Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McCarthy) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review  

Star Wars: The Force Awakens [2015] (directed and screenplay co-written by J.J. Abrams along with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt based on the characters created by George Lucas) re-awakens this most beloved American movie franchise to open the final Trilogy of this Epic Story arc.

Both released and set some 30 years after Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi [1983], IMHO the MOST OBVIOUS STRENGTH of the film remains in its CHARACTERS:

First, we are reacquainted with characters who we remember from the original Star Wars Trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) [1977-1983] and THEY ARE PLAYED BY THE SAME ACTORS WHO PLAYED THEM THIRTY YEARS AGO ;-)

So, yes, Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford), Princess (now General) Leia (played by Carrie Fisher), and Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) ARE ALL BACK and played by the original actors. But so are even C-3PO (voiced again by Anthony Daniels) AND HAN SOLO'S furry partner Chewbacca (voiced again by Peter Mayhew).   Honestly seeing Princess turned General Leia  (again played by Carrie Fisher) thirty years on WAS HONESTLY ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE / ENDEARING MOMENTS IN THE FILM.

But second, we are introduced to a number of compelling new characters, notably Rey (played INSPIRINGLY throughout by Daisy Ridley) a Luke / Anakin Skywalker-like "orphaned" character introduced to us, again, stuck on a desert planet (where nothing seems to be going on ...), and Finn (played again quite convincingly by John Boyega) one of those genetically engineered and (and one would think) thoroughly indoctrinated "Storm Trooper clones" who nevertheless _chooses to defect_ (and fairly early on in the story) for reasons that I don't want to reveal here but will be immediately obvious (and heartening) to most viewers.   There's also a young hot shot pilot named Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac) who didn't do that much for me, but whose role will probably grow in succeeding episodes. 

Viewers will find much of what happens in the current film resembling what happened in the original Star Wars film (Episode IV: A New Hope [1977]): We're introduced to Rey on a desert planet, there's a "Star Wars bar scene" though this time we get to meet the bar owner, Maz Kanata (played by Lupita Nyong'o) who's a kick.  And there's even a sinister looking character wearing a Darth Vader-like mask.  Why would the film feature an important character, 30 years on, seeming to be a "new Darth Vader?"  Wouldn't that be needlessly "redundant" / "derivative."  Well there's a reason, and it will make sense to Readers here when they see the film.

All in all, this is a quite good film.  The characters, both new and old, are often quite excellent, and certainly the Sound Track, reprising much of what we remember from the earlier films has to be, by now, ONE OF THE BEST / MOST POIGNANT IN HOLLYWOOD HISTORY.  Honestly, I'd give the sound track a "best supporting actor" nomination if I could.

I do believe that both Star Wars fanaticss and those "more agnostic" about the series ;-) will come away basically satisfied.  This is a pretty good film, one that, remember, will set up the rest of the story, and one that had almost impossible expectations to fulfill. 

Does it succeed?  Viewers will make their own judgements, but IMHO, I think it does and quite well!  So good job folks!  Very good job!

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