Title: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Describe This Movie in One Simpsons Quote:
Ralph: "What's a diorama?"
Skinner: "Why, it's Luke, and Obi-Wan, and my favorite, Chewie! They're all here! [to Miss Hoover] What do you think?"
Hoover: "I think it's lunchtime."
Skinner: "We have a winner!"
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Four Ham Salads out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Boy meets droid. Boy loses droid. Boy meets boy. Boy loses boy. Girl meets droid. Force, uh, awakens.
Tagline: "Every generation has a story."
Better Tagline: "Jar Jar who?"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Thirty years after the fall of the Galactic Empire, a new menace to peace and justice in the galaxy has arisen in the form of the First Order. Led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his master, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), they're scouring the galaxy for clues to the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, now a near-mythic figure. Luke is also being sought by their enemies, the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Thrust into all of this are Finn (John Boyega), a former First Order stormtrooper, and Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger from the planet Jakku, who are soon caught up in both the search for Skywalker and a race against time to destroy the First Order's devastating new weapon.
"Critical" Analysis: The one constant criticism leveled at J.J. Abrams for his Star Trek movies was always that they weren't in keeping with the spirit of the original TV series (or The Next Generation, for that matter). Instead of a "Wagon Train to the stars," 2009's Star Trek and 2013's Into Darkness embraced widescreen space battles and melee combat that would've left Shatner sucking wind inside of a minute.
In short, they were too much like Star Wars movies.
The good news is, if we look at those films as Abrams's audition for directing the newest entry in the most beloved space opera franchise of all time (they were just a few prequels, it's still good! It's still good!), you have to say he passed with flying colors. Star Wars: The Force Awakens reinvigorates the series with a great blend of action, humor and emotion and comes the closest to the spirit of that galaxy far, far away since 1983.
That said, with the exception of the "Where in the Galaxy is Carmen Skywalker" subplot, The Force Awakens is — when you get right down to it — A New Hope on growth hormone with a better script and Big Mouse's bank accounts at its disposal.
The movie starts out with an exchange that strongly evokes the beginning of ANH (only with Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron assuming the Leia role), raising more questions than it answers even as First Order troops arrive to blast everybody. Once again, we've got yet another astromech droid with yet another secret payload on yet another desert planet. The Star Wars movies have never been shy about callbacks to previous installments, but Abrams at times threatens to go overboard with familiar phrases, locations and character analogs (though not necessarily the ones you might suspect).
There's even another cantina scene. Because this *is* the merchandising you're looking for.
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But in the words of another of our greatest cinematic heroes: "It just doesn't matter." Yes, the beats are familiar and yes, maybe the bad guys in these movies should stop building giant space murder machines, but Abrams and company know exactly where your emotional hanging curveballs are, and they hit every one of them out of the park.
He also steers clear of spoon-feeding us everything that's gone down in the intervening decades since Jedi. You'll have questions at the end of The Force Awakens, and that's fine. One of the (many) complaints about the prequels was how clumsily they laid out events leading up to the Original Trilogy, and if it seems like Abrams is going out of his way to sow seeds for future installments, well, welcome to 21st-century Hollywood.
As for the cast. newcomers Boyega and Ridley both impress, but in different ways. Finn is a much more comical character than you might expect, and Rey — perhaps unsurprisingly in a series that's finally embracing galactic multiculturalism — emerges as the de facto lead. Also, "Old Han Solo" is the role Harrison Ford has been auditioning to play for the past 30 years. Every increasingly wooden performance he's turned in since his career peak is forgiven when you're watching him interact with Chewie, Leia and the new kids. Throw in John Williams's soaring score, a surprisingly nuanced baddie and a couple of significant red herrings (including one prominently displayed character getting unceremoniously "Sarlacced"), and The Force Awakens manages to stand quite capably on its own.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in theaters today. See it in your favorite hive of scum and villainy.