Sunday, January 10, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - a force to reckon with

movie review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens borrows elements from previous George Lucas movies on more than one occasion

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Starring: 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, and Max von Sydow
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Tagline: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then George Lucas must be very flattered by J. J. Abrams’ Star Wars sequel The Force Awakens. The film enthusiastically rehashes plot points and thematic elements from the original trilogy to create an energetic, entertaining space opera designed to please ardent fans of the franchise.

Marking the cinematic return of one of the biggest series in the known universe, the movie serves as the first installment in a planned trilogy that takes place nearly three decades after the events of its chronological predecessor, Return of the Jedi (1983). Threatened by the sinister plans of the First Order, which has risen from the remnants of the Galactic Empire, the Republic wants to find and seek the help of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last Jedi, who has disappeared. The map that specifies his whereabouts falls in possession of a droid called BB-8, resulting in him being targeted by the enemies. As he tries to evade capture, BB-8 runs into a scavenger (Daisy Ridley) and a defecting stormtrooper (John Boyega), who then — with the help of a few familiar faces — try to get the droid to the Resistance so that he can lead them to Luke and help them save the galaxy.

J. J. Abrams has already demonstrated his prowess as a franchise reviver by helming the successful return of Star Trek, and he doesn’t disappoint with The Force Awakens either. The plot at its core may be standard good-versus-evil fare, but the non-stop action makes sure that the journey remains enjoyable. The cast, too, is impressive. Abrams seamlessly brings the old and new generations together; the newcomers deliver solid performances, and it is wonderful to see the actors from the original trilogy reprise their roles.

The movie retains the spirit of the original but sticks to the formula a little too closely by revisiting many of the plot points and character tropes from the Lucas films, and even mirroring a few arcs from A New Hope. The film-makers don’t attempt anything particularly distinctive in this chapter, which is why the movie isn’t as exciting as it should be. Their decision to revel in nostalgia instead of trying something different keeps them from expanding this imaginative universe and taking the story in a truly innovative direction.

Ultimately, while it may not be a cinematic masterpiece, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a well-made offering that, despite being derivative, makes sure it entertains its audience for two hours. The film does learn from the mistakes of the prequels, avoiding the traits that earned the latter adventures much derision. It is a promising start to the new trilogy as it sets things off on the right foot, and will leave viewers looking forward to the next installment, which is expected to be released in 2017, and is being directed by Rian Johnson.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 10th January, 2016 *

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