Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a space drama. It is the 7th film in the main Star Wars franchise.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing. As forces loyal to the Empire become The First Order, Leia Organa (Carrie Fischer), now married to Han Solo (Harrison Ford), leads as General of the Resistance. As the First Order grows in power, The Resistance grows more desperate when whispers of Luke’s location motivate both factions to action.
Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), is given a digital map with a clue about Luke Skywalker’s location by his father. He and BB-8, his companion droid, prepare to give the information to the Resistance when a settlement on the planet Jakku is attacked by a fleet of Stormtroopers. The town is quickly overrun, so Poe orders BB-8 to get as far away as possible and to meet up later. BB escapes and Poe fights back to even the odds. He is quickly outdone by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a hooded figure with a unique lightsaber. He is accompanied by Captain Phasma (Gwendolyn Christie), leader of the Stormtroopers. Poe is taken prisoner while the other Troopers are ordered to kill the remaining fighters. A lone trooper watches in horror as the settlement is destroyed.
Poe is interrogated by Kylo Ren and learns that the map is with the droid. A Stormtrooper, while escorting Poe away, reveals to have turned from The Resistance and offers to break him out. Poe introduces himself and the Stormtrooper, only assigned an identification number, takes the name Finn (John Boyega). They crash land back on Jakku, but when Finn wakes, all he finds is Poe’s jacket among the wreckage.
BB-8 comes across a scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley). While she’s initially dismissive of the droid, she eventually allows it to accompany her. They come across Finn as he looks for water, and he introduces himself as a member of the Resistance. BB recognizes Poe’s coat and is frantic to find his owner. The First Order attacks, forcing Finn, Rey, and BB to flee. They stumble across and escape on an old ship, and begin their quest for answers.
While Star Wars is the most successful movie franchise of all time, it doesn’t rely on the characters already established in the universe. It fleshes out the new characters with their own stories, motivations, and personalities.
One of the best uses of establishing character moments focuses on a “show, don’t tell” method. Finn’s defining moment is an epiphany while he still wears his Stormtrooper helmet, denying him any facial expressions but still getting across the idea that he’s remorseful. BB-8 doesn’t speak (outside of beeps and whirs, like R2-D2) but still manages to express himself through actions.
A lot of language is carried over with legacy films like The Force Awakens. Already established concepts like the Force are mentioned, but take on a different meaning for the newer characters as opposed to the legacy characters. Concepts of the Jedi and use of the Force are considered mythical to Rey, while Finn only knows of the Dark Side of the Force when Kylo Ren uses it for the benefit of the First Order.
Furthermore, the presence of alien species forces the use of alien languages. Fortunately, most of them are translated or used in a context that’s understandable. Either way, the subtitles are never distracting or overpowering to detract from its associated scene.
With the main plot following the disappearance of Luke Skywalker, the moral use of the Force is frequently referenced; balancing the Dark and Light. Furthermore, it’s existence is a lot less questioned as it was in the original trilogy. The commanding officers of the First Order know better than to question the legitimacy of The Force, seeing it used dramatically and frequently by Kylo Ren. Han Solo writes it off as “hokey religion” in A New Hope but makes a dramatic change with his admission in the new movie.
The film also addresses the familiar concepts of letting go of past circumstances or present troubles (Rey and Finn, respectively) in the pursuit of something greater.
You know the music. That familiar theme that takes you back to a galaxy far, far away.
John Williams returns to score the movie, as he’s done with the previous movies of the franchise. All of the music will be familiar to the audience, the key difference is the magnitude. The big moments have larger orchestral sweeps than the previous movies, and the dramatic scenes seem to carry more weight. Minor changes to some of the music include length and changes in key. An unfamiliar arrangement plays during the second half of the credits, following the main theme that finishes every movie.
The expectations of this movie are very high due to the visuals and scenes of the previous trilogies. The graphics are escalated, but not in a way that seems arbitrary. How is the series supposed to grow from not one, but two moon-sized space stations capable of blowing up planets?
On the smaller scale, We have the dog fights with TIE fighters, X-Wings, and some nice aerial maneuvers from the Millennium Falcon.
And most importantly, the use of lens flares. Normally used as some sort of signature, J.J. Abrams reduced them and only used in places where they make sense.
#154 in Into Darkness
The three main faces of the original Star Wars are of course a big pull for the movie, while the newest three stars are relatively unknown. Oscar Isaac is best recognized as the star of A Most Violent Year alongside Jessica Chastain, but has other roles in Sucker Punch and Inside Lewyn Davis. John Boyega has been in 4 prior films, and Daisy Ridley has been on a handful of TV shows prior to this movie. Andy Serkis has a motion-capture role as Supreme Leader Snoke and makes two “appearances” throughout the film. Adam Driver plays Kylo Ren, and has several movie roles as supporting characters, most notably Samuel Beckwith in Lincoln.
The film is rated PG-13, an abnormality of the franchise (previously only used in Revenge of the Sith). That being said, the film’s violence is largely sci-fi and not at all as bad as some of the shows readily available on TV. The fans of the series are already committed to watching the movie, and with movies coming out since the late 70s, the franchise has a very dedicated following. Anyone unfamiliar with the franchise will have to have at least some knowledge regarding Luke Skywalker’s family tree. But with so much time being among America’s most popular movies, the only people unfamiliar with it are people who’ve actively avoided the movie or kids.
It’s been said by J.J. Abrams that a lot of things that had to be deliberately kept under wraps to avoid spoiling the plot of the movie. I obviously won’t explain any of them here, but the revelation of them one after another was very cathartic. Each scene had something spectacular, culminating in the last act and the final scene.
This movie lives up to the hype it’s been generating for the past few years. The last movie, Revenge of the Sith, was released over 10 years ago and was largely panned for lack of characterization and poorly filling in spots between the prequel films and the original trilogy. Disney bought the rights to the franchise in 2012 and almost immediately announced plans for a sequel to Return of the Jedi. The movie properly builds off of its source material while not entirely relying on the older characters. It paves the way for its own significance without being anchored on Darth Vader.