Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review of Star Wars, The Force Awakens: And So Does the Franchise

Star Wars may be compared to, say, the New York Knicks, Montreal Canadiens or entertainers who have residency in Branson, Missouri. They used to be great, but lately are now a shell of their former selves.

When it was announced JJ Abrams would direct the seventh movie, there was a lot of skepticism, mainly thanks to the Star Trek sequel. When the first trailer came out, and we heard Han Solo say, "Chewie, we're home", our hopes started to improve.

Then the movie came out last Friday, and the Force came back with a vengeance.
Due to my warehouse job and the Christmas rush, I didn't have a chance to see the movie until now, but I was lucky to avoid any spoilers or reviews that told too much of the story. That really helped my enjoyment of this movie,

What's more, it started with something simple: what if Luke Skywalker wasn't around to make sure the Republic would stay strong? That happened because he tried to train new Jedi, and one of them turned on him and jumped into the Dark Side. That guy, of course, is the main Big Bad in this story, Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. This is a man who is determined to be the heir to the darkness of Darth Vader. It's a title he wants, and he'll get it by wiping out the rebellion against his First Order.

The heroes are Finn (John Boyega), a Stormtrooper who was trained from birth, and Rey (Daisy Ridley), a girl from Jakku who lives through scavenging old ships. Finn decided to reject his role after his first battle, and helps Rebel Pilot Poe (Oscar Issac) escape via Tie Fighter. They're shot, though, and crash in Jakku. Poe seems to be dead when Finn wakes up. He crosses paths with Rey, who just found a droid called BB-8 with a very special message to the Rebels.

The way Rey and Finn seemed a bit too "meet cute", mainly because he pretends to be one of the rebels, and needs BB-8 to cover for him, Once the First Order show up, it turns back into an action movie and stays there. The point when I was convinced it would work is when Rey and Finn looks for a way to escape, and she prefers one ship because the other one is garbage. When that ship is destroyed, she heads to the garbage ship...and one look tells us the ship she takes (and learns how to fly on the spot) is anything but garbage,

Later on, Han Solo and Chewbacca find them, and get involved in getting BB-8 to the rebels. Things haven't worked out too well for Han over the years, but Harrison Ford shows the character really has aged well. He's still got it as the wise-cracking sort-of-sketchy pilot we know and love. Still, he has a very important role in the story and his connections are deep. In fact, I'd make a good case for him to be considered for Best Supporting Actor come Oscar time.

As I saw the movie, it dawned on me that this was a variation of Episode IV, which brought Luke Skywalker, Leia and Solo into the battle against the Empire, Here, Finn doesn't want to be part of the battle and Rey wants to be home, hoping her family will come back to her. There's even a "cantina scene", but it includes Rey receiving something very important from Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o). There also a couple of "Alec Guinness moments" as I call them. One of them involves Ren using a certain trick to escape, and the other is an important confrontation.

As for Ren, he wants to finish what Vader started, and considering his family tree, he's certain he has the chance. He is guided by Smoak (Andy Sirkis) who leads the First Order but is mostly seen via hologram. Ren is someone who is strong with the Force, but also is very destructive with his lightsaber when something goes wrong.
The biggest shock is when you see his true face. He's still intimidating, unleashing his Dark Side for all to see. Yet you get the feeling he wonders if he took the wrong path, but it's a path he can't change.
In any case, he has the weapon to stop the Rebels in their tracks, and it's something that literally makes the Death Star look like a peashooter.

Someone on the 'net called the movie mainly a reunion of the franchise's "greatest hits", and everyone does come back at one time or another. The thing is, the classics are there to give the new hits (Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, Poe and BB-8) their launch so they can lead us fans through the next two chapters. That is done very well, right to the end.

The best news is that we don't have to wait long for the next episode, only until the summer of 2017. Until then, we can speculate what's next, and have Marvel and the Batman-Superman clash to distract us. At least we'll know the Force will really be with us, always...or at least until 2019 or so.

No comments: