Written by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Dan Mindel
WRITERS: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt
MUSIC: John Williams
It’s opening night for a new Star Wars film and I’ve spent almost two hours outside waiting in line before they let us in to take our seats. Once I am finally seated, I take a moment to remember all those brave souls who have been waiting outside theaters for days to see this movie. I even take time to remember the original trilogy, a modern day myth courtesy of series creator George Lucas.
Then it happens. The lights dim. The Lucasfilm logo does its dance. All of the hype leading to this moment is over. It’s just the movie and me. This is when a familiar line comes across the screen in blue.
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
After that, the iconic John Williams theme takes me back to that distant galaxy for another thrilling adventure. “Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens” has officially begun! The only question is where does this new adventure begin?
The opening crawl reveals that Luke Skywalker has disappeared. A new evil known as the First Order has risen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. The New Republic, seeing this threat on the horizon, has allowed General Leia (Carrie Fisher) to form a Resistance in order to stand against the Order.
Both sides are looking for Luke, one to destroy him and one to find him in an attempt to bring the Jedi Order back. A piece of a map may hold the key as to where he is, but ace Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is about to be captured by the Order and one of their worst leaders, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Much like Princess Leia from “A New Hope”, Poe puts the piece of map into his droid BB-8 and sends him away.
We are quickly introduced to our three new leads before we encounter any familiar faces. Finn (John Boyega), a reformed Stormtrooper, helps Poe escape from the Order before they crash land on Jakku. Separated from Poe, Finn makes his way to a planet where he meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who has been on Jakku since she was a child.
Soon, they hop aboard the Millennium Falcon with BB-8 in tow. Only then do we get to encounter some of our old heroes, namely Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his faithful companion, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). From there, it is a race against time to stop the Order and possibly find Luke.
Introducing us to the three new leads first is an excellent decision on the filmmakers’ part. Namely, because these are the characters that we have to follow not just in this film, but also in the upcoming Episodes VIII & IX. Thankfully, I can say that they are all interesting and I can’t wait to see more of them.
Rey and Finn both have mysterious pasts that I’m sure will be explored in the next two entries. Finn has gotten over his brainwashing to realize how wrong the Order is, but he is not too sure if he wants to fight for the Resistance either. Rey is wondering if her family will ever return for her while also discovering that she may have more power than she realizes.
Ridley is the true breakout star of this film. She gives Rey both a genuine sense of naivety about a galaxy she knows mostly through stories, yet the strength of a character who can exist on a planet such as Jakku. Also, Ridley expertly handles Rey’s sense of both fear and curiosity of the galaxy, namely when she begins to feel a deeper connection to the Force.
Poe is a little more straightforward. He is considered the best pilot in the Resistance and if he has a deeper story, it’s not really foreshadowed here in this movie. Still, Isaac manages to take the least developed character of the three and turn him into someone memorable. When we first meet him, he gets to give a few verbal jabs at Kylo Ren that made me like the guy almost instantly.
Speaking of our villain, I cannot say too much about Kylo Ren without spoiling even more than I already have. I will say that he has a deep connection to our main characters and he is also a rather tragic person, but you never forget that he is indeed the bad guy of the piece. Driver gives us a sadder villain than a straightforward hate-filled antagonist. The good news is that he never falls into that whiny territory, thankfully avoiding how Hayden Christensen came off as a whinier Anakin in the Prequel Trilogy.
As far as the legacy characters are concerned, the main character here is Han, once again played to perfection by Ford. It turns out that Han’s story isn’t quite complete and there is more than enough here to understand why Ford would want to return to the role. Despite his deeper connection to the story, Han is still the same rogue we know and love, but he is just a little bit older and wiser this time out.
Beyond Han, it was great to see old favorites return such as Fisher as Leia and Anthony Daniels as C-3P0. Yes, Luke is in the movie, but since the search for Luke is one of the central plot points, he does not appear in the movie too much. Therefore, if you were expecting to see a lot of him, then you will be gravely disappointed.
I’m sure if I nitpicked this movie, I could find something out of place or something that just didn’t sound quite right. Right now, I’m too excited about what I just saw to do that. “The Empire Strikes Back” was my favorite film in the franchise and that may still be the case, but if ever there was a contender for the throne, this film is definitely it.
Like he did with “Star Trek” before, director J.J. Abrams has successfully revived the Star Wars franchise and I’m glad to say that the Force is stronger than ever!