Film Review: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
“May the Force be with you!” That catch phrase has captivated American pop culture since the dawn of Star Wars, in 1977.
It’s the real reason this franchise commands such a legion of fans; why the latest Star Wars just broke the all-time box office record ($517 million global). We’ll return to the Force.
The good news is, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” gives fans what they want: the first episode of a brand new trilogy that follows in the wake of “Return Of The Jedi.”
Director J.J. Abrams keeps the old, updates it for the newbies, and the Millennium Falcon remains, hands-down, the coolest spaceship ever.
Too Many Soups Cook the Spoilers
A synopsis is very dangerous here; it’s like jungle warfare—plot spoilers in a new Star Wars joint abound like tripwires and tiger pits, because there are vast amounts of potentially irate die-hard fans, with tremendous amounts at stake out there.
Star Wars fanatics, like “Rocky Horror,” “Harry Potter,” and “LOTR” fans (they are often one and the same) are fans who live to wear costumes to the local cineplex. At the screening, I saw four stormtroopers, three Leias, two Obi-Wans, and a partridge in a pear tree. You don’t mess with these people.
But let’s see if I can walk point on synopsis without hitting a spoiler tripwire. First off, in this telling the fascist “First Order” is in charge of everything in the known universe. There’s a resistance army led by princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), now a general.
Thus far, the Resistance hasn’t been able to do anything effective against First Order Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, looking like a giant CGI Gollum).
Do-Re-Mi—Poe, Rey, Finn
Poe Dameron, a resistance X-wing starfighter-pilot (Oscar Isaac) longs to locate lost, last-Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and has a holographic map of Skywalker’s whereabouts.
When First Order stormtroopers, with their white elephant-faces-sans-trunks helmets come for Poe, he hides the map in his BB-like spherical droid (model BB-8) sort of like they did with tripod-droid R2D2, in a galaxy 38 years ago.
Poe is apprehended, but Finn, a moral-conscience-growing, defecting stormtrooper (John Boyega), helps him escape torture by one Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who, like Darth Vader before him, also wears a mask/helmet with a Nazi-flair, replete with a bottom-of-the-ocean-sounding altered voice, and who, in times of trouble, prays to the smashed, unholy relic of Vader’s actual helmet.
Poe and Finn steal a spaceship, get shot down, and crash-land on planet Jakku—very desert-y. Finn leaves Poe for dead, and runs into Rey, a fierce, beautiful “scavenger” (Daisy Ridley, looking and sounding like—with very similar mouth-movements to—Keira Knightly).
They end up in the Millennium Falcon, which, like the old hot-rod it is, is up on blocks and needs a tune-up. Rey’s a class-A mechanic and pilot, and thus ensues some spectacular Falcon versus First Order TIE-fighter, dogfight footage.
Eventually, who should happen along but—take a wild guess—original Falcon owner Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his auburn-hairy galactic big-foot copilot, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
What else? Kylo Ren’s got a wicked, Western broadsword-version of a light-saber and is clearly a Kendo black belt, but the Force is strong with the fetching young Rey.
So what’ve we got so far? Secret droid map, masked bad guy, and the humungous Starkiller Base, which is a giant Death Star that siphons energy from a neighboring sun, all the better to fry neighboring planets with. Sound familiar? Were you around in ’77?
Plot Delivers, Acting Less So
“Force Awakens” is easily better than the 2000s Star Wars prequel episodes one through three combined; then again, that might not be saying much. But J.J. Abrams has definitely found a way to satisfyingly copy the original.
What’s not so fun is that, like Chris Rock says, Harrison Ford looks, “tired-tired-tired!” Hard to compete with one’s much younger, incorrigible, strapping, snarky, sneering, lady-killer self.
Carrie Fisher fares a bit better since she doesn’t try to compete with her youth, but embraces Leia in all her matronly, village-elder-matriarch status.
For a big guy, Adam Driver might be a tad too lightweight for such an extreme baddie. The performance lacks heft. Then again, it may just be that my imagination will forever be shut down to his future endeavors, forever inundated by that goofball idiot he plays on “Girls.”
I found I was not an instant fan of the constantly running, wheezing, sweating, slightly-girly-hysterical, (but often quite funny) chipmunk-cheeked John Boyega. He almost got into Jar Jar Binks territory there for a minute—almost. It’s the character, not the actor, that irritated a bit.
The Force: The Movie Version
“The Force is a binding, metaphysical and ubiquitous power. It is also the object of the Jedi and Sith monastic orders.”
George Lucas: “Similar phrases have been used extensively by many different people for the last 13,000 years to describe the ‘life force.'”
Obi-Wan Kenobi: “It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”
Darth Vader: “The Force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet.”
Yoda: “A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force.”
The Force: The Real Deal
What is high-level Jedi-ism? What is the Force? In Star Wars, it refers to the ability of a high-level martial-artist-knight, a Jedi—to use supernormal abilities.
Oh, what—you don’t think supernormal abilities actually exist? Not even the ones in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?” Bunch of New Age nuttiness? Hardly. There are six scientifically documented supernormal abilities.
Science is slowly catching up, and it’s got a long way to go: Eastern martial arts philosophies speak of 10,000 latent human supernormal abilities.
And what begets a supernormal ability? An impeccably high moral character, and the transformation of karmic energy into virtue. Whaaat? Yes. Supernormal abilities exist like seeds. You scoff? Why? Because if you split open a California pine cone, you can’t find a 2.7 million pound, 275-foot-tall, 100-foot-wide sequoia in there?
So why, you counter, can Vader before him and now the evil Kylo Ren command the Force? Why are they able to tap supernormal abilities with such low morality/vibrational frequencies? Severely compacted karma can also exert a force on supernormal abilities.
Maybe I just made all that up. But just maybe, Star Wars fans, instead of putting on an Obi-Wan robe, and tinkering up an actual light-saber like that guy on Facebook, maybe someday you’ll get down on the mat, take up a serious meditation practice, and study Gong Fu at high levels.
Here’s the thing though—supernormal abilities can’t be shown off or demonstrated. That’s why you don’t know about them. Yet. Maybe someday you too, can tap into … the Force. This is, of course, only one minor aspect. The Force is boundless. Smiley emoticon.
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Peter Mayhew
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 18
4 stars out of 5