Top Ten SPOILER-FREE reasons to stop worrying and love STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS:
I am both a film critic and a fan of the Star Wars series. Even the biggest snob knows those aren’t mutually exclusive. However, as one filmgoer who has always been interested in informed perspectives on new movies, I didn’t want to read a thing that would ruin the surprises offered in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. No Star Wars: Awakens movie review for me, because the structure of most written reviews makes me wonder: who can be trusted not to give away major plot points, character backstories, and other important aspects of the new JJ Abrams-directed Sci-fi juggernaut? There are spoilers lurking in almost every sentence not offered with extreme sensitivity and caution. I won’t be exposing even one in this article. NOT. EVEN. ONE.
I’ll just get one thing out of the way. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is newness and tradition, excitement and emotional authenticity, and has the audacity to live up to the hype. It’s a five-star flick that deserves to crush every box office record built around the world. As you see below, I give it 5 stars. So what is the film about? I won’t say.
Even keeping mum, there are lots of solid reasons to celebrate THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I can list 10 without revealing a thing about the plot. Here they are, in order, from one critic’s perspective, of importance:
1. Rey is the new Ripley.
This is not a backhanded or sneaky way of revealing something about her journey or character arc. What I mean is, Rey is, to a new generation of filmgoers, the strong, self-reliant, thoroughly badass, inspirational female role model young women will look up to. Of course, Princess Leia was like that as well in 1977’s A NEW HOPE, but Alien’s Ripley was a character who could equally inspire boys and girls in a way no other character had done before. Rey is much the same. She needs no rescuing. She proves once again a lead character of the Sci-fi genre can be played by a women as multi-dimensional, entirely transcending gender.
2. John Williams is still King of Composers.
There’s good reason Williams has a whole room full of awards, including five Oscars. With the original STAR WARS, he brought popularity to film scores that opened a whole new market for music aficionados. With THE FORCE AWAKENS, we not only get to hear those world-famous themes we know and love, but we get several new ones, including a lovely theme for Rey that will add to those we cinephiles already hum when searching for moments of aural comfort.
3. Tradition is blended perfectly with the new.
We all know those who made A NEW HOPE a worldwide phenomenon, like Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher as Han and Leia, are in THE FORCE AWAKENS. Many of us fans are excited for that reason. You’ll all be pleased to know the new characters are being built to be as compelling and engaging as those we’ve immortalized on our action-figure shelves. You’re in for a treat. That’s all that needs to be said there. and no, there’s no Jar-Jar equivalent.
4. Kids can see it.
You know that God-awful scene in Episode VI with the Jedi kids that had parents reaching to splay their hands over their kids’ faces? There is no such scene here. Oh sure, there’s death, but it’s not on that terrifying scale of darkness. Kids over the age of five will love THE FORCE AWAKENS. Those under it aren’t ready for this level of storytelling and you all know it.
5. BB-8 is all that.
6. Diversity, baby.
The writers and director of THE FORCE AWAKENS clearly wanted an inclusive story that showed a colorful future. Samuel L. Jackson paved the way in the second set of trilogies, but here again we have a lead character, Finn, played by, a man of color. Many other secondary roles also show racial diversity in their complex characterizations.
7. First timer STAR WARS viewers are welcome.
THE FORCE AWAKENS works not only for those who have an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Star Wars, but also for those new to the franchise. Strong archetypes that are written well always work. It’s the mark of a well-crafted film that it can exist on its own, without the aid of backstory.
8. The money is on the screen.
Fans of A NEW HOPE have grown accustomed to the limitations of the time. We watch it, giving it great latitude for being created while computers still took up most of a room. Now we can enjoy up-to-the-minute advances in computer effects and graphics that make the excitement of dogfights between X-Wings and Tie-Fighters, planet environments, and battles in space all the more visceral and thrilling.
9. Emotion is still key.
J.J. Abrams and the other writers of THE FORCE AWAKENS know that special effects can only go so far. We need to feel connected emotionally to what’s happening onscreen. The characters, both new and old, have arcs and make choices that will get their hooks into you, in the best possible ways. You’ve been warned.
10. There are world-class cliffhangers and new puzzles.
THE FORCE AWAKENS wouldn’t be a great film if it wasn’t setting up the next few movies. Big things happen. Jaws will drop. Geeks will be chatting online from the moment they get home from this film, to the day they set up their lawn chairs in line for the next movie…but isn’t that what we all want?
Congratulations to all the cast and crew of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. They’ve done the near impossible. They’ve risen their work, their craft and art, to meet and even surpass expectation.