It has been 30 years since we have last seen Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca (Chewie to close ones) defeat the Galactic Empire in The Return Of The Jedi. Their stories had been told and George Lucas decided to focus on the origin of the Empire and Darth Vader in three prequels that weren’t received with much applause. Now that Disney has acquired the rights to Star Wars, they have chosen to breathe new life into the franchise by telling a story which picks up 30 years after the events of The Return Of The Jedi. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens a new threat arises: The First Order. It’s A military and political organization inspired by the principles of the Galactic Empire and is led on the ground by a masked man named Kylo Ren, much like Darth Vader did in the original trilogy. Kylo Ren seems like a new Darth Vader at first, but is more prone to violent outbursts unlike the always calm Vader. The First Order’s greatest threat are of course the rebels, which have some familiar faces among them, but before we meet up with them we are introduced to a whole band of new characters who are supposed to be this generation’s protagonists.
They are Finn, an ex-storm trooper whose conscience plagued him and Rey, an attractive young woman living on a desert planet without any family trying to make ends meet by scavenging. It’s Rey who stumbles upon a small droid named BB-8 which is in possession of a part of a map that could lead people to the legendary, but missing, Jedi Luke Skywalker. Together with Finn she must get the BB-8 to the rebels, something which is difficult since half the galaxy is after them and BB-8 doesn’t want to give up this secret location because it doesn’t trust Finn and Rey right off the bat. While trying to flee the First Order’s armies in the Millennium Falcon they stumble upon its original owner: Han Solo, accompanied by his trusty friend Chewbacca.
With Star Wars: The Force Awakens the fans finally get the Star Wars movie they have been waiting for since 1985’s Return Of The Jedi. Director J. J. Abrams and writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt have taken a good look at the original trilogy and crafted a movie that will please fans of the first hour as well as fresh viewers. Sadly they took a bit too much cues of the original trilogy making Star Wars: The Force Awakens feel a little bit too familiar.
At its core Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a loose remake of the first Star Wars, or as it has been dubbed ever since the prequels came out “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope“. Even though it is a direct sequel to the original trilogy, the story itself is basically the same: a droid with important data on boards has landed on a desert planet where he is rescued from a hooded desert inhabitant by a young girl who is unaware she has the Force in her. She is able to get the Droid of the planet and to the rebels with the aid of a couple of other characters of which two are Han Solo and Chewbacca. They find out that the evil empire are in possession of a weapon capable of destroying an entire planet and they will try to take it out during a grand scale attack. Luckily Abrams doesn’t see his public as a couple of morons and provides a tongue in cheek nod by having Han Solo mention that there’s always a way to blow these things up.
George Lucas commented on how he wasn’t a fan of the retro approach and had rather seen that the makers would have taken Star Wars in a new direction. He’s partially right of course. The approach they have taken is a very safe one, too safe in my opinion. Of course the movie relies on a nostalgic factor with all of the classic characters from the original trilogy thrown in. Just seeing Han, Luke and even Admiral “It’s a trap” Ackbar back together would have fans line up to see this movie. What the heck, it’s Star wars, just that alone would have made this movie a box office success. But Abrams fills the movie up with so many nods and winks to the original trilogy it’s hard to appreciate it as a standalone movie. Seeing the remains of an AT-AT walker in the desert is a fun inclusion, but Abrams puts in tons of other nods like a cantina scene or an ice planet. It’s a tad too much.
That’s not to say Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a bad movie. It’s actually very enjoyable and better than all of the prequel movies. The prequels were almost entirely shot against green screen and most of the alien characters CGI. Even puppet Yoda was replaced by a CG Yoda in the Blu-Ray release of The Phantom Menace. Star Wars: The Force Awakens uses large scale sets and only two characters are entirely computer generated. The rest are puppets or actors in costumes, which not only adds to retro approach but also makes the characters blend in more realistic in their surroundings.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a good reboot for a new trilogy, but I sure hope the makers of next movie will have the courage to take the series in a brand new direction while maintaining the Star wars feeling.