A little more than three years ago in a Magic Kingdom not so far away, the Star Wars franchise (and the rest of Lucasfilm) became property of The Walt Disney Company. Considering how most fans feel about the George Lucas-directed prequel trilogy, and how well Disney has handled The Muppets and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney’s acquisition of sci-fi’s most famous franchise was a relief for many. After years of anticipation, the day has finally arrived that we get to see if director J.J. Abrams can reawaken Star Wars the way he did with Star Trek.
It’s doubtful that my thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens are going to influence anyone to go see this seventh installment in the series. Most people have already bought tickets to at least one screening and will, in fact, probably be avoiding reviews such as this one until after they’ve seen the movie. What fun is there to be had, after all, of having your speculations on who’s behind Kylo Ren‘s ominous mask or why Luke Skywalker hasn’t appeared in any of the trailers confirmed or debunked. Don’t worry, though. I’m definitely not going to be the one to spoil any such surprises for you.
Though a lot has changed in this far away galaxy since the Rebel Alliance‘s victory over the evil Galactic Empire in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, many things remain the same. The First Order, led by the Darth Vader-worshipping Ren (Adam Driver), has built an earth-shattering new weapon capable of destruction even more massive than the Death Star. Ren is under the guidance of the Emperor-like Supreme Leader Snoke, a computer-generated creature portrayed by Andy Serkis that wouldn’t look out of place in The Lord of the Rings movies. X-wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is tasked with protecting a crucial piece of Resistance information, which he entrusts to his BB-8 droid just before being captured by the First Order. This droid is discovered by a feisty female scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) who soon finds herself being swept away by a hustler with a big heart named Finn (John Boyega). All this action naturally brings to mind characters like Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and it doesn’t take long for them and other familiar faces to show up. The relationships between some of these characters are as shocking as Darth Vader’s revelation in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, but likely not in any of the ways you might be thinking.
While all of these elements will be familiar to Star Wars fans, The Force Awakens is not simply a retelling of a story we already know. In much the same way that Creed introduces the Rocky story to a new generation of filmgoers, The Force Awakens carries on the Star Wars tradition while introducing enough new characters and story elements to keep fans of all ages invested. Aerial dogfights between X-wings and TIE fighters are juxtaposed with one-on-one lightsaber battles between a new generation of Jedi and Sith warriors. And the romance, politics and other drama add depth to the story in much the same way the original trilogy did.
The Force Awakens is everything Star Wars fans wanted from the prequels, but didn’t get. If this is the direction Disney is going to continue going with these movies, fans will continue jumping to lightspeed to get tickets to upcoming installments.