STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
(directed by J. J. Abrams, 2015)
***+ (out of 5)
> This cow still gives milk, but alas- no more cream.
. I did myself the favor of not nurturing high expectations for this much-anticipated reboot of the beloved fantasy franchise. I suspected (not expected) that it might well be the best of the lot, with J. J. Abrams in the director’s chair. George Lucas hasn’t made a really good film in a long time now, and the miracle Abrams worked in breathing life into the STAR TREK and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchises appeared to make him the right person for the job. Then there’s the deft choice in screenwriters he drafted to help him construct the story, including Lawrence Kasdan who wrote the best Star Wars movie THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. The reprise of the incomparable John Williams scoring, the return of Han Solo and Princess (now General) Leia, Luke Skywalker and Chewbacca and C-3PO and R2-D2, a return to the “classic” design of the earliest trio of films, three promising fresh faces in Oscar Isaac and John Boyega and especially the ravishing Daisy Ridley, who is in fact, one of the best parts of the movie…
. But I would have to agree with one of the only 10 critical reviews in a sea of praise on Rotten Tomatoes: there was nothing really new here. If you’ve seen the other six films that came before it, you have seen THE FORCE AWAKENS. (Going into the theatre to watch it is only a formality.) I will spare you the many transparent parallels as this would give too much away, but I encourage you to consider them, after seeing the flick. There is less here than meets the eye. More bad news: The fine Oscar Isaac (INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS) is completely wasted as the resistance’s crack pilot, as is the iconic Max Von Sydow in a part you might miss if you sneeze at the wrong time. Adam Driver as the new bad guy is an example of casting as bad as George Lucas made with Christian Hayden in the second trilogy. This cardboard villain is no Emperor, no Darth Vader, no Sith. He’s just plain… nothing- a void in a nice costume.
. But there is good news. From the familiar opening titles floating in space, down to the very cool, (if predictable) coda at the end, Episode VII is an entertaining ride. Putting Daisy Ridley in the center of the story was a wise choice indeed, as she is just about perfect in each scene. (And, as kind of a young cross between Keira Knightly and Natalie Portman, she is very, very easy on the eyes.) Please tell me that we are finally entering the era of the heroine! This one is even more empowered than young Leia was- fierce, determined, agile, empathetic. A fine debut. The editing was great, moving things along at a crisp pace, there was plenty of humor and it was lovely to see old Harrison and Carrie share kind of a love scene in their grandpa and grandma years. There were fun new critters in a rehash of the bar scene from A NEW HOPE, but there’s no Yoda, no Jabba the Hutt, no giant, toothy sand worms.
. The ending, sadly, was more than a bit flawed. The scene is far too reminiscent of Skywalker confronting Vader on the catwalks, and Han Solo’s behavior is neither justified nor believable for a second. When the death star substitute is about to destroy the entire rebellion, it had about as much tension as an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. General Leia is informed (of course) that they only have two minutes left until they are doomed, and we feel the same urgency we felt in ordering popcorn at the concession stand. Will they put enough greasy fake butter on my giant bucket o’ corn, or not? I mean really, is there any doubt Isaac’s crack piloting will save the day by finding the one weakness conveniently engineered into the most advanced weaponry in the history of the universe? Naw, not really.
> I wanted to give this 4 stars or more- really I did. Star Wars was a reliable milk cow once. Even without the cream, the milk tastes nice. A little watery, perhaps. I like the cute milk mustache on Daisy Ridley’s upper lip enough to see the episodes that follow, but I can’t say it’s J.J. Abrams finest hour.
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© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.