Star Wars is undoubtedly one of the largest and best movie franchises in cinematic history, still thriving after 38 years since its inception. Though many fans try to forget the disappointing prequel franchise and were worried about adding on to the franchise with a seventh episode, they can rest easy as The Force Awakens is as glorious as the trailers have made it out to be.
The film takes place thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the Rebel Alliance has now become the Resistance and the Galactic Empire are now the First Order. We follow Finn, a Stormtrooper who has lost faith in the First Order and changes sides, and Rey, a young scavenger from the desert planet Jakku who gets entangled in an adventure after meeting Finn.
Director J.J. Abrams, known for rebooting and revitalizing the Star Trek franchise, takes the helm from George Lucas for Episode VII, being the first Star Wars director other than Lucas since Irvin Kershner directed Episode 5, as well as the first to direct both a Star Wars and Star Trek film. Abrams does an incredible job with the film, as he brings some of the incredible style and suspense from his Star Trek movies to here. One of the greatest things is the different and stylish camera angles that Abrams and frequent cinematography collaborator, Daniel Mindel, have used many times in their previous films, especially the Treks.
In addition, Abrams' direction during the air dogfights is a major improvement from the previous films, both technically and in approach. The previous films' flight sequences usually saw a wider, more broad look at the fights with the main characters' ships far away from the camera flying through explosions. However, The Force Awakens offers a new take on the fighting, a more intimate and close-up view on it, putting audiences right into the action with the pilots.
The visual effects are, as to be expected, stellar, as all of the classic effects are brought back to life vibrantly, as well as some of them being reinvented and revitalized for the screen. The Millenium Falcon is revived with exquisite colors and stellar detail, and the lightsabers have a sharper, much more pointed look similar to that of a sword, giving the battles a slightly more realistic feel than in the past.
The film's dialogue is also incredibly and smartly written, as a lot of it gives the performers a chance to truly show their range in both comedic and dramatic performances. The movie also does a great job of creating numerous hilarious dialogue bits, much of which pokes fun at the previous films, as well as making fun little nods to the past.
The performances are also incredible in the film, with each newcomer bringing their own strength to their roles. John Boyega (Attack the Block, 24: Live Another Day) brings a certain dramatic flair and fear to his role as Finn, and even uses an American accent as opposed to his natural British accent, maybe as a way to contrast with past Sith villains who tended to have British accents.
Daisy Ridley, who's pretty much a newcomer to the film world as well as Star Wars, offers a different kind of female character for the universe compared to the past, proving herself to be the strongest woman in the galaxy so far, as well as the saddest. Her backstory, while still quite a mystery, is one no-doubt filled with tragedy and heartbreak, which she does well to use as motivation.
Adam Driver delivers one of the best villain performances of the franchise, surpassing Hayden Christensen's evil turn in Revenge, as well as coming close to James Earl Jones' historic Darth Vader. Not only does he have the perfect sinister voice and charisma for the role, but his motivation is one not previously seen in the films, giving him a different kind of drive and creating an even more powerful evil than previously faced.
Overall, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a thrilling, heart-warming, nostalgic and beautiful return to the franchise that helps to set it high in the ranks of the best Star Wars films, personally coming in third place.