Film Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (★★★½)


star_wars_episode_vii__the_force_awakens_ver3There has been an awakening…and it is good.  In 1977, George Lucas gave birth to “Star Wars: A New Hope.”  A monumental achievement that has bled over into generations and now, will reach a new wave of future generations with the newest installment.  “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a smart, keen, and dynamic installation of a brand new saga in the franchise.  With newly minted director J.J. Abrams, the film hawks back to everything that has made the previous films so special, while reinventing itself with a new identity to exist in today’s cinematic climate.  Better than any of the prequels instituted fifteen years ago, “The Force Awakens” is not only a taut franchise reborn, it’s a full on emotional drama that has the power to move you.  Best of all, it’s a living, breathing example of diversity in Hollywood.  Actors that look like me, my children, and my family, are given the opportunity to join a billion dollar charter.  Disney and Lucas Films should be commended for such a feat.

Spoiler free synopsis.  All you need to know is that this takes place 20 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi.”  Let the story wash over you as it unfolds moment to moment.

Where we must begin is the story and script written by J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt.  The three scribes bridge the events of “Jedi” to this new trilogy with not just respect, but with a canny and crafty structure that will be explored in so many different avenues over the next two films.  Allowing original characters like Luke (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and Leia (Carrie Fisher, who looks FANTASTIC by the way) take a back seat to these new and fascinating personalities was a wise decision.  However, the film sets up the upcoming trilogy with great anticipation, almost to its own fault.  You can see the deliberate attempts to leave key dialogue out, along with vague and ambiguous camera shots that get the wheels turning in a “Star Wars”-obsessed mind.  The screenwriters are constantly aware of their own future within the saga, that they tend to fixate and the possibilities about who these characters are and where they’re going.

o-STAR-WARS-THE-FORCE-AWAKENS-facebookOn a technical standpoint, “The Force Awakens” is a powerful, incredibly vibrant experience.  Slick and stylish, the evolution of the world of “Star Wars” is fully realized with sumptuous sets, vigorous and energetic cinematography, and impeccable sound work.  The beauty of the film really comes alive in its potent and lively visual effects.  You are transported into this world and an overwhelming feeling of sadness comes to you when the credits begin to roll.  As for composer John Williams, you can’t get any better in this day and age, than hearing the horns and passion bleed from the screen, beginning to end.  Watch out Oscar!

If you’re looking for stand out performances, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley head this train to international stardom.  Oscar Isaac‘s charisma has never been put to better use while Adam Driver‘s ache and pain is apparent in every vocal note.  It’s a strong ensemble, sprinkled with the veteran cast who deliver some of their finest works within the entire saga.

If you’re looking for a probable and possible contender for the Academy Awards for Best Picture, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” makes a compelling case, book ending a licentious year full of different films that generated different passionate bases.  It has everything that a “Star Wars” lover wants and begs for, while inviting new and unfamiliar movie lovers into the world.  It’s a machine that never lets up (especially the first 40 minutes), and will keep you glued to the screen the entire time.

You did it J.J.!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens on December 18 and is distributed by Walt Disney and Lucas Films.