Wednesday, February 24, 2016

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' --A Review

It took the Missus and I a good month longer than the rest of the known universe- but we did it, we made it to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and you know what? This was a movie that lived up to the hype and delivered on everything you could have possibly wanted in a new Star Wars movie. I fully admit that I felt a little bit of trepidation when they announced the new trilogy. The prequels had been... underwhelming (and quickly overshadowed by The Clone Wars, at least in my book.) It seemed like a risky bet- with so much hype, there was a danger that they wouldn't be able to deliver. But with a good screenwriter, a great cast (including many stalwarts from the original trilogy) they delivered a new story, new dangers and left lots of intriguing, unanswered questions for people to ponder as they await the next sequel. (I'm going to assume that everyone has seen this movie by now, but just in case, I'll try and keep it as spoiler-free as possible. But, be warned.)

Set thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker has vanished and the Rebel Alliance's victory over the Rebels has been somewhat of a pyrrhic victory. While there is a new Republic, much of the galaxy is still frozen in conflict between the remnants of the old Empire- now reformed as The First Order and The Resistance. The movie opens with a resistance pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) landing on the planet Jakku to meet with an elder who had a clue to Luke's location. While there, the First Order attacks the village and Poe is captured, but his droid, BB-8, flees.

BB-8 eventually meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who resides on Jakku, stripping ruined Star Destroyers for parts and components, while Poe is interrogated by the mysterious Kylo Ren before being freed by a Stormtrooper who wasn't all that keen on fighting for The First Order anymore and also fleeing to Jakku. While Finn (the now ex-stormtrooper, played by John Boyega) believes Poe to be killed in their crash landing, he sets out to find BB-8 himself. Eventually, he finds BB-8 and Rey and soon, The First Order finds them as well. Together they flee Jakku in a very familiar ship, only to find themselves picked up by another, larger ship piloted by none other than Han Solo and Chewbacca.

Examining BB-8's map, they find it to be incomplete and Han agrees to help Rey and Finn and together they head to the planet Takodana to meet with cantina owner Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyongo) who reveals that she has the lightsaber of Luke Skywalker in her possession. While Rey refuses to take it after experiences disturbing visions that seem to indicate she could use the force, Maz gives the lightsaber to Finn and agrees to help get BB-8 to The Resistance. Unfortunately, everybody else shows up to try and get BB-8 as well and a pitched battle ensues, which sees Rey captured by The First Order, who unleash the fury of their Starkiller Base against the Republic.

Reunited with Leia, Han, Finn and Chewbacca agree to go to Starkiller Base to get Rey back, even as Poe and the rest of The Resistance prepare to attack Starkiller Base to destroy it. After a final confrontation, Rey has what she needs to find Luke Skywalker and eventually she does, presenting him with his lightsaber.

There's a lot to like about this movie: it's tightly written and doesn't waste a moment- once it gets going, you better hang on, because it doesn't let up until the very end of the film. While yes, I can see some similarities to the very first Star Wars, there weren't enough parallels (at least for me) for me to jump aboard the 'it's just a remake' complaint bus that's out there. This feels different, it feels plausible and complicated. While it would be nice to think that after the yub-nub dance, things were all hunky dory, real life probably would have been a whole lot messier, given the galactic scale of the Empire itself. The exhaustion and weariness that seem to emanate from General Organa when we met her again really resonate and illustrate three decades of dashed hopes and close victories gone wrong. The fact that The First Order just essentially built a bigger, badder Death Star doesn't surprise me either. A totalitarian regime would hold onto it's obsessions.

But the real strength of the movie is the questions is leaves unanswered. Who the hell is Rey? Where has Luke been all this time? What's with Supreme Leader Snoke? Why does Kylo Ren fly into uncontrollable rages all the time? J.J Abrams did it. He made a Star Wars film that reminded me of why I loved the original Star Wars to begin with and left me curious and excited to see where this new trilogy would go next.

Overall: I'm just going to keep this real simple: this movie was absolutely everything I ever wanted in a new Star Wars movie. **** out of ****

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