Thank you, J.J. Abrams.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens can be appreciated and beloved by movie fans, young, middle aged and old.
The renegade director who just can’t fail(seriously, he hasn’t made a bad flick) has successfully rejuvenated another lost franchise. After throwing a fresh coat of cool hipster paint on Star Trek by carving out an origin tale, Abrams has rebooted the Star Wars saga with a fresh exciting dose of old fashioned cinematic entertainment.
Look at Harrison Ford, throwing on the leather coat and slipping easily back into the role that helped put him on the map(sorry Indiana Jones but no thanks). Han Solo is back and better than ever, giving the 70+ year old fresh sea legs on the big screen and delivering nostalgic goosebumps to older fans like myself who grew up watching him make a ship travel at 12 parsecs. It’s invigorating watching the actor revisit one of his finest roles.
Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill make shorter yet still potent returns to Princess(now General) Leia and the missing in action Luke Skywalker. While sprinkling small tributes to the original three films, Abrams also introduces a new fleet of players to the universe.
Rey(Daisy Ridley) is the new Luke, a young scavenger looking for life, money and a purpose on her desolate home planet before a BB8(think younger brother type of R2D2) finds her and throws her into an adventure that eventually links her up with jaded former Storm tropper Finn(John Boyega). They join forces with Leia’s new hotshot pilot Poe(Oscar Isaac, having a ton of fun and injecting some finely timed humor into a hero role) to take on Kylo Ren(Adam Driver, cutting a menacing Vader like figure) and the new First Order, basically Death Star 2.0. Rey and company side with the Resistance(keeping names simple here) to battle Ren and the bad guys. Pretty simply good, bad and funny cool going on here.
I didn’t know much about Ridley and Boyega but they cut memorable impressions here as young heroes thrust into a life changing situation. A scene near the end with Ren in a forest will raise the blood pressure and bring it back down before jacking it up again. This movie does that over and over again. For new fans, it will be a cool action flick with weird creatures and humans clashing. For older fans, it’s a fully realized return to the 80’s when Star Wars was the freshest thing on the cinematic street.
Force Awakens cuts a more serious tone throughout the film, with legendary characters falling and others rising. There are as many chilling moments as the ones that will wrap a smile around your face. Abrams is building a new trilogy after all and this the official kickoff. John Williams’ score couldn’t have been remastered any better, the sound of the opening credits hitting your senses like a bolt of lightning.
The standout player here is Driver, bringing back harsh and sinister memories of Darth Vader and his cold blooded dealings. When he enters the first scene in the film and unleashes that voice, the fear is instant. The man has been good before, in lighter fare like HBO’s Girls and This is Where I Leave You, but here he truly creates something that will stick with you. When the mask comes off later in the film, Driver’s performance kicks up a notch and lands on a whole new level of great. A scene with Ren and Solo will undoubtedly make fans clinch their seats in anticipation.
In the end, Abrams doesn’t just acquit himself. He makes the story and franchise his own, the same way he did a few years ago with Star Trek. The moment the sequel got put in his hands, a sigh of relief entered my mind. Star Wars fanatic or not, you could appreciate what Abrams was going to bring to the flick. He may not win an Oscar, but he gets an “Atta boy” from millions of people across the world.
SWTFA will easily smash box office records and for good reason. A film hyped as the second coming of greatness comes pretty close to matching that anticipation by having some real fun. Without overdoing the drama or forgetting about the well timed humor(Ford and Boyega have some great moments), Abrams(which he co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt) has made an old classic cool and hip again, good enough for any crowd during the holidays.
If you find the time, go see Star Wars VII. Fanatic or not, it’s a true cinematic experience.