FINALLY AFTER THREE failed attempts by George Lucas, the force is definitely back (along with Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Luke and the Millenium Falcon) in J.J. Abrams’ thrilling reinvention of the Star Wars franchise. “Star Wars, The Force Awakens”, the first in Disney’s $4B purchase from Lucas is off at warp speed to -deservedly- recoup their investment.
Set thirty years after we’d bid farewell to Han Solo and the gang, the resistance, now lead by General Leia, is still fighting for survival against a resurgent Galactic Empire (now known as The First Order). This lot are even more evil than their earlier incarnation; now, powered by the fury of the sun, they have become, like Shiva, a destroyer of worlds.
And caught up into this war of worlds, through whose ‘innocent’ eyes Abrams reintroduces us to the dueling Forces at work, are two delightfully captivating characters: Ray (Daisy Ridley, who looks like Kiera Knightly with expression) and Finn (Fellow Londoner, John Boyega). Ray is a scrounger and junk dealer on the Jakku planet, who can hold her own against pretty much anyone. Finn is a Storm Trouper with a conscience. (By the way, Finn is the name he’s given by one of the Resistance fighters. His real name is FN2187. It’s an insider joke: it was the cell number where Princess Leia was held in the ‘first Star’ Wars, or Episode IV, “A New Hope”). Ray and Finn become reluctant heroes…sucked up in the wake of the returning Han Solo (wonderfully reprised by Harrison Force), still hustling creatures near and far and owing them vast sums of money and the ever loyal Chewbacca.
Finn and Ray must recognize, accept and live up to the Arthurian quest ahead (the search for Luke, the last living Jedi knight). Their outward bound missions are matched by their inner journeys… of self discovery and self realization. For, as in life, only when this has happened can the Force fully empower them and shape their destinies.
All this, and the stirring drama of John Williams’ brilliant score!
It’s a movie that absolutely lives up to the hype.
J.J. Abrams’ (“Star Trek”, “Lost”) directing is breathless: for the two plus hours of the movie (essentially one long chase), it hardly pauses. The First Order has spies at every turn, and the new baddie (Adam Driver as Kylo Ren the new ruthless embodiment of the Dark Force) is relentless in his take no prisoners pursuit. Abrams’ decision to minimize as much as possible the use of CGI is hugely successful… For unlike the hyper CGI artificiality of Lucas’ prequels, “… The Force” brings things back to the slightly battered, rusty junk yard feel of the earlier movies. Abrams with his production designer Rick Carter (“Avatar” and most of Spielberg’s movies) bring a physicality to look of this movie. If you’ve ever been to the planet Jakku, it’s almost like being there.
But really this is Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Harrison Ford’s movie. As Ray, Finn and Han Solo, and enabled by Lawrence Kasdan’s sharp writing (he gave us many of the previous Star Wars movies as well as the Indiana Jones stories) they are funny, spirited and just the ticket to take on this new threat to the universe. Adam Driver (“While We’re Young”) isn’t given much wiggle room as the ‘heir’ to Darth Vader. Maybe he’ll emerge as the series continues. Maybe so will Oscar Isaac (“Ex Machina”) who, though usually brilliant, never quite escapes the two-dimensional role as the gung-ho fighter pilot entrusted with ‘the secret’. Indeed, Lupita Nyong’o playing a feisty green space alien, Maz, is a much more interesting character than his’. Carrie Fisher’s Leia is a small and marginal role; more there for old fashioned sake at this point.
I guess Hollywood feels it has to offer 3-D versions of its blockbusters to earn even more revenue; but 3-D brings nothing to “…The Force Awakens”. It was actually often just annoying. Surprisingly also, some of the editing felt hurried and chunky. Sometimes it felt as though Abrams had to lose twenty or thirty minutes to get it in under three hours (over three hours means fewer showings and less revenue).
But these are small complaints. Now dying to see how the story continues