Although hardly perfect, and doesn’t hold a candle to A New Hope or Empire Strikes Back, The Force Awakens is still an entertaining sci-fi action/adventure that not only brings back the old crew but does a great job introducing a new cast of characters as portrayed by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver.
Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Drama
Disney | PG13 – 138 min. – $39.99 | April 5, 2016
Date Published: 03/27/2016 | Author: The Movieman
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
Note: This is a spoiler-filled review. Please skip if you are one of the few people in the world who have yet to see the movie…
I’m not sure if there isn’t a more enduring franchise than Star Wars and one with such a dedicated and optimistic fanbase that, in spite of the poor reception behind the prequels, were none-the-less excited for the long anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens that not only moves the franchise forward but gives us the long-awaited reunion of the original cast. So, did it live up to expectations? I’d say so, although I’m not exactly a Star Wars fan but I found this edition to be more than adequately entertaining even if it feeds off of nostalgia, in similar ways to Jurassic World.
The story more or less follows similar beats of parts of the Original Trilogy. The Force Awakens opens on the planet Jakku where Poe Dameron (OSCAR ISAAC), a pilot for the Resistance, comes into possession of an incomplete map showing the location of Luke Skywalker (MARK HAMILL) who had disappeared years earlier. When The New Order, an organization that rose out of the ashes of the Galactic Empire, invades the village with Storm Troopers, to retrieve this map, Poe places it in the safe pod(?) of his trusty droid, BB-8 and sends it off.
Leading this invasion is Kylo Ren (ADAM DRIVER), a powerful man with incredible abilities to the point he was able to hold the laser bolt in place. After ordering the slaughter of the villagers, Ren captures Poe in the hopes of finding where he hid the map. One of the Troopers, known only as FN-2187 (JOHN BOYEGA), finds some sort of conscious and makes the choice to reject his programming and helps Poe escape from the base. Together, and after receiving the name Finn, the pair flies back to Jakku much to Finn’s disbelief, so Poe may retrieve his droid and the map. Their craft, a stolen Tai Fighter, is hit by lasers and crash lands though when Finn awakens he believes Poe has died when part of the wreckage sinks into the sand dunes.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to Rey (DAISY RIDLEY), a scavenger making ends meet gathering scraps for small portions when she rescues BB-8 from a Teedo scavenger. Rey and Finn’s paths cross after BB-8 recognizes the jacket Finn was wearing that had belonged to Poe. After a cute meet-greet (or cute meet-chase), the two join forces when The New Order make landing in the marketplace intending on capturing the droid and the map. They make off in a familiar craft… the Millennium Falcon which might be older but does well against several Tai Fighters. They think they might be in the clear but a scavenger vessel locks in on the Falcon pulling it in. Of course it’s our old friend, Hans Solo (HARRISON FORD) and his furry best pal Chewbacca.
The remainder of the film is basically a cat and mouse game between Rey/Finn and the First Order and Ren, each one desperate for the map knowing if Skywalker is found, it could change the trajectory of the war between the Order and Resistance. We also get re-introduced to Princess now General Leila Organa (CARRIE FISHER), leader of the Resistance.
Honestly, I probably liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens more than I should. One problem is, it does pretty much ape the highlights of A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back however, on the plus side, the new characters are so well defined and the actors chosen, Daisy Ridley especially, allows one to set aside the fact the story isn’t exactly original. It also helps that the writing, dialogue in particular, is sharper than the Prequel Trilogy and the mixture of CGI and practical effects was far more successful and less distracting. Not to be outdone, John Boyega works well in what amounts to be the male lead and shares some fun chemistry with Ridley, I just hope his character doesn’t undergo the kind of change I suspect he will in the next installment.
And, of course, it helps that they managed to bring back the original stars. Harrison Ford steps right back into his Hans Solo role so well while Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill don’t have much to do, Hamill to say the least (literally). Ford works so well against Ridley’s Rey character and will be interested to see how she does opposite Hamill in Episode 8.
J.J. Abrams co-wrote and directed this resurgence in the Star Wars franchise, and passing the baton to others for Episodes 8-9, and it would appear his Star Trek reboot prepared him for this opportunity and frankly, it is a well shot flick paying respects to the old guard and bringing into the fold new fans as well. Although I don’t think Abrams is a fantastic director, he has shown he can get good performances and stage scenes with actual composition, a huge upgrade over Lucas in the Prequel Trilogy.
I realize some fans hated The Force Awakens and indeed it’s not an entirely original piece of work taking major cues from Hope and Empire but the film still has some entertainment value and as someone who isn’t a Star Wars geek, I didn’t think it was half bad, even if the third act does stretch things out a bit though finishes with a nice lightsaber duel.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 5.0/5
The 3-disc set is housed in a black Blu-ray case and comes with a sleek slip cover. Inside is the redemption code for the Digital HD copy as well as a DVD Copy,
Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey (1:09:14; HD) is a comprehensive, 4-part, documentary from Disney buying LucasFilm, development of Episode 7, the casting process for the new characters, bringing back the old crew and some behind-the-scenes footage of the actual filming. It’s a well done feature that both fans and general audience members will find fascinating. Features interviews with George Lucas, J.J. Abrams, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and many others.
The Story Awakens: The Table Read (4:01; HD) – Cast members, both familiar and new, reflect on the memorable day they all first came together to read the movie script (read by Mark Hamill).
Crafting Creatures (9:34; HD) – This featurette breaks down the creation of some of the more colorful creatures.
Building BB-8 (6:03; HD) breaks down how the newest lovable droid was constructed.
Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight (7:02; HD) checks out the epic climatic lightsaber fight between Rey and Kylo Ren.
ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force (7:55; HD) is an insider’s look into the remarkable digital artistry of the movie’s visual effects.
John Williams: The Seventh Symphony (6:51; HD) looks at the return of John Williams to compose the latest score in the Star Wars franchise.
Deleted Scenes (4:15; HD) – We get six scenes that didn’t make the final cut and while nice to have, really didn’t add anything to the story.
Force for Change (3:22; HD) is an advertisement for the charitable initiative.
VIDEO – 5.0/5
|Star Wars: The Force Awakens hyperdrives onto Blu-ray presented in its original theatrical 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture, probably to nobody’s surprise, looks utterly fantastic. Detail is sharp, colors are brilliantly bright and dark scenes are adequately stark without appearing crushed or losing detail. And there were no noticeable instances of artifacts or pixilation.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
|The movie comes with an expansive – and explosive – DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 channel track. It’s a wide ranging experience from the few quieter more dialogue-driven, scenes to the incredible action sequences with provide the most depth. Each and every channel is used to its fullest from the center for dialogue, front for some of the side action and rear speakers for ambient noises as well as good depth for John Williams’ iconic score.
OVERALL – 4.5/5
|Overall, although hardly perfect, and doesn’t hold a candle to A New Hope or Empire Strikes Back, The Force Awakens is still an entertaining sci-fi action/adventure that not only brings back the old crew but does a great job introducing a new cast of characters as portrayed by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver, the latter serving as an effective, and even darkly funny, antagonist. The Blu-ray released by Disney offers it all: excellent video and audio transfers and a fine selection of bonus features though I do wish there was a commentary…