STAR WARS: The Force Awakens (spoiler free review)
This one doesn’t mince around and it doesn’t try to take you by surprise. But if it doesn’t take someone by surprise, then why should we go without spoilers? Because it’s about the way the story is told- it’s about the craftsmanship in telling a story and bringing the characters from point A to point B. And I’ll try to remain as spoiler free as I can because this film deserves it and the audience deserves it.
It’s just well done. It’s storytelling from the Mythic standpoint and it tells you a story that is a little familiar but also just different enough to be engaging. It’s the story of heroes and their villains- the story of a galactic enemy coming into power and the resistance that rises to stop them. That’s where we are in the Star Wars franchise- an offshoot of the Empire calls itself The First Order and it’s a militant uprising devoted to the iconography of the Empire and it’s rule of law.
The characters are just very enjoyable- John Boyega’s “Finn” is fun, engaging, and VULNERABLE… not whiney, not pedantic, but genuinely vulnerable. He’s the "everyman" character we root for and understand. He's everything that we, as the audience, are supposed to be. Funny, witty, a little frightened, and very much out of his depth. He's also brave and he acts without thinking- and it all stems from compassion rather than just going out and trying to "get his". He's a breath of fresh air in a cynical world. He’s absolutely central the story, but these stories work best with an ensemble and if Finn is the everyman “fool”, then “Rey” is the idealist. She’s the kind of character people would wish they were; someone destined to greatness. Po Dameron brings the snarky bluster, BB-8 is a trusty sidekick droid, and then there’s Kylo Ren.
Let me say this, and I’ll try not to spoil anything- Kylo Ren is precisely what Anakin SHOULD have been in episodes 2 and 3. He’s not whiney- he’s afraid and he’s angry, bitter, and he wants to bring Order to a Galaxy that he thinks has fallen into chaos. This is a character in pain and who happens to have more power at his disposal than he knows what to do with- but, even more importantly, he’s someone who has difficulty maintaining control and he lashes out multiple times. And his motives are left shrouded in mystery- there’s only really a taste of what he is, despite all that’s revealed.
There are a lot of cameo appearances- but Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia are very important characters to the film. They aren’t just there to pop their heads in and remind you of what was- they mean something to the story.
You’ll note I haven’t spoken much about the details of the story?
That’s on purpose- because it’s so very basic and so very simple and it’s a reflection of things that have come before. The major differences are in the telling and the specifics- A Galaxy at the brink of war, a doomsday weapon, heroes, villains, and allies for both.
5 out of 5.