Movie Review: Star Wars - The Force Awakens

Ironically from the mind of J.J. Abrams, who also helmed 2009's Star Trek reboot, Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings fans back into the colossal world we know and love, reuniting long-time fans with the characters and stories they grew up on. Also introducing us to a rag-tag team of new heroes, from the fearless pilot Poe Dameron to the curious scavenger Rey, The Force Awakens delivers possibly one of the most beautiful films of the year, aided by its brilliant cast and just a bit of awesome nostalgia as well. 

Boy, does this lightsaber go places! And it still looks like new!

A lonely scavenger seeking purpose. A rogue soldier who wants to escape. A conflicted warrior who holds onto a false idol. What do these three individuals have in common, you ask? Well, in simple terms, they all live in a world at war. Whether that war may be among men with guns or swords, or a war within their own minds, these three get hit with the worst of it. Returning to a galaxy far, far away, the evil Galactic Empire has fallen, and from its ashes, the First Order has risen, along with it a new threat to the Force. Enslaving the galaxy once more, the Dark Side pits these three on a path of the most unlikeliest of outcomes. As new heroes rise to learn from the ones they once called myths, and new evils use the Force to wreak havoc upon the world, only the likes of the most unlikely can bring peace to the war-torn galaxy.

Hitler's Third Reich in space?

That may have felt a bit too vague to some, but trust me, you don't want any spoilers from this film. For a film like this, you need to see it for yourself or not at all. With that being said, this film was possibly one of the best films of the year...maybe even the century. Packed full with intense action, lovely characters, and some worthy nostalgia from the original trilogy, The Force Awakens, I've just now discovered, may be quite difficult to review. The positives clearly outweighing the negatives, I don't expect anyone to walk out of this film with a frown on their face. Just the thought of returning to the place fans saw in 1977, with those memorable characters and the world of diverse creatures and planets, should be enough for anyone to enjoy this movie. Now, with the intention of not giving away too much, here are some thoughts:

While I could start with the incredible action sequences or the obvious nostalgia factors of the film, I have to first mention the cast. The cast of the film was one of the greatest I've seen all year, its brilliant mixture of new faces with the old, and the fantastic chemistry they all had together. Beginning with the new cast, newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega kill their roles. With a fiery attitude within both of them, as well as some fluid chemistry between the two, I had few worries that these newbies would have any trouble here. Being my first exposure to both of them (Boyega appearing in 2011's Attack the Block, a film I never had the pleasure of seeing), this duo was also some of the most surprising I've seen all year. Playing the lone scavenger Rey and a conflicted Stormtrooper Finn respectively, these two shine on the screen together, playing off one another like they've known each other for years. I especially loved Daisy Ridley's Rey, as her character was another one of this year's most brilliant female heroes, as the film told a wonderful (and quite surprising) story about her character and her struggles. 

Along with Oscar Isaac's skilled pilot Poe Dameron, who kicked off the film with elegant cunning and didn't disappoint as usual, another highlight of the cast has to be Harrison Ford. While the original cast still kicks ass, the amazing Carrie Fisher delivering a heartfelt performance as General Leia, and Mark Hamill's Luke giving us one of the best scenes in the film, it's Harrison Ford's return as Han Solo that really makes you smile. Alongside the ever-so-loyal partner-in-crime Chewbacca, Ford breaths a life into old Han that I don't think he could ever do with an old Indiana Jones. While I'll still watch him as the adventurer Indy, the way Ford goes about Han's character in this film is something spectacular. While he does get a lot of character development (and I mean A LOT), the Han we know and love from the originals is still there, and you can sure as hell feel it. Acting as the sort-of guide to the galaxy for the newcomers, Ford's role in the film is not as limited as you might think, as he kicks just as much ass as he did back in 1977.  

