Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review - 3 Stars

The movies we love and remember are often about more than just the movie. They’re also about who we watched with, where we watched and what our lives were like the night we discovered the film. The new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” arrives with a winning mix of nostalgia and moments that move the series forward. Director J. J. Abrams quotes many of the major moments of “Star Trek” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” while breathing new life into the series. Right off the bat, the funky looking logo comes on-screen with a blast of John Williams' stirring theme. It’s thrilling; and as the story progresses, you get a sense the filmmakers want to pay tribute and remind fans of why they liked the first two trilogies. New, likable characters include Daisy Ridley. She gets the biggest share of screen time as a mix of “Luke Skywalker” and “Hans Solo.” She’s a pilot & scavenger, and has a bit of the force in her. She gives the new effort, energy and spunk. John Boyega joins the forces of good as partner (and possible love interest) for Ridley. The two bicker and fight in much the same way we remember Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher carping at each other. The story begins as fighter pilot Oscar Isaac acquires part of a map, which could lead the good guys to Luke Skywalker. The search for Skywalker gives this episode its structure. Max von Sydow picks up the Alec Guinness echo. as he passes the map to Issac, who in turn hides it in a new R2-D2-style droid called BB-8. This droid looks like half a soccer ball on top of a larger soccer ball, and gives R2-D2 a run for the money. Meanwhile, the Nazi-style “New Order” begins a search for the droid, now in the possession of Ridley and Boyega. The hunted connect with Harrison Ford, who draws cheers with his first appearance on-screen. Ford and Chewbacca fly the Millennium Falcon with the help of Ridley and Boyega, a nice way to mix the old and new characters. Carrie Fisher plays it serious and has ascended to the rank of general. Adam Driver gets a juicy turn as a Darth Vader-style bad guy. The search for Luke Skywalker leads to a satisfying set-up in the finale. So good, it makes you look forward to the next episode. “Star Wars:  The Force Awakens” will satisfy memories. It even includes a funky bar scene where weird critters drink their cares away. It does not break any new ground, but plays it safe. Considering the reaction to the three prequels, this is a good decision. Does it deliver what it promises? Star Wars reboot. Is it entertaining? Does what it needs to do. Is it worth the price of admission? For fans, old and new.