STAR WARS: EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, and Mark Hamill. Also, Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow, and Lupita Nyong'o. Directed by J. J. Abrams. Rated M (Science fiction themes and violence). 135 min.
This American fantasy epic is the seventh feature film in the "star wars" series, the most famous space-war movie series of all time. It all began with "Star Wars" in 1977. The current film follows "Star Wars Episode III. The Revenge of the Sith" (2005), and future episodes are currently being planned. The series has generated immense cross-generation appeal.
The story unfolds 30 years after the events of "Return of the Jedi" (1983), the 3rd. film in the series. George Lucas, the creator of the star wars series, was consultant to the movie in its early production. The Director, J.J. Abrams, who has directed other well known science fiction movies in the past, such as "Star Trek" (2009), directs the film, and John Williams, who composed and conducted the music of the previous six star wars films composes the movie's musical score.
Star Wars 7 (as it will be known) returns us to the story set by "Return of the Jedi", and in this film The Force - the intangible energy field that "surrounds every living thing" - is back in the action. The Galaxy is still at war but disorganised, and the Resistance and the First Order do battle with each other for its fate. A New Republic has arisen, and past heroes return to the screen, including Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who fight for the Resistance. Everyone, good and bad, is looking for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), but he is hard to find.
A significant threat to the Resistance arises from Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who heads an army of Stormtroopers. Kylo Ren, a human from the First Order, comes from the same sinister dark side as Darth Vader (the last Lord of the Sith). Darth Vader's laser light was white, Kylo Ren's is blood red, and the difference is symbolic. The new heroine of the piece is Rey (Daisy Riddle), an athletic, scavenging fugitive who comes under the surveillance of The First Order for what she unknowingly has in her possession. Rey is a force to reckon with, and will undoubtedly feature in one or both of next two Stars Wars films that will bring the series to its final conclusion.
By the very nature of the advancement of high technology in movie-making, this film aims for the impact that "Star Wars " achieved in 1977, and tries hard to exceed it. The original movie established a benchmark for compelling, visually dramatic space-warfare that was maintained brilliantly by "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), and "The Revenge of the Sith" (2005), arguably the most watched film-trilogy in cinema history. This film uses its special effects creatively to magnificent advantage, and maintains a blistering pace. Spaceships fight each other as before, but are bigger, faster, and better; visually-arresting uniforms of menacing, invading troops are evident in amazing, terrifying abundance; the special-effects are louder, bolder, and more relentless; and there is a technologically sophisticated emphasis on story-line, past and future, that threads the events together.
The film achieves a balance between old and new, for this is a movie about what has been, and what will come. It tries to maintain harmony between character development, multiple action, and new action heroics, and the result is outrageously spectacular. Humour is used to bind emotions together (with the special help of a rolling droid, BB-8, and some witty dialogue), and the film aims ultimately for optimism. It also engages nostalgically in philosophical musings that reflect derivatively the wisdom of the story being told and that of the ageing stars who have returned. Drama at times loses out to action in the mix, but the Harrison Ford charisma is present and great to see. In the next "star wars" film, it will be a young Han Solo, whom we will have to expect.
This is a highly entertaining film that will be a fiercely popular addition to the star wars series. It happens to be derivative (corporate marketing would not want it otherwise); indeterminate in its conclusion (intentionally so, to make way for two more films), and excessively exciting (guaranteeing the widest of appeal). With all this said, the movie captures fantasy-adventure wildly,
and impressively and creatively continues an extraordinary legacy.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Walt Disney Studios
Released December 17th., 2015