Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Movie Review #353: "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens" (2015)

Movie"Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens"
Director: J.J. Abrams
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
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After the fall the Galactic Empire, the Republic and the Senate have regained control of the galaxy. However, a militarily strong group known as The First Order is attempting to overthrow the Republic. Meanwhile, a member of the First Order named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who is strong in the Dark Side of the force, hopes to hunt down his former teacher Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who has gone into hiding. Also searching for Skywalker is the Resistance, led by Luke's sister, now-General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), who are fighting against the First Order. 


We hemmed and hawed on this review, waiting over a week and two viewings to write it. This is a spoiler-free review of "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens," which is everything we hoped the prequels could have been but weren't. It is really everything we wanted and more. This is an exciting and fun film with great, well written characters and actors that actually put on strong emotional performances. Of course, all of the original characters are here with Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Leia (now General) Organa, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, and of course, R2-D2. Though the original cast is here, they all play more supporting roles to the new cast of characters introduced in this fresh installment. The primary focus here is on a scavenger named Rey, played by newcomer Daisy Ridley, who inadvertently gets involved in the ongoing conflict when she finds an astro-droid called BB-8, which looks fantastic and is an actual practically built robot that we love. He is the property of Poe Dameron, played by the fabulous, wonderful Oscar Isaac, who is a pilot fighting for the Resistance. Joining them is FN2187, or Finn, played by John Boyega, who has just abandoned his post as a Stormtrooper, leaving the First Order after his first combat mission. Serving the First Order are Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, a practitioner of the Dark Side of the force who is obsessed with hunting down Luke Skywalker. We believe Driver is excellent as Kylo Ren, with and without his mask, and think he is a great successor to Darth Vader. Kylo Ren is everything we hoped Anakin Skywalker could have been in "Revenge of the Sith" as he is emotional, angry, filled with rage, and ready for vengeance. Other villains in this installment include General Hux, played by Domhnall Gleeson, a recent favorite of ours, who is the leader of the First Order Military. Hux is more of a Hitler-type in that he gives grand speeches and is obviously filled with an intense amount of hate and rage for the Resistance and the Senate. Gleeson gives a powerful performance here. Hux and Kylo report to supreme leader Snoke, who is voiced by Andy Serkis. Even though we adore Serkis, honestly, Snoke is one of least favorite parts of this film. Though his character only appears as a hologram, this hologram is a 25+ foot projection and is all digital and painfully obviously so in a film saturated by practical effects. We know there is room for improvement once Snoke is revealed in person, but this part was distracting the first time we saw the movie. Snoke and another character, Unkar Platt, another digital creature on the planet of Jakku voiced by Simon Pegg, did not bother us as much upon a second viewing of "The Force Awakens." Other characters include Captain Phasma, played by Gwendolyn Christie, who is a chrome-plated Stormtrooper and commanding officer who had a little less screen time than we would have liked. We have a feeling she will be the new Boba Fett of the series. Also, there's Maz Kanata, voiced and mo-capped by Lupita Nyong'o. Maz is a old friend of Han Solo's and has a small yet important part of the film. J.J. Abrams did a fantastic job in making this feel like a "Star Wars film." Not only did he pay homage to the originals, but he also forged his own path at the same time with his new cast of characters. We could not be more pleased he didn't screw this up. Talk about a weight lifted from our little geek shoulders! This movie also takes us on a emotional roller coaster. We laughed, we cried, we cheered, we were overjoyed and deeply saddened. As huge fans of the franchise (yes, even some aspects of the prequels), we obviously had high expectations for this film, almost unrealistically high, really, and yet, it managed to be a wonderful, exciting new adventure filled with a wonderful John Williams score, some surprises, some twists, some tenderness, and some good ol' fashioned sci-fi fantasy adventure. We cannot wait until Episode VIII and urge everyone to see this film at least once so you can see what all the fuss is about for yourself.

My Rating: 9.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 9.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!
To see our review of "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace," click here.

To see our review of "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones," click here.

To see our review of "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," click here.

To see our review of "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope," click here.

To see our review of "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back," click here.

To see our review of "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi," click here.

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