Friday, December 25, 2015

Film Review Friday with Fidel Reyes - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

“There has been an awakening, have you felt it?”

After years of anticipation Star Wars: The Force Awakens has finally arrived to the theaters of our galaxy, but does it live up to the magic and grandeur that fans have come to expect from the Star Wars saga? In short, yes. However, more than a simple yes is necessary to explain why Star Wars: The Force Awakens manages to succeed in capturing the essence of Star Wars.

To begin the approach of director J.J. Abrams is well executed as he manages to bring a classic feeling to Star Wars while bringing a new voice and exuberance to the franchise. Through the use of practical effects, compelling set pieces, and emotionally investing characters Abrams proves that he is not only an avid Star Wars fan but a great director for the franchise.

Meanwhile, the script, co-written by Abrams, Michael Arndt, and Star Wars Original Trilogy scribe Lawrence Kasdan is a great script that captures a grand sense of the epic intergalactic struggle between good and evil. While, the script does a fantastic job in presenting a grand space opera it surprisingly, and successfully, presents a personal journey that acts as coming of age story wrapped in a love letter, and tribute, to the Star Wars Original Trilogy.

While the story helps connect the old and the new it is the characters who make the film both great and intimate. First off, newcomer Daisy Ridley’s performance as Rey is not only a highlight for the movie, but a highlight for the series since she manages to create a compelling and complex character that possesses all the qualities that people admire in a strong protagonist. John Boyega’s performance as Finn is a witty and energetic performance that brings both levity and conflict to the story. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron acts a likeable and heroic figure with a heart of gold. Meanwhile, antagonist Kylo Ren, portrayed by Adam Driver, creates a complex and humanized villain that is a dark and menacing enigma.

And last but not least, Harrison Ford returns as the charismatic Han Solo, bringing back the magic that was present in the past and still manages to further develop his character in an emotional and witty manner. On a side note, Ford immersed himself so much into his return to role that it is difficult to imagine that he ha not played Solo in 32 years.

Another great trait that The Force Awakens possesses is successfully using nostalgia, from the original trilogy, in order to help advance the plot of the story and to introduce themes and metaphorically driven context to further a well known mythos in a self-contained story. The use of nostalgia in The Force Awakens successfully helped J.J. Abrams immerse his audience into a fantastical world where adventure ensues. Not to mention, that the score by the iconic John Williams also acts as a nostalgic tool that blends into the story, sets, and characters that J.J. Abrams, and company, set out to create in The Force Awakens.

However, the nostalgia and throwbacks to the Star Was Original Trilogy that make Star Wars: The Force Awakens so great also create the the film’s greatest flaws. The film’s flaws stem from the preoccupation of fitting in references, or Easter Eggs, from the original trilogy which can cause viewers to lose focus on the film’s central focus and conflict. At times The Force Awakens feels like a story that has been seen before, since the film explores similar characters, emotional story arcs, set pieces, and final climax as 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope. While The Force Awakens acts well as a standalone entry in the Star Wars Saga the film’s focus on nostalgia can make it feel like a soft-retelling of A New Hope.

The Force Awakens also suffers from a lack of given information, since certain plot points are presented as if it should be known by the audience or are never retouched later on in the film. Undoubtedly the questions that The Force Awakens will probably be answered in future installments, this is the start of the trilogy after all, but one can’t help but feel that the film could have done more to try to explain certain plot points and empty gaps.

While the film possesses a small amount of flaws they are so minor that they neither affect the pacing, enjoyment, or grand sense of adventure that director J.J. Abrams and company managed to craft. Watching the movie, it can clearly be seen that the film was made through hard work and loving care for the Star Wars Saga, since the clash of old and new creates an immersive experience for both new and longtime fans. While The Force Awakens is not quite perfect as a film it manages to be perfect in its mission to capture the magic, epic scale, and interesting characters that series creator George Lucas created back in 1977.

Overall, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a great film that is eloquently put together, beautiful in visual and metaphorical context, and vibrant in its richness of heart and soul. J.J. Abrams has crafted a beautiful film, in technical and narrative aspects, that will transcend generations of Star Wars fans all across the galaxy.

Final Grade: A