Synopsis: A continuation of the saga created by George Lucas and set thirty years after Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.
Release Date: December 18, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
The announcement of the long-awaited seventh episode of the Star Wars saga has kept fans of the series on the edges of their seats for the better part of three years. Well, the day has come. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is finally here.
Since Star Wars: The Force Awakens is best gone into spoiler-free, we’ll be vague with the synopsis. The film takes place about thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi. There is no more Empire and no more Rebellion; they have been replaced by The First Order and The Resistance, which are essentially offshoots of The Empire and The Rebellion. Both sides are looking for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill reprising his role from the original trilogy), who has mysteriously vanished. A map to Luke’s whereabouts is placed inside of a droid named BB-8, and The First Order and The Resistance both race to find the little rolling robot so that they can retrieve the map and find Luke; The Resistance to ask him for help, and The First Order to kill him and ensure the extinction of the Jedi Knights.
Obviously, there’s way more to the story than that, but the plot is so full of clever twists and unexpected revelations that to say more would rob the viewer of the full experience. Just know that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will absolutely please fans of the franchise. It’s got all of the magic and spirit of the original trilogy combined with the cinematic slickness of the prequels – and all of that is meant as a compliment. Director J.J. Abrams (who has also taken a crack at the Star Trek franchise) shows immense respect for the original trilogy, paying obvious homage without ever completely mimicking it, and doing so with both style and humor. And the movie is packed with fun reminders of the past, from wrecked Star Destroyers on the surface of planets to the cool hologram chess set that still sits ready to play aboard the Millennium Falcon. The Force Awakens borrows from the earlier movies in a way that never seems like blatant imitation, so it’s familiar to fans while still offering them something new.
That something new hinges on the new characters. Of course, many of the original trilogy actors are back, including Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker. But the film is anchored by the fresh faces; Daisy Ridley (Scrawl), John Boyega (Attack the Block), and Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) are the real stars (along with BB-8). The Force Awakens keeps the storied history of the series intact, but it really is Star Wars for a new generation. Instead of legendary baddie Darth Vader, there’s his groupie, Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver from Inside Llewyn Davis and While We’re Young). Instead of the beeping rolling droid R2-D2, there’s the beeping rolling droid BB-8. The Force Awakens almost seems like a passing of the torch. Out with the old, in with the new, some might say.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not quite as wondrous and majestic as the original trilogy movies, but it’s not as desperate of a cash grab as the prequels. Like the films in the original set, it’s a self-contained movie with a beginning, a middle, and an end, but it still keeps itself wide open for a sequel. In fact, it demands one. And, because it’s a Star Wars movie, it will get one.
Oh, and another thing. Yes, J.J. Abrams tossed in a couple of his trademark lens flares, but no, they aren’t anywhere near as annoying as they are in Star Trek. And there is still one question raised by the trailers that is left lingering at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens: why is C-3PO’s arm now red? Apparently, we’ll have to wait for the sequel to get that answer.
The original screenplay for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was written by Michael Arndt (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), and reportedly dealt with more familial issues of the classic characters. Arndt’s script was rewritten by J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) to be more action-oriented. However, Abrams and Kasdan may have been a little too close to the subject matter, because storywise, The Force Awakens is a beat-for-beat retelling of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. It’s not a rip-off by any stretch, but sharp Star Wars fans will definitely notice that the events of the film follow a pattern, and it’s a bit of a cop-out. It may all be part of the symbolic changing of the guard and the new characters getting to have their own Hero’s Journey, but the storyline might seem a little too familiar to fans of the original trilogy.
What would a Star Wars movie be without visual effects, right? In making Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams tried to keep the special effects practical whenever possible, choosing to shoot with miniature models and green-screens as opposed to using computer generated imagery in order to make the film feel more like the original trilogy. On the flying spacecraft scenes, such as the various dogfights between X-Wings and T.I.E. Fighters, it works beautifully. The practical creature effects all look great as well. Of course, some digital compositing had to be used, both for cleanup and for some of the more complicated beasts and robots, but there’s nothing that appears overly cartoonish or video game-like. Overall, Abrams and his team succeed in giving Star Wars: The Force Awakens a classic sci-fi feel without making it look cheap and tawdry.
As any good Star Wars movie should, Star Wars: The Force Awakens features a John Williams score. Like many other aspects of the film, the music is very familiar, but it works to the film’s advantage in this case; the title theme to Star Wars is one of the most instantly recognizable pieces of music in film history, so Williams smartly doesn’t mess with it. The same goes for the iconic Imperial March and for Princess Leia’s theme (the latter of which is used sparingly, but only because the character is, too). The score isn’t solely made up of Williams’ recycled music from the old movies, however, as many of the new characters each have their own respective themes as well, with the new material integrating seamlessly with the old. Basically, there is only one way to get a real Star Wars score, and that is to get John Williams to compose it. And that’s just what Abrams elected to do with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): J.J. Abrams
- Producer(s): J.J. AbramsBryan BurkKathleen Kennedy
- Screenwriter(s): Lawrence KasdanJ.J. AbramsMichael Arndt
- Story: George Lucas
- Cast: Daisy Ridley (Rey)Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron)Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) John Boyega (Finn)Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux)Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke)Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker)Carrie Fisher (Leia)Harrison Ford (Han Solo)Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)Anthony Daniels (C-3PO)Kenny Baker (R2D2)
- Editor(s): Maryann Brandon
- Cinematographer: Daniel Mindel
- Production Designer(s): Darren Gilford
- Costume Designer: Michael Kaplan
- Casting Director(s): Nina GoldApril WebsterAlyssa Weisberg
- Music Score: John Williams
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA