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Movie Review: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

star-wars-the-force-awakens-still-3A long time ago, 1977 to be exact, the Star Wars franchise premiered in theaters for the first time, and created a whole new kind of fan base with an incredible trilogy. Then, a little less of a long time ago in 1999 a series of three prequels began to be released ultimately disappointing said fan base. However, today, 16 years later, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens premiered.

Like a lot of the other fans, many were very afraid for this movie. They knew it had the potential to be great, because it’s Star Wars. But they also knew it had the potential to majorly tank, similar to how the prequels did. Could Star Wars come back with the same energy and quality as the first three?

The answer is: Yes. Yes it can.

The Force Awakens was a beautifully crafted movie that won’t leave dedicated fans disappointed. It brings the spirit of the original trilogy back to life as director J.J. Abrams and the producing team obviously knew what they were doing. This was a movie made for the fans.

All the classic characters make a return in some shape or form, or at least are paid homage to. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (voiced by Peter Mayhew) are featured for a large part of the movie, their beloved relationship still in tact. The Millennium Falcon is flying again, with a few extra bumps along the way. Leia (Carrie Fisher) is back, just as badass as she was previously. Even the 90s PowerPoint presentation screen swipe transitions have also made a comeback.

And while it’s incredible to see the familiar faces, the new characters are what make The Force Awakens really succeed. Leading them is Rey (Daisy Ridley), a lonely scavenger who accidentally gets swept into the galactic war by stumbling across BB-8, the movie’s new droid. Rey is strong and powerful, even not often knowing her own power. Ridley’s performance is incredible, particularly in her handling of Rey’s emotions and confusion about her situation, while her friend Finn (John Boyega) is a hilarious character, with an interesting backstory that adds a whole new dimension to the Storm Troopers.

With Finn and Han leading the way, the movie was surprisingly funny. Finn was just a hilarious character and human being, reacting the way a lot of people would if they were thrown in the middle of the conflict of Star Wars. Han’s wit was back, and maybe even stronger than it was in the original trilogy. The classic jokes from the previous movies came back, and all Star Wars fans will be delighted with all the Easter eggs throughout.

Which leads to the downside of The Force Awakens. However something a lot of people wouldn’t consider a downside, but it’s definitely a movie geared towards the pre-existing fans. Meaning, if you’re not a fan of Star Wars, you might not enjoy the movie. So much of it is based on parallels and previous jokes, that any one who hasn’t seen the movies enough to understand them may not understand where it is coming from. The movie can still be enjoyed, but any emotional impact and the majority of the comedic effects will be lost on someone who isn’t caught up on the franchise.

But being a fan also has a downside for The Force Awakens. Seeing how it is very heavily based on parallels from the original trilogy, you may be able to guess what’s going to happen about five minutes before it does happen. There are some surprises, but a lot of the plot lines and major events are very similar to those of the previous films. A lot of the iconic cinematography makes a comeback, pushing this trait even further. In the end it doesn’t make the film’s impact any less grand, just a little more anticipated.

However, The Force Awakens succeeds in ways the others never did. The diversity is a lot better, particularly with an African American and a female character having such substantial parts (something that caught a lot of controversy since the film’s original trailer premiered with some fans even calling out the franchise reboot as “racist” towards the largely white washed casts of the previous Star Wars entries.) Another example is Captain Phasma (played by Game of Thrones‘ Gwendoline Christie), a force for The First Order (the Dark Side), a casting choice thought to have been brought about from the negative response from fans after seeing how heavily male to female the original cast list was. The special effects are also incredibly well done, especially in little details like the light sabers. And the production even went back to their original method of using puppets for a lot of the creatures, rather than CGI, which definitely paid off.

The Force Awakens was wonderfully made, well acted, and well directed, but most importantly, it brings back the spirit of the original movies. It’s a clear reminder of just how powerful Star Wars is, and what it means to so many people. The original trilogy started the fan base with one generation, then added even more with the prequels. This movie will bring back all those fans, and add a whole new generation.

Only a year and a half to wait until Episode VIII…. May the Force be with you.

✭✭✭/4

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