The first film of a new trilogy and the seventh overall, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” picks up 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi.” When a new evil force known as the First Order rises to replace the Empire, members of the Resistance (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac), with the aid of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), race to find the location of the self-exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). J.J. Abrams directs.
I have always enjoyed the Star Wars films (except the dumpster fire that is “Attack of the Clones”), and despite not being a super-fan looked forward to “Force Awakens” with great anticipation. I trusted that super-nerd Abrams would make a solid film, after all, he had a blueprint on how not to make a Star Wars film, see: “Attack of the Clones” (but don’t actually see it because, dumpster fire), and I liked the idea of the film focusing on new characters and not completely on the old. So does “Force Awakens” live up to the hype? Yes. Well, kinda. Mostly.
For starters, all four of the new main characters absolutely knock their roles out of the park. John Boyega plays Finn, a Stormtrooper who realizes very early on that what the First Order is doing is wrong and betrays them. He and Daisy Ridley’s Rey have great chemistry as two young nobodies who are thrust in the middle of a growing war they don’t want to be a part of. Oscar Isaac plays a pilot and there are several points where he almost comes off as vintage Han Solo, saying a Cool Guy Joe one-liner even in a serious situation.
The real star, though, is Adam Driver, who plays Kylo Ren, the film’s main antagonist. Ren is vicious and ruthless, but we also see him as a morally-torn man who believes that what he is doing is right but at the same time knows that maybe this isn’t the path he is meant to be on.
The action is clean and beautifully shot, and even if those darn Stormtroopers’ aim hasn’t gotten better over the past three decades, the shootout sequences are still as entertaining as anything.
What is “Force Awakens” strongest strength is also arguably its biggest weakness, and that is that it feels like the original Star Wars films. You get the sense of fun, excitement and childhood whimsy, however with that comes familiarity, especially in the plot. Much like “A New Hope,” our heroes must recover information stored in a robot in order to stop a giant death machine that can destroy planets in one blast. It may be easily overlooked for some, but for me it really just felt like Abrams gave the original film a wax job to make it shiny and tried to pass it off as new.
The film does try to throw in some curveballs but all of them can be seen coming from a mile away. There is one in particular that could have had the impact of the “Luke, I am your father” reveal (oh yeah, sorry, Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Spoiler.) but the film gets it out of the way very early on and then makes sure you get the influence it has on the plot by repeatedly forcing it (pun?) down your throat every ten minutes.
I really did enjoy most of “The Force Awakens” and I think it is a fantastic building block for what could become the best Star Wars trilogy, but I just wasn’t wowed by this film has much as I wanted to be. Still, despite all its recycled points and few temporary moments of lag, there is a lot of spectacle to behold, and the cast absolutely nails it. “Force Awakens” isn’t the best Star Wars film we’ve gotten but it is far from the worst (which, if you were wondering, is “Attack of the Clones”), and at the end of the day, that is really all one hope for.
Critics Rating: 7/10