"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Review

I wasn’t alive when the original Star Wars hit the big screen. I saw them all on VHS though! I was alive and in the theater when all of the episodes that will not be mentioned hit the big screen. *crickets* With the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I finally know what it’s like to sit through a good, entertaining, albeit safe, Star Wars film installment in the theater!

Picking up 30 years after the last film, there is only one jedi left in the universe and he hasn’t been seen for decades. The First Order (basically the super power remanence of Darth Vader’s evil empire) is seeking to hunt down Luke Skywalker to kill him and secure an uneven balance to the force. The Order is led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his all powerful apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). After receiving a portion of a map to where Skywalker is located, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), the most skilled fighter pilot in The Resistance, manages to hide it in his BB-8 (the upgraded, rolling R2-D2) just as the First Order invades planet Jakku.

With that, BB-8 becomes the most sought after droid in the galaxy! We’re introduced to ex-storm trooper Finn (John Boyega) and scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), who both want to protect the hot potato that is BB-8. As they take action to do so, they run into Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewy (Peter Mayhew). It’s a smart move. By having the new characters link up with the old, a mentorship occurs on screen and at a franchise level, guiding it back to the original, fun and playful spirit of the films of old. 

The script is very tight, moves quickly, and wastes no space. In fact, all of the above probably gets things under way within the first fifteen minutes. The rest of the space adventure follows that of "The Hero’s Journey" to the letter, introducing us to old friends and new ones. 

It’s obvious that co-writer/director JJ Abrams absolutely loves and respects the franchise. His direction honors the past, and charts a way for the future. Yet in his adoration, he doesn’t step too far out of the box to create something fresh. The film, while updated from a technology point of view, is predictable at times, borrowing old themes and plot points. That being said, it is a gorgeous film and well directed. 

For instance, in a scene near the climax, a hangar door opens high above a walkway, illuminating the walkway below and the characters facing each other on it. In a wide shot, most of the space in the frame is dark except for the light streaming through the door, down onto the walkway. It’s an epic frame that gives a moment for the audience to take in the emotional gravity of the scene. Abrams allows plenty of moments like this throughout the film, guiding us through the roller coaster of feelings of wonder and adventure that Star Wars of old used to give.

While most of the ensemble is well casted, Adam Driver is a sore spot. As long as Kylo Ren keeps his mask on, he’s a ferocious beast. Any time Driver’s face is on screen, you can expect the scene to slow down. Outside of that, even the bit characters do their thing!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will renew your faith in the franchise! Not only that, it gives a little fuel to your faith in movies, because it is an experience. From the buzz leading up to this film, the chatter you hear while purchasing your popcorn, to the John Williams score blasting in the opening frame, the film entertains! It’s probably worth standing in line this weekend if you don’t want to hear spoilers, but a must see in theaters! 

Rating: B+









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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.