REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt (screenplay), George Lucas (characters)
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford and Adam Driver

The seventh episode of Star Wars is a clear-eyed, contagious nostalgia trip that also manages the difficult task of setting the stage for a promising batch of new characters. For better and worse, director J.J. Abrams lays the groundwork for that new era of a galaxy far, far away by relishing in the familiarity of George Lucas’ original film.

The Force Awakens is a seemingly impossible balancing act that Abrams mostly pulls off; even as the movie retraces Lucas’ footsteps, it doesn’t feel like an insincere cash grab (ahem, Jurassic World).  The old characters– among them Han Solo, Chewbacca and General (the woman formerly known as Princess) Leia– don’t feel like they’re being crossed off a cameo checklist.  Though they’re introduced with applause-ready entrances, they’re still mixed organically into the story, which is set roughly 30 years after the events of the 1983 installment The Return of the Jedi. (This movie all but ignores Lucas’ prequel trilogy).

(Minor spoiler ahead)

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Where have all the landmarks gone?

It’s interesting to think about which movies will be remembered as classics 20-30 years down the road.  Interesting, and also depressing.  Stop and think.  Is there one film made during the modern movie age that will resonate throughout pop culture like a Godfather or a Star Wars? There are no more Godfathers, mostly because the Mafioso in the modern studio system don’t believe in them anymore.

Movies mirror the culture they’re released into.  It’s no coincidence that the biggest movies now are sloppily constructed rehashes used to make a quick buck.  See also: the housing crisis.  The most endearing movies of the old age are often blockbusters, but they’re also something more: risks that paid off.  George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola had to fight like hell to get their movies made, and struggled to keep them once they were financed.  In modern times, once you’re inside the system, there is no fighting.  You make the movie they tell you to, or else you pay for it yourself.

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