Review: ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ – Exceeds Galactic Size Expectations

For those Star Wars trivia buffs, the first words uttered in Star Wars: The Force Awakens are ” This will begin to set things right.” Never has an opening line been more appropriate because in 126 minutes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens erases the sins of the past prequels and delivers a new hope to the legions of Star Wars fans worldwide. Gone is the terrible CGI effects, stilted scripts, and mediocre performances of the past three films. They have been replaced with practical effects, realistic set designs, a stellar script, incredible musical scores, and excellent performances. J.J. Abrams took on the herculean task of charting a new course for the Star Wars franchise under tremendous corporate pressure from Disney. Four billion dollars worth of pressure to be exact. Abrams has rose to the occasion creating a stunning film. Fans will leave the theater smiling and immediately want to see the movie again (I know that I’m going again with my 8-month pregnant wife on Thursday night).

Part of what made the original trilogy amazing is the audience could sit in their chairs and envision a scenario where what they were watching transpire could actually unfold. All of us can remember at one point or another practicing our “Force” move in front of the automatic doors at the supermarket. Envisioning that we too were becoming Jedi Knights like our father before us (okay maybe it was just me but you get the picture) but that realistic movie magic vanished with the prequels and replaced with computer trickery. As much as we may have tried to justify what we watched in Attack Of The Clones, there was no movie magic. Well, Star Wars: The Force Awakens returns to its realistic roots and creates a world of magic and plausibility. You will be impressed with the character designs on the Planet Jakku (Hey, we could have a planet right now inhabited by alien beings that are interested in scrap metal). The characters that interact with Rey (Daisy Ridley) are not only realistic but bring an authenticity that has been missing from the last three films and the Star Wars universe for quite some time. (Keep an eye our for Simon Pegg’s character.)

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The set designs by Lee Sandales are so impressive, every new part of the galaxy; Jakku, Star Killer Base ( The home of the First Order), and even the resistance base where done in such a meticulous manner that it brought the universe to life. My favorite set was Maz Katana’s (Lupita Nyong’o) watering hole that reminded me of the cantina scene in A New Hope. It was shocking that an element of the set design would play a crucial part in how the story eventually unfolded which provided a nice twist.

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What probably stood out the most was how well the story was put together by Lawrence Kasdan. The writer is best known for his work on The Empire Strikes Back and The Return Of The Jedi. Kasdan developed a script that took the franchise back to a simpler time and away for silted intricate scripts of the prequels. Lucas in the prequels concentrated on telling his story, Kasdan, on the other hand, focused on creating an entertaining story. Let’s not forget Kasdan wrote some of Lucas’s most celebrated movies. He knows how to get the audience invested in the well being of the characters and Star Wars: The Force Awakens is no exception. We anguish with Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she hopes for the return of her family as much as we cheer on Finn ( John Boyega) as he decides to join the resistance. You will get goosebumps when Han Solo boards the Millennium Falcon for the first time in a long time. There will even be a section of the crowd who will feel feel for Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) as you sense the conflict in his voice.

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The musical scores in Star Wars: The Force Awakens can be summed in one phrase “ John Freaking Williams.” It wouldn’t be a Star Wars film without the musical talents of Mr. Williams, and his skills enhance the strong script. It just seems that no matter what is occurring, Williams has a way of embodying the moment in a simple melody or musical interlude that can take what appears to be a “simple” scene and transform into something powerful.

Speaking of something powerful, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is jammed with tremendous performances from a litany of cast members. Harrison Ford does what he does as Han Solo. Ridley is the perfect actress to play Rey. She did such a fantastic job I can’t envision another actor every playing her role. The same can be said for Finn ( John Boyega), Poe ( Oscar Issac), and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). It seems that Abrams is starting a brand new generation of legends and their performances live up to the hype.

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Lastly, if you haven’t noticed yet, I’ve made it a point to not include any major plot points (trust me, I know too much ) in this review. To experience the film properly, you need to go into this movie spoiler free. Let this film wash over you like a wave and it will only enhance your experience and I so hope that everyone can have that same experience that I had.

Overall, it’s very rare that a film can live up to enormous expectations let alone exceed them, but Star Wars: The Force Awakens does just that. Abrams succeeds where Lucas failed, and that’s in bringing us back to a simpler time where a blonde haired boy on Tatooine first learned the ways of the force. This movie reminds us why we love Star Wars. I am watching this film and get emotional as the wonderful memories of my late dad buying me the Millennium Falcon for Christmas come back. This movie will take you back and have you believing in the movie magic we once saw in Star Wars and have you wishing you could go to a galaxy .. far.. far.. away.

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.