The final highlight of the cast I nearly failed to mention was Adam Driver, who brought his ferocious yet sincere attitude to the film's central villain. Playing Kylo Ren, a dark warrior scarred by his past and made strong by his manipulation of the Force, Driver humanized this villain in a way I wasn't expecting he would. Bent on continuing the legacy of Darth Vader, a figure very close to him and what he believes in, Ren is one of the film's most interesting characters, as his progression into further madness and fear makes him mesmerizing to watch. As the brilliant actors of Andy Serkis and Domhnall Gleeson also bring their own intensity to their villainous characters, it's Adam Driver's mysterious Kylo Ren that fuels the plot.    

Leading every good character has to be an equally good plot, and with The Force Awakens, I'm a bit on the fence. Calling back certain plot points from the past films (some which are blatantly obvious), the film relies a bit too much sometimes on its established material. While it did feel at times necessary, as this film acted as this generation's A New Hope in a way, kick-starting another trilogy with brand-new characters, there were times when it felt a bit lazy. While it doesn't take much away from the film -- the film still retaining its youthful feeling mixed with just a bit of nostalgia -- I just wish it could've been a bit less obvious to fans of the originals. For newer fans of the films, however, I think they will appreciate these plot points in their own way for sure. 

With just as much importance as plot in a film, the way a film is shot can make or break a movie. As for this one, holy crap, it's like nothing I've ever seen before. From the fast-paced aerial battles to the most visceral lightsaber duel in the entire franchise (don't argue, it's pretty damn awesome), I was honestly astonished beyond belief how beautiful this film looked. There are many shots in this film that I can't forget, as they truly capture the essence of what Star Wars is. I could describe a truly intense scene to you right now, but that would most definitely give something away. Overall, however, this might have been the most visually interesting Star Wars film ever. Along with its fantastic return to form, using a generous mix of practical effects and computer animation, the cinematography of this film cannot be overlooked, as it truly redefines where this franchise is headed. 

Another aspect of this franchise that cannot be overlooked has to be the music. I've said it many, many times before, but I cannot find two more film composers more memorable than Hans Zimmer and John Williams. The latter being the master of all things music behind Star Wars, Williams doesn't even disappoint a little, as he brings back his classic themes (along with some new stuff up his sleeve) to transport us once more. Everything from the main title theme to the dynamic "Binary Sunset", the music of Williams and Company not only make Star Wars Star Wars, but have also become so memorable that you can't think of the films without thinking of the music. Impacting each scene with every note he composes, John Williams will always be a legend in my heart. 

Overall, it's quite hard to take in everything that The Force Awakens delivers, as it mixes together a masterful concoction of humor, emotion, thrill, and wisdom, all into one 2-hour adventure. With amazing characters, who all felt relatable to any age -- from the independent woman who seeks more in her life to the vengeful teenage boy with anger issues -- some breathtaking action sequences, and a plot that not only appeals to the originals, but also helps to expand the epic lore of the Force, The Force Awakens is every Star Wars fan's dream sequel (well, maybe after Empire Strikes Back). Whether you're new to the universe, or you've been here long before '77, this film treasures what made the originals so good, and recaptures the true emotion a story of dark versus light can evoke from us all. 

I gave this film -- dare I say it -- a 10 out of 10, for its surprising cast of newbies, its amazing dedication from director J.J. Abrams, writer Lawrence Kasdan, and composer John Williams, and finally its amazing depth, something that truly brought newbies and old fans alike together once more to revisit this immense world of space and spectacle. Thank you Disney, George Lucas, and J.J. Abrams for not disappointing us, and delivering one phenomenal Star Wars film for the next generation. Here's to many more! 

Keep on rollin', little buddy. You're one hell of a co-star!

Was Star Wars the best film of the year? Or was it Mad Max? Fantastic 4, maybe? Stay tuned soon for my list of the best and worst films of 2015, along with many, many more reviews like this one! Have a happy and safe holiday, and -- this seems appropriate -- may the Force be with you!                   

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