Old Force, New Tricks
by Michael Principe
Who wants Star Wars spoilers? No one? Okay good because you won’t get them here. First and foremost let’s make one thing clear: this will not be an objective piece. I could fight myself and try to give you an unbiased take but it wouldn’t work. My opinion is informed by a lifelong love affair with events that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I still remember sitting in front of my TV as a kid and being completely captivated from the opening scroll. This love affair continued through the much maligned prequel trilogy; which I’ve come to accept as an overly ambitious work, if nothing else. Now I am faced with a new anxiety, ten years later we have a new Star Wars film that could make or break the franchise. I’m happy to report that The Force Awakens ended up being everything that I could’ve ever hoped for.
As promised, this will be a spoiler-free review. I can say that the film goes back to the roots of the franchise. Some scenes are great, other lines come off as a bit corny, but the entire film is undeniably STAR WARS. J.J. Abrams deserves a ton of credit for the vision he brought to the project. Not a single action beat, scene setting, or ray of light is put into frame without purpose. The action sequences are excellent, the caliber of which could even rival the storming of Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan. Abrams combines his expansive knowledge of sci-fi cinema with his talent for rebooting classic franchises. The importance of a cultural touchstone like Star Wars is clearly not lost on him.
All of the credit can’t solely go to Abrams of course. A choir of actors, both old and new, take this film to the next level. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and Oscar Isaac all deliver brilliant performances. To say that the characters have depth doesn’t do justice to the work put forth on screen. For example the character of Finn (John Boyega) pops off the screen from the very beginning. Before we even know who he is, we want to know who he is. Boyega brings a humor that doesn’t feel awkward or forced (hehe). Similarly, from our first encounter with the villainous Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) we feel that we are face to face with the next great Star Wars villain. These characters effortlessly exude a gravity that grabs hold of the viewer for a two-hour plus joy ride and doesn’t let go.
As a loyal fan finally reconnecting with this dormant franchise, it’s reassuring to see the many winks and nods – as well as obvious tributes – to the original trilogy. That being said, it’s equally refreshing to see the new faces that will carry the torch forward. Alas, these are the two opposing forces (hehe) that I struggle to reconcile. I’ll admit; it was a little disheartening to see my childhood heroes as old, historical versions of themselves at first. But when all was said and done and the credits rolled, I didn’t really care. This film is a fantastic addition to a long and storied franchise and I eagerly await the next installment. To be completely honest, I was simply happy for those two hours. For a short time I was that little boy in front of the TV again, being taken on a brand new adventure.