Tom Basham

Star Wars: “The Force Awakens”

In This Just OUT on December 18, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Star-Wars-PosterI just saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and I am just now coming out of hyperspace. From the moment those big scrolling words came on the screen I had a good feeling about this.

In case you haven’t kept track, this is Episode 7, the one that comes after “Return of the Jedi,” when Luke and Han Solo and the gang kicked the Emperor’s butt and blew up the Death Star once and for all. This movie takes place about 30 years after all that. I hope I didn’t just spoil a 1983 plot for anyone.

The evil First Order is in charge these days and nobody even remembers voting for Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis from “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes“) or his Darth-like henchman Kylo Ren (Adam Driver from “This Is Where I Leave You“). All the First Order has to do is defeat this small group known as The Resistance, and the Galaxy will be theirs.

All the Resistance needs is to find Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill from “Star Wars”) to lead them. Luke went into hiding after one of his young Jedi trainees defied him and went over to the dark side, also known as the Darthie side. I think I have given away too much, and Disney is going to send one of its princesses to freeze me in a block of ice. Either that or my family will unfriend me.

I didn’t have great expectations going in, but I really liked it. This iconic franchise is in the capable hands of director/writer J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek“). He has keenly put on the same cinematic cloak of the Joseph Campbell journey that George Lucas wore just a little too long. I knew the story would be based in space, placed in the future and still survive by the heart and soul of the characters and their quest, thanks to screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan (“The Big Chill”) and Michael Arndt (“Oblivion”).

I was impressed at how the look and tone of the movie felt like the first three classics. The trend for this sort of thing is to go darker or edgier, but the choices the filmmakers made in this installment were all about connecting to the past. There may be a few too many touchstones and low-hanging plot points recycled, but I am thinking they will veer off-course in the next two installments. Unfortunately, it’s not about making a great movie; it’s about maintaining a great franchise. While I may criticize Disney and Abrams for this, I felt like this was an old RKO-type serial (just Google it kids) and I would be just as hungry for the next chapter as for the next bag of popcorn.

The new cast of characters is as charismatic as their predecessors, including new robot BB-8 (soccer ball) and the new band of mutants at the Cantina. These are all imperfect people in an imperfect galaxy with a destiny they are only awakening to. The old archetypes are all there, in bold print, and are passing the lightsaber to the next generation. For that, I must give this movie 4 stars out of 5. As a young Jedi who came of age (18 to be precise) in 1977, I have to say the force is, well, still pretty cool.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:

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