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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

What could I possibly say about this movie that hasn’t been said a hundred times already?  Not only is it well on its way to be the best-selling movie of all time, it’s also the most-anticipated, most analyzed, most talked about movie, well, at least in a long time.

So you probably already know that it didn’t disappoint. After the fiasco of the prequels, all we really wanted was a decent movie, a not-embarassing movie, and it is that, without a doubt.  I hardly hear anyone but contrarians and punks complaining about it. Will it hold up over time? It’s almost impossible to say.  Is it as good as the original trilogy? There’s a good chance, but we won’t really be able to say until this new trilogy is complete, will we?

Here’s what I can say: J.J. Abrams is a peculiar filmmaker. He is something like those really, really skilled forgery artists, who can fool museums into spending millions of dollars on a fake Picasso. Yeah, it’s a fake, but it’s a really, really good fake. That’s not nothing.  With Abrams, sometimes his fakes falls short — “Super 8,” his replica of Spielberg, just made me want to watch “E.T.”  At the same time, it’s much better than a lot of Spielberg’s own attempts to replicate the magic of “E.T.”, and again, that’s not nothing.) I love his “Star Trek” movies for precisely the same reasons so many Trekkies hate them — they’re more action-oriented and less geeky. I imagine even those Trekkies have to admit that “Into Darkness” is a better movie than “The Undiscovered Country,” or “Nemesis,” or about half of the earlier Star Trek movies, to tell the truth.

And so, Abrams’ take on “Star Wars” feels more like a really, really good copy of the movies we loved (and a  harsh rebuttal of the ones we hated) than an actual new entry into the film series. There are so many things in this film that are intentionally echoing the older films, most particularly Episode IV.  The film opens, after all with a droid containing critical information stranded on a desert planet, who is then rescued by an orphan with a secret past and a strange facility for the Force.

But it works.  It works really, really well.  “The Force Awakens” introduces engaging characters — in fact, if there’s one weakness to the film, it’s that there are too many engaging characters.  Rey is clearly the protagonist we’ll be following, but what about Poe?  I want to hear his story.  And Finn, played by John Boyega, is easily the most charismatic character we meet — and might even get the most screen time.  What role will he play as the series continues?

And that, friends, right there is the watermark we were hoping to hit — we are all asking questions and wondering about the next movie.  Ten minutes after the credits rolled on “The Force Awakens,” I was ready to buy tickets for the next film. We went home and spent the next hour or more spinning theories and ideas about what might happen next.  Is this trilogy about Kylo Ren’s redemption, or did he go over to the Dark Side for good at the climax?  What is Rey’s connection to Luke, and what did we actually see in that light saber flashback? Who is this Snoke fellow, and how did that guy at the beginning (Lor San Tekka, played by Max Van Sydow) know where Luke was?  What happened to Luke anyway?

It turns out, perhaps even more than a return to the spirit of the first trilogy, this is what we wanted – a movie that got us excited to wonder again, to guess what would happen, and how. There are myriad problems with the prequel trilogy, but perhaps they all start with this one: we knew, before it began, how it would end.  The most exciting thing about “The Force Awakens” is that it takes us forward, into uncharted territory. For a filmmaker most known for covering familiar ground, that’s a bold achievement.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

One Response

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  1. Jeremiah said

    This is a great review, that echoes much of my feelings about the movie and about the JJ experience. I am not sure that he will ever be loved as a filmmaker, but he is the safest person to ever give a billion dollar franchise to.

    I do wonder though. Alias and the first season of Lost are daring, new and fresh. Will that JJ ever be on the big screen? Probably not until he is making something that is free from his childhood memories.

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