Nearly a decade after the conclusion of the poorly-received film trilogy known as the “Star Wars” prequels, diehard fans of all ages were unsure of what to expect from J.J. Abrams’ take on the beloved franchise. On Dec. 18, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the first part of a new sequel trilogy, debuted at theatres nationwide, smashing several box office records while capturing the attention of millions of moviegoers across the world.
It’s safe to say that fans were in for a treat, and for the most part, the film ultimately lived up to the hype. “The Force Awakens” harks back to the unabashedly imaginative elements that made George Lucas’s original “Star Wars” trilogy as ubiquitous as it is today.
Whereas the prequels binged CGI effects to the point where it was nauseating to watch, the latest installment boasts a unique blend of practical effects and computer-generated imagery as the backbone of the project, subsequently making the experience more organic, not only for the audience, but also for the actors. It’s been mentioned by the director before that the film’s plucky protagonist droid BB-8 made production a far more enjoyable process for the cast members, many of whom were eager to interact with something that was physically created and handled by skilled puppeteers. This childlike whimsy is easily one of the most contagious aspects of “The Force Awakens,” as moviegoers can easily become absorbed by the film’s strong, yet welcoming sense of craft.
In an unprecedented move, J.J. Abrams decided to cast unknown actors to play the lead roles as opposed to bigger-name celebrities, while also bringing back veterans such as Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, each of whom starred as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, respectively. Newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega starred as Rey and Finn, respectively, and managed to steal the show with their on-screen chemistry while also buttressing the film’s overall sense of mystery.
It’s clear that these protagonists have a few skeletons in their closets, but “The Force Awakens” doesn’t choose to divulge too many details about their backgrounds, as was also the case for the main antagonist, Kylo Ren. It’s safe to say that we’ll find about more about them in the upcoming two episodes, and it’s also safe to say that these lesser-known actors were very strong additions to an already large and talented cast.
In the film’s trailer, a female protagonist lives in a sweltering, desert-like planet and comes upon a droid who has some degree of importance. Somewhere along the way, she’s hounded down by Stormtroopers of the First Order and forced to flee, having to deal with the nefarious Kylo Ren. The film’s official poster reveals the inclusion of a large planet resembling the Death Star, which many dedicated “Star Wars” fans may recognize from the first film in the original trilogy, “A New Hope,” among other details that may seem disturbingly familiar.
While these similarities may seem like mere coincidences, the derivative nature of “The Force Awakens’” plot is incredibly apparent, which may undermine the film’s sense of newness for those who were awaiting a sequel trilogy in the true sense of the phrase. With this being the only major issue, it’s anything but a deal-breaker.
Rather than being a 21st century reiteration of “A New Hope,” “The Force Awakens” can be seen as more of an upgrade, going in bold new directions in terms of character development while setting up a potentially exhilarating and emotional ride that will likely delve deeper into the histories of Rey and Kylo Ren, both of whom exemplify the intriguing inner conflict between the light side and the dark side.
While this certainly isn’t the most philosophical “Star Wars” movie, “The Force Awakens” stands as an imaginative, brilliant reminder of what made the franchise so appealing to begin with. The latest installment sets up what appears to be a greater insight into the Force, the mysterious, metaphysical energy that connects all living beings, and raises hopes for a deeper and more daring trilogy, holistically speaking. If the film’s immense success at the box office isn’t enough to convince you that it’s worth seeing, then you just might miss a chance to be won over by its blooming creativity, which is guaranteed to attract old fans and new fans alike, tying together multiple generations for an adventure in a galaxy far, far away.