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WHAT'S NEW AT THE MOVIES?
Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens
J.J. Abrams has, for the most part, taken the safe road, not re-inventing the wheel, but building a solid, respectful and, at times, darn entertaining reboot
The spoiler free set up: it’s thirty some years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire. The First Order’s trying to rule the galaxy and the future rests in the hearts, souls and guts of a few young Resistance heroes. It’s hard not to compare this cinematic effort to the other, recent re-imagining of a classic series, Creed. And while Creed hits familiar notes (and fists) in deference to its predecessors, it also, undeniably, brings the Rocky legend a new generation burst of energy. This Force awakens more slowly. While we meet the new young warriors early on, much of the first half of the film is dedicated to pushing familiar buttons and establishing the 21st Century versions of Han, Leia and Luke.
Happily, the fresh faces don’t seem to notice their slim back stories or dull dialogue. Oscar Issac has certainly been asked to do a lot more in the numerous dramas he’s starred in, but I’ve never seen him have so much fun as he has here, acing it as the ace pilot. John Boyega is a terrific Finn but it’s Daisy Ridley, a lone scavenger who discovers she’s got a lot more going on than she thought, who rocks the planet and the movie. Buff, fearless and smart, even Han Solo is impressed.
And who isn’t going to be happy to see Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill return to their iconic roles? Or, we’ll put it this way: if you’re not, I don’t want to know about it. None may have been given the roles here Sylvester Stallone was in Creed, but it’s still a treat for all of us to return home together.
Once all that has been established, an interesting thing happens: the movie, itself, gets more interesting. Battles that were almost generic, video-gamey rides evolve into truly terrifying dances, pulling us in and on the edge of our seats. Some fine actors (Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis among them) bring true drama to the forefront. And the plot (no, I’m not going to give it away) may leave you with an emotion you weren’t expecting to feel going in.
Not to worry: we are safely assured of a return of the Force in the film’s coda-like ending. And now that we’ve got all that how-do-you-do stuff out of the way, that movie just might blow us all away.