Director: J.J. Abrams
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science-Fiction
Runtime: 136 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Does Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, the seventh entry into the series, do damage to the venerable science-fiction/fantasy franchise, or is it a rollicking, good time at the movies? The answer is both. The last remaining Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), has disappeared, and both the heroic Resistance and the villainous First Order are battling over a map leading to his location. This is the first Star Wars picture to be made by Disney, and it largely plays it safe, trying to reintroduce Earth to the series without offending too many viewers.
The Force Awakens looks and sounds great. Visually, the decision to have actual costumes for the Stormtroopers (as opposed to the computer-generated Clone Troopers of the prequels) is Heaven-sent, and, sonically, John Williams’ musical score gets a thumbs-up. It also has plenty of successful comic relief. The action’s fabulous, and, generally speaking, the whole thing feels mighty energetic (the sequence revolving around Poe Dameron [Oscar Isaac] giving Finn [John Boyega] his name has more lifeblood to it than just about anything in the somewhat stuffy prequel trilogy). New characters are introduced, and they’re terrific. Old ones reappear and, for the most part, they’re given justice (although I can’t agree with every decision the filmmakers made). This could be the start of an exceptional, new trilogy…
The biggest downside of The Force Awakens is how it undoes the ending of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983). This is enough to make it non-canon in my book. The unoriginal plot is basically a rehash of the one in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), although there are a few new elements (like a morally-conflicted Stormtrooper). I also have some criticisms of the movie that are more nit-picky in nature, like the relatively murky political situation the Star Wars galaxy finds itself in at the beginning of the film and general lack of alien species seen in the previous two trilogies.
At the end of the day, The Force Awakens is just fan fiction…but what fan fiction it is! Disregard it as canon and you might have a swell time. The undoing of the conclusion of Return of the Jedi is understandably a sore spot for many fans, but I think that it’s possible to enjoy a film for what it is and not let it affect one’s perception of a superior, related flick.
My rating is 10 outta 10.