Star Wars: The Force Awakens Director: J.J. Abrams
Screenwriter: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow, Gwendoline Christie Lucasfilm | Walt Disney Studios
Rated PG-13 | 136 Minutes
Release Date: December 18, 2015
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
Co-written and directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8), Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars film in over a decade, and the first to be made without creator George Lucas.
Three years ago, Lucas sold his empire to Walt Disney for $4 billion. Enter Abrams, the director handpicked by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy to reignite the franchise. And reignite it he has, along with co-writer Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) and a cast of new heroes and villains.
30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens begins with a surprising declaration. “Luke Skywalker has vanished,” reads the first words in the film’s opening crawl. On the desert planet Jakku, Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) holds a clue to locating the missing Jedi. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) of the Resistance dispatches her best pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), to recover this valuable piece of information.
Enter the First Order, a military junta led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his apprentice, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Ren, a devotee of the Dark Side, aims to finish what Darth Vader started: the eradication of the Jedi. Along with Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and a battalion of Stormtroopers, Ren heads to Jakku to intercept the plans before they reach the Resistance.
Poe is captured by Ren but not before the pilot can hide Tekka’s clue inside BB-8, his ball-shaped astromech droid. As BB-8 escapes, we are introduced to another new face, John Boyega‘s Finn. Finn, designated as Stormtrooper FN-2187, refuses to fire on the villagers of Jakku and defects from the First Order. In betraying Ren, Finn’s fate is forever intertwined with Poe and the film’s other new hero, Rey (Daisy Ridley).
A scavenger on Jakku, Rey spends her days exploring the ruins of massive starships that have transformed the backwater planet into a junkyard. The self-reliant Rey lives a meager existence, selling scrap to junk traders for food rations and waiting for the family that abandoned her to come back. When she meets BB-8, Rey is swept up in an adventure that will define her destiny. With the Force as their ally, our new heroes band together with classic characters like Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to destroy Starkiller Base – the First Order’s new super weapon – and find Luke Skywalker before it’s too late.
Star Wars had a profound impact on me as a kid. It ignited my imagination and filled my head with fantasies of far-off worlds where anything was possible. Aside from hours spent daydreaming of droids and cantinas filled with seedy space aliens, Star Wars provided a moral compass – a kind of spiritual shorthand – that helped me make sense of the world. It’s the reason I fell in love with movies. It’s the reason I ever picked up a pen and put it to paper. It’s an inseparable part of who I am.
I say all of that to say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has reactivated those old thrills and exhilarations. I was transported – taken away from the mundane affairs of an earthbound existence to a galaxy far, far away, where I’m part of something much bigger. I sat there with a grin stretching from ear-to-ear, tears streaming down my face, and I felt my heart swelling with joy and wonderment. Why? What is it about this movie that made me react so strongly?
I think it’s because it’s made by people who genuinely care about what they’re doing. Kennedy, Abrams, Kasdan, and everyone involved in the making of this film has taken great care to get it right. Star Wars is more than special effects. A good Star Wars movie should be heartfelt and humorous – an action-adventure where spectacle is at the service of the story, not the other way around. Abrams and Kasdan have made a film that delights – that uses practical effects, elaborate sets, and real locations to create a fully realized world that serves the characters and their story.
The Force Awakens is emotionally resonant, thanks to a spirited script by Kasdan and Abrams and some great performances by an impressive ensemble. Driver’s Kylo Ren is a dark warrior strong in the force, but he doesn’t see himself as a villain. Like Darth Vader, Ren is morally justified in doing what he thinks is right. Like Luke Skywalker, Rey comes from humble beginnings but is destined for greatness. Ridley’s performance carries the film and I can’t wait to see how her character evolves in subsequent films.
If there’s a real standout though, it’s Harrison Ford as Han Solo. 30 years has changed the smuggler, and while he’s still a sarcastic, world-weary scoundrel, Solo has seen things that make him a believer in the Force. He’s the Ben Kenobi of The Force Awakens, a mentor who acts as a father figure to Rey and aids our heroes on their journey. When you hear Solo say, “Chewie, we’re home” as he and his Wookiee co-pilot come aboard the Millennium Falcon for the first time in 30 years, it’s impossible not to smile. It’s like they never left.
The Force Awakens is a triumphant return to the Star Wars universe and a powerful piece of pop mythology. After 18 years of revisionist “Special Editions” and disheartening Prequel films, Star Wars is back. Kennedy, Abrams, and Kasdan have reinvigorated this franchise and my connection to it. Like Solo, my cynicism has been shattered and my faith has been restored. I’m a believer. The Force is strong with this one.