Arts Review, Movies

Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens

Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens featured image

Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens

J.J. Abrams, director & co-script w/Lawrence Kasdan & Michael Arndt

Starring: Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), BB-8

This time, Star Wars truly has the Force with it. Forget about the rather dull and earnest prequels starring Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen; J.J. Abrams and his team have got it right. The sense of adventure and good old storytelling that made the original Star Wars trilogy so successful is back again in The Force Awakens.

Officially Episode Seven of Star Wars, The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the events in The Return of the Jedi. (Since that film was released in 1983, that’s more or less true.) That’s allowed Abrams and veteran Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan to bring Harrison Ford back into the fold. Ford may be a limited actor but he is still the perfect Han Solo. He reminds you immediately of what made him a star so long ago: that swagger in his stride and even a bit of the roguish twinkle in the eye suddenly reappears in the film. In fact, the heart of the original Star Wars cast is back: Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia, now known as General Organa; Peter Mayhew’s thinking gorilla Chewbacca; the robots R2-D2 and C-3PO and there’s even a glance at the end of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.

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Happily, The Force Awakens isn’t just an exercise in nostalgia. There are three new actors who form a bizarre love triangle—though it’s never outrightly positioned that way—Daisy Ridley’s Rey, a mysterious and beautiful scavenger from the desert planet of Jakku; John Boyega’s Finn, an African soldier who abandons the Dark Side to fight for the Republic and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, who is the confused embodiment of the Dark Side, being the grandson of Darth Vader and the son of Han Solo and Leia. Both Kylo and Finn are clearly interested in Rey, who to the relief of most gender conscious viewers, is mainly concerned with helping the Republic and the Resistance and getting back to her planet. In fact, she’s fully dressed in sensible desert clothes; no gold bikinis for this girl!

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The Force Awakens clips along at a brisk pace, combining the best of the old stars and storyline with a nice sampling of how it can be done in a modern style. Star Wars has always been about myth-making and epic narratives. There’s not much ambiguity here. (Apart from Kylo Ren.) The Dark Side is now called the First Order and their soldiers are actually called Storm Troopers. They’re the bad guys. And any group calling itself the Republic and its guerilla fighters the Resistance are the good guys.

Star Wars wasn’t written by Beckett or Pinter or Eugene O’Neill. At its best, it has the swashbuckling spirit of Dumas, Walter Scott and R.L. Stevenson. It’s for our inner child. What J.J. Abrams and company have achieved here is miraculous: he’s released the twelve-year-old in all of us.

Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus

Tune in to hear Marc Glassman’s Art Reviews
Friday’s at 9:07am on Good Day GTA.

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