STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
****1/2 (out of 5)
December 18, 2015
Harrison Ford as HAN SOLO
Mark Hamill as LUKE SKYWALKER
Carrie Fisher as GENERAL LEIA ORGANA
Adam Driver as KYLO REN
Daisy Ridley as REY
John Boyega as FINN
Oscar Isaac as POE DAMERON
Lupita Nyong’o as MAZ ANATA
Andy Serkis as SUPREME LEADER SNOKE
Domhnall Gleeson as GENERAL HUX
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Peter Mayhew as CHEWBACCA
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Thirty eight years ago, my parents brought their headstrong five-year-old son (who professed to only like “cartoon movies” at the time) to a new science fiction adventure film that had just opened. The movie was “Star Wars,” and I saw it with a child’s eyes, before it became a phenomenon and before it was retrofitted, marketed and developed into sequels, spin-offs and television series.
That day in 1977 changed my life, and I immediately became a bona fide “Star Wars” fan. Of course, at that time, there wasn’t the depth of media coverage or global perspective there is now. The film was merchandised like crazy, and I begged for every piece of “Star Wars” swag I could. I cherished what my parents could buy me, and soon “Star Wars” became an indelible part of my life.
Over the years, I have never lost my love for this saga. I saw all the original films in the theaters during their original release (suck it, millennials!). I read Timothy Zahn’s first sequels in book form in college. I returned to the cinemas to see the special editions in 1997 and 1998, and I even enjoyed watching the prequels more than most people do. Heck, I even remember seeing “The Star Wars Holiday Special” on television when it was broadcast in 1978.
So while some may say that I am an easy mark for J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the series with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I was also potentially one of its harshest critics. I was a fan from the beginning. I felt the Force flow through me. I breathed Tatooine air. I bled blue milk.
For a fan like me – one that has been with it for decades and didn’t just discover the series recently like the Whovians that only like the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors – I expected a lot, and I could have been sorely disappointed.
Fortunately, I was not. I was exhilarated by this new “Star Wars” movie, even more so than the prequels (which you’ll remember, I defend with impunity). It is, quite frankly, everything you want from a “Star Wars” movie.
Even though the last prequel was released just ten years ago, people forget that its been 32 years since we’ve seen the original stars of the series on screen: Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. So just as we were all excited to see Yoda, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO in the prequels, it’s even better because this cast brings with them the feel and flavor of the original trilogy… they’re just a little bit older.
Now, I’m not going to delve into much of the story, plot, characters or locations. You can find that spoilerific nonsense elsewhere on the Internet. And please do take care if this could bother you because you’ll be lucky to make it to Saturday morning without spoilers, let alone Christmas Day or beyond. Suffice it to say that Han Solo and Chewbacca are helping some new characters (played by John Boyega and Daisy Ridley) go up against a new villain who is trained in the Dark Side of the Force (Adam Driver).
“The Force Awakens” manages to play service to the characters we loved from the original series while setting up new characters to continue the saga, a type of groundwork we saw in the expanded universe of books, comics, role-playing games and video games in the 1990s and 2000s. It also manages to feel like a true “Star Wars” movie and not some fever dream of an egomaniacal director trying to put his own spin on things. Disney is protecting its investment and keeping a close eye on things, giving “Star Wars” the Marvel treatment of oversight and franchise-building.
If anything, the story that we are given in “The Force Awakens” seems thin because it’s setting the stage for two more films in the next several years. It also loses a few points for appearing to tread familiar ground, though I do forgive most of this in the name of homage as well as the fact that this movie is keeping in step with the first six as a big budget version of a somewhat cheesy Saturday morning serial like “Terry and the Pirates” (which I am convinced served as Lucas’s inspiration for the entire “Star Wars” saga).
I would not say that “The Force Awakens” shows us a different version of “Star Wars,” but rather a greater version of “Star Wars.” We see an evolved universe that exists thirty years from the last chronological installment – both in the storyline and behind the scenes.
It’s a brilliant next step in the saga, and it leaves you wanting more… which is exactly what it needed to do. Now bring on Episode VIII!