"Chewie, we're home."
You're damn right we're home.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fantastic, well-directed motion picture that doesn't try to exceed expectations by shooting for the stars, but rightfully soars through the sky, entertaining in such a way that made it feel right at home with the original trilogy (with which it is a direct sequel).
There are so many things I want to say about this film, but I want to keep much of it under wraps so that for those of you who haven't seen it can uncover and experience it in a similar fashion. The most important thing I want to say is that The Force Awakens is a perfect example of a Star Wars film that is made by a director who not only knows how to direct actors into great performances and string together a coherent and engaging narrative, but also a man who gives a shit about the Star Wars universe and its characters.
Director J.J. Abrams succeeds in once again making the franchise something of wonder and mystique, avoiding any connection to the prequel trilogy and instead focusing on the original trilogy of films we grew up with and loved. No midichlorians. No Jar Jar fucking Binks. He even went as far as to hire Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi scripter Lawrence Kasdan to help bring to life the heart and soul of what made the films so great. Another important element he added in keeping with the style of the original films was to employ physical sets and puppeteering. Characters, props, and sets come to life by actually existing on screen, without resorting to an entire soulless CGI environment that was so prominent in the prequel films.
The Force Awakens introduces us to new characters that we actually care about, mainly because their performances are so good. Abrams succeeds in expanding the universe by allowing time for new characters, played competently by John Boyega, Daisey Ridley, and Oscar Isaac, to develop and grow, even when first and foremost we are there to see our old childhood favorites once again.
Which brings me to Harrison Ford. Hands down, this is Han Solo's movie, and Harrison Ford is so damn good in returning to the role that you immediately fall in love with the character once again. What's amazing is that, despite Ford's known history of having hated playing the Han Solo character in the past (most notably going on record as begging George Lucas to kill him off first in Empire Strikes Back, and then again at the end of Return of the Jedi), J.J. Abrams was able to draw from him an impressively charismatic performance that hearkens back into our roots in nostalgia while simultaneously showing us another, dare I say "emotional," side to him.
In staying with my general attitude of being honest with all my reviews, I will note my only little gripes with the film (which aren't even that big). First, I'm not a huge fan of cinematographer Dan Mindel's work. I would have much more preferred more steady shots rather than his penchant for sweeping shots and active camera angles that felt a tad out of place with the feel of the original trilogy. But, given that this film takes place thirty years (or so) later, a change in style could be considered somewhat fitting to this new trilogy. Despite this, there is one scene in particular involving bright light and then darkness and red light on a character's face at a pivotal moment that was a brilliant piece of film making from both Abrams and Mindel.
Sadly, my other only little gripe was the lack of punch from John Williams' score. While the iconic music is still in tact, there was very little in the way of memorable themes that even existed with his work on the prequels. I had hoped for something a little more memorable, but given that the man is 83-years old and has scored dozens of motion pictures, its understandable not to expect a score on the level of The Empire Strikes Back. But, I was still hoping to take away something more from his work on this film, but I just didn't leave with that ability to hum anything that I heard. Not a bad score by any means, but just not the bravado I was hoping for.
Overall, The Force Awakens is not only a great Star Wars film but a great film altogether that surprises, satisfies in many ways, and piques our nostalgic interests while supplying us with enough new characters and elements to warrant a care for the future two films. By the last shot of the film (a true highlight of the franchise), I was excited, and at the same time disheartened, in knowing I have to wait another three years to see where this story will take us. Bravo, J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Harrison Ford, & producer Kathleen Kennedy. Bravo.
POST THOUGHTS: I was pleased that the film makers chose not to open with the Disney logo, and instead opened with just the Lucasfilm, LTD. logo before giving us the iconic title scroll following "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." This is probably the only film franchise that an opening DOES make a huge difference to the overall experience to the film.