I’ve been a “Star Wars” fan since May of 1977, when I constantly bugged my parents to take me to see that cool new movie they were advertising on TV. I’ve been a fan ever since. I enjoyed all six of the previous movies, both the Original and Prequel Trilogies. I still have most of my old toys, have been to some of the conventions, and have no desire to see the much-maligned “Star Wars Holiday Special” ever again. With those facts in mind, it was a given that I’d go to see the new movie on opening day. So, last Friday afternoon (since I’m past the point where I’d go see it at midnight), I went to see “Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens”. First, a quick look at the plot:
Set about thirty years after the events of “Return of the Jedi”, we learn that things didn’t end happily ever after. The evil Empire is being resurrected as the tyrannical First Order, led by the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). The resurrected Republic is supporting the good guys of the Resistance to stop them. But, as the story opens, things are looking very bad.
On the desert planet Jakku, hot shot Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has just gotten information vital to the good guys. But, before he can get away, he’s captured by a group of stormtroopers led by Snoke’s chief assistant, the masked warrior Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Poe does, though, pass the information to his faithful droid BB-8, who wanders off in search of help.
BB-8 soon hooks up with Rey (Daisy Ridley), a young woman who scavenges wrecked spacecraft to survive on the lawless planet. Unmindful of BB-8’s importance, she still decides to look after the robot. Meanwhile, Poe, following brutal interrogation by Kylo, manages to escape with the help of Finn (John Boyega), a conscience-stricken stormtrooper who’s desperate to get away from the merciless First Order. But all three of them are pursued by the bad guys, who are absolutely determined to recover BB-8’s information.
And the vital information is…the location of Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi, who has long since disappeared.
As for the movie, let me put it this way. If you’re hoping for the greatest movie ever made, or an event that will change your life in a way no other event could, you’ll be disappointed. No movie, no matter how hyped, can do that. But, if you’re hoping for an entertaining movie from a favorite franchise, you’ll be satisfied. I certainly was; I really enjoyed it.
The visual effects and production design are very good, both relying less on CGI environments than the Prequels did, while maintaining the “used future” look that the series is known for. The music score by John Williams, which gradually includes the familiar themes, is also fine. The screenplay has a good balance of mystical dialogue and more down-to-Earth lines, while the acting is also good by the principals. There are also some genuinely emotional scenes that worked well, including one that fans will find utterly heartbreaking.
It’s not perfect, though. As can be seen from the plot description, the story owes a lot to previous “Star Wars” movies, especially the original film. Some of the dialogue was, perhaps, a bit too modern day for my tastes. There are a lot of loose threads in the plot that are left loose, including unanswered questions regarding the background of the main characters, hopefully to be resolved in the next two movies in the Sequel Trilogy. And, to an extent, viewers who aren’t familiar with the series may feel a bit lost as the story refers to past events.
One definite plus for longtime fans is the return of the Big Three. It’s good to see Carrie Fisher back as Princess (well, now it’s General) Leia, and Harrison Ford eases back into the role of Han Solo, albeit an older and (somewhat) wiser Han. And I’m not giving anything away by saying Mark Hamill returns as Luke, and if there was no other reason to see Episode VIII (and there is), his appearance is more than sufficient to make me wait for the next movie. We also see Chewie (Peter Mayhew) get some important scenes, and Threepio (Anthony Daniels) has a funny and perfectly appropriate entrance. We don’t see much of Artoo, but I’m sure we’ll see more of him later
In the end, I can easily recommend TFA (as fans refer to it). It’s a fun, well-made movie that’s a fine addition to the “Star Wars” series. And I’m certainly eager to see the next installment.
In that respect, today’s kids have it easy. Episode VIII is set for release in about 18 months. I had to wait three years between episodes.