Cinematic Releases: Star Wars - The Force Awakens

Finally, here's our review of The Force Awakens.

"Did you say 'let's kill some Storm Troopers'?
I'm in."
After 32 years of waiting, the Star Wars we know and love is finally back.....mostly.  

Setting aside any real opinion of the prequel trilogy, The Force Awakens revitalizes the franchise and succinctly takes it in the magically adventurous direction in which it started. With new cast members that have a chemistry and camaraderie that falls just short of our original heroes, JJ Abrams writes a love letter to the movies we grew up with while recreating the same tones that made them so endearing. Yes, some plot devices follow way too closely to A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, but they also make headway for a newer, younger crowd to fall in love with Star Wars while their parents sit by basking in the glory of seeing their favorite characters again. 

With the first and third acts being the best, the midsection definitely feels clumsy and riddled with scripting issues. Things get jumbled and a bit too ambitious for such a short run time. However, it remains pure unadulterated Star Wars at the core. The look is there. The feel is there. The epic battles are there.  The interplanetary action is there. The classic ships are there. The old school lightsaber battles are also there as Abrams abandons the over choreographed sequences of the Lucas prequels. And a whole lot of Han and Chewie are there which makes The Force Awakens a glorious feast for lifelong fans of this series. Adding a new sense of female empowerment with the main focal point being the excellently developed character of Rey, The Force Awakens makes a generational crossover that will undoubtedly satiate today's growing interest in strong women as action heroes. 

"Get that thing outta my face!
You don't know where it's been."
Where Episode VII really scores points is in Adam Driver's portrayal as Kylo Ren. No kids, Luke Skywalker is not Kylo. We can finally put that one rumor to bed. Driver throws fits of angst at the screen like it's going out of style. He's the hair trigger, emotional wreck that Anakin Skywalker should have been. Driver takes the memory of Hayden Christensen's underwhelming performance and wipes the slate clean with a fiery attitude and evil gaze. Through skillful acting, a dangerous and calculating stare, and a forceful yet controlled presence, Kylo Ren is the epitome of what Lucas failed to draw from the prequels: a villain that actually shows his human flaws while hiding under a veil of darkness that only shades his self contempt and lack of self worth. 

Of course, along with the good comes the bad. Although the movie is a breakneck speed festival of action from front to back, John Williams score this time around feels juxtaposed and heartless. In the originals, his score was just as important as what was taking place on the screen. His music became just as much a part of the movie as any of the characters or what was happening. This time around, all the callbacks are omnipresent but the new music seems out of place and is often times not suited for what's happening during each scene. Again, it's not all bad but it absolutely falls short of the greatness we usually associate with Williams' brilliant resume. 

"What up bro?"
People will find their reasons to hate and bash on The Force Awakens. It's not the most delicate manipulation of a beloved franchise. There are gaping plot holes. And yes, the acting is still wooden in areas. Plus, the "MacGuffin" handling of the majority of the movie will have some showing spite for the easy way things work out. However, the root of the movie lies in the galaxy we've known and loved for years. Abrams finally gives us a chance to experience the "real" Star Wars with a new generation that may only know the multiple animated series, video games, and possibly Episodes I-III. Despite the chaos of too much going on and the lackadaisical handling of certain characters story arcs, I can proudly say Star Wars is back in rightful hands. 

From the glorious new droid BB-8 to more Chewbacca and Han than we've ever seen before, this is not your father's Star Wars. This is the saga infused with a caffeinated inter-generational gleam in the eye that will not go down without setting the box office afire. I wanted this to be the ever elusive score of 10, but I'm being realistic and going with a 9. Enjoy and may the force be with you, always.