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Star Wars VII Awakens a Force of a Franchise

  • Christian Hamaker Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2015 17 Dec
  • COMMENTS
<i>Star Wars VII</i> Awakens a Force of a Franchise

DVD Release Date: April 5, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: December 18, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence)
Genre: Action
Run Time:  135 min.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Max Von Sydow

The original Star Wars celebrates its 38th anniversary this year, and interest in the franchise remains extremely high. The first three films—released as episodes IV through VI—changed the movie industry forever while making lifelong fans of Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers. Then, 19 years after Return of the Jedi (1983) concluded the initial trilogy, along came The Phantom Menace (1999), the first of three highly anticipated prequels. Poorly received by many fans and critics (though widely seen), those prequels made their mark on a younger generation, who have as much love for the prequels as some of us have for the earlier Star Wars films.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Video Movie Review

Crosswalk's Shawn McEvoy talks with two very special Star Wars nerds about Episode VII: Stephen McGarvey and Steve's 11-year-old self! All three share their unique take on whether J.J. Abrams has succeeded in reviving the franchise, and whether it's right for your family.

Posted by Crosswalk.com on Friday, December 18, 2015

SEE ALSO: 5 Christian Messages Found in Star Wars

Star Wars has since become a Disney property, but the studio behind the franchise isn't the only major change for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens. George Lucas, who created Star Wars, has ceded control of the scripts—a crucial failed element of the prequels that were almost entirely penned by Lucas—and has given up the director's chair. Taking the helm for the The Force Awakens is J.J. Abrams (Star Trek), with screenplay chores falling to Abrams, Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan, who contributed to the screenplays of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

The results are, to the relief of Star Wars fans the world round, one of the best films in the entire series. Star Wars: The Force Awakens not only brings back beloved characters from episodes IV through VI like Han Solo (Harrison Ford, 42), Leia (Carrie Fisher, The Women) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, Kingsman: The Secret Service), but it accomplishes something even more important for the franchise's future: it introduces a group of distinctly memorable principal characters who will be crucial to the next two films.

As important as the outstanding casting is, the relatively simple story is just as vital. Unlike the convoluted storylines behind the prequels, The Force Awakens lays out a modest dynamic that plays out over its 135 minutes: The evil First Order is racing against the rebels to locate Luke Skywalker.

The Dark Side has rebounded since its defeat in Return of Jedi, re-emerging as the First Order. At the direction of the masked Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Frances Ha)—a sort of Darth Vader-lite—and Supreme Leader Snoke (voice of Andy Serkis), the First Order is on the move, sending Stormtroopers to wipe out anyone who stands in the way, including the inhabitants of Jakku.

SEE ALSO: Why is 'Star Wars' so Uniquely Popular?

But one Stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega), seeing the carnage of battle, lays down his helmet and goes AWOL. He finds help on Jakku from scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), whose droid companion may hold the key to Luke's location. Once Rey and Finn encounter Han Solo and Chewbacca, they make their way to Leia, no longer just a princess but now a general in the Resistance—and work together with Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina) to determine Luke's location and destroy the First Order. Han and Leia also discuss past choices and their somber—but not hopeless—present-day consequences.

While Boyega makes an effectively remorseful Finn, it's Ridley who's the great discovery of The Force Awakens. Youthful but fierce, her Rey is a punchy presence who may be more powerful than she knew. Just as good is Isaac, who injects humor early on before disappearing until the film's final act. His smart-aleck attitude and winning smile suggest the rascally appeal of Ford's Han Solo from the early films. I only wish we'd seen more of him in The Force Awakens.

Perhaps more important, after the excitement and energy of the first act, this film develops an emotional core that involves some measure of regret and even, you might say, spiritual struggle. To reveal more would give away too much, but suffice it to say these elements evoke much of what gave the earlier films emotional heft, and culminate in a moment that may just equal the great "I am your father" encounter from The Empire Strikes Back.

It should be a pleasure to see how these characters develop over the next two Star Wars films, currently scheduled for release in 2017 and 2019. For now, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has reawakened a series that, for far too long, has been in a slumber. While this new chapter could have used a better wrap-up than the semi-cliffhanger with which the film concludes, The Force Awakens is so enjoyable that it's hard to imagine viewers feeling cheated. Based on the quality of what they've just seen, audiences will all be waiting, excitedly, once again for the next Star Wars film.

SEE ALSO: "Jesus Christ Is the Man" (aka Star Wars Jesus)

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Language/Profanity: One da-- and two uses of he--
  • Drinking/Smoking/Drugs: A cantina scene suggests drinking and possible smoking
  • Sex/Nudity: Nothing other than a brief kiss on a forehead
  • Violence/Crime: The First Order attacks and murders anyone who stands in its way; blood from a hand is smeared on a Stormtrooper’s helmet; shooting and light-saber battles, including characters who are run through with light sabers; tentacled creatures run wild and grab and kill people; inhabitants on different planets watch approaching destruction
  • Religion/Morals/Marriage: The Force is said to move through and surround every living thing; discussion of light versus darkness, and light that remains within someone struggling with darkness

Publication date: December 16, 2015


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