Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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The Box Office is strong for this one.

We could’ve predicted that even without all of the shows selling out weeks before the movie is even released. It’s the 7th film in the Star Wars series and first one in 10 years. And in a review without any spoilers, I will start off by saying — J.J. Abrams is a genius. Now, that’s not a ringing endorsement for this movie. I was disappointed. Nobody else will be disappointed, though. That’s because Abrams will do what he did with the Star Trek films — he’ll pay homage to the original characters/stories, so the fanboys can all be excited when a Wookie shows up, or C3P0 onto the screen with a mildly cute one-liner.

As much as those prequels annoyed us, at least they were original. The most frustrating thing about this movie is how it basically felt like a reboot of the first few Star Wars films (I can’t explain why without spoilers, but trust me, it’s a rehash of those stories).

It’s strange how the original Star Wars and Rocky films came out around the same time in the ’70s (1976 for Rocky, 1977 for Star Wars), and now the latest are being released within a month of each other — and both are being praised by critics, without anybody addressing the biggest complaint — they are basically reboots. The same story, with jokes about things from the original movie. In this Star Wars, a lot of those jokes work. Sometimes, they don’t (I’m thinking about one Han Solo makes about a trash compactor). It takes you out of the movie.

Disney bought the rights from George Lucas for $4 billion and people are saying this movie needs to make a billion dollars for that to show Disney made a good investment. I’m sure it will and word-of-mouth will be strong for this one (wait, didn’t I already use that joke? Oh hell, if they can recycle jokes in Star Wars films, can’t I in reviews?). Many people will see the movie a second time. I sat next to Fox 5 anchor Raoul Martinez and he loved it, telling me he’d be back to see it again.

I was entertained for the two hour and 15 minute run time, just felt the movie could’ve been so much more.

One thing they got right was the new young actors brought in. There was great chemistry with Oscar Isaac as an X-Wing fighter and John Bogeya as a disillusioned Stormtrooper. Boyega also has great chemistry with Daisy Ridley, perhaps a future love interest. She’s a scavenger in the desert that happens upon a droid (who has the cute chirps and noises we loved so much with R2-D2). The droid has a map to where Luke Skywalker is, and everyone’s after it.

John Williams provides another amazing score, although at times, there was a score when there shouldn’t have been. Stop over-scoring films!

Daisy Ridley’s character is well-developed, and the location shots in the deserts of Abu Dhabi are spectacular. The villain (Adam Driver) is a perfect blend of menace and disillusion, although it’s not clear why he’s wearing the Darth Vader mask. Didn’t the big guy wear it because of breathing problems? Well, this movie doesn’t care much about the backstories and often times, that hurts it. In the first three Star Wars films, we got to know these characters. In this, you don’t. There’s an action scene, some exposition dialogue, action sequence, exposition, etc.

Domhnall Gleeson, as General Hux, does a villain that’s a combination of Hitler and a Bond villain. It was so much more fun seeing him fight with Oscar Isaac in the years best movie — Ex Machina. His boss is Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). The CGI to create him was interesting, as was what they did for Lupita Nyong’o character (although it’s a shame to take such a beautiful woman and turn her into an ugly yellow creature; do that to Tilda Swinton or someone).

Now, let’s get to the old cast. It’s fun watching Ford spout out sarcastic things and argue with Chewbacca, but his scenes with Carrie Fisher — yikes. They were painfully bad.

Abrams co-wrote the movie with the talented Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote a few of the early Star Wars movies (as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark). They do a good job of weaving all the old stuff together and adding lots of humor that works. It was also smart that they didn’t take this too seriously, although some fanboys might be bothered by that. I remember hearing a few of the hardcore Trek fans gripe about what Abrams did.

The set-pieces are fun and it’s nice that CGI wasn’t relied on so much. It would’ve been nice if the action sequences were a little better.

The film had an old-school vibe and it’s going to be loved by everyone that saw the original Star Wars, but it doesn’t stand alone as a movie if you aren’t up on any of the old characters.

Seeing this movie was a lot like going to a Paul McCartney concert. You’re glad it was two hours long, and you recognized everything going on. Yet if you dissect that McCartney concert, was it really that great? You recognized the songs, but it’s not as fun as when you first heard Rubber Soul for the White Album for the first time. Sometimes it’s more fun to discover some young punk band at the Casbah at 11 p.m., performing original songs that are blowing you away. Perhaps some drunk guys are in a mosh pit near the stage, the singer sounds pissed as he’s sweating and swearing into the microphone. Or, there’s the safe concert — McCartney singing Let it Be behind the piano, with a glass of mineral water. Everyone will post on Facebook later about how great it was.

This gets 2 1/2 stars out of 5.

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