The Dose: The ‘Star Wars’ review you’re looking for

The Dose: The ‘Star Wars’ review you’re looking for

The Dose: The ‘Star Wars’ review you’re looking for
December 20
20:09 2015

Preston Mitchell | Contributing Writer

@Presto_Mitch

Roughly 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi,” the fall of the Galactic Empire has led to the creation of the equally nefarious First Order. Led by the masked Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the Order is deep in battle against General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and the Resistance. But both sides shake after a seceding stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega) unites with the scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to end the intergalactic turmoil at last.

As divisive of a filmmaker as he is, J.J. Abrams’ talent is undeniable. Sure, his lens flares can be irritable, and his love for mystery-box rules often leads into secrets and answers that frustrate viewers. Nonetheless, the director always excels at making Spielberg-style blockbusters with adrenaline-rushing action and top-notch performances. Most importantly, Abrams is brilliant at juggling multiple storylines at a consistent pace while retaining fully-realized characters.

Fortunately, all of these traits make for Abrams’ very best film to date in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Cheesy comic relief from Jar Jar Binks is nonexistent in the film. All signs of an overused green screen or CGI is absent. Gone is the tedious talk about trade routes and politics that disaffect viewers from the prequels once they become older.

Abrams and company have made a great family film that oozes the wonderment and grit of the vintage “Star Wars” films. The only CGI presented is to accentuate the impossibilities of spaceships, lightsabers and select creatures. Everything else is practical and handmade, dust and grime giving dimensionality to the universe without Abrams needing to use his trademark lens flare.

The film does a spectacular job of expanding upon the lore without spoonfeeding new information to us. Being the first true “Star Wars” sequel in three decades, it seizes full advantage of the opportunity and entertains like no other film this year.

John Boyega is instantly affable as Finn, making for a solid audience avatar and bringing enough humor to the film to keep it dynamic. Oscar Isaac, fresh off of “A Most Violent Year” and “Ex Machina,” continues to prove his acting charisma. His portrayal of Poe, the expert Resistance pilot, is memorable in a Bogart-esque way, and audiences are sure to expect more from him in the upcoming installments.

Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher reprise their iconic roles from the original trilogy as Han and Leia. Due partially to Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back”) returning to his writing duties, the moments between the two are tender in the most organic manner. Although Ford provides his best performance in a long time and Fisher is delightfully austere, the thespian that really steals the show is Daisy Ridley as Rey. In an unexpectedly emotional role, Ridley turns out to be the film’s beating heart and quite a badass in her own right.

That being said, the main criticism that “The Force Awakens” faces is that it is structurally similar to “Episode IV: A New Hope.” In fact, it’s the third “Star Wars” with a Death Star (retitled a Starkiller Base). While the fourth and sixth movies featured their Death Stars as an actual threat, this time simply seemed like an excuse for a climactic space battle. It was also a weak reason to give Ren’s right-hand man (Domhnall Gleeson) something to do; he comes across merely as a poor man’s Grand Moff Tarkin.

Despite any shortcomings in the film, Abrams avoids mistakes made in “Star Trek Into Darkness” and utilizes the parallels to “A New Hope” gingerly enough to give the new cast its own interesting story. More eminently, those tropes function as reminders that this is unquestionably “Star Wars” and play backseat to quite an original overarching plot.

For lifelong “Star Wars” fans, “The Force Awakens” is a big red nostalgia button that will make viewers feel like kids again. From the John Williams score to the spectacular cliffhanger of a finale, the Mouse House promised us a fantastic throwback and delivered. In truth, it is meticulously crafted to cater to fans and newcomers alike.

Whether a child at heart or a parent to another, see “The Force Awakens” as soon as possible.

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