Thirty two years is a long time to wait for a sequel, but was it ever worth it. Any fear that that Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens was not going to live up to your likely very high expectations can be completely vanquished. Writers Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt and writer/director J.J. Abrams have delivered a film that triumphantly lives up to the hype of what has easily been the most anticipated film of all time.
The plot to The Force Awakens harkens back to the rather simple plots of the original trilogy. That’s not to say it’s simplistic, but rather just uncomplicated. We’re given a straight forward story, unlike the prequels whose plots were bogged down by a convoluted and unnecessary political narrative. The plots to Episodes IV, V, and VI can be summarized in just a sentence or two (Empire, for example-Luke trains with Yoda to prepare to fight Vader, while Han, Chewie, Leia and Threepio are on the run from the Empire), which can not be said of any of the prequels (seriously, try it). We’re given a nuts and bolts type of story here, which is incredibly refreshing.
Harrison Ford, who has historically dismissed Han Solo as a one dimensional character, brings new life to the role, keeping Solo’s youthful swagger, but layering it with life learned wisdom and emotion. Though Ford has a sizable role in the film, the bulk of the movie falls on the shoulders of Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, who dutifully carry the film. Ridley’s Rey and Boyega’s Finn are so well developed early on, and so engaging, that we are happy to follow them along on this adventure.
There is a fair amount of humor in the film, with most of the comic relief coming from John Boyega (a position previously held by the Odd Couple of droids, C3-PO and R2-D2, but the duo have the least amount of screen time in this than in any of the previous six films). Boyega’s chemistry with Ford is particularly fun. Even Chewbacca, whose roll is beefed up a bit more here, has a few really funny moments.
Enough can not be said for the special effects in The Force Awakens. Abrams’ practical approach pays off in spades, and really breathes life into the film. Sure, there is an incredible amount of CG. There has to be in a space adventure. But unlike the prequels, the CG is not the star, but rather a tool that virtually disappears on the screen. And it’s astonishing to watch new droid BB-8, who one would never guess is not a CG creation.
The Force Awakens is not a perfect movie, mind you. While there are references to the original trilogy peppered in, a few plot points are borrowed a bit too heavily from its predecessors. And while we’re given a better written script than most of the other six films, the dialogue, particularly in emotionally driven scenes, is a bit stale at times. But it’s delivered by the actors with such earnest that it’s easily forgivable (and to be honest, Lucas set the bar so low in the dialogue department, that it’s not hard to overlook here).
J.J. Abrams has given Star Wars fans the film they deserved. With the prequels, it was clear that George Lucas was too inside of his own head and his own vision to truly appreciate what it was that people loved about the originals. When Lucas was recently asked what he thought about The Force Awakens, he stated “I think the fans are going to love it. It’s very much the kind of movie they’ve been looking for.” He didn’t say he liked it, mind you, but rather that fans would like it, which means what had envisioned for Episode VII is clearly not what fans would have wanted to see, and by the sounds of it, he really didn’t care. But Abrams did. And Abrams delivered a film that fans who have spent the better part of the last four decades devoted to Star Wars can love.