Film Review: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

by Murjani Rawls

In 1977, I was but a twinkle in my mother and father’s eye, so I did not get to experience the pandemonium of Episode IV: A New Hope first hand. Of course I have seen the original trilogy (all versions), but my first real theatrical experience with the Star Wars franchise was with the negatively received prequels. For better (or worse), they furthered my interest into the story’s ethos and heart, but I still felt that everything was incomplete especially with the comic and novel stories. In those mediums and the well done animated series withstanding, the series needed a strong showing on the big screen again.

The Force Awakens was many years in the making and a needed injection of new directing blood into the Star Wars series. Not only does this movie do a great job in saving the pillars of why older fans fell in love with the heroes and villains, but introduces a new generation into the updated version of a A New Hope. Let’s be honest, there are so many versions of the original three, that you really have to dig deep to find the right ones that aren’t riddled with special CGI touches. TFA not only gives a great homage to it’s past, but furthers the themes for a new generation of moviegoers. Yes, the “saturday morning” me was excited for this movie. Who didn’t have a bit of glee inside when John Williams’ opening score rang through the theater with the opening scroll.

Coming in at PG-13, this movie is a little bit darker than it’s predecessors complete with a little bit of blood and a little bit more violent than previous entries. I feel that this was a big sticking point to meet our new evil threat, The First Order. For this, there were a little bit of mixed feelings. Yes, I felt that they were powerful, but I didn’t get the sense of dread I did with the Empire. Especially with Starkiller Base – I mean, let’s build a bigger death star? Adam Driver’s portrayal of Kilo Ren was brilliant as a person who is torn internally between the light and dark side. This journey, highlighted in this movie will be an interesting sticking point going forward in the next two installments. I had to keep reminding myself that this was only the first movie in a three part trilogy. Undoubtedly, there are many moving parts to the First Order. General Hux (Domnhall Glesson), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) will be explored more in depth, I hope. Is it me, or does Snoke only feel like the man standing in front of the real man in charge?

With our heroes, TFA channels Episode IV and brings people together from small and unlikely beginnings to lead the charged. Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) gives us a look at saving the galaxy from all aspects. All give strong performances in which you really cheer for them to win and find their own ways despite Rey and Finn being novices. Oscar Issac as Poe Dameron is really charismatic to the point where I thought early on that he was going to be the real hero. Rey’s acceptance of her “gifts” like a certain jedi before her was on a certain trajectory, but had her own twist which made it seem fresh. Finn’s atonement to trying to make a difference in a good way was natural from a human perspective.

There’s a constant theme of homecoming throughout the movie returning an older general Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Without trying to give too much away, Solo is much like a pseudo Obi-Wan in this movie trying to attest for a certain sin. It was good to see him and Chewbacca back to their old tricks for a time. The older characters are not present to take over the movie, but are like a nostalgic nod to the past that furthers the story of our new characters- an element I really liked.

BB-8, probably the unsung star of the movie, will definitely be flying off the shelves this Christmas merchandise wise. The whole movie itself is stunning from a visual perspective. I’ll be the strong advocate in seeing this movie in IMAX 3D – yes, spend the extra money to experience the movie in the best form possible. JJ Abrams did the right thing in properly balancing the main challenge in restarting a franchise that needed a redeeming quality in the movie theater. The Force Awakens not only reinvigorated the kid inside you, it made you rediscover why you loved Star Wars in the first place.