As a modest Star Wars fan it’s a refreshing perk that The Force Awakens’ Christmas release has replaced Jingle Bells with John Williams. As a die hard, Yoda t-shirt wearing, padawan in training, Episode VII: The Force Awakens is A FLYING LAZER SHARK OF MIND-BLASTING AWESOMENESS. Some have waited 32 years for this movie, refusing to acknowledge the lingering farts that were Episodes I, II, and III. Clearly J.J. Abrams and Disney looked at George Lucas, said, “Give me that,” and dunked the Star Wars series in the Lazarus pit. If the Force had a recognizable deity I would say our bi-weekly sacrifices have finally paid off.
Because I am one of those who avoided the internet for THREE DAYS in lieu of potential spoiler exposure, I will give you the spoiler free summary. Read on…
The Force Awakens picks up right where Return of the Jedi left off – plus some 30 years. The shattered Empire has had time to regroup and select a new leader for their reformed Nazi part- I mean, highly disciplined collection of individuals called The First Order… who aren’t opposed to universal genocide. A rebel faction does exist but they, along with their battles of 30 years ago, are little more than myths to the galaxy’s disconnected planets. As The First Order builds power and prepares to strike, the small group of rebels finally emerge from the shadows to stand against tyranny once again.
Now stop. That was spoiler-free territory, but this is not…
Our new heroes hail from two different worlds: Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a scavenger from the desert planet of Jakku who refuses to leave because dust and starvation are just too pleasant, and Finn (John Boyega), from a refreshing, nondiscriminatory angle, is a stormtrooper with a conscience. Who would have thought? Rey runs into Finn shortly after he escapes from Starkiller Base (an upgrade from “moon” to “planet”) with the rebel prisoner, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Rey just happens to have something that the rebels need: a BB-8 droid that carries a map to the long-vanished Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). The rebels and their general, Leia (Carrie Fisher), are desperate to find Luke and encourage him to stand against the ever growing First Order.
Between reunions with various rebel friends and moments with the adorable BB-8, we get the highly censored inside scoop about life on Starkiller Base. The “new Darth Vader” is a masked man in black (no cape) by the name of Kylo Ren (spoiler! Adam Driver). Contrary to tradition, his greatest struggle is trying to suppress the temptation of the Light. Kylo Ren dreams of being as moody as Vader, and repeatedly takes his anger out on command modules, proving his personnel are slightly more indispensable than Vader’s commanders. The greatest difference between him and Vader, I would say, is that when Kylo Ren finally removes his mask we come face to face with the total wuss who lies beneath. Is that seriously it? This right hand (pun intended) of The First Order is an attention-grabbing punk with wavy Gaston-level locks and a glare that says, “I asked for a BB-8 for Christmas and DIDN’T GET IT!”
Kylo Ren obeys the commands of only one person: a hologram the size of the Lincoln Memorial. (Wait for it…) Supreme Leader Snoke (wait for it…) is voiced by the only voice actor Hollywood will ever need (here it comes…), Andy Serkis. Apparently Gollum survived his fall in Mount Doom and has risen to a position of power in a galaxy far, far away. I guess they do call it “The one ring to rule them all”…
In this new era of diversity and inclusion, Snoke has no qualms about addressing Kylo Ren’s underlings, including General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). While Snoke is large, imposing, and a bit cliché, General Hux is posh and stuffy with a superiority complex. He addresses the masses from his platform on high with a look of unblinking, frightening conviction. While Hux may look expendable in his poofy pants, his gather-the-troops attitude is downright chilling.
But enough about the Dark Side; what makes The Force Awakens so great? The new characters are complete noobs next to the Star Wars veterans. They are thrust into this recycled history with no clue about the galaxy outside of their caves. Leia and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) help them much more than I expected, giving Rey and Finn a booster seat from which to rocket into the rebellion they barely knew existed. While we feel nearly as ignorant as Rey and Finn concerning the events of the past 30 years, The Force Awakens is careful not to reveal all its secrets at once. I have burning questions that can only be answered by more sequels. Perhaps the most pressing of which, the one that will keep me up for weeks – no, for months – is how C-3PO got his red arm.
The Force Awakens perfectly blends the dynamic characters of Episodes IV, V, and VI with an updated cast and upgraded graphics. We’ve scrapped the sitting and talking from I, II, and III and replaced it with plot development, character development, and attack attack piew piew attack! When the mood is right and the timing fits, there are even a few jokes. How could there not be when Chewbacca’s (Peter Mayhew) favourite weapon is a laser crossbow?
Should you see it? Hell, I’m going again tomorrow. How often do we go so thoroughly nuts over a movie that we know so little about? Those nondisclosure agreements must have been signed with the blood of a thousand ewoks. The Force Awakens is a stellar movie that made me cry from the moment “Star Wars” blasted onto the screen to the moment ———- I’m not giving away too many spoilers today. This is a pop culture phenomenon you will regret missing. I give Episode VII a 9/10.