Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)


After many years of the “Star Wars” franchise remaining stagnant and relatively convoluted, “The Force Awakens” has come to simplify and completely re-think the movie series. JJ Abrams introduction to his bold new vision for “Star Wars” is a one hundred percent faithful visit to a galaxy far, far away that functions as a platform for a new series, a sequel, and a love letter to the simpler, episodic days of “Star Wars” where every film was an ode to the classic movie serials of the golden age of cinema. This time around “The Force Awakens” actively works in fixing many of the mistakes made in the original six films, by actively casting a wide array of heroes and villains to present a more humanistic environment we can dive in to. And I’m not speaking about a wider array of aliens, but racially diverse characters, all of whom have something to contribute.

From the ashes of the Empire rises The First Order, a militant force of evil working with the dark side to conquer and destroy the Galaxy. Battling them are the Resistance, a group of rebels that have devoted their lives to infiltrating and stopping the Resistance. After one of their star agents Poe Dameron is captured by First Order warrior, the enigmatic masked Kylo Ren, Dameron manages to escape torture and inevitable death thanks to storm trooper Finn. Once programmed to kill, Fin garners a conflict of conscience, and helps Poe break free with his droid BB-8, a heroic robot that has the location of the mythic warrior Luke Skywalker. When the trio is shot down, Finn looks for Poe, and helps BB-8 reach the resistance alongside lone warrior Rey, a woman barely surviving who finds herself in the middle of the conflict. JJ Abrams’ vision for “Star Wars” is so far very in line with what Lucas originally envisioned, sans all the military strategy, political hearings, and trade embargoes.

With “The Force Awakens” I actually understood what was unfolding before my eyes and never once felt puzzled or baffled. “Star Wars” is about regular people and underdog heroes doing what they can to battle pure evil, and it’s wonderful to see Abrams and Disney reach back down to the more youth oriented roots from 1977’s “A New Hope.” What Abrams brings to the table is the down to Earth aspects of the original trilogy, from the flawed heroes, the morally grey villains, and the lightsaber battles which are once again symbolic of stirring emotions and no longer glorified ballet performances. Abrams also touches base with the overtones of broken families once again, featuring a slew of heroes and rogues bereft of a family base, or severely in need of one. The producers thankfully are quick to cast a new generation of actors that can deliver convincing characters, rather than tout big names for this new trio of films.

Folks like John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac get to prove themselves as the new faces of “Star Wars,” all of whom are carrying the torch to stop the First Order, and end their efforts to engineer a new weapon that makes the Death Star look like a water pistol. Every aspect of “The Force Awakens” stems from the original trilogy, as the arc moves forward as a consequence of Luke Skywalker helping to bring down the Empire, inspiring a new league of heroes and scum. Kylo Ren is particularly a mystifying new villain whose worship of the ghost of Darth Vader has transformed him in to a deadly foe willing to hurt anyone to prove his value to the dark side. Abrams’ vision for the galaxy established by Lucas is mind-blowing and often very exciting, resulting in myriad twists and turns, all of which indicate shattering conflicts are afoot. “The Force Awakens” is a sweeping return to form for the film series, one that is absolutely excellent and will hopefully open the door for more exciting conflicts.