Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Early marketing for The Force Awakens made it relatively clear J.J. Abrams and the Disney Corp would not be reinventing the wheel for this entry. And why would they? Even the sacred original Star Wars films closely mimic one another. All open in some barren wasteland, all feature dwarfish scavenging weirdos, all allow an otherwise goofy robot to play hero in a clutch moment. And so, seventh verse, same as the first: desert orphan, precocious droid, masked villain with red glowing rod, geometrically opposed spaceships.
It’s not the material, though, it’s the delivery, and Force Awakens delivers, effortlessly weaving visual potency, emotional conviction, unexpected humor, and raw excitement into a crackerjack package that provides antidote to the prequel trilogy’s turgid masturbation. Set thirty years after Return of The Jedi, the film brings us up to speed quickly: Luke Skywalker has disappeared, the Rebels have failed to consolidate their power, the Empire has not remained in defeat. That evil reich, now known as the First Order, counts amongst its ranks a brooding and violent Darth Vader disciple named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). When a map pointing to the whereabouts of Luke fumbles out into the cosmos, Ren believes it’s his key to restoring Vader’s galactic vision.
Fate (or dumb luck) brings together the heroic team that quickly becomes Kylo Ren’s biggest headache. The AWOL Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and isolated junk trader Rey (Daisy Ridley), both barely out of their teens, are a little overwhelmed as they inadvertently become swept up in the search for Skywalker (a figure neither can believe is real). Lucky for das kinder, another storied figure of lore (Harrison Ford) crashes the party and offers a lending hand (and wookiee). Meanwhile, the First Order turns an entire planet into a makeshift Death Star powered by the sun, and of course our band of outlaws winds up in an assault on that enormous menace, because what, are they not gonna help Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Admiral Ackbar?
Critics dog J.J. Abrams for doing little more than heating up other people’s leftovers in lens flare, but The Force Awakens proves when elements like a supremely talented cast and snappy scripting align the guy can slam dunk. Any bits that seem to defy whatever logic exists in this starry fantasy you forgive because the film’s whizzing you on a spirited, satisfying ride. The wonder and fun have returned to Star Wars, and not a moment too soon.
FINAL SCORE: Four precocious droids (out of four).
When it rains it pours, and this latest Skywalker squall has left me soggy and aching. What can I say? Ball Droid, fetch me a mai tai.
The new Force Awakens trailer is cool (even though Han’s collar is a little too popped for my liking). The teaser for Rogue One is cool (even though it’s the five billionth spot that insists on lifting dialogue from the original trilogy). The new Battlefront vid-juh game looks like every other Star Wars blow-’em-up that came before it, except with better graphics (which is fine; I’ve always been more of a Lego Star Wars guy).
The Star Wars emojis are very cute and I forgive their creator / “maker” for not rendering some of the more obscure characters like Bossk or Yakface.
I don’t even know what to say about that medieval document they found with the drawing of Yoda on it. “Obviously it’s not Yoda,” they keep saying, but what if it is? What if Frank Oz is a highlander?
This fandom is exhausting. And you wonder why I occasionally retreat to the barren confines of a Skatetown, U.S.A. or a Grease 2.
Like Depeche Mode, I enjoy the silence.