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Abrams reawakens the force with ‘Episode VII’


Image courtesy of Flick Creative Commons 

Written by Emilie Kefalas 

There is something emasculating about a Stormtrooper removing his helmet.

You see it within the first few chilling minutes of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” but even before the revelation, something breaks in the armor of one peculiar Stormtrooper, and it’s not a limb. His movement are suddenly hesitant, his logic second-guessed; the soldier is awakened to the torment numbed by his blind obedience.

My younger self thought Stormtroopers were almost entirely as soulless and robotic as clones. I never quite registered they were humans with discouraged morality marching in clanky, white armor. Compared to when we see them in the original trilogy, watching an armada of Stormtroopers salute and execute in “The Force Awakens” creates an ominous undertone of humanism for these monotonous, systemized soldiers.

Unless you’ve been living under a sand dune on Jakku, you most likely know “The Force Awakens” was released in theaters December 18.  The wait is over and the worries may be sedated by the fact that George Lucas didn’t lay a finger on this script.  J.J. Abrams, the man who revived another galactic saga, “Star Trek,” reveres the material he handles. He conducts his space opera with the agility of a Jedi near the end of his training, and for his achievements, he deserves a solid A-.

Unfortunately, this review cannot be formatted to scrolling text atop a background of peaceful space, but on the “Light side,” no spoilers are included.

Thirty years after the events in “Return of the Jedi,” the galaxy faces total control from the rapidly growing First Order. The First Order grew from the remnants of the Empire –and it’s basically it’s ruthless, more violent younger brother– with a quest for complete dictatorship of the galaxy.

To put it in perspective, the Empire’s Death Star may be the size of a moon, but the First Order’s Starkiller Base is the size of a planet. The commander of the First Order is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Master of the Knights of Ren and masked villain, strong with the Dark Side. The objective of the First Order aims to terminate the last remaining Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), along with the New Republic, a democracy established following “Return of the Jedi’s,” Battle of Endor.

Meanwhile on the desert planet Jakku, young scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) rescues a wandering droid, BB8, containing classified information on the location of Skywalker, who has vanished to the far corners of the galaxy. They meet the aforementioned reformed Stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega, also excellent), who wants nothing short of getting as far, far away from the First Order as possible.

The First Order searches for BB8, raiding Jakku and forcing Rey and Finn to flee with the droid. Through a series of lightspeed pursuits, they find themselves part of the Resistance, an operative team preparing to combat the First Order and track the whereabouts of Luke for further support.

If the plot seems familiar, that’s because it is.  The nostalgia is strong with this film. Familiar faces Hamill, Han Solo (Harrison Ford, effortlessly back in the Solo saddle), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew with Joonas Suotamo in action sequences), and General/former Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) play central roles.

Abrams showers the allure of Lucas’s baby with universal folklore and thrilling special effects certain to make adults gasp and gaze like five-year-olds. Screenwriters, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt along with Abrams weave wit with wonder, a balance disturbed by the prequels but regained the moment Finn and prisoner “Resistance” X-wing fighter pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), escape Starkiller Base and exchange their stories.

This new installment of “Star Wars” whisks us away to a lost frontier of cinema, where action and adventure level with layers of mortality and meaning.  A missing helmet reveals legitimacy, but it discloses captivation to the point of control. Such explains pop culture’s unshaken fascination with Darth Vader and his army of Storm Troopers. Now, we have Kylo Ren and an entourage of masked antagonists. A mask, whether it belong to a soldier or a nefarious dictator, might be the best metaphor for how “The Force Awakens” exploded into cinematic history with just less than a month before a new year.

Abrams has adequately cleansed what was stained the last time the “Star Wars” universe was revisited while sticking to the qualities most effective and loved by audiences. After all the hype and secrecy, you will most likely leave the theater wanting to re-watch the original trilogy, take notes, then see “The Force Awakens” once more.


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