Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
What do you do when you have time on your hands on a long flight across the country? Well, you can do what I usually do - read and sleep - or you can do what my flying mate suggested and watch movies you ordinarily wouldn't see. And so it was that I found myself watching Star Wars The Force Awakens on board a flight to Los Angeles.
It all begins some thirty years after the destruction of the second Death Star. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared in a self-imposed exile. His sister, Leia (Carrie Fisher), is determined to find him, believing him to be the last hope for the New Republic against a new enemy that has risen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. The First Order, led by a force sensitive humanoid named Snoke (Andy Serkis), has sent his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to eliminate this threat, but he has thus far been unsuccessful at crushing the rebellion.
As the movie opens we are introduced to Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), the Republic's best pilot on a mission at Jakku to recover a piece of the map that might lead to finding Luke Skywalker. Unfortunately, Poe is captured by Kylo Ren. Knowing that his capture was eminent, Poe inserted the information he received in his droid, BB-8, instructing him to get the information back to the New Republic as soon as possible. After Poe's capture, BB-8 is rescued by Jakku scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley)who is skeptical of the droid's story at first, but begins to believe it after noticing all of the attention being paid to a simple droid by individuals most concerned with lining their pockets with money.
Meanwhile, Poe Dameron finds himself being rescued by FN-2187 (John Boyega), a stormtrooper whose programming from birth apparently did not take. A member of the landing party that took out an entire village on Jakku, FN-2187 realized that he had no taste for indiscriminant destruction of people and property and decided that he must leave the First Order. He needed a pilot and decided that Poe Dameron would do. Renamed Finn by Poe, the two return to Jakku to recover BB-8, but a crash landing separates them, leading Finn to believe that Poe is dead.
Finn comes across Rey and the two eventually become fast friends, aiding each other in getting BB-8 off of Jakku in a commandeered transport. They find themselves captured by none other than Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and learn that the transport they stole was actually the Millennium Falcon, stolen from Han years ago. The four travel to Takodana to see an old friend of Han's and figure out a way to get BB-8 back to the people who most need the information he contains. But that means a confrontation with the one woman he has been trying to avoid - his wife Leia, the mother of his child, Ben...who would become Kylo Ren.
An attack on Takodana by the First Order separates the companions and finds Rey in the hands of Kylo Ren. Can Ren discover what information lies within BB-8 through Rey? Can Finn find a way to get her back? Can the New Republic destroy the new weapon created by the First Order that makes the Death Star look like a toy gun in comparison?
There were a number of reasons I would not see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the theaters, the main one being that I understood it to be a reboot of the series and I felt that there was no need for such a thing. After seeing the film, I can still say that there was no need to reboot the series. And that is definitely what this new Star Wars series is about, using some of the older characters from the original trilogy to bring us forward into a new millennium with newer characters taking over for older ones. Rey, an obvious co-mingling of Luke, Leia and Han; Finn, definitely a Han Solo type, leaving the Empire in disgust after realizing what they are really about; Poe, Wedge Antilles; Luke, now taking on the role of Ben Kenobi; BB-8, a rounder and just as cute version of R2-D2 and Kylo Ren, a wilder and less controlled Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Even Snoke is highly representative of Emperor Palpatine.
I laugh at the comments originally offered by the powers that be making the movie that stated they would be using nothing from the Expanded Universe of books and comic books out there prior to the creation of the movie. Well, we can see that was an out and out lie when you consider that it was a Solo son that turned to the Dark Side, that the child was named Ben (sure, not Luke's kid, but still), that the New Republic would be in turmoil thanks to the rise of a new Dark Side power, that the way the new weapon would be powered would be to drain the energy of the local sun (think reverse Sun Crusher).
But that's not to say that I didn't enjoy watching the film. The actors had amazing chemistry with one another, much like the cast of the original trilogy. There was just as much action and adventure in this film as in the first trilogy and lots of fight scenes. Whether you are a fan of hand to hand, lightsaber to lightsaber, starfighter dogfights or shootouts, this movie has something for you. I especially loved watching the starfighter scenes during the turbulence experienced on my flight - it leant an authenticity to what I was watching. Maybe someone should come up with theater seats that move with the action in a film...hmm. But I digress.
All in all, I found Star Wars: The Force Awakens to be a blatant reboot of the original Star Wars trilogy, but I also found it to be a lot of fun, taking me back to when I saw A New Hope (before it was named A New Hope) when I was six years old in the balcony of a theater that no longer exists. For nostalgia reasons, I have to say that I was happy I finally got to see the movie - but on my terms. If I were to put myself into the shoes of someone who had never seen the original trilogy, I would say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was definitely a thrill ride worth seeing, with some interesting revelations and plot twists (those who have seen the original trilogy would have seen the revelations and plot twists coming a mile away).
I will say that I am interested in seeing how the sequels will pan out after this original segment of the reboot. Will they follow the same path as the original trilogy, or will they take a whole different turn. Whether I will see the rest of the trilogy in the theaters has yet to be determined, but I can't deny that I did enjoy the first installment quite a bit.