Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Movie Review: Star Wars: the Force Awakens (2015)

The newest installment of the Star Wars movie series has magnificent music, thrilling action, a mysterious protagonist, and an unimpressive main villain. Its overall enjoyability helped to balance out the bad karma caused by the prequels. We watched it in IMAX, which is probably the best way to enjoy the fantastic score.

Star Wars: the Force Awakens follows the adventures of BB8, a heroic droid who possesses a map to Luke Skywalker, who went off grid between Revenge of the Sith and this movie. BB8, stranded on a desert wasteland, stoically endures all manner of hardships until he meets the scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), who then becomes the main protagonist because BB8 is tired, y'all. Rey is joined by Finn (John Boyega), a former Stormtrooper. Together, they try to escape the First Order -- the current, somehow bigger version of the Empire -- and bring the map to the Resistance -- the tinier version of the Rebel Alliance.

While Fragrant Husband -- a Star Wars geek of cosmic proportions -- grumbled about how "rushed" the movie was, at least the pacing was brisk, with plenty of butt-kicking, sneaking around, and all-out dogfighting to keep the tension high. Having the original cast play strong supporting roles was also gratifying. And the music was always there in the background, practically narrating the whole movie and offering suggestions re: emotions to accompany specific scenes (e.g. "Now she is walking down a dark corridor...*dun dun dun*...feel her trepidation!"). TELL ME MY FEELINGS, SOUNDTRACK, TAKE ME TO A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY.  

The two leads, Rey and Finn, have great chemistry, and Boyega in particular sells Finn's desperation and, later, his determination to save his friend. Meanwhile, Ridley portrays a young woman with deep reserves of strength and patience. Although her sudden proficiency with the Force, especially with zero training, is a bit of a leap, but maybe she's really good at copying others (i.e. Kylo Ren)?

AND SPEAKING OF KYLO REN. Dude was lame. He started out as a menacing masked figure with anger issues, like Anakin Skywalker at his most petulant. However, unlike Hayden Christensen's Darth Pouter, Adam Driver's ex-Jedi disciple doesn't have the "But he's so pretty!" fallback. Instead, oddly, he looks like a young Severus Snape, and acts like it, too. (Because of the hair, my sister initially thought the actor was Josh Groban, which would have been an interesting casting choice.) He and the eldest Weasley brother gave each other a lot of side eye during this film, further adding to the Harry Potter vibe. 

Obviously, this is a ploy by Disney to make me watch the movie again so I can dissect the nuances of Driver's performance. Curse you, you entertaining money-making juggernaut! 


Mostly I like The Force Awakens because it recalls the wide-eyed, high adventure feel of A New Hope. There's a far larger and infinitely more complex universe out there, with a ton of interesting minor players, but viewers care about the main characters because, let's face it, LIGHTSABERS. The Force Awakens needs more exciting lightsaber action, and this is where I hope the next episode will shine. 

I'm counting on you, JJ Abrams. You're my only hope. 

TL;DR: A fun space action-adventure, worthy of its origins. 

This post brought to you by Narita Airport's Sakura Lounge!