Michael Bergeron
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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
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There is the review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens that wants you, the reader, to have seen the film so we can discuss the particulars and spoilers. Then there is the review of SW:TFA that wishes to initiate those outside of The Force cosmology into the fold.

This is the seventh film in the Star Wars pantheon. George Lucas sold the Star Wars rights to Disney so expect a Stars Wars film and/or spinoff film for the next year and every year after that until the end of the world. Previously there have been two sets of three films that established a place in a galaxy a long time ago.

Director J.J. Adams channels the appropriate vibe for the genre in which he works. For his film Super 8 he channeled Spielberg; for the Star Trek films Abrams channeled the Kobayashi Maru. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens Abrams channels, well, The Force.

The return of original cast members Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill gives this launch a genuine feel of the prototype trilogy. Watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens was like having every archetype of my youth reborn and stood on its head.

Newcomers include Oscar Isaac as hot shot pilot Poe Dameron. The resemblance to the name of Nic Cage’s character in Con Air Cameron Poe is not lost. Isaac is totally capable of putting the bunny back in the box. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega (Attack the Block) have instant new careers. Playing rebellious characters, named Rey and Finn, the two find themselves allied in the same cause. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren has gone to the dark side. Driver and Isaac also acted together in Inside Llewyn Davis. Domhnall Gleeson (also in Ex Machina, Brooklyn, and The Revenant this year) plays the evil General Hux whose big speech takes on the trappings of The Triumph of the Will.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ph: Film Frame
©Lucasfilm 2015

There’re a lot of strange creatures on display. Abrams has a litany of Star Wars bullet points that he dutifully checks off, aliens in bars and outdoor malls being high on that list. There are moments that play out that will remind viewers of specific scenes from A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. Abrams even manages to evoke recent Marvel iconography by having Andy Serkis play a huge holographic intergalactic overlord named Supreme Leader Snoke. A new face, Maz Kanata (motion captured by Lupita Nyong’o), suggests a Yoda like story arc in her brief cameo.

This new Star Wars works best when the characters are engaged in derring-do, which is most of the time. There are some moments of quiet brevity. Nothing will ever capture the zeitgeist of Star Wars in the 1970s. Star Wars: The Force Awakens exists as a totem pointing to the future but emulating the past. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has the confidence to make the excursion worthwhile.

— Michael Bergeron