Vol. 9, No. 6 – December 23, 2015 – January 5, 2016 – Movie Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens   /4 Palm Trees
By Eduardo Victoria/eduardovictory@yahoo.com

10 years after the “final” installment of the Star Wars saga, the latest entry proves that there are plenty of stories left to tell in the galaxy far, far away. Newcomer to the series J.J. Abrams wrote the script with veteran Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan. Also returning are composer John Williams and the “holy trinity” of actors Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford (amongst others) from the original films.

Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) secures a map leading to the location of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who vanished after a Jedi apprentice turned against him. Stowed away in his droid, BB-8, the adorable bot eventually encounters scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley). Meanwhile, disillusioned Storm Trooper FN2187 (John Boyega) helps Dameron escape the evil First Order. Returning to the planet of Jakku, Rey and the newly named Fin now must work together to protect BB-8 and return him to the Resistance, running into some familiar faces along the way.

After 3 boring, bland, and forgettable films released from 1999 to 2005, Abrams and company reinvigorate the franchise by injecting it with fun characters, a driving plot, and some exciting set pieces. Most important of all, the film harkens back to the days of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Jedi. Practical sets, effects, and makeup create an immersive and authentic feel and look.

In terms of story, the plot is nothing special and relies far too much on nostalgia from past films. A blessing and hindrance for Star Wars fans, Abrams and Kasdan hit beats from past films and even take the look from setting like Hoth and adapt them into their story. Upon repeat viewings (which this movie is primed for) this became more and more forgivable, but a detail that comes across as lazy in such a finely crafted film.

A true stroke of wonder is the chemistry between Ford, Boyega, and Ridley – with the elder Ford being a very emotional center for the film’s entire story. He is the heart of the original films returning to bring us into the new series. If he were not in the film, it simply wouldn’t work.

Another successful and meta-type element to the film is Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. At times, certain actions by Ren had me questioning if this characters is a commentary on all who idolize Darth Vader, one of the most vile and evil villains in film history, who is now strewn across children’s books and clothes for toddlers, a darkly ironic fact.

Holding the entire film together is an amazing score by composer John Williams. Themes for older characters are recalled at the right time and incorporated into new works presented in a grandiose, old-fashioned way. A full orchestra gloriously enriches the film’s soundtrack and provides tension, emotion, and triumph. The music accompanying the first demonstration of the First Order’s Starkiller Base is an amazingly tragic cue that only someone like Williams could write.

Rated PG-13 playing Cinema10 Downtown

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