Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Short Take: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Haven't we seen this movie before? In a galaxy long ago and far away, an insurgency fights against a fascist regime. While under attack, an insurgency leader hides a precious computer file in a robot. The robot is left on a desert planet, where it is found by a plucky teenager who resolves to return it to the insurgency. Now on the run from the regime, the teenager teams up with an outlaw in order to leave the planet. The teenager also discovers a destiny as the heir to a near-extinct order of sorcerer-knights who are legend throughout the galaxy. The story climaxes in a battle to destroy the regime's doomsday weapon before it can wipe out the insurgency once and for all. Oh, and the regime's most powerful warrior is a corrupted former knight who uses his mystical powers to torture and murder. He is also the central figure in a key subplot's Oedipal drama. It's the story George Lucas told in the original 1977 Star Wars and its first two sequels, and it's also the story of J. J. Abrams' sequel and franchise relaunch Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There are differences. The teenager (Daisy Ridley) is now female. The outlaw (John Boyega) is not a smuggler; he's a military deserter. The evil warrior (Adam Driver) is the son, not the father, in the Oedipal conflict. The best thing that can be said for this rather shameless rehash is it goes down fairly easily. The actors playing the new characters are reasonably compelling, and unlike many recent adventure spectacles, the action sequences don't feel assaultive. One is also grateful for the presence of Harrison Ford's Han Solo, who gives the film both humor and gravitas. The robot is a cute scene-stealer, too. Abrams directed from a script credited to himself, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt. The cast also includes Lupita N'yongo, who voices the story's Yoda analogue, and Oscar Isaac, as a fighter pilot whose major death-defying feat is literally beyond description. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill reprise their roles as Leia and Luke Skywalker.

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