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Movie Review – The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is the seventh installment in the Star Wars saga.  Directed by J.J. Abrams, the movie takes place a few decades after “Return of the Jedi“.

Plot Synopsis:  Go buy a ticket and watch the movie.  Seriously, I’m not going to spoil it for you.  NOTE – There are spoilers below the fold at the end of the open review.  Don’t go there if you want to be surprised in the theater.

The cast includes old favorites like Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford, and they are joined by new talent Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver.  Also making appearances are Anthony Daniels as C3P0 and Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca.

Overall, the acting was very well done.  The bright spot was Daisy Ridley as Rey, the female lead, although Boyega’s work as Finn was also entertaining.  Ford, Fisher, and Hamill bring continuity from the original trilogy, and their characters did not overwhelm the new storyline.

The music was, as always, exceptional.  John Williams picked up where he left off with the other movies, and his music was woven into the movie as seamlessly as one could hope.  It was almost always there, but it never asserted itself as the focal point once the movie moved beyond the initial story crawl.

The special effects were outstanding.  Honestly, I thought they looked better than what we saw in the prequels, and that was the only thing that impressed me about those movies.   Abrams does a good job of making the special effects support the characters and story, instead of the reverse found in the prequels.

There were a few problems with the plot, which I will get into below the fold.  However, this was a good movie.  It was fun, and it followed a definite plot without delving into philosophy or discussions about points of view.  The good characters were good, the bad characters were, for the most part, bad, and they were all trying to get somewhere.

Overall, I’d give this movie a B+.  It’s not the best Star Wars movie, but it’s certainly better than most.  It’s not the pinnacle of American cinema, but it’s a lot of fun and it kept me engaged through its entire 2 hour run.  It made for a good date movie, and it’s appropriate for children who can handle the original trilogy.

Best part – No Jar Jar, no midiclorians, and no obnoxious nine-year-olds hitting on the teenage lead.

Warning – Spoilers ahead!

 

Seriously, stop reading now if you don’t want the plot spoiled.  You’ve been warned!

 

 

 

 

OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me ask you a question:

Here’s a rough plot line –

A secret agent puts urgent information into an android and sets it loose on a desert planet.  The android finds its way into the company of a young adventurer, who eventually finds their way off the desert planet aboard a certain freighter.  The freighter is intercepted and dragged into another ship, and its crew hides under the floor grates.  A young woman is tortured by the main bad guy to get the information the droid carries, but eventually gets away with the help of rescuers.  The bad guys kill a whole bunch of people using an awesome space weapon.  They make their way to a ragtag bunch of rebels who attack the super weapon in small fighters.  During the fighting, a mentor and father figure to the young person we met on the desert world is killed by the main bad guy, who he knows from the past.  One of the small fighters is able to race down a narrow chink in the super weapon’s armor and destroy it.  We all go home for tea and medals.

Now, are we talking about A New Hope in 1977 or The Force Awakens in 2015?

Would you believe that it works for both?  “All of this has happened before.  All of this will happen again.” indeed.

Abrams spent a lot of time going over ground that felt really familiar.  Interspersed with these plot points were a lot of sound effects and snatches of dialogue that were lifted from A New Hope.  People who enjoyed that movie long ago might not pick up on it too much, but if you’ve re-watched the original trilogy in the past few months, they stand out quite a bit.

A few nods to the old storylines would have been fun.  This was distracting.  By the time the movie was over, I was counting them off on my fingers and predicting what would happen in the next few scenes.

Did it work?  Yes, it did.  Abrams did a good job as a storyteller and director.  Did I notice how much seemed to be borrowed from earlier works?  Yes, I did.

My next quibble is how the character of Rey progresses from “Wow, she’s a badass and really clever!” to “Wow, she’s a Force badass and watch how she wields those Jedi skills and that lightsaber!”  Apparently, the old Jedi Order were a bunch of suckers, because if you’re strong enough with the Force, you can just fight off a Dark Side mind meld and discover all these things that you can do.  It’s something that’s not explained in the movie, so I hope it’s gone over in the sequels.

Finally, I really wish Abrams had found a way to depart from the Skywalker family story arc.  It was a rich vein to mine for 30 years, but it’s played out and a little stale.  The universe that George Lucas created is  wide open, and letting “The Tragedy of Anakin Skywalker, His Kids, And His Grandkids” go would be a good way to introduce Star Wars to a new generation.

But don’t get me wrong.  This was an enjoyable action movie, and I’m glad I saw it.  It’s going to go on my shelf when it’s released on disk, and I’m going to take my kids to see it.   If you like Star Wars, you’ll enjoy this one.

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