Film Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars Force Awakens Poster

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Plot Summary:

Thirty years after the fall of the Empire, the First Order, remnants of the Empire, embark to destroy everything the Rebellion fought for, led by a dark new enemy (Adam Driver).  The Resistance is the only hope for the Galaxy, as they encounter new allies to help them in their struggle.

This is Star Wars.  Is it as good as the original trilogy?  Not quite, but the DNA is all over the place.  This movie lays a foundation stronger than any Death Star.  Rebuilt from the ashes that the prequels destroyed, but also standing as a new chapter.  A new Saga.  But the story is still the same – Good Vs. Evil.  It’s as thrilling and stunning as ever.  The original characters no doubt get their moments, but make no mistake – this is about the next generation of Star Wars.  All the new additions earned their right to be a part of this world.  This legacy.  It’s time we dive into their story, because so far, it’s a damn good one.

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Right from the start, you are launched back into this galaxy at light speed.  I said The Force Awakens isn’t as good as the original trilogy, but this is easily the best opening crawl of all time.  EPIC doesn’t even begin to describe it.  After that beautiful piece of writing, we are introduced to all our new characters.  Oscar Isaac practically steals the first half hour.  Man, is he a great actor.  Charisma dripping all over him, Poe Dameron instantly becomes a Star Wars character.  The chemistry between all these new characters is amazing, like they’ve been in nine movies together.  Poe and Finn (John Boyega) in particular were a great pairing.

Speaking of great characters, enter Finn.  Gee wiz, another guy who instantly becomes a Star Wars character.  Are you sensing a pattern yet?  Boyega is flat out awesome.  Finn’s first scene is extremely powerful, and this guy has one hell of a character arc.  The script certainly does him a lot of favors, but every time he’s on screen you’re captivated.  You’re also captivated by Daisy Ridley, who I’m sure is about to get 900 movie roles.  Rey is everything you want out of one of the main characters.  She commands the screen.  She gives us a reason to follow her for over two hours.  What makes these characters work is you know what they are all about from the first time we meet them, something the prequels sorely lacked.  With all these amazing new characters, I haven’t even gotten to the best performance of the film.

When Adam Driver was first cast as the new Star Wars villain, my reaction was, “Really?  The guy from Girls?”  Boy, do I look like a moron.  Driver as the new dark Jedi, Kylo Ren, is the Star Wars villain I’ve been waiting for since Darth Vader.  This is an extraordinarily layered villain who is down right fascinating to watch.  Abrams executes so many nice subtleties and misdirections with Kylo, it makes me want to cheer at how much care they put into this character.  Every scene with Kylo got progressively more intriguing.  Outstanding job from Driver.

There are definitely other new characters I could go on all day about, like Maz Kanata, a beautiful performance from Lupita Nyong’o, and a character you desperately want to know more about.  There’s also Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, who’s cut right from the same cloth as Grand Moff Tarkin or Admiral Piett.  And yes, BB-8 was very charming, and a worthy R2-D2 knock off.  Speaking of R2, I’ve teased you long enough – let’s talk about the old guard.

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I haven’t seen Harrison Ford invested in any movie for a long time, but he sure as hell was here.  We all love Han Solo in the original trilogy, but he may have actually been given the most to chew on in this movie, which is why Ford was probably so into this.  You get the Han Solo you know and love, but with depth.  As far as Chewbacca goes, he was awesome.  The end.  Everything Leia did and said in this movie was important.  Carrie Fisher picked up right where she left off.  C3-PO (Anthony Daniels) had a hilarious re-introduction, and R2 was used in a very clever way.

It was great to see the old band back together, and experiencing the new characters was just as awesome, but most of all, I’m so glad J.J. Abrams directed this movie.  You needed a director with balls.  Abrams never forced anything for nostalgia reasons.  Everything made sense for the story that needed to be told.  He also understands what made Star Wars special – the characters.  Some of my criticisms of the film are that it rehashes a lot of same story techniques, and the last battle was lacking just a tad.  It didn’t bother me though because I cared more about the people in those battles.  That’s what the prequels didn’t understand.  Abrams does.  Aside from the characters, he also brings it back to the force.  There were sequences in here that were directly inspired from some of the most powerful moments in the original trilogy.  It was excellent.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of this film, and I can’t wait to see it multiple times.  It’s that kind of movie.  The action is thrilling.  There are lightsabers.  John Williams is a musical God.  Andy Serkis is awesome.  There are nice tricks and surprises all throughout.  It’s a marvelous time at the movies.  Abrams left it all out on the field, but I’ve also never salivated more for a sequel than I had by the end of this film, rivaling even the end of The Dark Knight.  There’s nothing else to say but the Force is back, and it’s here to stay for a long, long time.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10 (O…M…G)

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.
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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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