Matt’s Movies: The Story After Vader

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Matt Chouinard, FIlm Critic

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Without a doubt, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was the most hyped movie of the year. Hopes were high that it would raise the franchise up to what it once was with the original trilogy. The Force Awakens succeeds, as it manages to create an effective story and a plethora of interesting new characters for the franchise to build around for future movies.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams, picks up the storyline 30 years after Darth Vader and the Empire were defeated by Luke Skywalker. Since then, the Empire has reemerged as the First Order, led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). They are in search of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), plotting to end the Jedi race. Rey (Daisy Ridley), a small-time scavenger gets thrown into the fight when she comes across a droid that possesses a key piece of information for the resistance.

The storyline of The Force Awakens presents many of the similar themes that were seen in the original, Star Wars: A New Hope. This is good because it follows a story progression that has proven successful in the previous film, and is even improved upon with modern advancements to visual effects and cinematography. The similarities are also negative though, as it creates a story that is less fresh than it should be. The story also commits a lot of effort towards foreshadowing and building for the next installment. This is exciting, but it results in some possible action sequences and story arches being sacrificed from this one, instead wishing to build for the next film. Some definite good points in The Force Awakens, though are the introduction to a wide array of interesting characters, including Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo. They are interesting to watch develop throughout the course of the movie.

The acting in The Force Awakens was solid, as just about everyone gave an interesting portrayal of the many colorful characters in this universe. Together they work well together to support the story, which is the biggest factor that determines the movie’s success. Harrison Ford as Han Solo gave the best performance in the film. He portrays the iconic character with the same brash, fast-talking demeanor that made him so popular in the originals. His interactions with Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) are some of the best parts of the movie, as they showcase amazing chemistry.

Of the newcomers, Daisy Ridley gives a really good performance as Rey, the scavenger who gets thrown into this mess by chance. She is a complex character who we get to see develop immensely on screen over the course of the story. Ridley does a wonderful job creating a layered, strong female character who may prove to be the best female character of the franchise by the end of the trilogy. Her, along with Oscar Isaac bring an exciting new energy to The Force Awakens. Isaac is great playing Poe, a fighter pilot in the resistance. He creates a strong, cocky, humorous character, in Poe, that is lot of fun to watch.

John Boyega’s character, Finn, also plays a large role in the film’s central plot, but his performance is less impressive. His performance doesn’t really stick out in any particular way, aside from providing some additional humor. His character lacks the importance that it should, which is unfortunate, but Boyega is carried by the performances around him to keep the story flowing nicely. Adam Driver delivers a compelling, but only decent performance as Kylo Ren, the main opposition of the resistance. His character isn’t nearly as intimidating as past antagonists in the franchise, which results in a less exciting face-offs with the heroes, but he does create a layered portrayal of the character. He is a character with multiple motivations, high emotion, and inner conflict which allows for character development and a much less generic foe. Driver does a decent job capturing these traits and creating an interesting character. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill give good performances as well in The Force Awakens, but have smaller roles in the overall story.

The action in The Force Awakens is quite good, with amazing cinematography allowing for thrilling aerial flight sequences. The lightsaber battles are also entertaining, although there aren’t many of them that occur. The script is also very well done, with a good amount of humor and witty dialogue incorporated into the story. This keeps the atmosphere fun and creates an enjoyable experience for viewers.

Overall, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is an enjoyable, well made addition to the Star Wars franchise and is places the franchise in a very exciting direction. It isn’t the best of the series, but entertains with great visuals. It possesses a solid, yet not completely original, storyline and introduces some great new characters. I give it 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Star Wars, or science fiction action movies.