A new hope for a new age

Original Post on Western Gazette

Rating: 4.5/5

Director: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac

The long awaited Episode VII in the Star Wars franchise does not disappoint. With storytelling and composing, the film awakens the senses and the imagination. This episode is a gutsy transformative reinvention of the old films. It is a nearly flawless mix of old and new themes, bringing the dark side and the light side of the force smashing into an epic clash for dominance.

The film starts on the humble desert planet of Jakku, where we meet the main players. First is the charismatic ace X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who is sent to retrieve the map to Master Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Poe’s escape is then foiled by the irredeemable First Order, which has risen in the wake of Skywalker’s disappearance and the Empire’s fall.

With the First Order comes the inevitably nuanced foil to the Jedi — the Sith. In a fanfare filled entrance, the antagonist Sith Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) arrives to lay hands on the map. To prevent it from falling into the Sith stained gloves, Poe cleverly stows the drive into BB-8 — his feisty and adorable droid who narrowly escapes before a fated chance encounter with Rey (Daisy Ridley), the gender role defying protagonist of the film.

From her very introduction Rey is charming, selfless, level headed and earnest, carrying all the stature of a hero-to-be. Throughout the film her femininity is never portrayed as a weakness. In one particular scene, she finds herself in a scrap when she’s jumped by two large aliens. Rey fends them off and gets straight back to business.

This scene is also where I must talk about Finn — a former stormtrooper and a First Order deserter.

Finn is a magnetic character. His friendships with both Poe and Finn are cemented early on, just like his well rounded persona. He is loveable, expressive, funny and never relegated to archetypes such as the “black best friend,” breaking through stereotypes for black males in film.

The film features old and new favourite characters. The old characters have their own roles to play, but never contribute to stagnation of creative growth. So yes, there’s plenty of good ol’ Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his carpet of a companion Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), as well as now General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).

One character that’s essence haunts the new movie is the Sith lord Darth Vader himself. Vader’s presence in the minds of fans is a looming shadow that this film had to vanquish. This first instalment begins to do that. However, Kylo Ren is a polarizing villain. He’s angsty. He’s angry. He’s not who you think he is, but he is a work in progress, just like his foil Rey. Despite the mess of Ren’s sometimes over dramatic tantrums, he is undeniably powerful. If a somewhat messy villain is what you like, you’re in for a show.

However, if your a fan of cold and calculating, Domhnall Gleeson’s character General Hux of the First Order might be more your type. This man constantly challenges Ren’s emotional nature and echoes the eerie sentiment of Emperor Palpatine from the original trilogy.

As a whole, the Force Awakens will usher in a new era of Star Wars fans and reinvigorate the imagination of the old. This film is truly a spectacle in the best ways. It brings new and old to the table aside from just the cast. It abolishes fan servicing sequels and pushes the boundaries with beloved storylines. The Force Awakens does exactly what movies as a whole should do. It sets the bar high for representation and transportive stories, because it brings the viewer into a world where they can see themselves no matter who they are, because the force is with us all.

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