‘Force Awakens’ pulls from the past, looks to future

Reviewed by Joshua Fitzgerald
Times-News correspondent

   “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” tells the story of a young adult, Rey, (played by Daisy Ridley) who grows up in a troubled galaxy on a little desert world in the middle of nowhere.
She meets a forgotten old man, who once was a premier galactic military leader and who knows of a great power, the Force. Along with comrades, both droid and human, they attempt to destroy a superweapon capable of demolishing entire worlds while evading a mysterious human powerful in the “dark side of the Force.”
Does this sound familiar? The plot of “The Force Awakens” closely matches the plot of “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” the first Star Wars movie released back in 1977.
Sadly, this trend is alarmingly common across numerous franchises today. From “Star Trek” to “Jurassic Park,” many new movies are remade versions of old movies.
   However, “The Force Awakens” definitely is worth watching. It takes the unrealistic, overdone optimism of “A New Hope” — the sort of optimism that says, “You can destroy entire planets, but you can’t hurt a main character, unless that main character has just been introduced” — and blatantly turns that optimism on its head. Both one-shot Stormtroopers and main characters are incapacitated by the end of the movie. The entire galaxy feels war-worn; decades of war has finally taken its toll. In many ways, it is a portrayal of a post-apocalyptic galactic civilization.
At the same time, the movie retains a spark of hope. Everyone is trying to figure out the location of the self-exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) because they know that he is the key to stopping the continuous war. The First Order, the successor state to the Empire, wants to kill Luke to destroy the last Jedi.
Meanwhile, the Resistance, the Rebel Alliance-like faction opposing the First Order, wants to find Luke to protect him and to obtain his help. The Resistance holds the upper hand in the search, and by the beginning of the film just needs to safely transport the droid BB-8, who is carrying the final piece of the map, to its headquarters.
Though it does tend to copy, “The Force Awakens” is much better than nearly every other movie in the series except maybe “Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back.” For one thing, its special effects are vastly superior. The prequels are notorious for their overuse of computer-generated imagry (CGI). While “The Force Awakens” also uses CGI, it is much less obvious than in, for instance, “Episode II — Attack of the Clones.” “The Force Awakens” uses real props much more often but seamlessly integrates CGI when it was necessary.
The acting in “The Force Awakens” also is improved. There are no unemotionally-delivered romance lines about sand. The characters are not masters of political exposition; they are real human-beings, with real emotion. Most of the actors were well-chosen for their roles.
There are a few issues with the movie, however. At times, it feels rushed. One main character who did not even know that she could use the Force at the beginning has Jedi-like abilities by the end. Characters who have just met immediately trust each other completely for the sake of pacing, and some mundane questions, such as “Which suns are drained for power by the First Order superweapon?” and “Are they drained completely?” are left unanswered. Also, it doesn’t use returning protagonists, such as R2-D2 or C-3P0, enough as compared to the other movies. It feels as if they are just put in the movie for the sake of being included.
Discounting these issues, the seventh episode of the “Star Wars” saga is very well-made. It is an interesting commentary on the state of the Galaxy Far, Far, Away after decades at war, and though it copies an earlier movie, it alters it enough to be interesting. The visuals are stunning, the acting is superb, and the biggest problems with it are rather insubstantial.
Not only was it a return to the “Star Wars” universe, but it also was a return to form for Lucasfilm and for all of the other people who have made the saga possible.

Joshua Fitzgerald is a freshman at Greensboro College and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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