Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens ***1/2 (2015)

After a seemingly never ending wait, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now playing in theaters near you.  Star Wars stirs up a different sort of anticipation you don't get with other movies. Hard to put into words. One may call it nostalgia, but it's a multi-layered nostalgia, not your run of the mill sort.  These movies shaped the imagination of a generation.

In 2012, after George Lucas decided to sell Star Wars to Disney, the keys to the kingdom were given to J.J. Abrams.  Abrams developed several popular TV Shows in the 90s and early 2000s, most notably Lost and Alias.  He graduated into feature films and revived the Mission Impossible and Star Trek franchises.  Of all modern filmmakers, Abrams unabashedly takes inspiration from Spielberg, Zemeckis, and Lucas.

With The Force Awakens, Abrams seems at total ease with the Star Wars universe. They made the right choice for rebooting the series.  There's a wonderful blend of humor, action, character development, and special effects.

Fans of of the original Star Wars film from 1977 will appreciate how the Force Awakens continually pays homage to it.

That is the greatest strength and weakness of The Force Awakens.

I'm thinking J.J. and veteran screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, desperately wanted to remove the bitter taste of the prequels.  That they did.

Rian Johnson will take over for the next two installments.  He directed some of the best Breaking Bad episodes, as well as the time travel movie Looper.  Now that Star Wars is back on track, Johnson will hopefully experiment and try something more adventurous. We shall see.

I'm not gonna get into plot details.  Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Jedi.  Much has changed and little has changed.  Same old best of times worst of times.

The new cast of characters display great promise, especially Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn.  Oscar Isaac, arguably one of the best actors working today, is a tad under used as Poe.  As for the original trilogy cast- it was great to see them again.  Adam Driver is a moody villain.

It's always awkward to introduce new characters and to reintegrate old ones. For the most part, the screenplay did an exceptional job.

With the release of Creed a few weeks ago and now The Force Awakens, the nostalgia train is running at full speed this year.  And that's not all bad.

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