Written By: Dan Geer

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Wow. Simply wow.

It is so hard to put into words how it really feels to finally see Episode VII of the Star Wars saga. It’s been 32 years since Return of the Jedi, and over a decade since Revenge of the Sith, which we thought was going to be the very last Star Wars film we’d EVER see. As far as we knew, George Lucas was done. And he’s still done, but just not in the way we all thought.

Lucas of course made the decision to step out of the Star Wars sandbox and let other talent play in it, which caught us ALL by surprise. Selling the Lucasfilm rights over to Disney, Lucas handed the company over to long-time friend and film producer Kathleen Kennedy to lead the charge into a whole new era of Star Wars – one that takes us back to its roots. And it all started by bringing back The Empire Strikes Back writer Lawrence Kasdan to pen the screenplay, and hiring J.J. Abrams to direct. I couldn’t have imagined a more brilliant team to kick off the sequel trilogy  – a trilogy NO ONE thought would ever happen.

This review will not spoil anything for the reader. It is best to let the film unveil it all. Instead, let us just focus on what we can expect, in terms of tone, characters and story. After all, what you’re really reading this for is simply to know one thing: IS IT GOOD?!!!!

This question carries a lot of baggage for so many Star Wars fans around the world. For many first generation fans, Lucas’ prequel trilogy didn’t quite live up to their expectations. It was Star Wars, but it wasn’t THEIR Star Wars. Not everyone hated the films, mind you, and the prequels did actually manage to bring in a whole new generation of fans to the Star Wars family. But those films were very different in many ways from what we were used to (whether they were “bad” films, as some say, is an argument that needs no more exposition. I’m done beating that dead horse).

The Force Awakens, however, is very much in the vein of the original trilogy. It’s made by a fan, for the fans, and that’s really all the original generation fans ever wanted. We’re 30 years into the future from when we last saw Luke, Han, Leia, and the rest of our beloved heroes celebrating their victory against the tyrannical Empire at the end of Return of the Jedi, and we all want to know what has happened since then. Where are these characters now? Was it a complete victory? Well, since this is Episode VII, obviously not. There is so much more to tell about this universe and these characters than we ever realized, and it all begins here. And it begins well VERY well indeed. Kasdan and Abrams have brought us a film that is both unique and compelling.

The job of Episode VII is not only to play catch up with the original cast (who all slip back into their legacy roles seemlessly here), but also to pass on the torch to the next generation of heroes – in this case Rey (Daisey Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). These are actually the characters we’re introduced to first, and we spend quite a bit of time with them until we are reunited with any of the original cast.

To be honest, even if the original cast members were never in this film, I still would have enjoyed the movie immensely. These new characters are already compelling in and of themselves, terrific fun to be around, and serve up a very healthy dose of humor reminiscent of the original trilogy. Now, that’s not to say the original trilogy cast isn’t needed here. They totally are. I am only making the point that we can feel confident that the new main characters will be able to carry the sequel trilogy beyond the characters we already know and love. That’s what makes this film so great. Our new heroes are memorable ones, and the original trilogy characters are a very welcome bonus that serve a purpose, and aren’t just there for nostalgia’s sake.

We are also introduced to a great new villain in that of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). He is so different than any villain we have seen before in this universe. He’s one that’s given plenty to do, has a story to tell that makes sense, and works on so many levels. I cannot really reveal any more than that without spoiling too much, so let’s just say that this new villain will be just as memorable as the new characters, and you will be glad that that Kylo Ren action figure you bought is cool for reasons beyond the fact that he just looks awesome. He will be adored for sure and there are many layers to peel back and uncover with this character.

But it’s not just the characters that are so great. The story is riveting, right from the first sentence of the opening crawl, to the very last shot of the film. It’s epic, mythic and magical. It also acknowledges concepts and ideas presented in past films, including the prequels, which came as a surprise to me. It very much stays true to all of what George Lucas created, never trying to undo anything from what has come before. So both the fans of the originals and prequels should be satisfied here.

We’re also back to a universe that feels more lived in like the original trilogy. We have scavengers, shady alien characters, spaceships and weapons with imperfections, worn out dwellings, etc. This is a universe that feels comfortable to fans of the originals, and that is exactly how it should be, given that this is a sequel to that universe.

It has been floating around the internet that this film very much mirrors A New Hope. While this is true in a way,  the film never feels derivative like Return of the Jedi did. The Force Awakens really only borrows a few ideas and concepts from A New Hope and puts an original spin on them, which is something that cannot really be said about Return of the Jedi. For me, this was a BIG breath of fresh air to know that we’re not getting another carbon copy of the first Star Wars film, or The Empire Strikes Back for that matter. This story is very much a new one.

Sure, I may have some VERY minor nitpicks about the film, mostly regarding creative decisions. I wanted to see more familiar alien species from other Star Wars films along with new aliens. We maybe see too many new aliens. On the flip side, I would’ve appreciated a little more creativity in the “new” planets we see here, as they all pretty much look like places we’ve seen before. In addition, some plot reveals or resolutions presented in the film may or may not have sat more comfortably in subsequent episodes. A lot happens in this movie, and one cannot help but wonder if we needed all of it now.

But these things are pretty much personal preference. The film never feels cramped or overdone, and I never really felt like J.J. Abrams was winking at the audience either. It has a very comfortable flow to it all, providing a story that feels like a natural progression from what has come before. It is a film that captures what was so loveable and fun about the original trilogy, and that right there is what makes this work, and it is exactly what the fans are going to go crazy for. It’s not technically a “perfect” film, but none of the Star Wars films really are. But it feels perfect.

No need to wave my hand and say, “This is the film you’re looking for.” This is it folks. This is the one. Take a deep breath, realize this is just a movie, and enjoy!

Rating: starrating4 (out of four)

  • dangeer

    I cannot wait to see it again. I went out for a little late night dinner after it was over, then went back to buy tickets for tomorrow at noon. Still 2D, but I’ll see 3D IMAX at some point for sure.

  • Tony

    Well said! I thought this film is right up there with Empire and New Hope. Also, it’s funny because I was so hyped for this film and for the first time in my memory that I wasn’t let down at all! It was almost perfect! For sure, this movie is very memorable and I am glad I saw it in one of the first showings at my local theater! I am actually going to see it again on Saturday in IMAX 3D, so I hope I can enjoy even better! It was overall, FANTASTIC!

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