DM Haight

The anticipation leading up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens could rival any film in history. And when sitting down in a theater past the midnight hour to see a viewing, one can only hope the anticipation won’t leave us hanging. And it didn’t.

JJ Abrams has brought us a film that could be the foundation for an awesome new era in the saga of the Jedi. With a fresh cast and a few familiar faces gracing the screen, new life has been ignited in a franchise that had been relegated to Disney XD and Cartoon Network.

To put a fine point on it, the cast is what has truly made The Force Awakens worthwhile to audiences. With Daisy Ridley taking on the role of Rey, we get a taste of a new starlet, and great deviation from the past use of female characters in the franchise. With all-do-respect to Carrie Fisher, Ridley’s Rey breaks from the bonds of male superiority and establishes a female hero in the Star Wars Universe, displaying her chops as a proper opponent to the dark side of the force. Ridley’s ability to portray a character who’s innocent of the past, but is still present and set in the middle of a coming war is nothing short of brilliance.

That’s not to say that John Boyega’s Finn is a grounding force. He’s cowardly, hiding something under visage, but all the same is someone you want on your side. I have to give him at least a pat on the back for formulating a character who has tendencies of retreating, but still manages to make that character endearing. It’s no small task to stand next to Harrison Ford and not fall into his shadow. Boyega finds Finn in the most honest and humorous live-action performance of the film.

Of course Oscar Isaac can’t be left out in the cold. His performance as Poe is a cross between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, but without the force or the sidekick. At first it’s hard to recognize him in the role. Suddenly Isaac has become a damn handsome rebel with a penchant for survival and a will to bring down whatever enemy that might cross his path. This, coming from a guy who has consistently played lesser, goofy roles, or roles that require a more cerebral approach. He’s officially capable of being the heartthrob of a franchise.

Then we’re left with Adam Driver, the actor who plays Kylo Ren—the spiritual successor to Darth Vader. He’s young, brash, and ready to do the bidding of the Dark Side, even if it costs him his most valued relations, or his soul. He’s the most conflicted character in the film and one who really wants to do right, but the drive behind him, the one telling him that wrong is right and right is wrong, leads him to make choices that cannot be undone. What is so impactful about Driver’s Ren is the raw conflict he puts on display. It’s almost as if he has to personalities battling it out inside. Kylo Ren is the most tragic and engaging character of the film, and quite possibly of the franchise, behind on Darth Vader himself. His fights with Rey are some of the most spectacular, both visually and emotionally. He’s well-trained, but he soon finds that the force may be strong in him, but it can also be strong in others.

While trying to stay current, but not take on the look of a Marvel movie, with all action performed via a computer and mouse, Abrams elected to create the Star Wars Universe through the use of practical effects. The result is almost tear inducing. For close to a decade we’ve seen films using CGI tech to bolster their film’s action or look, or setting. We’re told we can’t tell the difference, but I’m hard pressed to not disagree. The Force Awakens on the other hand has elected to use practical effects, which have made the film all the more believable and immersive. With the setting and use of effect not overloading our senses, we’re able to enjoy the performances, take in the music so eloquently crafted by Star Wars veteran John Williams, and believe in the force again. I can only say thank you to Abrams. You’ve brought them back.

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