The following article contains no spoilers from the film.
By Adam Cutrone
During it’s massive opening weekend, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” grossed $247 million domestically and a whopping $528 million around the world thus solidifying it as the largest box-office opening weekend in movie history, as well as breaking just about every other record in the book. Now that the dust has begun to settle, let’s take a closer look at the film that has so successfully taken the world by Force.
From the ashes of the Empire, The First Order has emerged as a powerful new force for evil in the galaxy. Hoping to finish the job that Darth Vader started, they have turned their sights on finding and eliminating the last living Jedi, Luke Skywalker, who has since gone into hiding. The Resistance, headed by General Leia, hopes to find the long lost Jedi while battling the aggressive expansion of the First Order. Within mere minutes of the film’s opening, “Force Awakens” displays a tactile quality that brings viewers right back to the original trilogy from the late seventies. The world is immediately bustling with life and excitement. It’s a strange place, but something about it feels familiar. It feels real. Enormously elaborate sets and practical effects replace the sterile green screen backdrops that plagued the late 90s prequels. The difference is palpable, both in the environments and in the performances of the actors within them.
JJ Abrams has firmly solidified his stature as one of Hollywood’s premier directors and producers with his extraordinary achievement in the film. Many of the quirks that often plague Abrams’ work are simply not present. The script at the hands of Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt is a confident and thrilling ride from start to finish that favors strong characters and situations instead of relying on thinly-veiled plot twists. There is a real sense of progression both in narrative and visual storytelling. Long story short, Abrams is a man at the top of his game and the proof is in the pudding.
It’s Daisy Ridley’s character Rey, who steals our hearts almost immediately as the precocious young scavenger who can give even Han Solo a run for his money in the pilot seat. A female lead for a new generation, Rey is an intelligent and capable heroine that never needs saving. Her onscreen companion Finn is played by John Boyega and is a renegade stormtrooper with a heart of gold. Born into The First Order, Finn forges a new identity in the friendship and camaraderie of those he encounters in The Resistance. Though strong as individuals, it’s when Rey and Finn are together that they bring out the best of each other. It is almost impossible to be immune to the charms of such a dynamic duo.
Standing in direct opposition to all the levity and warmth of our new pack of heroes is shrouded villain Kylo Ren. Kylo is a fiercely terrifying embodiment of the dark side of the force caught viciously at a crossroads of his own ambition and inexperience. It’s one thing to write a successful villain on paper, but what Adam Driver delivers from beneath a blinding metal mask and thick black cloak is nothing short of extraordinary. With the smallest of gestures, Driver conveys an entire spectrum of emotions with unbelievable clarity, all while completely covered from head-to-toe. Kylo Ren’s fragile and often explosive instability ensures a dangerous undercurrent that keeps our hopeful heroes on their toes from start to finish.
No Star Wars film would be complete without it’s fair share of heart bounding action and “Force Awakens” is certainly no exception. Fluid and acrobatic camera movement brings a whole new level of excitement to the deep space dog-fighting that rivals the very battles that inspired them in the originals. Recreating key closeups from within the cockpits of Tie Fighter and X-Wing fighter pilots offers a nostalgic nod with a glossy new IMAX shine and vibrancy. However, it’s easily the return of signature lightsaber battles that offer the most exhilarating action sequences in the film. Viewers will find themselves hard pressed to find a more visceral and satisfying struggle between good and evil anywhere.
Abrams’ tireless work has paid off in an enormous way. With its heartfelt sentiment and thrilling excitement, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is an extraordinary ride for fans and non-fans alike.