Star Wars Force Awakens

“Star Wars” Makes Triumphant Return with “The Force Awakens”

The Force Awakens, the long-awaited seventh chapter in the Star Wars saga, entered our galaxy on Dec. 18, 2015. With it came a new generation of scavengers, soldiers, and pilots alongside the passionate royalty, fur-covered warriors, and scruffy looking nerf-herders of the past.  This combination of old and new inhabits a galaxy both vastly different and strikingly similar to the hopeful universe we left 30 years prior.

The film opens in true Star Wars fashion as an invasion force from the Empire’s successor, The First Order, storms a desert world looking for missing plans. The plans are given to a droid, who meets Rey (Daisy Ridley), a young scavenger. In the course of helping BB-8 deliver the map, she is joined by a disillusioned Stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega). Escaping their pursuers in the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) later reclaims his ship, aiding them in a battle between the First Order and Resistance, and escaping to the Resistance base. In an effort to draw out their enemies, the First Order fires their ultimate weapon, setting the stage for a final battle over Star Killer base.

In many ways, The Force Awakens lives up to its cinematic legacy. The visual effects are as strong in The Force as the Chosen One. Starfighter battles are the pinnacle of this, particularly in the skirmish between the Millennium Falcon and First Order TIE Fighters during Rey and Finn’s escape from Jakku. With their weapons locked in forward position, Rey is forced to take the Falcon through the innards of a crashed Star Destroyer. The twists and turns of the ship as it jukes and dodges across outcroppings and pieces of wreckage capture the intensity of the moment and desperation of the young pilot fighting not just for her life, but the fate of the galaxy. After leaving the wreck, Rey pulls a move worthy of Han himself and kills the Falcon’s engines in mid-ascent to give Finn a shot at their last pursuer. The moment that the ship begins to drop from the sky is enough to stop the hearts of the audience as if it were them on board. The other space battles in this movie also do not disappoint; effects such blaster bolts and lightsabers are better looking than ever before.

Cinematography is also strong with this one, particularly in the firing sequence of Starkiller Base. Several shots, all cast in the light of the super weapon’s lasers, capture the event from all the major perspectives. On base, the commander General Hux stands proudly as the sky is cast in the crimson glow of his ultimate triumph. On the bridge of a Star Destroyer, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) pensively watches the beams travel across space before the camera cuts to his mask as he looks on. Finally, on the Republic capital, there is a close up of a woman’s face as she embraces the death of both herself and the democracy she and so many others struggled to create.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of The Force Awakens is its characters. Finn rejects the First Order and grows from a coward seeking a place to hide to a fighter willing to lay down his life for a cause and his friends. Indoctrinated for conformity from birth, seeing him experience true acceptance and friendship from Poe and then Rey provides perhaps the most touching moments of the film. Rey’s arc is similar in that she is learning to leave behind the lies of her past for a grander destiny. Her struggle to let go of those who abandoned her and at the same time to accept the new friendships, as well as come to terms with her own abilities, makes her the breakout star of the film. Kylo Ren is also given perhaps the most visible growth in this film. Though serving the dark side, Ren must contend his ties to the light. This comes to a head when he is forced to confront his past and make an ultimate decision about which side of the Force he will serve.

All this focus on the new characters is not to say the old guard is abandoned. Han Solo is featured prominently within this film, serving as mentor to the new heroes and taking the lead in the final assault on Starkiller base. Solo must also face the mistakes of his past and must make a final decision as to whether he will give his all to a greater cause, or settle for the empty life of a smuggler he’s come to know.

 The one flaw of the film lies in its unanswered questions. Much of the information about the state of the galaxy in the past 30 years is left to secondary sources such as novels and reference books. It doesn’t detract from the film, but may leave fans wondering about a few easily explained points.  It also raises many questions which it does not answer, such as the reason behind Luke Skywalker’s disappearance, and Rey’s origins. Undoubtedly, these answers await us in 2017’s Episode VIII.

The Force Awakens is an exciting new chapter in the Star Wars saga. It continues the tradition of a deep narrative filled with strong characters that tackle universal and personal issues, all while providing excellent cinematography and high-quality special effects. It definitely proves that decades later, the Force is still strong with this one.