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Movie Review: Star Wars - The Force Awakens

Movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford
Director: J. J. Abrams

As I'm probably one of the last people on Earth to see this film, this review may contain a few spoilers. Unlike others when they first announced this film I was not excited in the least. After the prequels it seemed to me that the Star Wars universe might be best served by sticking to games, comics, and cartoons. If the original creator of the series couldn't put something worthwhile together, then what chance did Disney have? Then footage from the film starting showing up on the web and it was hard not get excited. The look and feel of the original Star Wars we all loved was back.

Much of Star Wars Episode 7 feels like it was patterned after the first Star Wars film. That isn't to say that the plot is exactly the same but it's very similar. There is a conscious effort to get the old fans back on board. The plot revolves around finding a Droid with sensitive information, a weapon that can destroy planets, and ordinary people who turn into heroes (sound familiar?). Almost all of the original cast is back and the film has many tongue in cheek references to first films. Sometimes it crosses the line, for example when they go to a seedy hideout that is exactly like the Cantina from Episode 4. For the most part though it works and still feels like an original story.

The main purpose of the film is to introduce the new characters and setup what should be a successful trilogy. A passing of the torch from the characters of the original trilogy to those of the new. And the new characters hold their own quite well. Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) have natural chemistry on screen and the dialogue is well written (unlike the prequels). Finn is interesting in that they have never shown a Stormtrooper as a real person before. They were always mindless drones. The comparisons to Nazi Germany aren't subtle but do add some new themes to the series. The one character that could have been better is the villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). He isn't the classic villain that many were expecting and often seems to be a rather weak. Although I believe this will be resolved in the next episodes it still would have been nice to see a true villain in Episode 7.

Now onto the action and special effects, the most important parts of any movie. The special effects team really excelled in the aerial combat sequences. While computer graphics were employed it still had the look and feel of the original Star Wars. It captured the spirit of the first film while adding things that just weren't possible at that time. The alien creatures were somewhat of a mixed bag as some relied on CGI and others on more old school techniques. Having both in the same scene would sometimes throw off the realism a bit. The Lightsaber battles felt a bit muted as they didn't rely on acrobatics as much as the prequels or even the original films.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn't a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. It is not the instant classic that was the original trilogy. It is a fun film for fans though, a nostalgic trip back in time. It may not be the most original but it manages to make one hopeful for what lies in store for Episodes 8 and 9.

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