Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens Review

There was no way I was going to go to sleep tonight without writing a whole lot of words about The Force Awakens. With many films I like to sleep on them, sometimes even go days before I put my thoughts out there. Let the dust settle. Not here though. Not now. I have been waiting literally years to experience this picture, a review couldn't wait even so much as a few hours. So I knew exactly what to do to set the mood.

I'm sitting here watching Star Wars. Episode IV to be specific. With the glorious dawn of a new era of this franchise upon us now, I wanted to glance up from the keyboard and see the film that started it all.

Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, one year before I was born, so what I am about to say isn't even really debatable: there has never been a truly great Star Wars film released during my lifetime. Revenge of the Sith is a really damn good and entertaining movie, the best of the prequels, but it still just doesn't have "it". That quality that is essential to a perfect Star Wars movie that can be difficult to put into words. That feeling of a wonderful balance of warmth and joyous wonder along with the serious space opera drama. That feeling when you reflect back upon the experience and realize that you had a blast and also were moved emotionally. That feeling when you can laugh at the dialogue and fall in love with the charm of the characters, to the point that you actually give a shit whether they live or die.

Never in my lifetime...until now. The Force Awakens is a beautiful piece of cinema that fully embraces everything that made Star Wars iconic while also introducing new characters that will continue to take the franchise in an exciting and fresh direction. The Force Awakens has "it".

It's funny, I loved this film the moment it ended but with each passing moment I am falling harder and harder for it. I had some minor qualms with it during the experience and those issues still technically exist, but they have been pushed to the back burner. I just keep thinking about every single thing it did right, and it did so much perfectly. J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan know exactly what a screenplay needs to bring fans back to the Star Wars universe after the failings of the prequels and they deliver on every level with a script that is touching, funny, chilling and exciting, all sometimes within minutes of each other like a roller coaster of delicious movie goodness. It's the simple moments, like when the new droid sensation BB-8 drops his head in sadness and you actually feel a bit of pain due to his grief. When a rolling ball robot manages to make you truly feel something during the early portions of the film, you know you are in for something special.

Seeing the old cast reprise their roles was a welcome and intoxicating blast of nostalgia, but where The Force Awakens really impresses on a performance level comes from the new, fresh faces that will continue to carry the saga forward as far as they are willing to let them take it. I have been a big fan of Oscar Isaac for some time now ever since his small but pivotal role in the 2011 masterpiece Drive, so I was thrilled to see him among the new crop of Star Wars stars and his turn as cocky X-wing pilot Poe Dameron didn't disappoint. I had seen John Boyega in only one movie previous to this, the 2011 British science fiction film Attack the Block, and that wasn't enough to sell me on him being the right choice for a lead slot in The Force Awakens. Nothing to question anymore as he delivers a layered and constantly entertaining performance featuring multiple laugh out loud moments. Finn is a character that is very easy to like and root for. Adam Driver steps into the villain role and his menacing Kylo Ren is just flat out awesome, but the best part about him is that he isn't merely pure, one note evil. He is confused and conflicted and full of rage and a deep rooted pain. He is cloaked in the power of the dark side but he is constantly fighting away the lingering push back of the light.

Daisy Ridley. A name I had never heard prior to the announcement that she would be a major character in the film. I love the idea of finding the perfect unknown actor or actress rather than just casting for the sake of selling tickets because when it comes to a franchise as beloved as Star Wars, you don't need facial recognition star power in order to succeed. Just make the best film possible and the people will come, and as it turns out Ridley was the absolutely perfect choice to play Rey. She is beautiful and everything about her, from the expressive way her eyes react with emotion to her spot on dialogue delivery just felt right. The direction they take with her character is not only admirable, it's exciting. I cannot wait to see what is in store for Rey going forward, and I am more than satisfied watching Daisy Ridley be the centerpiece of such amazing storytelling for years to come.

Star Wars is back and The Force Awakens is one of the best films of the year. It might just be the best and I am thrilled to be able to revisit this right away again the very next day to help make up my mind. J.J Abrams delivers exactly what we wanted and needed with this film and hands it off to Looper director Rian Johnson for the next installment, and what a beautiful hand off it is. Abrams directs the entire film with extreme confidence and shows off some wonderful camera work along the way, and the final scene is so beautiful and perfect that it gives me chills just thinking about it now.

To think, I thought the anticipation I felt here was intense. Knowing what I know now, and with that final shot, the 17 months between now and Episode VIII feels like an eternity.

The greatest franchise in film has been rejuvenated and is bursting with life again. What a wonderful feeling, to know that I will wake up tomorrow and have the chance to sit in another theater and really dissect what an achievement The Force Awakens is.

Time to lay down and finish watching A New Hope. When Star Wars is great, its like having a warm blanket wrapped around you on a cold night.

Rest assured, Star Wars is great again.


1 comment:

  1. I just saw SW7 and I must say I am so glad that I wasn't caught up in the hype. Honestly, I'm a little surprised how much people like this movie, and are eager to return again and again. I thought the film was definitely better than the prequels, but overall this was an average movie for me. My biggest problem with it was it was all set up with little pay off. And don't get me wrong, I thought the film was good, but seriously the driving force (no pun intended) of the plot rests on nostalgia. And now it feels like I'm ranting, damn. Anywho, I am a star wars fan, but found this as average. I'm really looking forward to Rogue One done by Gareth Edwards and Episode 8 only because the director of Looper will make it awesomer