At The Movies: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Ah, the power of The Movie Critic.

Across the nation and around the world, people wait in anticipation of the seventh episode of the “Star Wars” saga. Many already have tickets, some are waiting in line right now, some have it marked out on their already busy holiday schedule.

And yet… none of these people are going to make a move until The Movie Critic has his say. People scan the Internet waiting for his word. Disney quivers at the thought that one downward-pointing thumb can ruin their billion dollar plans.

Yes, because we all know — no one is going to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” if The Movie Critic says it’s no good.

Well, breathe a sigh of relief, Disney Corporation and “Star Wars” geeks everywhere — for I have seen “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

And it is good.

Director J.J. Abrams did some tinkering with the hyperdrive and pulled the Millennium Falcon and all aboard out of the doldrums of the previous trilogy and into a brave new, but often very familiar, world.

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_AwakensI don’t want to go into detail about the story because (a) the Disney people will kill me, and (b) you’ll enjoy the movie more the less you know going in. So instead let’s just bullet point some pros and cons.

PRO: Abrams delivers a more action-oriented tale than the prequels but still makes time for character moments. Special effects continue to improve as time goes on, and Abrams takes advantage of that here. It’s a sharp-looking, fast-moving film.

CON: Series creator George Lucas loved to create new worlds and take the audience to weird and exotic places in every film. There’s not a lot of “new” here — a desert planet, an ice planet, a jungle. Been there, done that. OK, I guess the roly-poly droid was new.

PRO: “The Force Awakens” plays out like a Greatest Hits of Star Wars. All the familiar beats are there, from Han’s “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” to C-3PO interrupting things at just the wrong time.

CON: “The Force Awakens” plays out like a Greatest Hits of Star Wars. Familiarity is great and all, but it can also lead to ennui. So many plot points are repeats or variations from earlier films that at times it feels more like a remake than a new story.

PRO: The good guys. From the vets (Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill) to the new kids (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac), all of our heroes are suitably earnest and determined. Seeing Han Solo again reminds us of how badly he was needed in the prequels.

CON: The two greatest villains in pop culture are Darth Vader and Doctor Doom. Both wear iron masks which they never take off. It’s important that they never take off their masks because it adds to their air of menace and mystery. New villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is a pale imitation of Vader. He doesn’t have near the gravitas of Darth and when he takes off the mask, well, he looks like some pathetic goth kid.

PROS: John Williams’ stirring score; the always reliable Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew); a diminished role for C-3PO (Anthony Daniels); and adorable new droid BB-8.

CON: No, I better not go there.

It would be hard for any film to live up to the expectations that this one has facing it, but “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” does an admirable job reaching for the stars.



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