A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .
Those are the words that started the cultural phenomenon. Words that were followed by blaring horns, a magnificent bravado, and a deep look at outer space. Those were the words that kicked off George Lucas' 1977 box office smash, Star Wars. The movie-going world was taken aback by epic space battles, hairy wookies, the mystical force, and heroic characters like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. Star Wars and it's two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, became one of the most beloved trilogies of not just the sci-fi and fantasy realm, but of all time.
Then in 1999 the Star Wars franchise was seduced by the dark side. George Lucas created a new trilogy, a set of prequels; movies with stilted acting, overindulgent cgi, boring stories, and a terribly annoying character named Jar Jar Binks. These new batch of films garnered bad reception from critics and fans alike. It seemed like Star Wars would forever be left twisted by the dark side of the force.
But now in 2015 the unthinkable has happened. A new Star Wars film has been released, capturing the essence and magic of the originals while still creating its own identity. Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally brings balance to the force, and it's thanks to a great script, great characters, and even greater direction from JJ Abrams. This is the movie that every Star Wars fan wanted to see after the glorious original trilogy; humor, action, and suspense all mixed to make a fun, enjoyable movie going experience.
The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker has vanished after a terrible disaster, and no one knows where he has gone. The remains of the Empire, called The First Order, are hellbent on finding the location of Skywalker. They are led by a mysterious force user named Kylo-Ren, who captures one of the rebellion's top fighters, Poe Dameron. A conflicted Storm Trooper, named Finn, has a sudden sense of morality and breaks Poe out. After the daring recue they are left stranded on a desert planet where Finn meets Rey, a poor but strong, independent scavenger. The two team up to escape the First Order, and soon run into war hero/smuggler Han Solo. From there our heroes must find the rest of a map that leads to Luke, who is the only one who can restore a state of peace to the galaxy.
The story of The Force Awakens certainly has a sense of nostalgia, and how could it not by including elements of the original movie that started it all. Some fans have even taken to the idea that this is more of a remake of A New Hope than an original movie. Let me say this, The Force Awakens might include some of the aspects of what made the A New Hope so iconic like the humor, the characters and the plot, but it is certainly not a remake. It holds a place in the canon all its own. Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who also co-wrote Empire and Jedi, does a fantastic job of growing the Star Wars story. The movie moves in an unbelievable furry of action, but it's smart enough to slow down so the audience can catch it's breath and become familiar with the characters. The direction here by JJ Abrams is spot on. Abrams is a director constantly getting slammed for being "generic," but after watching this film its hard to argue that any other director could have take on this extraordinary task. Abrams is able to find a perfect blend between humor and drama. His aerial dogfights are breathtaking, and the lightsaber duel at the end of the film is seriously one of the best of the entire franchise. I would even put it in leagues with Luke vs. Vader in Empire and that's saying something.
This sense of tension and excitement is brought together by the wonderful cast of actors Abrams has assembled. Daisy Ridley is perfect as the new hero of Star Wars, strong and vulnerable at the same time. Her arc seems to mirror that of Luke in the original trilogy. Oscar Issac, a fantastic actor, is great as hot-shot fighter pilot Poe. The real breakout of the movie however is John Boyega, who plays renegade Storm Trooper Finn. He has some of the best lines of the movie, and one of the most interesting arcs, from unnamed soldier to rebellious hero. As for the original actors, Harrison Ford seems to be having a blast here reprising his role as Han Solo. The movie has Carrie Fisher reprise her role as Leia, as well as a return from Chewbacca, C3-PO, R2D2, and even General Ackbar makes an appearance.
It's hard to believe that fans would get a satisfying cinema experience after Revenge of the Sith, but Abrams and company have done just that. When those words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" appear on screen, a sense of wonder and wistful thinking sets up what should be a unforgettable movie-going experience. And in that aspect Star Wars: The Force Awakens delivers with exceeding results, its a b
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