After thirty years, we finally get to see what happens to our favorite characters which we last saw in the 1983 movie Return of the Jedi. Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and Luke Skywalker return to their roles that made them legendary figures in the Star Wars universe. Even though three decades have passed, the storyline stays the same: a , a resistance, a dark lord, an evil order, and the ever growing threat of universal annihilation or domination from a powerful enemy. J.J Abrams uses his vast knowledge of eye-popping special effects and crazy technology to bring us into the Star Wars universe like we have never seen. The buzz around the water cooler that a new Star Wars film was hitting theaters, generated a frenzy from everybody. Especially those that still had a bitter taste in their mouth from the last trilogy, written/directed, by the original Jedi Master, George Lucas. Personally I like the prequels. I do agree that they’re heavy with CGI, but I like how Lucas tells us the backstory of the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker. Sorry, I’m getting off the rails, but I had to say that.
Back on topic, I will try not to divulge any spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet. J.J. Abrams brings back old familiar characters and introduces us to new ones, giving us a wonderful ensemble that compliments each other. The main focus of the story is a young female scavenger, Rey, from the desert-like planet Jakku. Played by Daisy Ridley, she portrays Rey as this buttkicking survivalist that struggles to live day-to-day on this dry and arid planet. The planet Jakku is a character all by itself. Littered with remnants of the old Empire, ships and vehicles such as ATAT Walkers and huge Imperial Star Destroyers are left rusting away in the desert from a battle long ago. Every sand dune, every structure, speaks volumes of what this planet provides for its dwellers. Watching Rey ride her speeder through her home planet, we are reminded of the past as we look to pass on the torch to a next generation of heroes and villains. Abrams also introduces us to a renegade stormtrooper, Finn; a Rebellion fighter pilot, Poe; the evil Kylo Ren, Supreme Leader Snoke, Captain Phasma, General Hux, and BB-8. Each one of these colorful characters deliver a wide range of emotions, crazy personalities, and mysterious motives that will slowly unravel as the story unfolds throughout the movies. Although these characters are enjoyable to watch on screen, I feel that there could have been more backstory given to these characters to make them memorable. I guess Abrams is using the original films as a blueprint to create these personalities that he can build upon. Unfortunately, being a child who grew up on the original trilogy, I couldn’t help but notice certain similarities between the characters and places from the original to the new film.
Harrison Ford reprises his role as Han Solo, and I have to tell you I really enjoyed watching him play the sarcastic charming smuggler that we all know and love. Ford never missed a beat when it came to playing Han again. Carrie Fisher who plays General Leia gives us a much more mature persona. It is great seeing her again in this role, but she doesn’t have that spark anymore. She delivers a good performance, but her attitude and behavior of this weathering character demands that she be more responsible and diplomatic for Leia. Finn, played by John Boyega, truly captures the essence of a character struggling to make amends for the mistakes of the past. The relationship between Rey and Finn is somewhat like a love/hate one at first, but as they continue on their adventure, their bond grows stronger. Oscar Isaacs who plays Poe doesn’t really have a lot of screen time, but I’m pretty sure we’ll see more of him in the next installment.
Kylo Ren who is played by Adam Driver is supposed to be the antagonist of this picture. He carries a secret that I can’t tell you about, but it involves something rather important. His attempt to be threatening and scary is somewhat lukewarm. His use of a scary black helmet and the deep electronic voice makes him look like he is overcompensating for something. But his use of the lightsaber is cool to watch. Maybe his threatening nature will improve in the next film, I hope so. The Supreme Leader Snoke played by Andy Serkis looks like a giant alien with a god complex which is supposed to bring fear to anyone who stands in his presence. Personally I was more afraid of the Emperor in The Empires Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi than Supreme Leader Snoke. The dogfights between the Resistance X-wing fighters and First Order TIE fighters are incredible. The aerobatic dance between them is something only J.J. Abrams can pull off. The camerawork following these battles feel like you are right there in the firefight!
I do like the use of old school makeup and prosthetics to bring the creatures of Star Wars to life. This is very appropriate when you want the film to feel more realistic. It is fine to use CGI, but do it in a way that won’t over-saturate the film. Abrams uses the right mix of real and CGI to deliver a well grounded cinematic adventure. The lightsaber duels in this film raises the level of intensity when it comes to convincing the audience that these weapons are deadly. The appearance of the blade makes you believe that these swords are alive and have minds of their own. It’s pretty cool!
I feel this film is the appetizer in a three-course menu. We are introduced to the main characters and what their roles and purposes are when it comes to finding out each other’s path and destinies. We get to see another “David and Goliath” story between the Resistance and the First Order. I like the characters that Abrams introduces us to. My one gripe is having Rey speak in a British accent when everybody else uses their American one, with the exception of the Imperial officers.. Oscar Issacs who is British uses his American accent; same with John Boyega, so why not Daisy? The movie is good. I like it, but I didn’t feel the magic like in the original. There are certain aspects of this film that are too similar to the original. Abrams definitely delivers a film with amazing technical and eye-popping special effects film that has a pretty good story, but I wish that I could have seen a bit more unpredictability and spontaneity throughout the film. I give this film three and a half out of five movie stubs.