Overview: A new generation meets the old as the battle between the dark side and the light is revived when both sides collide in their search for a missing Luke Skywalker. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; 2015; Rated PG-13; 136 minutes.
In Abrams We Trust: Ten years have passed since the last release of a new Star Wars film, and fans have been anticipating episode VII with both uninhibited excitement stemming from their unconditional love of the property and hesitant anxiety due to the colossal letdown of the prequels. With J. J. Abrams in the driver’s seat, we can all rest easy that the far, far away galaxy is finally in safe hands. The recipe for success in The Force Awakens revolves around one thing: balance. The action rarely lets up, but the film leaves plenty of room for dialogue and the foundation of the story. The boundaries of innovative technology and special effects are pushed, while still maintaining the integrity and realness of the originals. CGI is utilized, but not in excess, and the result is a seamless blend of fresh and familiar that remains balanced throughout all aspects of this film.
Blaster From the Past: Star Wars: The Force Awakens was created by a fan for the fans, and that is evident from start to finish. The film is almost meta in its abundance of callbacks and homage to the original trilogy, but the way these elements are reused feels more like a tribute and less like recycled material. Abrams is bringing the best of what we remember of the original trilogy forward for a new generation of viewers to appreciate and enjoy. The Millennium Falcon is resurrected with the same combination of adoration and disdain, the Death Star remains essentially immortal, and the same vantage points are even used in filming the pilots of the starfighters. The script accomplishes the same goals: Lawrence Kasdan returning to team up with Abrams and inject the balance of light-hearted quips and the more intense dialogue this series is known for. And of course John Williams returns with a stunning score that carries us through all of the high and lows.
Chewie, We’re Home: Above all, the most welcome sense of familiarity is also the most superficially achieved. To my utter delight, Harrison Ford doesn’t miss a beat as Han Solo, who plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between the past and present. Ford revives one of his most beloved characters with relish, reminding everyone why he and Chewbacca have a film friendship for the ages. Solo is also given the honor of ushering in the new generation of stars that will continue the fight between good and evil, and these up and comers are more than worthy.
The Next Generation: The most outstanding performance in the new film is the breakout turn of Daisy Ridley as Rey, who tears ahead on the trail blazed by Carrie Fisher, as a woman who can not only stand on her own two feet but becomes her own hero, rescuing herself and everyone around her. Ridley is magnetic, embodying a promising map of where this franchise is heading. The Force Awakens, as the simple title might suggest, documents a rebirth that explores uncharted territory while preserving what’s precious about the old. John Boyega and Adam Driver are also both strong additions to the torch-carrying cast. Stormtroopers with feelings and a villain with the potential and complexity to rival that of the iconic Darth Vader are welcome additions to the galaxy.
Overall: The Force Awakens is a J. J. Abrams’ love letter to Star Wars and its fans, an end product that caters to the generation who grew up with the original films and inspires them to fall in love with a series all over again while their kids discover it for the first time. The Force is strong with this one.