ReelBob: ‘Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” all that fans expect
By Bob Bloom
“Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” is a wonderfully entertaining mash-up of the old and the new, expertly brought to life by director J.J. Abrams.
I have a special affinity for the “Star Wars” franchise. The original was one of the earliest movies I ever reviewed, having first seen it at a sneak preview in April 1977, when its studio, 20th Century Fox, was not sure of what it had or how to market it.
This latest movie, taking place several years after the events of “Return of the Jedi,” centers on the rise of an insidious threat — the First Order — menacing the galaxy, seeking to overthrow and wipe out the Republic and re-establish the Galactic Empire.
Standing in the Order’s way is the Resistance, led by General — formerly Princess — Leia.
To ensure its success, the Order must eliminate its greatest obstacle — Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi. But Luke has been missing for years, and the only clue to his whereabouts is a portion of a map, given to ace Resistance pilot Poe Dameron and hidden in his droid, BB-8.
Droid and pilot are separated on the desert-like planet of Jakku, and BB-8 winds up with a young scavenger named Rey.
Poe, meanwhile, is captured by the Order, but escapes with the help of Finn, a disillusioned former stormtrooper.
“The Force Awakens,” written by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, offers enough salutes and nods to the original trilogy to please those fans, while introducing interesting and likable characters that will entice new followers to the series.
The film will definitely reignite the geek in you, especially if you embraced the original trilogy — minus the Ewoks, of course.
With such returning favorites as Han Solo and Chewbacca providing echoes of the past, it’s an exhilarating nostalgic experience watching them team up with soon-to-be favorites Rey and Finn, as well as battle a new dark presence, Kylo Ren.
I have to admit, you get a quick lump in your throat when Harrison Ford’s Han and Peter Mayhew’s Chewy first come aboard the Millennium Falcon or when John Williams’ score uses themes from the earlier movies.
At two hours and 16 minutes, “The Force Awakens” races through its paces, only sporadically stopping to catch its breath. Yet, the action does not seem excessive, as the forces of good and evil race from planet to planet to achieve their noble or nefarious objectives.
The performances all are solid, since most of the characters merely need to run, fight or pilot a ship.
Daisy Ridley’s Rey is a self-sufficient, tough young woman with a heart of gold. John Boyega as Finn, is determined to erase his dark past and make something good of his life.
Oscar Isaac brings a swagger and bravado to his fighter pilot.
Ford adds a gravitas to the now-older Han Solo, but still retains the wit and one-liners that fans expect.
Carrie Fisher is an older, wiser and sadder Leia, weighed down by a family tragedy.
Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren makes an effective, yet conflicted villain who has not totally embraced the dark side. But he commits a heinous act that does propel him over the edge.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is an adrenaline-charged experience that offers grand and high adventure that seems to have been missing from the movie screen for many, many years.
It will rekindle the child in older viewers and offer new heroes — and villains — for younger audience members.
The Force is with us again, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Thanks J.J. Abrams for this cinematic holiday gift.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
STAR WARS: EPISODE VII — THE FORCE AWAKENS
3½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), science fiction and action violence