For Reel

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
December 22, 2015, 11:08 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: J.J. Abrams
4 Stars
Star Wars - The Force AwakensThe latest franchise to retread through its own mythology is the one fans have clamored for more than any other. As such, conversations about The Force Awakens tend to revolve around its very Star Wars-ness–colloquial film criticism has become an assessment of how well a franchise can retrace its own roots. And yet, is it so terrible that a franchise like Star Wars finds itself reinvented decades later, expanding a universe that several generations have a collected interest in? This year’s series of sequels/reboots are uniquely made by fans of the franchises themselves–fanboys turned auteur, with J.J. Abrams, who has occupied this territory for his whole filmic career, serving as the preeminent example.

As such, The Force Awakens does feel like revisiting an old friend, not only with the characters and props but with the scope of its vistas (arguably the prequel’s biggest offense was not the CGI creatures, but the locations). If the venture is “safe”, it at least takes the occasional risk. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is a villain atypical in Star Wars, who comes to be defined by his very weaknesses and insecurities (compare this to, say, Count Dooku). Early sequences on Jakku provide a careful account of what it means to live in the Star Wars universe–how one earns a living, acquires resources, and even cooks space bread. If The Force Awakens arguably moves too quickly for its own good, it successfully uses shorthand in developing how its characters relate to both the world and to each other. That is, screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt make Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) sympathetic, likable characters not merely by highlighting their individual braveries, but in dwelling on their growing camaraderie and their recognition of each other’s good qualities. If they, like the new series, have room to go, The Force Awakens plants enough seeds to promise more in subsequent films.

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