By Janelle Clausen
Staff Writer/Part-Time Jedi
If you had a bad feeling about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” you were wrong. Disney did not destroy the franchise.
It’s not quite a redemption of the prequel trilogy, drenched with political speak and lackluster (if not downright annoying) characters. Such a task is nearly impossible. But “The Force Awakens,” without a doubt, surpasses it and lives up to the magic of the original trilogy.
Yes, that means midichlorians aren’t mentioned.
The movie (thankfully) had the hand of Lawrence Kasdan, who helped write the script for the cinematic wonders of “Return of the Jedi” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” It shows in the colorful dialogue, characters and simple to follow conflict. He and JJ Abrams, were like Han Solo and Chewbacca in assembling the movie: an epic duo that made “The Force Awakens” work for the twenty-first century.
The film’s opening scene (if not the whole movie) mirrors that of a New Hope, where a Star Destroyer consumes the screen and domineers over a fleeing rebel corvette. Its dominance is implied. A similar tactic is used here, where a new type of destroyer and fleet casts a shadow over the planet Jakku. There’s no doubting who the enemy is here and throughout the film.
That enemy is the First Order, which rose from the ashes of the Empire to challenge the Republic and the Resistance. Hurting the situation is that in the wake of tragedy (not to be spoiled here) that changed the galaxy, rebel hero (now myth) Luke Skywalker has exiled himself. The galaxy is unbalanced. Add in a superweapon that dwarfs the Death Star, and boom: you have a menace.
Consequently, there is no shortage of thrills, twists, starfighter chases, and the occasional lightsaber battle. The scenes themselves masterfully integrate regular set ups, props and CGI, while the brilliant composing of John Williams affirms the return to the Star Wars universe. Everything old is new again and vice versa—even the characters.
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), leader of the Knights of Ren and a key figure in the First Order, is a different kind of dark sider. He’s conflicted and prone to temper tantrums, slashing about with his lightsaber. Yet he is no less dangerous, able to invade minds and bring the power of the Force to a whole new level.
Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), meanwhile, is a figure looming larger than life every time he is spoken to. His hologram appears giant in meeting rooms. Only a few lines are needed, however, for the grey skinned humanoid to be villainous. Add in the powerful figure of General Hux, who can command legions upon legions of troopers, and you have quite the trio.
But it is the new heroes, scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), ex-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) that shine. Rey is a powerful woman protagonist to follow and will inspire girls for years to come. Finn also delivers an epic performance and certainly doesn’t come off as a newcomer either. The dialogue and energetic back and forths between Boyega and Ridley are natural, sometimes comedic and just impressive. They truly are a dynamic duo.
It’s also hard not to like Isaac’s performance as the ace Resistance pilot, and impossible to hate BB-8, the little rolling droid who used a lighter for a thumbs up. As skeptical as I was going in, his beeping charm was disarming.
The integration of original trilogy characters wasn’t overwhelming. It was enough to elicit cheers from the crowd whenever they appeared on screen, whether it was General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) leading the Resistance, the bubbling protocol droid C3PO or smuggler at heart Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
Han Solo is, for lack of better terms, still Han. His smart comments, sly grin and smuggler antics, like being trapped between two gangs and trying to “talk his way out of it,” would ring familiar to any longtime “Star Wars” fans. And, of course, he still has the fearsomely loyal and wonderful Chewbacca.
Were there any disappointments? Captain Phasma didn’t quite live up to being a badass female villain, Kylo Ren wasn’t as intimidating as expected, and sometimes things were too familiar. There are also some questions not quite answered that I’d rather not wait two years for.
But, then again, that’s what “Star Wars” is filled with: burning questions you want to see answered.
“The Force Awakens” is a movie worth seeing more than once. If one is new to the “Star Wars” lore, this is still a movie welcoming to the next generation of fans. You only need watch the original trilogy (thank the Force for that) to follow. If you’re like me, still loyal to the Expanded Universe, this movie could still win your heart. There may be one point where your heart breaks (still not spoiling), but you will survive.