It’s been thirty-two years since Episode VI was released. As a child, in the days before the internet, I recalled rumors that Star Wars creator George Lucas would some day return to the characters made legend in the original Star Wars trilogy. What we got instead was The Phantom Menace, followed by two other films that made up what most fans deemed as a poor prequel trilogy. Now, 10 years since Revenge of the Sith, we’re finally getting the continuation of the story with the characters we fell in love with in Episodes IV - VI. We’ve been burned before so will this time be different?
The answer is absolutely yes.
As with Episode IV, The Force Awakens throws the audience directly in the middle of a conflict. Time has passed and a lot happened to the characters we know. The opening crawl does a fantastic job of not only catching us up to speed with our favorite characters from the past, but also introducing us to the new characters that will carry the series forward.
With the story set up and the hook in place, it’s full speed ahead. There’s a big air of mystery as we watch the events unfold. You'll find yourself hanging on to the characters' every words in awe, anxious to find out what's going to happen next. Many times I felt like a kid again, wide-eyed, and taking in everything on screen. We get plenty of pure Star Wars action combined with trips to different locations that show us the size of the universe.
One of my biggest concerns heading into The Force Awakens was how old and new characters would mix on screen, and who we would see more of. Would the new film phase out the classic characters and mainly serve as an introduction to the newer ones? What I found was a really nice mix between the two. The new characters exceeded my expectations, and when they interacted with their predecessors, the two generations meshed surprisingly well. The characters we've been introduced to in the trailers clearly stand out. At the same time, you’ll have a big smile on your face as you see Han's familiar smirk or see Chewbacca roar into action.
At two hours and sixteen minutes, there is a lot packed into the film. There were moments it almost felt the film's set up was rushed, with the pieces falling into place too easily and quickly. This rush initially bothered me, but the film's intention is clear; The Force Awakens is meant to serve as the beginning of an even bigger story.
The Force Awakens has quite a few humorous moments, but I found a few of those felt a little out of place. Having an extremely dire scene followed by one that will make you chuckle feels weird at first, but they're executed so well that you ultimately forget why the juxtaposition bothered you in the first place. You can see how this is a J.J. Abrams movie with his combination of big action and quirky humor used to flesh out characters.
The visuals are amazing. Everything looks so crisp and clear. There were a couple of moments where some of action feels predictable, but visually they've never looked so good. Seeing the dogfights between X-Wings and TIE Fighters was spectacular and there were times I felt like I was smack in the middle of it all. This carries over into the land-based fighting with blasters and other weapons. The 3D was handled well also. The opening crawl looks great in 3D and the fight scenes are gorgeous. Seeing it in 3D may not be essential but is a great treat and does add more depth to certain scenes.
What would a Star Wars film be without John Williams' musical score? There may be some moments where the acting or dialogue might feel a little out of place in a Star Wars movie but the music ties it all together. It really helps you see the movie does have the heart and soul we would expect from a Star Wars movie.
With so much hype preceding Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the lifelong love many have for the franchise, it’s easy to go into a viewing with some trepidation. That trepidation is unwarranted: this movie hits all the marks you’d hope it would and delivers on many different levels. Having waited over thirty years for this, this satisfied my craving for the next chapter in the Star Wars saga. I was disappointed when all the Expanded Universe novels and developments were pushed aside but it’s easily forgiven after seeing the movie. You might see some moments as predictable but it still amazes me when a movie can completely catch you off guard with more than one surprise or punch to the gut. You'll feel all sorts of emotions. You aren’t just watching the movie—you’re experiencing it all. It may not be perfect but it hits the mark on many many levels. It’s definitely earned a worthy spot next to the original trilogy as one of the best Star Wars films.