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Wick's Review

Created Dec 26, 2015 12:43PM PST • Edited Jan 19, 2020 06:09PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    Cinema’s most famous title crawl opens The Force Awakens. The Star Wars theme rises above, softly, then insistently, its familiar leitmotif arousing our deepest cinematic memories. J.J. Abrams’ revival of George Lucas’s epochal blockbuster proceeds to visit every other touchstone, extending them for a new generation.

    How much fun is this for an old Star Wars fan like me? When a new pair of heroes happen upon the old Millennium Falcon, I literally began rocking with delight in my row 3 CinéArts rocker. The Millennium Falcon looks beat-up, as usual. Plus wherever the Falcon is, Han Solo & Chewbacca can’t be far away.

    Indeed they’re not. Han and his furry wingman are just two of many charismatic friends, both old and new. Note the three names atop the cast: Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher join Harrison Ford. Amazingly, all look their age. They’re joined by a pair of new moviestars: Daisy Ridley & John Boyega, as appealing a couple as the movies have produced in a decade or so, and now with us for the final two episodes to come.

    Oscar Isaac helps round out the strong cast as swashbuckling pilot Poe Dameron, with Lupita Nyong’o channeling her inner Yoda as a thousand year-old woman. IOW, this is a star-powered blockbuster.

    Two slight dings keep Episode 7 from perfection. Adam Driver should keep the helmet on. He disappoints with it off. Also, Chewy’s reaction underwhelms when tragedy strikes, even given his limited range.

    But let’s not be churlish. This is a terrific Star Wars, especially vis-à-vis the other two trilogy openers. Episode IV – the original – boldly set the standard, which this one upholds. Episode I didn’t, as we know.

    The Force has definitely been awakened. Now it must sustain us until 2017, when Episode VIII premieres.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    Daisy Ridley & John Boyega deserve first mention. Her Rey and his Finn are the future of Star Wars, with the future looking very bright indeed. Newcomers both, their charisma takes a while to develop, before it becomes clear that the camera loves them, as do we by the end of the movie. She’s essentially the new Luke Skywalker, he the new Han Solo: not exactly, but motivationally. SPOILER ALERT: More importantly, they are pathbreakers individually and together, she as a female jedi, he as a black man in a KKK-white stormtrooper outfit. Together they create a post-racial ideal in this globally beloved cultural touchstone.

    Other New Players
    • Adam Driver disappoints as Kylo Ren, the Darth Vader for a new generation. Yes he has large shoes to fill and a scary voice to emulate, but barely gets it done IMO.
    • Oscar Isaac is fun and dashing as Poe Dameron, hotshot pilot. Isaac’s ability to play macho or sensitive has long been established, with this role little taxing to his manly abilities.
    • Lupita Nyong’o voices more than plays a thousand year-old woman, the Yoda-like character of this episode. She sounds more Linda Hunt than the young woman we know her to be. Impressive.
    • BB-8 is an instantly lovable new droid.
      The coolest credit of the movie is “Bill Hader – BB-8 Voice Consultant”.
    • Andy Serkis actually appears as a human in playing Supreme Leader Snoke.
    • Domhnall Gleeson is more sniveling than sinister as a dark side General.
    • Max von Sydow gives the movie instant gravitas in the opening scene.
    • Gwendoline Christie carries herself strongly as a dark side Captain.
    Oldies But Goodies
    • Harrison Ford’s reprise of Han Solo is a welcome reunion, and the rakish old stud can still bring it. That said, Han Solo is my least favorite amongst Ford’s iconic roles. Indiana Jones suits him best. Even Jack Ryan is more becoming for him than Han Solo.
    • Carrie Fisher is touching and suitably grave as Princess Leia, now a behind-the-scenes general. Fisher’s not much of an actor, but her scenes with Ford – as long separated parents of a troubled child – are very affecting.
    • Peter Mayhew is in the Chewbacca costume, somewhere.
    • Anthony Daniels’ voice as C-3PO is one of the most welcome in cinematic history.
    • Mark Hamill promises to have a bigger role in the next episode.
  4. Male Stars Really Great 4.5
  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    J.J. Abrams and team deliver a Star Wars that lives up to the original’s premise: a hero’s journey presented in elementally simple terms, albeit surrounded by gizmos and aliens. It also revels in sheer scale, visually and musically, making it a wonderful moviegoing experience. Bravo!

  9. Direction Great 4.0
  10. Play Great 4.0

    The Force Awakens ably initiates the third trilogy of the Star Wars saga, in part because J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt & Lawrence Kasdan’s script extends and develops the fundamental Star Wars touchstones: homicidal father-son issues, swashbuckling opportunists drawn into virtuous rebellion, young love, old wisdom and the Force, which is clearly with them.

    Does it break new ground? No. Does that trouble me after a long layoff from The Force? Not in the least.

    One other screenplay note: Star Wars is a serial, picking up the action after considerable exposition, something geeks appreciate.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    John Williams: We’re not worthy!

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Love the bar scene, even if the original remains the classic cultural touchstone.

  13. Content
  14. Tame 1.5
  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Fierce 2.0
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.6
  18. Fantasy 4.4

    Star Wars is fantasy of the first order, the good kind of “first order”, not the Dark Side First Order of Episode VII. It deftly manages to keep itself grounded in humanism, even as it traffics in reality deceptions that ratchet up the Fantasy scores across all three reality vectors.

    To choose one CircoReality goof: Hand-to-hand combat, even with lightsabers, is ridiculous when everyone is armed with guns. A classic scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark proves the point.

    Cinematic reality aside, given the cultural resonance of Star Wars, it’s worth exploring the cultural messages in The Force Awakens. One of them is about diversity, as noted in the SPOILER ALERT section of the Acting commentary above. Another is an insight about the current scourge of Islamism.

    Islamism is Islam’s dark side. It’s not Islam, it’s its Dark Side. As with any force or religion that has a dark side, it is resisters of the Dark Side – Muslims in the case of Islamism – that are the Dark Side’s first victims. But not their only ones, because the Dark Side will never be satisfied merely subjugating its own. It must also subjugate the other, infidels in the case of Islamism. It will do this by any means necessary.

  19. Circumstantial Fantasy 4.1
  20. Biological Fantasy 5.0
  21. Physical Fantasy 4.1


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