‘The Force Awakens’ gives new hope to ‘Star Wars’ franchise
Open on a frozen ice world, blowing snow as far as the eye can see. A lone figure, bundled in layers of coats, treads across the tundra, walking with determination as if on a mission. She has to reach her destination! This is her only chance! No, that’s not the start of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that was me braving a Denver blizzard to attend a secret pre-screening of the film. So I traversed a Hoth-like Denver and sat down in the theater to experience cinema history.
Without giving away any spoilers, I can tell you that the film plays like a very respectful homage to the 1977 original, hitting all the beats that made that film so memorable, and giving us characters we’re sure to love for years to come. Daisy Ridley leads the film as Rey, a scavenger living on the desert world of Jakku—which you’ll probably end up calling Tatooine when you and your friends talk about the movie later on. Rey is a loner and makes her living plucking parts from the downed Star Destroyers that litter the landscape, evidence of a long-ago battle between the Republic and the Empire.
But the days of the Death Star are long passed, and now the biggest villains in the galaxy are the First Order, whose Sith-like warrior, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), could be characterized as the ultimate Darth Vader fanboy. The First Order are even more brutal than their previous iteration, and their Unsullied-like force of Storm Troopers carry out every order without question.
That is, except for Finn (John Boyega), formerly known only by the number FN-2187. He starts to question what they’re doing, and eventually goes AWOL, teaming up with Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). I don’t really want to tell you much more of the plot because, like Luke in the Dagobah cave, your film experience will be shaped by what you take in with you, and it’s best to experience this with fresh eyes. Just know that the film closely mirrors A New Hope in all the best ways.
The Force Awakens is satisfying in all the areas the prequels were not—save for the last few sequences in Revenge of the Sith. Rey is a strong-as-hell female more along the lines of Leia than of poor Padmé, who existed almost solely to birth the twins and be motivation for Anakin’s journey to the Dark Side.
Finn is a delightfully nervous kid trying to sound tougher than he is, which makes him infinitely endearing. Boyega brings an innocence to the character that leads to some truly funny moments, especially when paired with the sarcastic Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Finn wants so badly to be the cool, confident guy, something along the lines of Poe Dameron, but his inner nerd comes out, making him all the more lovable.
The Star Wars franchise has given us arguably the most iconic villain in cinema history, which can make it much harder for any post-Vader villains to live up to that standard. Sure, we had bad guys in the prequels, but political strategy and lengthy meetings just don’t give off the same menacing vibe of Force-choking people or wielding a badass lightsaber reminiscent of a fiery broadsword. Kylo Ren is the bad guy we’ve been hoping for, and Driver plays him to perfection, both with and without that cool helmet.
The Force Awakens is first and foremost a film for Star Wars fans. Even the heroes themselves are fans, well-versed in the legends of Luke Skywalker and General Leia. J.J. Abrams excels at fan service, as evidenced by his Star Trek movies, and he gives us what we want to see in a Star Wars movie. Yes, it’s not hard to be better than prequels, but The Force Awakens gives me hope that the new era of Star Wars films will live up to the original trilogy.
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