Film review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens stands up as latest installment in beloved series

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the most anticipated movie of the year, has finally arrived. The short review: It is good. Go see it. It doesn’t disappoint.

A lot of fans of the original Star Wars trilogy were turned off by George Lucas’ prequel trilogy, which told the origins of Darth Vader. Fans and critic alike, myself included, have discussed in great length what went wrong with the prequels. The easiest way to sum it up is that they simply don’t feel like Star Wars.

The appeal of the original Star Wars movies isn’t just the groundbreaking special effects but the characters, dialogue and strong relationships. The original three films, Stars Wars (later subtitled A New Hope), The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, have staying power because Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewie (Peter Mayhew), R2D2 and C3PO (Anthony Daniels) are so clearly defined.

Outside of pre-established characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, there are no compelling characters in the prequels. The new characters are wooden and banally written. The colorful personalities and sharp banter are gone and replaced with endless exposition and dull political discussions.

While the prequels look great, they relied too heavily on computer-generated landscapes and creatures. The universe in the prequels feels sterile whereas the original Star Wars trilogy presents a galaxy far, far away that is grungy and imperfect.

The best thing that can be said about director J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens is that it looks and feels like a Star Wars movie. The vivid characterizations are back and the dialogue has snap again, thanks to writer Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote Empire and Jedi. Abrams has also put a focus on real-world locations and effects which creates a sense of a world that is lived in.

While old characters are back, most notably Han Solo and Chewie with smaller roles for Leia, Luke, C3PO and R2D2, The Force Awakens doesn’t rely solely on nostalgia for these characters to get the audience engaged in the film.

Daisy Ridley’s Rey is a strong female character, even stronger than Leia. She is independent, resourceful and compassionate. She has fears but finds the strength to face them. Watching her find herself is a joy.

Similarly, John Boyega is uncertain of himself and the world he lives in, but he knows he can’t do what he was raised to do. Boyega gives Finn a youthful exuberance as he ventures out into a universe that was off limits to him. Ridley and Boyega have a fun chemistry. We’re eager to see more of them together.

Adam Driver makes Kylo Ren a conflicted villain with a direct link to the original trilogy. He has great power but lacks control of his emotions. This makes him both a frightening and sympathetic villain.

It is to the credit of Abrams and Kasdan that when the next installment comes out, we will want to follow these new characters’ adventures.

The film’s final moment is fraught with potential and stokes the anticipation for the next installment. With the reboot elements of the series out of the way, it will be interesting to see how this universe grows. The seeds have certainly been planted for something wonderful.

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