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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 * * 1/2 Stars

Star Wars: The Force AwakensDirector: J.J. Abrams
Year: 2015
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Harrison Ford, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver

In the late 70's, my first trip to the movies was with my dad. It was the dog days of summer and drive-in theaters were hip. I saw Star Wars: Episode IV there and have since seen it 100 times over. It was the evolution of sped up sci-fi and countless imitators have tried to ride its coattails. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (my latest review) is the 7th entry in the popular, space opera saga. Unintentionally though, it tries to almost spoof and/or parody the three films from the earlier, George Lucas era (circa 1977-1983). Case in point: Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) is supposedly Episode VII's main heavy. Too bad his costume makes him come off more like Rick Moranis (in Spaceballs) than the new breed of Darth Vader. Dark Helmet well, he just ain't so dark.

Anyway, I'm not gonna lie. I am in fact, a Star Wars fan. I can also be a sort of snobbish critic. "Awakens" for the most part, was disappointing. Could it have been the John Williams score which always reliable, seemed pedestrian and sort of rushed into production? Maybe. Could it have been the fact that Mark Hamill (aka Luke Sykwalker) had literally only one minute of screen time? Possibly. Could it have been the (paper-thin) screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan which doesn't exactly elaborate on intergalactic lore? Sure why not. Finally, could it have been the notion that Chewbacca didn't age one iota (Harrison Ford on the other hand, looked like your typical, ripe 73-year-old)? Oh you betcha. Bottom line: It's all of these things and for the record, I could bring myself to only rate this Lucasfilm adventure higher than 1999's The Phantom Menace. Whereas (pioneering) director George Lucas overloaded the prequels with CGI, kid humor, and uninteresting characters, new helmer J.J. Abrams goes back to the old school ways of Episodes IV, V, and VI to harness his vision in "Awakens". J.J. is no doubt reputable. However, where's the awe factor from those previous installments, the sense of foreboding from those previous installments, and the spine-tingling feeling you get from those true sets of blockbusters? As I left the theater, I knew Episode VIII was already in production. I'll probably go see the darn thing anyway and that's the Jedi mind trick I just can't shake (ha ha).

Now what made the early flicks so memorable, was how there was a half-hour to an hour of buildup. The character development was there, the scenes were set up well, and the music chillingly advanced those scenes. Abrams on the other hand, wants to over-impress the audience. He's hellbent on getting your action-packed approval within 15-20 minutes. I didn't care about storm trooper Finn (played John Boyega) and fighter pilot Poe's (played by Oscar Isaac) relationship because it seemed manufactured (they barely got to know each other). And I didn't care that so many critics (and audience members) compared "Awakens" to the 1977 original. Yeah there's that familiar adage where something of importance is planted in a droid (BB-8). In truth though, there's no real differential. A New Hope belongs in a time capsule where Star Wars: The Force Awakens is humdrum to the nth degree. Maybe a second viewing might change my mind but for now, it's a mixed affair. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Of note: J.J. Abrams does a substantial job with "Awakens" via the battle scenes, lightsaber fights, and cinematography in the veritable Star Wars worlds. And his female lead (Daisy Ridley) has a real chance at becoming a full-fledged movie star. But if you wanna see true genius in Jaybird you're better off checking out his masterwork, Star Trek Into Darkness. Just a random thought.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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