Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars The Force Awakens Review: Fitting Chapter in the Star Wars Saga

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a film called Star Wars. What started off as simple film in 1977 has become a pop culture phenomenon that remains strong even to this day. Like many I grew up with the adventures of Star Wars, and I will attest that I love this franchise in its entirety. Back in 2005 it seemed that the circle was complete with the third installment in the prequel trilogy: Star Wars-Revenge of the Sith. However everything changed in 2012 when creator George Lucas sold Lucasfilms to Disney. When this happened it was announced that Star Wars would return to the silver screen with a new trilogy. With much speculation, next chapter in the Star Wars saga would begin with Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Taking the helm for this installment was sci-fi director JJ Abrams; the man behind the new Star Trek films. It was hard to imagine that this continuation would come to theaters, but sure enough The Force Awakens is now playing everywhere. So the question for this Film Adventurer is simply this: is the force strong with The Force Awakens?

Episode VII takes place 30 years after the events of Episode VI. The galaxy faces a new threat in the form of The First Order and its leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Unfortunately for the New Republic the famed hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared from the galaxy. This dilemma leads to the newly formed Resistance, led by Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) to locate the missing Jedi Knight before the First Order finds him. The conflict leads to Jakku where a mysterious girl named Rey (Daisy Riley) gets caught in the thick of things. Along with a former stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega), Rey joins up with famed smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to get vital information to the Resistance before the vicious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his forces catches up with them.

Star Wars has always been known for having a simplistic sense of storytelling; though it does not shy away from complexity. The Force Awakens was no exception to this concept. For the most part the movie's plot was a straightforward adventure; and this proved to work for and against the film. On one hand the plot was exciting, but its fast pace nature prevented the movie from having a stronger execution. Though the story was a fast moving adventure, it also set up plotlines for the series' future installments. Because of this The Force Awakens felt like the start of a much bigger story. This was no doubt a gamble on the film's part as this direction depends on future stories, but I think it was still an intriguing narrative for the filmmakers to use. The Force Awakens took the adventurous aspects of the original trilogy and mixed with the centered nature of the Prequels' stories. This combination made for a plot that, while flawed, was a worthy continuation to the Star Wars Saga.

Along with its adventurous tales, Star Wars has always featured a wide variety of characters. In the case of The Force Awakens, the film's cast split into two categories: new characters and veterans to the series. The returning characters such as Han Solo and Leia Organa were great to see again. These veterans felt appropriate being supporting characters to the new guard, but that is not to say that either did not have their own sense of development. When came down to it, the most prominent factor to the cast were the new characters; which I felt was a mixed group. Characters such as Rey and Kylo Ren had the right sense of development, but other such as Finn and Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) could have had stronger motivations; though this not to say that either were completely ineffective. The side characters were also a hit and miss. On one hand the likes of Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o) and BB-8 stole show; but then you had characters like Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christine) and General Hux (Domhnaal Gleeson) who, though interesting, needed a bigger presence. Along with captivating mysteries behind Supreme Commander Snoke and Luke Skywalker, I found the cast to The Force Awakens to be effective; not the most coherent, but effective all the same.

When dealing with Star Wars, one should expect the technical factors to be as relevant as the story and characters. In this sense, the spectacle behind the Star Wars was very much alive in Episode VII. The visual effects were impressive, most impressive to be more accurate. The film seemed to mix CG effects with that of practical ones. It may not have been the best blend that I have ever seen, but it did get the job done by bringing out the spectacle of Star Wars. The effects definitely helped out with movie's action sequences. Like the film's before it, the action to The Force Awakens varied from the likes of high flying chase scenes and thrilling duels; and in both areas, I found the action to be acceptable to the Star Wars name. Last, and definitely not least, was the score by John Williams. The music to The Force Awakens managed to embrace the iconic sounds of Star Wars; though I wish the score had some distinct themes to it(though this criticism could change after multiple viewings of the movie). Nevertheless the music felt right at home; as did the the rest of the movie's spectacular elements.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens may not a dynamic entry in the Star Wars saga, but that did not make the film any less enjoyable. Though story and characters could have been stronger, both factors had plenty of merits to make up for their shortcomings. Along with the movie's stunning technical elements, The Force Awakens managed to stay true to the adventurous aspects that has made up the whole Star Wars Saga; and because of this, I found that Episode VII was both a needed and worthy successor to the Star Wars name.

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