“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” brings the long-beloved franchise back to the big screen

Zac Headings – Horizon Reviews

Note: This review contains few to no plot spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” debuted Dec. 17 to full theaters across the country. The Force Awakens has been in the works for just over three years, its announcement shortly following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise on Oct. 30, 2012. During that three year time period, many fans of the series (like me) were skeptical about the upcoming seventh movie in the series. There were more than a few of us who were worried that Disney would screw up our favorite story.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is playing at Chisholm Trail 8 this week.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is playing at Chisholm Trail 8 this week.

Dec. 17 rolled around. I arrived at the Regal Cinema in Harrisonburg, VA at 3 p.m., to stand in line for the 7 p.m. showing. As I sat in my seat in the cinema, my anxiety grew. I was ready to see what had been created by Disney, and see if it measured up to my expectations.

I am relieved and excited to report that the creative team, cast, and crew of the newest Star Wars film did not disappoint. Directed by J.J. Abrams (“Lost”, “Star Trek”), “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” combines the splendor and adventure of the classic Star Wars films with modern film and storytelling. I loved it.

Sitting in my seat, my eyes glued to the screen, I clapped and cheered with the rest of the audience when anything caught our attention. Seeing the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo, Princess (General) Leia, R2-D2, and yes, even C-3P0 sent me back in time to when my father sat me down one Sunday afternoon to watch the original “Star Wars” movies when I was only 10 years old. “The Force Awakens” has that same adventurous and wonderful feeling that George Lucas’ original trilogy did.

Starring familiar faces like Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher reprising their roles as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess (now General) Leia, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” introduces new, lovable characters, played by fresh faces. Daisy Ridley plays Rey, a young, naïve scavenger abandoned by her parents on the planet Jakku. She is joined by John Boyega, who plays Finn, an ex-stormtrooper who just wants to do what is right. Adam Driver is Kylo Ren, a young dark sider who wants nothing more than to follow in Darth Vader’s footsteps. Oscar Isaac supplements the cast with his role as Poe Dameron, an ace X-Wing pilot fighting against the tyrannical First Order. Starring alongside this new main cast is Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Max von Sydow, Peter Mayhew, and Gwendoline Christie.

The performance of these actors was phenomenal. Poe and Finn meet each other early in the movie, and there is an immediate chemistry between the two men. Finn has an incredible awkwardness to him that, when coupled with his unshakeable sense of right and wrong, along with his need to protect his friends, make him relatable and endearing to any audience. Rey is a strong and brave young woman, with a fierceness that is immediately evident, as she begins fighting fairly early on in the film. She brings a strong female presence to the new cast, just as Carrie Fisher did in “A New Hope” in 1977. Of course, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher were absolutely fantastic in reprising their old roles as Han Solo and Leia. I expected the two characters to change a lot, possibly become more jaded and bitter with the passage of time. And they did, to a certain extent. Han and Leia certainly had a reason to. But when Han Solo first appeared on screen, it was if as no time had passed at all. Sure, he looked different, but the cocky grin, snide remarks, and all around scoundrel routine were still there. The same goes for Leia. You can see her new hardness evident when she first steps into the film, but as a bit of time passes you can see that she’s the same fiery princess that Luke rescued from a cell on the Death Star.

While not exactly an actor, I would like to comment on the performance of my new favorite character, the new droid, BB-8. The character is basically a rolling ball with a head, but early on endears itself to the audience with a loyal personality and quite a bit of humor.

Set 30 years after the celebratory events of “Return of the Jedi,” the story of “The Force Awakens” follows our main cast as they search for Luke Skywalker. The Jedi Master disappeared years before the events of the movie after a personal tragedy. The evil First Order is also out to find the missing Jedi, so our new friends, Rey and Finn, must team up with Han Solo and Chewbacca, and find the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa, to aid in their search for Luke. I won’t say much more than that, because there are those poor souls who have yet to see the film. (I weep for you.) I will say this. Be prepared for an intense and exciting 135 minutes, filled with fighting, friendship, tragedy, and laughter as Star Wars, one of the most iconic 20th and 21st century franchises comes back to the big screen, and back into our hearts. As if it ever left.  

Author’s note: I am looking for material to review! Send me suggestions of movies, TV shows, video games, and more. Send suggestions to zac.headings@hesston.edu under the subject line “Review Material Suggestion” or comment here. 

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