Star Wars: The Force Awakens does NOT disappoint!!!
It starts as we have all come to expect a Star Wars movie, with the now familiar slow story crawl that gives every movie goer a chance to catch up with the 30+ years that has passed since the events of the now legendary Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Of course, there are a few things the slow roll forgets to mention. But, we’ll get to these a little later.
The movies beginning starts off, as one might expect a J.J. Abrams film, with a lot of action and its fair share of fireworks.
At this point, it is fair to say, that one of my very few quibbles with the film can be found. The intro of main characters, Finn played by John Boyega, a reluctant storm trooper, and Poe Dameron played by Oscar Isaac, the “best” pilot in the resistance, feels a bit rushed, but the instant chemistry of the actors and fast paced action mask the lack of early character development well. This and the fast “buddy” dynamic of the pair, as well as the fact that the story does help fill in much of Finn’s development in a very timely manner, if not entirely complete, manner, makes the pace a minor and very forgivable cinematic sin.
The character of Poe is one that is not entirely explored in this latest blockbuster in the franchise, which is all right with me, given both the limits of the slightly more than 2-hour cut and the fact that this story is part of a multi-episode arch.
That brings us to the very well developed introduction of Rey played by the incomparable Daisy Ridley—incomparable because she introduces a female lead in a Star Wars movie in a commanding way that even her predecessor Carrie Fisher, arguably the originator of Sci-Fi’s tough heroine didn’t. Ridley’s well played Rey was one of this films most complex good guys and coupling her dynamic portrayal, great chemistry with Boyega and a kick-ass light saber battle that seemed to come from pure instinct, is sure to make her an instant star and a nerd heroine for the ages.
Ridley’s mastery of her emotional range brought all of the depth needed to a character that is poised to inherit the full Force of the Star Wars universe.
While the character of Luke Skywalker has no on-screen presence in the first … well, hours of the film, from the introductory text roll to the emotional reveal of actor Mark Hamill’s now aged and bearded face, the character inhabits every moment of this film. The emergence of fan favorites Han Solo and Chewbacca stepping onto the iconic Millennium Falcon for the first time in 30 years, is sure to set any theater ablaze with cheers and shouts. This only gets better as the elder statesman of the franchise, Harrison Ford, slips neatly back into his wise cracking, if only slightly wiser character. Rounding out the original series’ holy trinity is Carrie Fisher who manages to capture the audience with as much ease now as she did at 19-years-old, when she first donned her famous or rather, infamous, hair style. She gives the now General Organa even more poise and grace than in the originals and hasn’t lost a step when it comes to commanding both her troops or the audience.
This film does a terrific job at bridging the new generation with the world that fans have loved for 3 generations.
Introducing an all-new progeny of evil is the intense and amazing Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver. This blustery black-clad baddy is brought out in minutes, harkening back to the immense jackboots his character must fill if he is going to replace the galaxy’s most infamous dark lord, Darth Vader. Driver, from the outset, brings a new level of complication and nuance to his portrayal of the Solo son turned fanatic dark-side acolyte and impassioned grandson of the long dead Anakin Darth Vader, for whom the character seems to have an almost creepy reverence—but then, who doesn’t love “The master of evil, Darth”?
While this film does gloss over some key plot points to jump into the real meat of the story, it also does a fair job of making quick attempts to fill these holes with references, such as that to the infamous “clone army” that fist gave us storm troopers to juxtapose them with those of the First Order in this latest film, who are, as evidenced by Finn, not clones, but rather taken and raised, conditioned as the film states, to be the army of the First Order.
SWTFA was young Michael Pomichter's first Star Wars film, but he is already pumped for the next!
Books / EU / Tie-Ins (SPOILERS Maybe?)
While fans went into the theater, having been told not to expect much from the once cannon, now discarded Extended Universe, many were likely pleasantly surprised and now frantically curious, about how much of the basic plots, if only veiled and abridged, of at the least some of the many works of authors like Timothy Zahn with his The Last Command and the likes of Wordfire Press's Aaron Allston creator of the Legacy of the Force series (Book 1, at least), and its predecessor, the popular Kevin J. Anderson, Jedi Academy and Young Jedi Knights series, some of which has been boiled down and ground into spice for the stew that is SWTFA.
While the structure and framing have changed enough to be considered all new, the presence of Kylo Ren (Ben Solo, an amalgamated Jacen with a touch of Ben Skywalker perhaps), a Solo son once trained by Uncle Luke turned dark, a mysterious force sensitive Rey, whose parentage fans will doubtless debate until it’s revealed, the presence of the Star Killer, planet-sized super “Death Star-esque,” Base as well as the not so subtle rhyming of storylines from original trilogy and yes, even the largely panned prequels, pays at the very least, a high degree of homage to Zahn, Anderson, Allston as well as many other’s material, all grist for a new mill.
Star Wars fans can’t help but love this poignant return to a galaxy far, far away, as they sit on the edge of their seats through the almost perfect combination of action, comedy, drama, an entourage of classic characters and an assemblage new characters in a fresh new story that pays at least homage to a much loved EU and still finds a voice of its own.
Filled with all of the “dead-on-point” messaging touting friendship, family and hope, as well as it’s fair share of emotional strife, that climaxes when fans cry out in unison with Chewbacca watching beloved rogue Han Solo skewered at his own son’s hand, and falling to a heroic if unexceptional death (Shades of Return of the Jedi, anyone?), this film is sure to provoke audiences.
Rey’s parentage is perhaps the films most significant cliffhanger. Many have already begun to speculate as to whether she is an estranged and hidden away daughter of Luke Skywalker, (conjuring a gender swapped Ben Skywalker or perhaps the 'lost' mystery progeny of the EU) or is she the second child of Han and Leia (once famed in the EU, Jayna and Jacen the "Jedi Twins," and poor lil’ Anakin, whose name may have fallen victim to the curse of the prequels), anyone? DISCUSS!!! GO!
This new franchise generation is sure to delight audiences as much as it did its veteran cast members, new comers, and … well, studio execs at Disney/Lucas Films as it has already broken box office records clearing a $100 million opening day and is set to climb higher than $250 million by the close of its opening weekend.
If you simply need all of the exposition that a 2-hour film can’t give you, you might want to check out the Star Wars: The Force Awakens novelization by famed author Alan Dean Foster who penned the first Star Wars novelization with George Lucas in 1977.
AND... Check out Alan's interview with fellow author and longtime Star Wars FANATIC: ME!