Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Released:  2015

Cast:  Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow

Oscar Nominations:  Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Sound Editing (Matthew Wood, David Acord), Best Sound Mixing (Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, Stuart Wilson), Best Film Editing (Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey), Best Visual Effects (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould)

SUMMARY:  Thirty years after the second Death Star was destroyed and Darth Vader defeated, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is the only remaining Jedi.  However, after one of his students turned to the Dark Side, Luke went into hiding and has not been seen since.  The remains of the Galactic Empire have reorganized into the First Order, and are attempting to overthrow the New Republic.  General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) still leads the Resistance, which is fighting back as best they can.  However, they are desperate to find Luke and secure his help.  There is only one clue to Luke’s location:  a map held by an old man on the planet Jakku.  Resistance pilot Poe Dameron manages to retrieve the map, but is quickly attacked by Stormtroopers and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a dark warrior.  Poe is captured, but not before he hides the map in his droid BB-8.  BB-8 does get away, and is eventually found by a orphaned girl named Rey, who survives by scavenging electronic parts.  Kylo Ren uses the Force to torture Poe and learn of the map’s location.  Meanwhile, one Stormtrooper, FN-2187 (John Boyega), finds that he is unable to kill, and changes sides.  He frees Poe, and the two escape in a TIE fighter.  Poe begins calling the Stormtrooper “Finn” during their flight.  Unfortunately, the two crash on Jakku, and Finn is unable to find Poe before the fighter explodes.  Finn manages to find Rey and BB-8, only to get caught up in an attack sent by Kylo Ren.  The trio steal the Millennium Falcon from a junkyard and escape.  They are eventually pulled into another ship by tractor beam.  The second ship turns out to be operated by Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca, the former owners of the Falcon.  Enemies of Han’s abruptly appear on the ship, leading all five (Rey, Finn, BB-8, Han and Chewie) to take off in the Falcon.    The enemies, however, recognize the new arrivals, and inform the First Order.  Back at Starkiller Base, the home of the First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke authorizes the first use of the “weapon” — a weapon formed from the whole planet, that uses solar energy to destroy other planets.  He also informs Kylo Ren that his father, Han Solo, has been causing trouble.

The Falcon stops on the planet Takodana, and Rey finds Luke’s old lightsaber in storage.  However, when she touches the saber it gives her flashbacks of her own history, as well as Luke’s, and causes her to take off.  Finn takes the lightsaber before going after Rey.  The First Order fires the weapon and destroys the capital of the Republic, and attacks Takodana.  Han, Chewie, Finn and BB-8 are rescued by Resistance fighters led by Poe, who managed to survive the TIE crash.  The Resistance leaders, including Leia, arrive on Takodana to plan their next move.  Rey is captured by Kylo Ren, but surprises him when she is able to resist his Force-driven attempts at mind reading.  This leads Rey to use the Force on a guard, tricking him into releasing her (a Jedi mind trick).  The Resistance takes the others to their base on D’Qar, where R2-D2 has been sitting, inactive, since Luke Skywalker disappeared.  When they learn that weapon is about to be fired again, Leia and the Resistance decide they have to attack and destroy it.  Before Han leaves, Leia asks him to find their son (Kylo Ren) and bring him home.  Han, Chewie and Finn manage to fly the Falcon into the Starkiller Base, and begin setting explosives that will cause the destruction of the weapon.  They also find Rey, who has escaped using her Jedi mind trick.  Kylo Ren interrupts them, and Han attempts to convince him to renounce the Dark Side and come home.  Ren rejects the plea and kills Han Solo as the others watch.  While Finn and Rey are stunned, Chewie is furious, and shoots his crossbow at Ren.  He manages to hit Ren, and also sets off the explosives.  Poe and the Resistance pilots attack, and manage to destroy Starkiller Base.  Finn and Rey head back to the Falcon, but are stopped by Kylo Ren.  Finn tries to use Luke’s lightsaber to fight off Ren, but is seriously hurt.  Rey then takes the lightsaber and does manage to drive Ren back, until they are separated by the disintegrating planet.  Snoke orders the evacuation of the First Order and the retrieval of Kylo Ren.  Back on D’Qar, R2-D2 comes to life and reveals the rest of the map that shows Luke’s location.  Rey and Chewbacca travel to the planet Ahch-To, where Rey locates Luke and gives him back his lightsaber.

MY TAKE:  I’ve seen all of the previous Star Wars movies, and while they were enjoyable I wasn’t blown away.  This movie was very much the same:  it was entertaining but not stunning.  For me, a lot of this came from the plot line, which felt really recycled.  It’s pretty much the same as the original trilogy:  evil empire seeks to take over the galaxy, are opposed by Resistance led by Leia who need the help of the mythical Jedi who are basically extinct.  In the original series the last Jedi was Obi-Wan; this time it’s Luke.  The main agent of the bad guy has ties to the good guys:  in the original Darth Vader was Luke and Leia’s father, who was a Jedi turned Sith lord; this time Kylo Ren is the son of Han and Leia, and was in training with his uncle Luke before turning to the Dark Side.  Luke fights his father (and helps bring about his downfall) in the original series; Ren kills his father in this one.  See what I mean?  There’s even a droid that holds a secret, just like in the original series.  All of this isn’t to say that the movie isn’t fun.  I thought it was really cool that Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill all returned.  Harrison Ford still manages to steal just about every scene he’s in, and it was really sad to see him die.  The prequel trilogy doesn’t have a very good reputation, especially among hardcore Star Wars fans, so maybe they thought that bringing back original characters would help this film.  I was surprised to find that there were quite a few comedic moments, especially from Finn and Solo.  Of course there was also a lot of action and special effects, which are way better than they were in the original trilogy.  Like I said, it’s entertaining to watch, and does leave you wanting to see the next film, but the plotline left me feeling that I’d seen it all before.

Fun facts:  Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o voices Maz, the ancient owner of the cantina where Luke’s lightsaber is stored.  Andy Serkis, who is famous for playing Gollum/Sméagol in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, voices Supreme Leader Snoke.

RATING:  Not bad.

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