, Kidnapping, Stormtroopers.

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