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'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Film Review: A force to be reckoned with

December 16, 2015Ben MK

Ever since Revenge of the Sith, the Star Wars film franchise has been slumbering. Now, thanks to director J.J. Abrams and The Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, the time has finally come for the Force to awaken. Star Wars: The Force Awakens marks the first Star Wars film in a decade, and, if you didn't already know, it's one of the most eagerly anticipated movies of the year. So, how can this latest trip to a galaxy far, far away possibly live up to all the hype?

Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens reunites Star Wars fans with their favorite characters from George Lucas' original trilogy, including Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). At the same time, it also introduces audiences to a new group of galactic heroes — X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) — who find themselves facing a common enemy in Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a villain following in the footsteps of none other than Darth Vader.

The movie begins with the familiar crawl of yellow text. But, thankfully, this time there's no mention of senate discord or governmental affairs. Instead, what we get is a classic Star Wars set-up informing us that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing, and that Leia, the leader of the Resistance, has dispatched Poe to the desert planet Jakku to retrieve valuable information that could lead to her brother's whereabouts. Meanwhile, the evil Kylo Ren, an agent of the First Order that has emerged from the ruins of the Galactic Empire, is after the same intel, for he won't rest until the last Jedi is destroyed.

From there, the film dives straight into the action, which sees Poe captured by Kylo Ren, but not before entrusting the top-secret data to his steadfast droid, BB-8. Luckily, Poe ends up on the same ship as Finn, whose self-doubt about his own allegiances leads him to rescue the Resistance pilot. Soon, the pair are back on Jakku, where Finn encounters Rey and BB-8. And, together, they must not only evade Kylo Ren and the First Order's army of Stormtroopers, they must also put a stop to its fearsome new weapon, Starkiller Base, a planet-destroying monstrosity capable of ending the Resistance once and for all.

Of course, there's much, much more to be said about the plot. But to do so would be like flying the Millennium Falcon directly into spoiler territory, as Abrams, Kasdan and co-writer Michael Arndt have made familial ties a major element of the narrative. Suffice to say, The Force Awakens has resoundingly succeeded in achieving what the prequel trilogy could not, which is to capture the feeling of the first three Star Wars films. And it does so not only by harkening back to beats from the originals, but by drawing a strong emotional through line in the sand, one that links both the old characters and the new.

Aside from that, The Force Awakens contains plenty of Star Wars goodness, from John Williams' iconic score, to the thrilling spaceship dogfights, to the various on-screen aliens, most of which were realized through practical effects rather than CG. Unlike the prequel trilogy, however, the film manages not to devolve into an orgy of lightsaber visual effects, which makes its climactic battle all the more satisfying. And with episodes VIII and IX — not to mention, spin-off films — on the horizon, that's great news for longtime fans, who can rest assured that the fate of this galaxy far, far away is in good, good hands.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens releases on December 18th, 2015 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sci-fi action violence. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 15 Mins.

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