While there have been countless film franchises that have dotted the pop culture landscape, very few have had the lasting impact of George Lucas’ sci-fi, fantasy creation, Star Wars. The latest episode, The Force Awakens is a welcome return to the Lucas’ original trilogy providing a satisfactory and enjoyable experience for fans and novices alike.
Since we last saw our heroes in Return of the Jedi, thirty years have passed and the galaxy has undergone dramatic change. The specter of the missing Luke Skywalker has cast a dark pall over the empire with much of the story centered on locating the last surviving Jedi master.
New times require new energy and screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt introduce a pair of compelling protagonists, former Startrooper-turned-Resistance-Fighter, Finn (John Boyega) and a lonely scavenger with a heart of gold, Rey (Daisy Ridley). The two unite to protect the special plans hidden inside of an adorable droid, BB-8, from the hands of the power-hungry First Order led by their commander and new “Villian in Black,” Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
Under the spell of the Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), Ren serves an evil master while struggling with his own anger and insecurities. While Ren is imposing his villainous will in service of the First Order, Finn and Rey are slowly discovering their collective purposes and how their destinies are entwined, not just for this film but in later episodes of this Star Wars trilogy.
While most of the characters from the original trilogy return, Han Solo, Chewbacca, General Leia of course, the man himself, Luke Skywalker, The Force Awakens is about the two new young stars, Boyega and Ridley. The two have great chemistry and Boyega is surprisingly humorous and brash, in some ways reminiscent of a young Solo. While his initial motivations are somewhat sketchy, soon it becomes apparent that he is indeed a “different” type of hero. Ridley also shines displaying a winning puckish quality that makes it easy for audiences to root for this new dynamic duo.
One of the elements that appeals to many of the Star Wars faithful is the utter simplicity that Lucas establishes with his stories. At its core, the battle is between good and evil, light and dark, the empire constantly trying to crush the rebellion and the rebels simply wanting to live in peace. While his film’s ideas are deeply rooted in classic literature, there has been a healthy proliferation of other recent franchises that have made millions using similar story concepts.
Abrams stated all along that he wanted to make a Star Wars film that fans would enjoy. If fan satisfaction was his goal I’m happy to report that his mission is accomplished. The Force Awakens is easily the strongest addition to the Star Wars canon since The Empire Strikes Back. The film seamlessly blends elements from previous stories without losing any of the fun, the emotion and importantly maintaining the story continuity and action that made fans fall in love with this story in the first place.
With an unprecedented level of anticipation and hype around this holiday blockbuster, it’s no wonder that the studio was so secretive about showing this film too early in advance. The film features several easter eggs that hopefully my colleagues will spoil for eager fans – and won’t be revealed here. What I can definitely say is that The Force Awakens is one of the few films this season that is absolutely worth the hype and should enjoy a healthy run with plenty of repeat viewings as well as a record-breaking box office weekend.
In the nearly four decades since Lucas’ franchise became a pop phenomenon, many of the themes that he borrowed for his story have become staples for other huge blockbusters, most notably The Matrix, Divergent, Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games.
While Lucas is no longer attached to the day-to-day operation of extending his beloved franchise, it’s safe to say that he can rest well knowing that iconic story that was hatched from his imagination will continue to thrill fans far into the future and secure his legacy as a generational cinematic visionary. While this latest story will “reawaken” fans interest in the franchise, the introduction of fresh new blood into the galaxy is really the story’s “new hope!”