Monday, December 21, 2015

THE FORCE AWAKENS -- REVIEW



A long time ago in a theatre far far away..well not too far it was in Halifax, I got my first taste of Star Wars back in 1977.  The movie stuck with me and paved the way for my love of movies as well as my love for film making.  The Original Trilogy were movies that I went to as a kid multiple times, I stress multiple and Star Wars became one of my passions in life.

Flash forward to 1999 when Episode 1 The Phantom Menace ushered in a new trilogy for Star Wars fans to digest as it brought the rise of Darth Vader.  Love them or hate them they are part of the canon of the Star Wars universe.

Here we are in 2015, a new trilogy is upon us with the release of Episode 7: Thew Force Awakens.  This time directed by JJ Abrams not George Lucas.  Lucas as we all know directed Episode 4 and the full prequel trilogies.  Three years ago Disney bought Lucasfilms from George Lucas and decided JJ Abrams was the one they wanted to direct the first in a trilogy of movies that takes place after Return of the Jedi.

This will be a spoiler free review touching on the story and whether or not it succeeds as a Star Wars film.  We know it broke many records in box office bank but was it good enough to say Star Wars is back.

The story is a simple one.  Luke Skywalker is missing and General Leia Organa is organizing a search for him but to no avail,.  Stowed away in a small droid (BB8) is part of the map to Luke Skywalker.  BB8 must make it back to The Resistance so this piece can be delivered.

There is a new threat to the galaxy in The First Order.  They have an ultimate super weapon in Starkiller base, which can wipe out entire systems with one firing.  It's power comes from it's ability to suck the energy out of an entire sun and unleash it to destroy any system in it's path.  Lead by Commander Hux, The First Order want to wipe out The Republic and take over the galaxy.

There are a lot of plot devices that were brought over from A New Hope and I didn't have a problem with that.  I thought it was a good way to build the foundation that would ultimately pass the torch to the new band of heroes taking centre stage.  It works very well.  Some people griped about how this was just A New Hope redux.  The Force Awakens is so much more than that.

Enter Kylo Ren, a Darth Vader fanatic.  He wants to follow in Darth's footsteps and confides into Darth's mangled burnt head from Return of the Jedi.  Kylo is kid who wants to play king so to speak.  He is so torn between the light and the dark making him a very unstable person and a force to be reckoned with.  He's very unhinged but very driven and thinks what he's doing the right way, the only way.

Behind the scenes of The First Order we have Supreme Leader Snoke.  Not much is known about him other than that he has partially trained Kylo and is the one calling the shots from behind the curtain.  He's very old and has lived through the rise and fall of the Empire and wants to finish Kylo's training.

To combat The First Order we have The Resistance.  Think of them as a militia for The Republic.  Headed by General Organa, The Resistance needs to find Skywalker, teh man they think can end this once and for all.  With the help of new comers Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron, they lead an attack on The First Order to try and bring them down while the search is going on for Luke.

The Force Awakens is everything a Star Wars movie should be.  It has humor in teh right places, it has stunning battles, a fun story, and a sense of a sprawling adventure.  JJ Abrams has gone above and beyond to revitalize the franchise and give us a Star Wars we wanted and he does it in spades.

Casting was tremendous.  Daisy Ridley as Rey was phenomenal. Being her first feature film, she brought strength, spunk, humor and heart to this scavenger with no real hoime.  

John Boyega from Attack of the Block fame plays Finn, a Storm Trooper on the run from The First Order who takes up the fight with The Resistance.,  He has such charisma on screen and brings that  "big deal" character to life.,  

Oscar Issac plays the best damn pilot in the galaxy Poe Dameron.  He doesn't have a lot of screen time but when he is on the screen he is electric,  He is the Han Solo of the new group.  Kind of a smart mouth but he's got it where it counts, in his piloting skills.  

Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford are back as their Original Trilogy counterparts and they do a wonderful job when they are on screen.  Ford out of the three has the most to do and he fits right back into the role of Han Solo.  Top notch stuff.

Adam Drive from Girls and Insider Llewellyn Davis plays the conflicted bad guy Kylo Ren.  Driver brings the intensity to the role giving life on screen to a character that will end up being more powerful than Vader could have imagined.  

Andy Serkis plays Supreme Leader Snoke and does very well with what screen time he has.  

Gwendolyn Christie plays Captain Phasma, a captain of the troopers and wears the chrome armor.  She is one of the more disappointing characters in the movie since she barely has screen time and does pretty much nothing in this episode.  She's back for Episode 8 so I expect that role to be expanded on.  

Last but not least Domhnall Gleeson plays Commander Hux, leader of The First Order.  He too takes orders from Snoke and oversees the complete of The Starkiller Base.

Lupita Nyong'o plays a fully motion captured character called Maz Kanata, a character who has lived through many things and is dated to be 1000 years old.  She has a castle which doubles for a cantina.  This is where Rey learns some secrets of who she may be.  This character I feel will have mroe of an expanded role in the later movies.

The effects were top notch, as JJ used a lot of practical effects blended with some CG.  Everything looks and feels real and it really gives you a feeling that the old trilogy had.  Nothing felt out of place and everything felt like it had a purpose in this world,

John Williams score is beautiful once again.  I felt his prequel scores were very boring and never really made an impact like his original trilogy scores did.  His score for The Force Awakens is John Williams back to form.  The tracks really fiot in well with what is going on in the movie and really convey senses of emotion.

All in all this is the Start Wars movie I believe we have been waiting for,.  A movie filled with life, heart, humor, tense moments and scenes of wonder.  I felt like I was a kid again when the film started rolling.  This is definitely a must see in the theatres.  I can't recommend this movie enough.  An easy 5.0 out of 5.0.  Star Wars is back.

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