Thursday, January 7, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

By: Alex Noble

This is our website’s very first review, so what better way to start than with Star Wars? This is my fair warning to those who have not seen the movie: this review contains spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and want to wait to see the big revelations until you actually watch the movie, than read no further.
But seriously, go see the movie.
Are you still reading this? Dude! Go!
Okay, now that you have been warned, let’s begin.
Plot: Episode VII takes place thirty-some-odd years after Return of the Jedi. The Empire was defeated and now a new Republic rules in its place. However, remnants of the Empire have come together to form the First Order, a Nazi-esque regime led by the enigmatic Supreme Leader Snoke and the fierce Dark Side warrior Kylo Ren. Fighting on behalf the Galactic Republic against the newly powerful First Order is the Resistance, led by general Leia Organa. Both sides are searching desperately for Luke Skywalker, the last surviving Jedi in the galaxy. For the Resistance, finding Skywalker means regaining a savior who can defeat the First Order; for the First Order, finding and destroying Skywalker removes any threat of a new generation of Jedi. The map of Skywalker’s location is in a droid, a soccer ball with pizazz called BB-8. Our new heroes—X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron, AWOL storm trooper Finn, and Scavenger Rey—race to keep the map out of the hands of the First Order and deliver it to the Resistance. Meanwhile, the First Order threatens the galaxy with the Star Killer, a battle station made of a planet that can destroy entire star systems, and can spell doom for both the Republic and the Resistance.
Review: I had to watch Episode VII several times in order to assimilate it. This film is the Star Wars movie that fans have been waiting for ever since the end of the original trilogy. Although normally I would not judge a movie’s quality based on how I compare with others, I must make an exception for Star Wars in order to indicate why this film is nearly perfect in areas where the prequel trilogy suffered and disappointed fans. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the prequels because I live and breathe Star Wars, but they have glaring flaws: poorly written dialogue, over-saturation with CGI, and characters with whom you could not connect like those in the original trilogy. Episode III wrapped up the last trilogy nicely, but it didn’t live up to the originals.
Episode VII feels like a Star Wars movie in a way the prequels did not. It is visually arresting because most of the effects are practical and CGI is used only when necessary. In place of green screens are actual sets, and in place of cartoon characters are real-looking creatures you can almost touch. The light saber duels are not choreographed dances; they are fierce fights in which every parry is a ground-shaking blow. At first, I was skeptical of the cross-guarded light saber, but then I saw how the third blade can come in handy when in close-quarters combat.
Kylo Ren is a new kind of villain for the Star Wars series. As the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo (Ren’s actual name is Ben), he is caught between the love for his parents and his call to the Dark Side. Just as the original trilogy was about one warrior’s path to becoming a hero, Episode Seven is about Ben Solo’s journey to fully becoming a villain as much as it is about Finn and Rey’s journey to becoming heroes. He is very much the grandson of Vader and embodies his legacy. However, he lack’s Vader’s self-control and is not yet master of the Dark Side of the Force. There is only one scene between Ren and his father Han Solo, but the writers and actors make it count. The scene in which Ren kills Solo is heart-wrenching despite the fact we have never seen these two characters interact before. Both Harrison Ford and Adam Driver perform at the top of their game and you truly believe than Han Solo will do anything for his son, even if that means dying at his hands. It’s no secret that Harrison Ford wanted Solo to die the hero’s death in Return of the Jedi in order to complete the character’s journey from a selfish man to a self-sacrificing hero. Well, Ford got his wish, and somehow made us care about Solo than we did before. Star Wars is ultimately a morality tale about family, and, like Vader willing to die for Luke, Solo gives himself to his son in what is the most powerful scene in the movie and the most powerful scene in the franchise since Vader’s sacrifice in Jedi.
Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley also bring a lot to the table and breathe life into new characters. My suspicion is that they will be the trio for this trilogy just as Han, Luke, and Leia were for the original. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is, I believe, the new hope. Her ability to use the force and her light saber duel with Kylo Ren demonstrate that she has the mettle to be the Luke of this trilogy. I cannot wait to see how her path as a hero unfolds just as I am excited to see how Kylo Ren slips more comfortably into his grandfather’s boots.
This is by no means a perfect film, but I’m hard-pressed to see how it could have been made better. Domhall Gleeson may be miscast as the villainous General Hux; he simply seems to be too nice for a role like Tarkin, who was portrayed by Peter Cushing, whose severe features and overbearing demeanor made him believable as the cruel authoritarian figure whom Hux should be. Instead, Gleeson’s Hux comes off as more of a spoiled brat than a tyrant. Also, I’m not entirely satisfied with the primary villain, Supreme Leader Snoke, who does not seem like a match for his predecessor, Emperor Palpatine. However, I will reserve my judgment until I see more of the character.

May the Force be with you.
Rating: 9/10