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FLICKS: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Posted on 24 December 2015 by LeslieM

By Dave Montalbano

http://cinemadave.livejournal.com

[Editor’s Note: Some spoilers (plot points) may be in this article for those avoiding anything Star Wars related. May the force be with you!]

After learning about a big spoiler the day before release, I attended my screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with melancholy. It has been 32 years since Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) redeemed his monstrous father Darth Vader. With help from a community of “teddy bears”, Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) defeated the evil Empire and the Star Wars universe seemed poised to live happily ever after. Did I really need to see that the heroic actions I witnessed in my youth were all for naught? Fortunately, this seventh episode brings freshness to the franchise, while honoring the core fun of the original trilogy from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

The film opens with Darth Vader wannabe Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) seeking artifacts related to the Skywalker family. After witnessing him massacre a small village, a storm trooper named Finn (John Boyega) develops a conscience. He rescues the pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and goes AWOL on the planet Jakku.

As if the pace were not fast enough, Finn meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger with natural special abilities. When Kylo Ren attempts to retrieve his deserter, Rey and Finn escape the planet and meet the legendary Han Solo and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). The four humanoids, plus droid BB-8, form an alliance to outwit their enemies.

Thus far, I have only mentioned about 25 percent of The Force Awakens storyline and to include any more would take away from the thrill of discovery. Suffice it to say, director J.J. Abrams knows how to manage a fast pace while taking little moments for character development and revelation. In terms of good old-fashioned storytelling, The Force Awakens deserves its success.

Unlike the over-reliance on special effects from the recent Star Wars prequel trilogy (Episodes I-III), Episode VII feels more grounded in reality. While partially shot in Pinewood Studios, this Star Wars film was shot in locations as diverse as Abu Dhabi, New Mexico and Scotland. Even though this film takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, these outdoor locations provide natural realism.

The performances are excellent, with the old and new generations playing off each other with ease and respect. Harrison Ford gives his best performance since his character role as Branch Rickey in the 2013 baseball flick about Jackie Robinson, 42. Daisy Ridley is adorable. Adam Driver has entered the pantheon of rogue villainy reserved for actors like Bruce Dern [for those who have seen the John Wayne movie “The Cowboys”].

Despite my initial depression at having heard a big plot spoiler, I found Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be pure escapist entertainment that is Saturday Matinee popcorn-eating fun. Despite witnessing some PG-13 darkness, I left the theater feeling better than I did when I entered. On that note, Merry Christmas!

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