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Star Wars Awakens New Fans

Ben Atwater

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Set thirty years after 1983’s Return of the Jedi, Dec. 18 marked the rebirth of what many consider to be the greatest film saga of all time, all at the hands of acclaimed director JJ Abrams.
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The Force Awakens excels in harkening back to the spirit of the old trilogy. After the Empire has been defeated, the surviving members band together to form the First Order, a Nazi-esque entity that quickly becomes even more powerful than the Empire. One of the head commanders, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), is a Force user aligned with the dark side, who intends to hunt down the last surviving Jedi and hero of the original trilogy, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Luke has vanished, and both the First Order and the Resistance, lead by Luke’s sister, Leia (Carrie Fischer), are putting all of their resources into finding him. BB-8, a droid belonging to Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), is holding the map to Luke Skywalker. BB-8 finds himself crashed on the desert planet of Jakku after Poe is captured by Kylo Ren. Also crashed on Jakku is Finn (John Boyega), a rogue storm trooper who renounces the First Order. BB-8 finds safety from hostile junk dealers in Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who lives by herself on Jakku. From there, Finn and Rey meet up and the adventure is away, as they try to return BB-8 to the Resistance.

Both relative newcomers to the silver screen, Ridley and Boyega do an excellent job at portraying their characters as individuals with spirit and dimension. The first act of the film does not feature any of the veterans, as the focus is to characterize and introduce the new cast. However, in addition to cameos from the original Star Wars heroes, Luke, Leia, and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), few other familiar faces show up over the course of the film, including our favorite droids, R2-D2 and C3-PO, Chewbacca, Admiral Akbar, and a few other players that will be left unnamed.

As far as the story goes, this is where The Force Awakens lacks: The Force Awakens is essentially a remake of A New Hope. Aside from shared plot lines of destroying huge space stations with X-wings, character parallels are so obvious that it starts to come off as a bit too much of an homage to the original trilogy. For instance, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), is a clear nod to Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin. Gleeson does this very well, and even holds his own against Cushing, but lines of dialogue sound directly plucked from A New Hope for the modern audience. Andy Serkis voices Supreme Leader Snoke, who is very much Palpatine-esque. Kylo Ren himself plays part a similar to Darth Vader in A New Hope, though he is fleshed out enough to be a multi-dimensional character whereas Vader was not given any real characterization until The Empire Strikes Back. While the story of The Force Awakens is very similar to A New Hope, that is not really a problem. The Force Awakens is supposed to bring Star Wars back to a modern audience. By using a familiar story that worked to showcase beloved characters thirty years ago, Abrams ensures that there are moments within the familiar story that make us love these characters even more.
The visual effects are superb. Abrams’ restraint in his use of CGI is particularly noticeable. For instance, in a canteena scene featured in The Force Awakens reminiscent of the one featured in A New Hope, there is a slew of aliens from all over the galaxy. While George Lucas, the original creator of the Star Wars franchise, would have used this as an opportunity to showcase what his visual effects company, Industrial Light and Magic, can conjure up, Abrams took the opportunity to create dozens of puppets and costumes, yielding much more memorable and unique aliens. Every stormtrooper on screen is real, unlike the obviously animated clone troopers in the prequels, which makes the battles all the more exciting.

The score, as written by John Williams, who worked on all the previous films, is excellent. Williams accomplishes the task of blending the old leitmotifs we love with new music, making the score sound like the new tones have always been a part of the Star Wars universe.

In the end, The Force Awakens had a lot to live up to. If this film had bombed, then Star Wars would be buried for good, but the proper execution allows it to work just as well as an homage as new adventure for a new generation. However, with the combination of the right talent, both on- and off-screen, and proper use of timing and restraint, Abrams has conjured up one of the best films of the year. For those who are already craving more, there are two more installments in this new trilogy that can build upon the greatness set up by Abrams. Episode VIII, coming out in December 2017, is being directed by Rian Johnson, the director behind the 2012 sci-fi masterpiece Looper.

I highly recommend The Force Awakens be seen in theaters, though it should not need help making money. Making nearly $250 million on opening weekend, holding a 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and on trajectory to overtake James Cameron’s Avatar as the highest grossing films of all time, The Force Awakens may go down as one of the most critically and financially successful films of all time, similar to A New Hope. And it deserves every dollar!

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Star Wars Awakens New Fans