Spoiler-Free STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS Movie Review

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Exactly how I would describe Star Wars: The Force Awakens is that I immediately felt something familiar and exciting just after the opening scrawl of text prepared me for an brand new galactic adventure set 30 years after the Return of the Jedi. Yes, Disney and J.J. Abrams are purposefully retreading the same beats as the original trilogy to tug on the nostalgic heartstrings of an audience who, after feeling burned by George Lucas, want a safe yet fun trip down memory lane.

Honestly, I don’t blame Abrams or Disney one bit for giving the people what they want, but don’t worry, The Force Awakens isn’t a lazy rehash to capitalize on a recognizable and beloved franchise. This heartfelt continuation of the epic space saga introduces an ensemble of wonderful new characters that I instantly fell in love with, As much as I enjoyed spending time with Han Solo and Chewbacca again, it’s Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and especially Kylo Ren who re-energized my enthusiasm for Star Wars. This new chapter does a fantastic job of setting up these characters for new adventures of which I am enthusiastically thrilled to be a part.

The influence of the original trilogy is safe but lovingly genuine. It allows a loyal audience with this property close to their heart and a young fresh audience just being introduced to be captivated by the old fantasy in harmony with a new journey featuring fascinating and exciting new characters with their own stories. The possibilities are endless.

Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.

Resistance pilot Poe Dameron is the first of the new characters introduced during a mission on planet Jakku. He needs to retrieve an important map for General Leia Organa, and Oscar Isaac brings old-fashioned heroic charm to this character and delivers wise-cracking dialogue with sophistication. There’s an early confrontation between Poe and Kylo Ren that is a wonderful example of how there’s a welcome return to the pulpy fun that defines the spirit of the earlier films. In this case, their exchange is undeniably witty and funny. Speaking of Kylo Ren, Adam Driver gets to portray one of the most complex and interesting villains in the entire series and it’s a testament to his talent that he’s able to balance a menacing but conflicted persona whether he’s wearing the mask or not. Stormtrooper FN-2187, later renamed Finn (John Boyega), and Rey (Daisy Ridley) are the heart of The Force Awakens. They are both charismatic and compelling characters on their own, but together their chemistry is engaging and dynamic to say the least.

The old-fashioned damsel in distress narrative tropes are amusingly flipped thanks to the refreshing and playful approach in the screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams and Michael Arndt. Also worth noting is that none of this magic would be possible without Dan Mindel’s cinematography that respectfully pays homage to the old while still creating it’s own visual path. And while the production design is without question drawing from a universe we’re all familiar with, we still get glimpses of uncharted destinations waiting to be explored.

John Williams does a tremendous job of using his classic score and introducing something new that’s fitting and sometimes slightly daring. Star Wars: The Force Awakens might not take enough big risks to please everyone, but what it does in spades is celebrate a cinematic universe that is universally loved and also introduces a new set of characters with their own stories that should have everyone excited to experience in Rian Johnson’s chapter and beyond.

This Star Wars adventure was fun and exciting enough to make me excited that Star Wars is back and here to stay. Sit back and have fun with what is hopefully only the beginning in telling some great and exciting stories for a new generation. May the force be with us all.

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Sean McClannahan

Sean McClannahan

Sean McClannahan is a freelance film journalist and is the founder of Movie Time And Beyond. His passion for movies and pop culture knows no limits.