As long as there is light, there is hope.
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt
Cast: Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Peter Mayhew
Swift shot: “Disney’s going to ruin it!” was the early lament of the Cassandras and die-hard fans. “They will make it too cutesy or focus only on making a buck, regardless of what it costs the franchise’s soul,” they memed. Clearly, they don’t know the Disney that I know! As this was one of the darkest of the entire franchise. Without giving anything away, The Force Awakens is a stark reminder that no one lives forever. But, legends never die.
As the opening crawl reveals, Leia, who prefers to be called General now, has been searching the known universe for her lost brother, Luke. Something happened within the family that he feels responsible for, so he has opted to essentially escape . . . or perhaps hide from his short comings. His absence begins to make sense; however, when it is revealed that the burgeoning remnants of the Empire, now called The First Order are also scouring the star systems seeking out Luke. Their vicious blood hound is a mysterious hooded force-adept known as Kylo Ren (Driver). He makes it clear from his entrance that he is without mercy.
In his pursuit for Luke Skywalker and his commitment to his ghoulish master, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), Ren is driven by wrath and a nostalgic envy for the past. He is actually just a spoiled brat, possibly an evil seed. Ren has never wanted to be good, in fact, he feels his only weakness is his sometimes emerging soft heart. He keeps that secret closely guarded. That’s his cross to bear, he must extinguish the flickering light in him to fully embrace the darkness he desires. Ren is an interesting character in that way, because he feels good in himself and wants to snuff it out like a woolamander on Yavin 4. He must confront this challenge, alone.
On Jakku, we meet Rey (Ridley) who is barely surviving on scraps. She hauls remnants from the great “Battle of Jakku” to some slug looking thug that pays her in food and water. Rey was abandoned on Jakku as a young girl, and while she may appear to be soft on the outside, she is a fierce fighter with her staff. Rey stumbles across a droid who has a secret map for the resistance. Ok, this is starting to sound familiar, right? More on that later. The droid is, of course, the now vastly popular BB-8. He’s the little guy that those naysayers decided would ruin the film to the point of making it cartoonish. He wasn’t over employed, thankfully. I’d say he was as effective to the story as R2-D2 to A New Hope, but not as essential in the long run. Let’s face it, no one is as essential to the franchise as R2-D2!
BB-8 belongs to a captured resistance pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) who encounters a deserter of the First Order. “FN-2187” is the only name our wayward trooper has ever known, and Poe dubs him Finn (Boyega), because “FN-2187” isn’t a name, it’s a number. Together, they steal a tie fighter and almost manage a clean get away. Notice I said almost?
When Finn comes to, he’s alone on Jakku and is pretty much unsure of what he’s going to do next. Until he meets the gritty Rey. When they first cross paths, she’s not exactly a friendly. But, their immediate need to survive a wave of tie fighters coming over the horizon to destroy the scrapper compound, bonds them in flight.
As the story unfolds, some heroes and icons of the past are encountered that will draw cheers from any audience. Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Leia eventually enter the story. Necessity quickly overpowers any holistic aspirations the new characters may be having, though, as nostalgia is short-lived when once again the Empire acts in a most vicious move against the Senate. Again, there is a giant death ray, this time solar powered . . . I shit you not! And our newly formed crew have to work together to destroy it merely to survive to the next day.
Meanwhile, Kylo Ren and The First Order are still pursuing Luke Skywalker to sate their master, Snoke. But, once Ren and Rey meet, that is when the force truly . . . awakens. That’s about all I can about the story and plot without giving away something you shouldn’t be reading about, you should be seeing it tonight . . . NOW!
This franchise is so much a part of my life, it feels like my family was on that screen. I care about them all. I root for them with all my heart, and while there may have been some significant similarities to the other films, I didn’t feel it ruined anything for me. There is a mythology about Star Wars, there is an expectation with myths that they be unique but hold certain cyclic truths where each character must traverse similar tragedies to develop.
In The Force Awakens you are seeing another side of the story unfold through a reminiscent scope. There is a harmony, a duet of the souls, that pulled me into this story about characters I really had no reason to care about otherwise. I was drawn to their plight, because it was familiar – because they are family.
J.J. Abrams and his team deserve accolades for their use of less is more and scale is everything! All the times I felt I was being overwhelmed with CGI in Episodes I – III were gone. There was some incredible cinematography throughout, and I really felt like I was a kid again, hopping around space on the Falcon with a crew of misfits on a most daring mission. And, isn’t that what Star Wars is all about?
May the Force Be With You!