Note: no spoilers here.
Audiences experience real feeling, family bonds and, of course, the Force in the latest installment of the popular sci-fi film series. Set 30 years after Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens has a great, kinetic energy that begins a new “Star Wars” film trilogy.
Directed, co-written, and co-produced by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Mission Impossible III, TV’s Alias), this installment introduces three new main characters with three main returning characters who all support the Resistance (a.k.a. Rebellion) against the evil First Order (a.k.a. Galactic Empire).
Daisy Ridley plays Rey a desert scavenger who is seemingly abandoned by her family while John Boyega plays Finn, a character that gives audiences a very different perspective never seen before in this film series. Their full names are likely a future surprise as more elements of The Force (a mysterious power gifted to certain characters) are revealed.
Oscar Isaac (The Nativity Story, Inside Llewyn Davis) stars as pilot Poe Dameron who needs much more screen time in the future. Max von Sydow plays Lor San Tekka in the beginning of the film and Lupita Nyong’o plays Maz Kanata, a motion captured character that provides a key bridge for another.
Domhnall Gleeson plays General Hux who rivals Kylo Ren and Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) plays the Supreme Leader Snoke who adds some intrigue for the audience and purpose to the Empire.
Gwendoline Christie (TV’s Game of Thrones) plays Captain Phasma who commands Stormtroopers and has plenty of room to expand her role in future installments.
Harrison Ford returns as Han Solo and Carrie Fisher returns as Leia Organa. Ford maximizes his screen time with considerable dialogue and action, which are nothing new for the 73-year old star.
Ford’s presence helps filmmakers capture essential information for new audiences while retaining the nostalgic elements for veteran audiences. “Escape now. Hug later,” he says with a familiar gruff, but sincere delivery.
Mark Hamill also returns as Luke Skywalker. Audiences will also recognize familiar characters including the robots C3P0 and R2 D2 plus the wookiee Chewbacca.
The new orange-colored sphere droid BB-8 functions similar to R2 D2 as a companion for pilots.
Other characters from previous installments also make appearances as filmmakers fill up the screen with amazing visuals and references that definitely warrant multiple viewings.
More Kylo Ren flashbacks should have been added for background, but the glimpse seen in this film will likely expand in future installments.
Filmmakers offer fun and function throughout the 2 hour and 15 minute plot written by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan (Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine) with originator George Lucas getting character writing credit.
Some audiences might feel another cantina/bar scene is just homage, but that’s where the most people are gathered and the place the protagonists can gain support and explore options.
Filmmakers do a fairly good job bridging the 30-year gap between installments, but could have created some layered visual montages instead of dialogue to explain the three main returning characters’ current status.
The protagonists’ situations are dire, but they take on the challenge and fight furiously to survive against the antagonists. This survival element could have been expanded to add more logical reasoning into the skill development and abilities of some characters.
Audiences also get memorable humor peppered throughout the well-paced plot while the varied environments and vehicles/vessels support the action well.
Audiences really get a sense of the overwhelming odds the resisting rebels constantly face in their fight against the Empire. One escape sequence on foot incorporates the main characters’ quick thinking as the Empire relentlessly hunts them down.
The Empire’s main objective reflects the incredibly harmful lengths they will take to destroy any one who resists them. Filmmakers should have accentuated this objective more, but there are so many other areas to cover.
Music composer John Williams returns again with an amazing score while the sound department captures all the iconic sound effects (e.g. light saber, etc.) very well.
Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. Avoid the media filled with spoilers until you have seen this wonderful film and look for five more Star Wars films in the near future. Also playing in 3D/IMAX theaters.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler